Bears-Vikings preview: Bears ball


Bears-Vikings preview: Bears ball

In the Rollerdome get ahead and stay there
Perhaps more so in this game than any other this season, if the Bears fall behind against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, more than just their quarterback could be in true jeopardy.
The reasons are compounded.
First, the overall: The Bears in general are not a team with the passing offense to play well from behind. They are 14-45 under coach Lovie Smith when trailing at halftime and a dismal 1-9 over the past two seasons, and just 2-10 when trailing after three quarters.
Jay Cutler has not played well from behind over his career. His 134.9 fourth-quarter passer rating is the NFLs best, but has involved just three from-behind games all year (Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle) and he has fewer career fourth-quarter comeback wins than Eli Manning had last season alone.
Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for a 56-yard completion to set up a tying field goal at the end of regulation. But in two previous possessions, with chances to put the game away, the offense had first-and-10s at the Seattle 48 and 44 and failed to get even a field goal try.
Sounding off
The issue this Sunday, however, is that the Bears are not against the Panthers or Seahawks in Soldier Field. They are in the Metrodome where they allowed seven sacks, 3.5 by defensive end Jared Allen, in a Week 17 win last year.
Minnesota, a dome, its going to be loud, Cutler said. Jared Allens a little bit of a different player in that dome compared to Soldier Field. A lot to deal with, a good team, very similar to our defense. Its going to be a challenge.
It will be a particular challenge for the offensive line, which is playing its first road game with three starters changed from the last time the Bears saw the Vikings.
Left tackle JMarcus Webb is still the spotlighted figure because of his assignment to neutralize Allen. That was accomplished in the first Minnesota game by scheme as well as personnel.
Were going to try to mix it up, offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. Different Minnesota defense at home on that field turf with that crowd noise, and we just have to make sure that were smart about the calls and how were helping JMarcus out.
Matchup styles
Tices plan, as it was in the Bears 28-10 win two weeks ago, is to run at defensive ends Allen and Brian Robison as a means of slowing the pass rush. The Bears are 30th in sacks allowed per pass play but 10th in rush yards per game. The Vikings are 16th in sack percentage and Allen and Robison have a combined 14 on the season.
Minnesota had just one sack in the first game when the Bears averaged a very modest 2.9 yards per carry but ran 39 times vs. 32 pass plays.
Weve got to be able to run the ball efficiently like we did last time; keep ourselves in manageable third downs, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. I think thats the key to the game.
Indeed, with Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams at guard and Jonathan Scott at right tackle, the Bears have three players still learning each other. Carimi is a converted right tackle, Scott is the right tackle, and they work well together on combination blocks, a key in the run game.
A Marshall Plan?
Marshall caught tied his season high with 12 catches against the Vikings, for 92 yards. Notably perhaps, his average of 7.7 yards per reception was more than three yards less than his previous low. The Vikings were not going to let Marshall beat them deep and he had no catch longer than 17 yards. Only against Green Bay (14) and San Francisco (13) was he held to that short a long. Both of those games were Bears losses.
The Minnesota plan was not necessarily to let him make catches but to hit him very hard when he did.
The thing that stood out the most to me when we played them two weeks ago was, as soon as you catch the ball, they are right on you, Marshall said. Those guys are rallying to the ball, they play together and theyll hit you. You have to be tough out there, especially against that secondary because theyre an aggressive group and theres not a lot of separation out there.
Its going to be another grinder I think.

IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups


IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing show is going on live on CSN Chicago and streaming on as teams from all over Illinois are finding out where they'll play in the first round.

Here's a look at the first-round matchups for each class.

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps and @IHSA_IL for all of the latest IHSA playoff football information.


(1) Ottawa Marquette (9-0) vs. (16) Milledgeville (5-4)
(8) Dakota (6-3) vs (9) Polo (6-3)
(4) Aquin (8-1) vs (13) Oakwood-A.P. (5-4)
(5) Hiawatha (7-2) vs (12) LeRoy (6-3)
(2) Forreston (9-0) vs (15) Luther North (5-4)
(7) Stark County (6-3) vs (10) Westminster Christian (6-3)
(3) Stockton (9-0) vs (14) Salt Fork (5-4)
(6) Lena-Winslow (7-2) vs (11) Bureau Valley (6-3)
(1) Tuscola (9-0) vs (16) Oblong (5-4)
(8) Camp Pt. Central (7-2) vs (9) Carrollton (6-3)
(4) Decatur Lutheran (8-1) vs (13) Red Hill (5-4)
(5) Arcola (7-2) vs (12) Calhoun (6-3)
(2) St. Teresa (8-1) vs (15) Cumberland (5-4)
(7) Pawnee (7-2) vs (10) Athens (6-3)
(3) Argenta-Oreana (8-1) vs (14) Warrensburg-Latham (5-4)
(6) Brown County (7-2) vs (11) Greenfield-NW (6-3)


