Quicker: Bears need work on late-game drills

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Quicker: Bears need work on late-game drills

The Bears' organized team activities pretty much have wound down. The next opportunity to get better will be the June 12-14 minicamp. I would guesstimate that roughly 80-85 percent of the schematic install is complete on both offense, defense and special teams. Installed material will be repeated once again during the next mini-camp along with new wrinkles and additions.

4 Minute

Its tough to cover every situation during OTAs like, for example, the four-minute drill (running out the clock situation). Players are not in pads, which makes it difficult to accurately reflect the pressure and intensity this situation commands. The four-minute situation will be hammered upon during training camp when it can be conducted live, in full pads, in a true game-like atmosphere to teach its significance upon a game. The Bears' coaches have a great teaching tool on tape from 2011 of how the four-minute situation can determine a win or loss. I dont think I need to remind Bears fans of the critical error by former running back, Marion Barber, who elected to run out of bounds versus the Denver Broncos, thus stopping the clock. Poor execution by Barber on this one play resulted in a Chicago loss to Denver.

2 Minute

The two-minute situation should receive some adequate attention this upcoming minicamp. Considering how many NFL games actually come down to the two-minute drill is why it is emphasized so heavily. It will easily get two days of actual work during the Bears' three-day minicamp. The two-minute drill can also be accurately simulated offensively and defensively as you can physically move the ball creating down and distance situations. Jay Cutler and the offense will be presented situations like:

First and 10 on your own 35-yard line, one timeout remaining, 1:10 left on the clock and Bears are down by four points. Obviously, the offense needs to score a touchdown to win.

Or...

First and 10 on your own 10-yard line, three timeouts remaining, 1:45 left on the clock, Bears down 21-20. Thus, the offense needs to, at minimum, position the team for a field goal to win.

There are numerous scenarios coaches could present during a two-minute situation. Its a terrific drill for both offense and defense because both sides have to play the situation presented. It also is extremely competitive as both sides are challenged to execute. Its competitive because there is a true winner and loser during this particular period during practice and players love that.

The two-minute drill most likely has already been introduced to players earlier in OTAs, but with so many situations for coaches to cover, the drill can never be practiced enough. Different plays from three-by-one sets (three wide receivers to one side and one lone wide receiver to the other) or two-by-two sets (two wide receivers on each side of the football) are covered and specifically game-planned when they should be called. It forces players to know their playbook and think quickly because time is of the essence.

Its why this column was titled Quicker. The Bears' final minicamp is quickly approaching, training camp will quickly be upon them, and then the season opener will quickly be here. The quicker the Bears address these situations, the better chance for success in 2012.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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