Late rally improves offensive grades

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Late rally improves offensive grades

The end game will overshadow the middle game but the Bears (6-1) didnt so much defeat the Carolina Panthers (1-6) as escape them.

The 210 total yards of offense were the second-lowest to the 168 at Green Bay. The 25-percent third-down conversion rate was the seasons worst and put the defense back on the field too often too soon.

Because the Panthers werent kicking off deep to Devin Hester, the offense was effectively handed the ball at no worse than the Chicago 34 on four possessions and at the 45 after an interception. On none of those possessions was the offense able to manage even a field goal and only on one did the Bears run more than three plays.

Ball security was one of the strengths of the Chicago offense through the previous four wins and the seeds for disaster were planted when Jay Cutler lost the ball on a first-quarter sack. He proved that was no fluke by doing it again late in the second quarter.

The offense combined to have Cutler sacked on six of his 15 drop-backs in the first half. In one stretch, the Bears went three-and-out on six of seven possessions, two of those ending with fumbles.

QUARTERBACK C

Heres how well do this: An F for Jay Cutlers first three quarters, an A for the fourth, and a win for the .

Credit Cutler with his first come-from-behind win of the year, saving the game with a fourth-quarter drive after posting a passer rating of 37.8 through three quarters. His 12-for-14 passing in the fourth quarter, however, was franchise-grade stuff.

Cutler turned in the worst first half since his nine-sack nightmare at the Giants in 2010: six sacks, two fumbles, poor decision-making. Of nine passes thrown, seven were to Brandon Marshall, covered or not, and none to Devin Hester or Earl Bennett.

Cutler created problems for his line by holding the ball too long, contributing to four sacks in the first half, three in the first three possessions, and six overall. Cutler also squandered a potential drive by forcing a deep throw to Marshall into double coverage.

Half of Cutlers 28 attempts went toward Marshall. It wasnt working particularly well too often.

The real measure of a quarterback is winning even when he isnt playing well. Cutler did that, although needing Robbie Gould to hit a 41-yard field goal to finish it was far from dominant.

RUNNING BACK B-

Matt Forte established the run in the first quarter and with 61 yards in the first half, then was shackled with four carries for just nine yards in the second. His five catches on five targets, however, was crucial even if not producing big yardage (24). Forte provided some help in pass protection but was never a consistent factor after the first quarter (five carries, 44 yards).

Michael Bush was used sparingly, with three carries for net five yards, and did not catch a pass.

RECEIVERS D

Like Cutler, the overall evaluation has to be weighted toward the fourth quarter. Cutlers inaccuracy for three quarters was not helped by drops by tight end Matt Spaeth and WR Devin Hester. But tight end Kellen Davis highlight-reel TD catch was a big grab in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

Earl Bennett didnt see a ball thrown to him in most of the first three quarters, then jump-started the offense with catches of 24 and 11 yards on consecutive plays. Bennett caught three of the four passes thrown to him and his yards after the catch were pivotal in extending the plays.

OFFENSIVE LINE C-

Six sacks allowed in the first half, zero in the second. But 64 rushing yards in the first half, 15 in the second. A potential F performance was saved by protection when it mattered.

Run blocking early was strong, with tackles Gabe Carimi and JMarcus Webb sealing edges and left guard Chilo Rachal road-grading on two pulls for big gains that established the run. Pass protection needed to improve but early sacks were more Cutler and coverage than protection debacles.

A Roberto Garza false start hurt momentum in the fourth-quarter and the Bears failed to convert the resulting third-and-long on the first good possession in more than two quarters.

The Panthers slanted their line similar to the plan used by the Detroit Lions. The Bears had trouble with it in the first half but made enough tweaks in the second to keep Cutler from being obliterated.

COACHING C

A gameplan was difficult to discern, whether for reasons of confusion or execution, more likely both. But the six sacks in the first half were troubling for a variety of reasons involving planning by both the line and quarterback getting rid of the ball.

The offense never established any rhythm, not surprising given the number of three-and-outs beginning late in the first quarter.

White Sox outlast Twins, 6-5, in 10 innings

White Sox outlast Twins, 6-5, in 10 innings

MINNEAPOLIS --- The White Sox managed to overcome several key mistakes to snap their three-game losing streak on Saturday night.

Dioner Navarro’s RBI double in the 10th helped erase a three-error inning and a blown save as well as another near-miss by the team’s bullpen in a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,914 at Target Field. Navarro, who finished with three hits, doubled in Garcia with one out after the outfielder started the 10th inning with his second double in five trips. David Robertson pitched a scoreless ninth to convert his 25th save.

