Bears Get Off the Bus Running

Bears Get Off the Bus Running

Sunday, December 6th

What a snooze fest! The rest of us left on the bus were still sleeping, but the Bears did enough in the run game to secure a victory. The gameplan dictated the Bears run the football. After all, the Rams are one of the worst in the National Football League at stopping a rushing attack. As a result, it opened up some things in the play action game allowing Jay Cutler to hit on their longest pass play of the season. It was a 71-yarder to Earl Bennett in the first half leading to a Bear's crucial field goal.

It wasn't anything special about the rush attack, the Bear's just stuck to it versus a Ram defense who much like the Bears defense, have worn down due to an anemic offense. The Bear's logged over 100 yards on 38 attempts with two new tackles who provided adequate pass protection as well. The Rams are challenged in a lot of ways which the Bears took advantage of enough to make some key plays. The biggest play was to Earl Bennet. Let's take a closer look at the play:

The Rams took a play out of the Bears defensive playbook showing the "Mug Look". It is a heavy Blitz look with linebackers in the A Gaps ( between center and guards) and both safeties up just behind the linebackers showing "Blitz 0", which is all out Blitz. The number zero just means no safeties in the middle of the field. Wake up! The game is over! You will at least learn football in this Blog, and not fall asleep doing it! In continuation, Jay made a great read recognizing the Rams were dropping to a Cover 2 shell (Zero, now 2, you got it!). Jay further recognized that MLB James Laurenitis has a tough assignment dropping from the A Gap into coverage deep enough to cover slot Earl Bennett, who was taking the middle of the field with speed. James had to hesitate further before dropping because the pass came off play action. Matt Forte faked the "inside zone run" to Laurenitis's side, he was in a bind and Jay knew it and thus took advantage.

I know it is the Rams, but it is this type of execution that must continue next week versus the Packers. Otherwise, all Bears fans will start to hibernate early. I guess a few catnaps never hurt. Even for Bears.

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”