Bears need to 'lengthen' the field vs. Houston Texans

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Bears need to 'lengthen' the field vs. Houston Texans

A significant key to Sundays Bears-Houston Texans game: length of field. If it is the same for both teams, the situation tilts in favor of the Houston Texans. And the Bears offense knows it.

At the end of the day, with our defense, as long as we make another teams offense go 80, 90 yards, I think were going to be OK, said quarterback Jay Cutler, who has accounted for all 12 of the Bears turnovers with eight interceptions and four lost fumbles.

The Bears have lived by the takeaway (28) and have turned those into points, seven times for scores by the defense. They are 6-0 with a positive turnover ratio in 2012.

For all of the apparent statistical imbalances, the Bears have driven the ball long distances almost as effectively as the Texans. Houston has 23 drives of 50 yards or longer that have resulted in points. The Bears have 21.

The problem with that for the Bears is that Houston has allowed only 12 drives of 50 yards or longer that resulted in points. The Bears have allowed 16, also very respectable, but Houston is not the Jaguars, Titans or even the Lions, teams in the bottom half of the NFL in average yards per rush, a Bears standard.

The Texans are ninth, second in rush yards allowed per game. They will be without starting nose tackle Shaun Cody because of rib and lung issues, so the Texans will use a three-man combination of Earl Mitchell (starting), rookie Jared Crick and Terrell McClain, cut by Carolina and signed last week.

Starting vs. finishing

The Bears will be in serious trouble if they are forced to play from more than one score behind. That has rarely happened this season, with them trailing in a fourth quarter just twice this season (Green Bay, Carolina).

Not surprisingly then, the Bears have had as many scoring drives in the fourth quarter as in the second and third quarters combined this year:

Quarter Drives
1st 9
2nd 6
3rd 7
4th 13

Cutler has directed only six fourth-quarter comebacks in 49 games as a Bear. That plus the Houston defense points to a need to avoid a serious points need late.

We've had some games where we've started well, coordinator Mike Tice said. We scored on the first series a couple of games ago, we scored on the second series a game a couple of weeks ago. We just need to put a couple of drives together. We need to get that rhythm.

While attention will focus on RT Gabe Carimi vs. ex-Wisconsin teammate DE J.J. Watt, the real game may play out with center Roberto Garza and guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal against a weakened Houston middle.

I think weve got to recognize what theyre playing and attack them a certain way according to what coverage and fronts were seeing, Cutler said.

Weather or not Bears want nasty

A home-field advantage may be rolling in on Doppler weather maps in the form of rain for Sunday night. The Bears dont necessarily play better in adverse conditions but they are more accustomed to them than the Houston Texans.

So as far as Soldier Field being a sloppy track by Sunday evening , We hope so, said meteorologist Lovie Smith. Its November, and Im sure Houston is expecting to play in bad weather. Ive been watching the forecast a little bit closer than I normally do, and I hear theres a lot of rain and wind supposed to come in.

Temperatures are expected to be around 60 degrees, which wont bother the Texans. The 22-mile-per-hour south wind wont favor anybody who cant run the football. Same with the rain forecast, which is a 20-percent possibility at 7 p.m., 60 at 8 p.m., 90 at 9 p.m., and an ominous 100 percent at 10 p.m. right about the time a close football game is apt to be decided.

White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino sidelined by herniated disc

White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino sidelined by herniated disc

Tyler Saladino has reached the point where it’s significantly easier for him to find comfortable positions for his herniated disc.

The White Sox infielder joked on Friday that his dugout seat was cozy enough that he might just idle for a few days. But before he returned home earlier this week and received an epidural, the second-year player experienced several days of excruciating pain.

Saladino — who won’t play again this season — said he received the shot on Monday and it has helped immensely with a problem he has experienced occasionally this season, this instance being the most painful.

“It was kind of crippling for a little bit,” Saladino said. “Those first few days, I really was out of commission. I kind of was just trying to find a comfortable spot and stay there. Standing up, it would catch. It was pretty painful. That’s how I know it was a little bit more. That’s why I went and got that shot to try to let the medicine get there right away. It has been working and helping a lot.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Saladino’s stay in Chicago is open-ended until he feels good enough to fly back to San Diego for the offseason. He’s set for another doctor appointment soon and is optimistic based on this week’s improvement. Saladino, who is hitting .282/.315/.409 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs, hasn’t played since Sept. 21. He injured himself two days later in Cleveland before the Sept. 23 contest and hasn’t been right since.

The injury has provided a disappointing end to an enjoyable season in which Saladino showed improvement at the plate (his OPS is up 122 points from 2015).

“It was a lot of fun to be out there with the guys,” Saladino said. “The whole season was a roller coaster for everybody around here. The whole approach we’ve had all year of grinding every game was its own. They’re still doing a really good job right now. Kind of stinks to not, I don’t care, as long as I can play and even pinch run I would be stoked to be with the guys. But at this point, the back thing, you have to take care of it.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should White Sox risk starting Chris Sale in season finale?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should White Sox risk starting Chris Sale in season finale?

The Score’s Jordan Bernfield, The Tribune’s KC Johnson and ESPN 1000’s Ben Finfer join David Kaplan. The panel discusses Cubs confidence levels heading into the postseason, whether or not Chris Sale should start the season finale. Plus will the Bears beat the Lions without Jay Cutler and can the Bulls be a Top 4 team in the East?

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: