Cardinals not the only Bears hurdle in Arizona

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Cardinals not the only Bears hurdle in Arizona

To their credit, members of the Bears defense have pretty well stayed the loyal course this season as their offense has effectively turned a playoff gimme into NFL survival-reality TV in which the Bears no longer control their own post-season destiny.
 
But the frustration issue is there and can still fester and split the Bears without a turnaround.
 
I think thats a question you have to ask me at the end of the year, said linebacker Lance Briggs. We win these next two games, and we get into the playoffs, and make a run That question is hard to answer right now.
 
The fact that it is, is an answer in itself.
 
We just focus on what weve got to do, said defensive tackle Henry Melton, likely out of Sundays game with a chest injury that has him listed as doubtful. When were out there, we dont really focus on what the offense is doing. Its always great when you hear the crowd go crazy and they put up points, but we play versus the other teams defense. Were trying to outplay them. Thats what we go into the game trying to do.
 
Low-impact offense
 
The Chicago offense will have its problems with a very good Arizona defense. Indeed, this may be a game decided by whichever defense outscores the other.
 
The Arizona Cardinals do not do anything especially well when they have possession of the football one of the few offenses worse than the Bears at this point of the 2012 season.
 
They dont run well (32nd, 80 yards per game). They dont pass well (30th, 184.2 ypg.). Best of all for the Bears purposes: They dont score (16 ppg., 30th).
 
The Bears have not lost to an offense ranked lower than 17th in scoring (Minnesota).
 
All of this has gone down with a coach (Ken Whisenhunt) from the offensive side of the football, the Pittsburgh offensive coordinator when the Steelers reached the AFC Championship (2004) and won a Super Bowl (2005) and who coached the Cardinals to the 2008 Super Bowl.
 
Whisenhunts Cardinals opened the 2012 season with four straight wins in which they scored no fewer than 20 points. Then came nine straight losses in which they scored 20 in none, bottoming out with a 7-6 loss to the New York Jets and 58-0 pasting by the Seattle Seahawks, both on the road.
 
Weve had our share of injuries, and have had to play different players, and I think thats contributed to where we are, Whisenhunt said. Certainly, continuity is a big part of it for us.
 
Troubled position
 
So are problems at quarterback, where Whisenhunt is on his third different starter (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley) and now is faced with salvaging something from the season with Lindley, a sixth-round pick in this years draft.
 
Lindley has started four of the last five games and been woeful: 45.0 passer rating, sacked 10 times, thrown six interceptions and is yet to throw a touchdown pass. The best thing he may have going for him is that the Bears havent seen a lot of him.
 
We prepare for the quarterback position,said coach Lovie Smith. It hurts you if youre playing an option team or something like that, but when youre playing a prototype NFL quarterback, most of them are in the same area.
 
Arizona has failed to convert at least 30 percent of third downs in eight of its 14 games and are converting a league-worst 25.6 percent. The Cardinals are the only team worse than the Bears on first downs (4.2 yards).
 
The clear implication is that the Bears defense is being presented with a chance to get healthy, literally and figuratively. The Cardinals have lost time of possession in six of the last seven games, which bodes well for a defense that has overall played well but needs to have something in its tank to get past the Lions in Detroit next weekend.
 
We have to build on things weve done well, Briggs said. And defensively weve made some plays. Weve done some good things. We need to have more consistency in some of the things we wanted to do. But we know how were going to approach this game.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."