(1) Newman C.C. (9-0) vs (16) Clifton Central (5-4)
(8) St. Joesph (7-2) vs (9) Peru St. Bede (6-3)
(4) Deer Cr.-Mackinaw (8-1) vs (13) Orion (6-3)
(5) Hope Academy (8-1) vs (12) Knoxville (6-3) 
(2) Annawan-W'field (8-1) vs (15) West Prairie (5-4)
(7) Gibson City-MS (7-2) vs (10) El Paso-Gridley (6-3)
(3) Eastland-Pearl City (8-1) vs (14) Rockridge (5-4)
(6) Fulton (7-2) vs (11) Momence (6-3)
(1) Tri-Valley (9-0) vs (16) Rushville (5-4)
(8) DuQuoin (7-2) vs (9) Red Bud (7-2)
(4) Eldorado (8-1) vs (13) Flora (6-3)
(5) Maroa-Forsyth (8-1) vs (12) Johnston City (6-3)
(2) Unity-Payson (9-0) vs (15) Illini West (5-4)
(7) Carmi-White Co. (7-2) vs (10) Shelbyville (6-3)
(3) West Hancock (9-0) v. (14) St. Thomas More (6-3)
(6) Bismarck-Henning (7-2) vs (11) Sangamon Valley (6-3)


(1) IC Catholic (9-0) vs (16) St Joseph-Ogden (5-4)
(8) Paxton-Buckley-Loda (8-1) vs (9) Mercer County (7-2)
(4) Wilmington (9-0) vs (13) Corliss (6-3)
(5) Byron (9-0) vs (12) Eureka (6-3)
(2) Farmington (9-0) vs (15) Winnebago (5-4)
(7) Elmwood-Brimfield (8-1) vs (10) Bloomington CC (7-2)
(3) Westville (9-0) vs (14) Marine Military (6-3)
(6) Monticello (9-0) vs (11) Clark (7-2)
(1) Newton (9-0) vs (16) Auburn (IL) (8-1)
(8) Pana (8-1) vs (9) Marshall (IL) 8-1)
(4) Carlinville (8-1) vs (13) East Alton-Wood River (6-3)
(5) Williamsville (8-1) vs (12) Hillsboro (6-3)
(2) Mt Carmel (IL) (9-0) vs (15) Sesser-Valier (5-4)
(7) Vandalia (8-1) vs (10) Tolono Unity (7-2)
(3) North Mac (8-1) vs (14) Beardstown (5-4)
(6) Fairfield (8-1) vs (11) Anna-Jonesboro (7-2) 


(1) Herscher (9-0) vs (16) Illinois Valley Central (5-4) 
(8) South Shore (7-2) vs (9) Dixon (7-2)
(4) Phillips (8-1) vs (13) Kewanee (6-3)
(5) Aurora Central Catholic (8-1) vs (12) Wheaton Academy (6-3)
(2) Johnsburg (9-0) vs (15) Marengo (5-4) 
(7) Plano (7-2) vs (10) Manteno (6-3)
(3) Genoa-Kingston (9-0) vs (14) Coal City (5-4)
(6) Rockford Lutheran (7-2) vs (11) Richmond-Burton (6-3)
(1) Althoff (9-0) vs (16) Carterville (5-4)
(8) Alton Marquette (7-2) vs (9) Taylorville (7-2)
(4) Mt Zion (8-1) vs (13) Richland County (5-4)
(5) Rochester (8-1) vs (12) Civic Memorial (5-4)
(2) Columbia (9-0) vs (15) Greenville (5-4)
(7) Canton (7-2) vs (10) West Frankfort (6-3)
(3) Herrin (8-1) vs (14) Watseka (5-4) 
(6) Breese Central (7-2) vs (11) Breese Mater Dei (5-4)

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”