Bears-Lions preview: Chicago's ball

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Bears-Lions preview: Chicago's ball

The Bears have won seven of the last eight games against the Detroit Lions but they have not always ruled with offense.

Chicago special teams and defense accounted for nearly as many return yards (213) in the offense (216) in the Bears 37-13 win in Soldier Field last November. The Bears piled up 463 yards in week one of 2010.

But 117 of that came on two Matt Forte TD catch-and-run plays, and the Bears needed the good fortune of Calvin Johnson failing to complete an apparent winning touchdown catch in the end zone. Game two was won 24-20 in Detroit with a winning TD catch by Brandon Manumaleuna and two fourth-quarter stops in Chicago territory.

The Bears scored 48 and 37 points in the two 2009 victories but Detroit outgained the Bears 747 to 694 in the two.

How good the Chicago offense really is at this point of 2012 will begin to be answered starting Monday night and against a front four that includes first-round picks at tackle (Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley).

This will be one heck of a challenge against this front, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Anybody that plays against this front has a challenge, for the fact that they can take over a game. We have to go out and have answers, as many as we can.

The Bears are No. 2 in the NFL with 29.8 points per game but that includes five defensive touchdowns over the past three games.

Detroit went into the weekend ranked ninth allowing 324 yards per game but 24th in points-against. Like the Bears, however, not all of the points are reflective of a weak defense. The Tennessee Titans scored 44 point on the Lions but got touchdowns on a punt return, kickoff return and fumble return.

Cutler dominance

The Bears traded for and invested in Jay Cutler to be a true franchise quarterback, which GM Phil Emery and coach Lovie Smith believe Cutler has become. He most assuredly has played like one against the Lions.

Cutler has played seven career games, six as a Bear, against the Lions, all but game one last year a win. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes vs. one interception, netted 1,415 yards and posted a passer rating of 105.0.

He registered ratings of 108.3 and 117.0 in the 2010 games but declined to 99.6 and then 68.5 in the games last year as Detroits front of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Suh, Fairley and Cliff Avril sacked him a total of five times in the two games.

They get after the quarterback, Cutler said. I think what they have is not only guys on the outside, but those two inside can get a push. Whenever you feel pressure on the outside and you step up and theyre getting a push in there, theres not a lot of room to operate.

Forte has averaged 5 yards per carry against Detroit, but finished with a modest 64 yards on 18 carries in the game-two win in Soldier Field last year.

The overall is that the Detroit defense has played the Bears progressively better over the past two years.

Secondary plans

Where the Lions have struggled has been in pass defense, with injuries at cornerback. The return from knee surgery of safety Louis Delmas was a major boost for the secondary but the game, like most, will be decided by the play of the lines.

The Bears will be without No. 2 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, out with a broken hand. But they get Earl Bennett back from his hand injury, although Bennett has never scored in six Detroit games and has a total of 18 catches. Brandon Marshall has faced the Lions twice in his career, with a gaudy 19 catches but also none for scores.

The Bears defensive strategy and mindset is to stop the run with the objective of making an opposing offense one-dimensional. That is precisely the plan of the Lions, take Forte away and force Cutler to throw to a weakened receiver group.

We have a lot of talent up front, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. When we play well up front it tends to trickle down to the rest of our defense. I think you saw that last week with Philadelphia. We did a good job of stopping the run and we also put pressure on the passer.

White Sox conclude suspended game with Tigers on CSN

White Sox conclude suspended game with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox conclude their suspended game against the Detroit Tigers, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. The 3-3 game will pick up in the top of the ninth at 1:10 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Cubs have ‘all kinds of different lines in the water’ leading up to trade deadline

Cubs have ‘all kinds of different lines in the water’ leading up to trade deadline

MILWAUKEE – The White Sox would never trade Chris Sale to the North Side and give the Cubs this year’s potential American League Cy Young Award winner to pair with the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta), the game’s most entertaining manager (Joe Maddon) and one of the most iconic venues in sports (Wrigley Field), making the biggest story in baseball ever bigger.

Silly season is already in full swing with reports that the White Sox sent Sale home from U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday…because their all-world pitcher cut up throwback jerseys he didn’t want the team to wear during his scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers.

You can’t make this stuff up. But it’s yet another reminder of what Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline: “Expect the unexpected.”   

By late Saturday night, Twitter buzzed about a Fox Sports report that the New York Yankees are telling teams that they will hold onto All-Star reliever Andrew Miller and are moving closer toward dealing 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman.

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President of baseball operations Theo Epstein never likes to rule anything out, running a front office that keeps all options open. So expect to hear more rumors about the Cubs trying to engineer a deal for a controllable starting pitcher, canvassing the bullpen market and scouting rentals like Oakland A’s outfielder Josh Reddick.