Justin Morneau doubled, homered and drove in two as the White Sox improved to 51-53.

Melky Cabrera’s game-tying RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning let Matt Albers off the hook after he yielded a go-ahead, three-run homer to Eduardo Escobar in the bottom of the eight. Cabrera’s hit scored Tim Anderson, who went 3-for-5.

Miguel Gonzalez earned a no decision despite a strong finish to a fantastic month as he allowed two runs (one earned) in seven innings. Gonzalez had a 2.50 ERA in July

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

MINNEAPOLIS — If the White Sox trade away assets over the next two days, Adam Eaton said the blame is all on the players.

The right fielder, who was held out of Saturday’s game to rest bumps and bruises, said the White Sox have enough talent to be successful in spite of their injuries. Even with an improved roster, the White Sox entered Saturday with 50-53 mark as they’ve been inconsistent all season. While Eaton doesn’t want to see any of his teammates dealt before Monday’s 3 p.m. CST nonwaiver trade deadline, he could understand if they are.

“Oh yeah, and it’s our own fault,” Eaton said. “It’s the players’ fault. We play up to what we’re capable of playing, and it’s not even a discussion. Rick has gotta do what he’s gotta do to put us in the best position to be good now and later. Whatever he has to do, we’ve got to accept it as players because we put ourselves in this position.”

Eaton admitted he wasn’t in a very good mood before Saturday’s contest. He said the team’s losing ways haven’t been enjoyable — “losing sucks, man.” Disappointed with the team’s play since their 23-10 start, Eaton pointed at consistency as the club’s biggest issue. He didn’t cite injuries to a number of key players, including center fielder Austin Jackson and relievers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam.

“(Injuries are) part of the game,” Eaton said. “It’s no excuse on our end. When one guy goes down the next guy’s gotta pick it up, gotta fall in the line and find a way to get it done in some way, shape or form. I don’t think we lean on that at all as a crutch. We’ve got the talent here in to win, and at the end of the day it’s being consistent and finding a way to get it done day in and day out. Anybody can do it for a month. You’ve got to be consistent. You can’t be too high or be too low or the game will find you and show those inconsistencies.”

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

The Kennedy Igboananike trade shifted focus a bit towards next year for the Chicago Fire, but on Sunday the focus returns to the field.

The Fire host the New York Red Bulls and the game will be televised live on CSN. Coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The game willl also be simulcast with a Spanish language broadcast on CSN+.

Since going 1-5 to start the season, the Red Bulls (9-9-4, 31 points) have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and sit second in the standings. The team’s recent run has caught the attention Fire coach Veljko Paunovic.

“We are looking at the next game against one of the best teams in the league, in my opinion,” Paunovic said. “I would say performance wise the best team because in the style they play, it’s fantastic. I think they have very, very good players.”

[SHOP: Get a hold of your own Fire home jersey here]

The Red Bulls are playing better of late, but have not succeeded much on the road. New York is 1-7-3 on the road and 8-2-1 at home.

The Fire (4-10-5, 17 points) remain in last in the conference, but have an eight-match unbeaten streak at Toyota Park.

“It’s important to stay strong at home and it’s important for our fans to see that we can compete against one of the best teams in the league here at our field with all our field,” Paunovic said.

Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis will miss his second straight match due to injury and Joey Calistri was still listed as questionable. With Igboananike gone, forward depth for the Fire is very thin, especially if Calistri is unavailable.

Brandon Vincent’s availability is also in question after playing in the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday. He only logged 33 minutes, but factoring in cross-country travel and just two days rest, Vincent may not play.

The Red Bulls have the same situation with Sacha Kljestan, who played 41 minutes in the All-Star Game. Kljestan leads the league with 12 assists and also has five goals. Bradley Wright-Phillips has also been hot of late. The English forward has 11 goals after not scoring in the first seven matches of the season.

“Sacha Kljestan is playing at an MVP-caliber level and Wright-Phillips has seemed to find the scoring touch again,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “They had a great year last and they’re starting to turn it on now, but we’re at home. We know that if we bring our best game that we can compete with anyone at home. It’s an important three points, especially with our road form we know that we have to snatch these points up and we’re looking forward to it.”

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

When: 6 p.m. Sunday (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: Comcast SportsNet (simulcast in Spanish on CSN+)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.