“All I know is that Theo and Jed really have all kinds of different lines in the water,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 6-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Like any of the GMs at this time of the year, they’re always going to look to make us better. So if something makes sense to these boys, I’m sure we’re considering it.”

It’s difficult to see Reddick or the offense being a priority or a focal point when the Cubs are so loaded with position players and have plenty of short- and long-term pitching issues. But the Epstein regime has already poured so much capital into their lineup, rebuilding the franchise around hitters. Why stop now?

Epstein has also hinted the Cubs could pivot in a bad market for starting pitching or if the prices for relievers become prohibitive.

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“Sometimes, if the marketplace makes it hard to improve a weakness,” Epstein said, “you can compensate for that by making an area of strength even stronger. That’s not necessarily the direction we’re going to go, but it could be.”

Reddick has Boston Red Sox roots, hits left-handed and will become a free agent after this season. The Cubs just welcomed back their leadoff guy (Dexter Fowler) and have a Gold Glove right fielder with a $184 million contract (Jason Heyward) and multiple options in left field (Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras) plus Chris Coghlan (strained ribcage) and Jorge Soler (strained hamstring) rehabbing at Double-A Tennessee.

“‘CC’ last year was really big for us and we’re still waiting on George,” Maddon said. “I wouldn’t create conjecture for or against. I mean, it’s possible, it absolutely is. They are really hunkered down trying to figure out what’s best for us right now.

“They’re probably looking at us as two different teams versus righties and versus lefties and what we need in those particular moments. And: How far is George actually? I don’t think George is that far off, and I don’t think ‘CC’ is either. But regarding my conversations with (Theo and Jed), they are looking at a lot of different options.”

White Sox mum on Chris Sale incident after suspended game against Tigers

White Sox mum on Chris Sale incident after suspended game against Tigers

The White Sox and Detroit Tigers will resume play of their suspended game — which is tied 3-3 to begin the top of the ninth — on Sunday after a third rain delay finally washed things out Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. 

But literal storms paled in comparison to the figurative one that erupted from the White Sox clubhouse involving ace left-hander Chris Sale. The American League's All-Star Game starter was scratched from his start about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, with a vague statement from general manager Rick Hahn mentioning a “non-physical” incident in the clubhouse that was under investigation by the team

Just as the game's second rain delay hit, though, a report surfaced — which was later confirmed by CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes — that Sale, who started for the American League All-Stars last week in San Diego, was so furious over having to wear the team’s 1976 throwback uniforms that he cut them up so they couldn’t be worn. Sale was sent home by the White Sox after the incident. 

The White Sox will still start All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana for Sunday’s series finale — which will begin 30 minutes after the final out of the suspended game, which will resume play at 1:10 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet — and manager Robin Ventura said he doesn’t have any plans for when Sale will make his next start. 

“I’ll talk about the game, but any of that stuff, we’ll wait on that,” Ventura said when asked about the Sale incident. “I know the team put out a release on that and we’re just going to stick with that. I’m not going to discuss what went on in there. But unfortunate he didn’t start tonight and proud of the guys that came in and filled in.”

Third baseman Todd Frazier declined comment — “I can’t really talk anything about that,” he said — as did right-hander Matt Albers, who started and threw two innings as the first cog in a seven-pitcher “Johnny Wholestaff” game.  

"I think we're going to keep that in-house,” Albers said. “For me, obviously you guys probably know what happened, but for me as a player, and in our clubhouse, we're going to keep in in-house. So, you're going to have to ask somebody else about that."

Without anything close to ample time to shuttle a starting pitcher up from the minor leagues to replace Sale, the White Sox went with Albers despite the 33-year-old throwing an inning both Thursday and Friday against the Tigers. Albers said he was told he would start the game around 4:30 p.m. 

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The White Sox needed seven relievers to get through the evening, with Albers, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle all soaking up two innings and Zach Duke, Nate Jones and David Robertson combining for the final two frames before more heavy storms slammed the South Side. 

“(Sale’s) one of the best, absolutely,” Albers said. “But we're here for teammates. We're here to pick each other up in good times and bad, so we're just here to pick whoever up whenever."

On Thursday, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox are open to all options at the trade deadline outside of adding a short-term rental, meaning that a complete teardown and rebuild of the roster is on the table, even if it’s ultimately an unlikely scenario. But Frazier said the swirling rumors about plenty of players in the clubhouse aren’t fraying — or causing bizarre, national storylines — a White Sox team that only has one win since the All-Star break. 

“That’s happened to me the last two years,” Frazier said. “You just gotta be professional and play baseball. That’s it. Control what you can control, that’s playing the game.”