Odds and end zones: Bears-Vikings aftermath


Odds and end zones: Bears-Vikings aftermath

Cleaning out the notebook on Monday morning.

The history of teams with 100-catch receivers achieving little else is dangerously close to adding another case study. Brandon Marshall set a franchise record with his 101st reception in the loss to Minnesota and the hollow ring to the accomplishment was deafening.

The last time a Jay Cutler team was 8-5 and needing a win for a chance at postseason, the Denver Broncos went 0-3, two of three on the road, and Cutler had no passer rating higher than 74.9. He posted a 57.0 on Sunday.

Losing formula

When the Bears throttled the Minnesota Vikings in Soldier Field two weeks ago, they ran the ball 39 times, 36 of those by running backs. They called 32 pass plays.

In the rematch, the offense ran the ball 18 times, 15 of those by Matt Forte (13), Michael Bush and Armando Allen (one each). Jay Cutler threw 44 passes and was sacked twice before leaving with an unspecified neck injury. Jason Campbell threw nine passes in relief.

A hard fact is that Cutler has never won a game as a Chicago Bear when he has thrown 40 passes (0-6). When hes thrown 44 passes in a game, he is 1-7 for his career.

Curiously perhaps, the Bears converted seven of 17 third downs (41 percent), the second straight game in which they have converted 40 percent, their seasons average, and lost.

We were able to take away the run game, explained defensive end Jared Allen, without specifying who the we referred to, whether the Vikings or Bears coaches. They were forced into third-and-long situations. When we played them last, they were in third-and-short the whole game. They were able to dink and dunk us the whole way.

We knew they were going to max protect the whole game and show us different looks and shifts. Our whole thing was just not to let Cutler run free. When he ran, we needed to force him into bad throws and we were able to do that.

High praise

Minnesota left tackle Matt Kalil acquitted himself well again against Julius Peppers, with help from the Bears offense.

The Jay Cutler interceptions that directly led to 14 Vikings points meant that the Bears never led in the game and meant that must-pass situations were held to a minimum. Add in the assault on the defense provided by the running of Adrian Peterson (31 carries, 154 yards, two touchdowns) and the result was a pass rush that was credited with only one sack and one quarterback hit, by defensive end Corey Wootton.

Usually when youre playing from behind, you have to pass the ball more, said Kalil, Minnesotas 2012 No. 1 pick and No. 4 overall. Peppers is probably the second-best athlete Ive ever played against. That guy is probably one of the greatest players Ive ever played. Sticking with that lead and building on it makes it a lot easier.

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Here are some of the biggest stories from the day in Chicago sports:

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 1 coverage on CSN

Blackhawks get a point but Kris Versteeg wins it for Flames in shootout

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Same old story on the penalty kill

Local product and former fan Jason Kipnis has 'zero conflict' extending Cubs' World Series title drought

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

No-brainer: Cubs rolling with Jon Lester again in World Series Game 1

The making of a superstar: Kris Bryant believes in Cubs — not goats or curses

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

CLEVELAND — As the New York Yankees marketed Andrew Miller this summer and prepared for their first sell-off in a generation, their demands started at either Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez — and the Cubs still would have been forced to throw in more talent to get the All-Star reliever.

This could be the fascinating what-if for this World Series. The Cleveland Indians paid the price, giving up a four-player package headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier (the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (the No. 31 pick in the 2014 draft) to get what turned out to be the American League Championship Series MVP.

The Cubs didn’t make Schwarber untouchable because they thought he would be ready in time for the World Series, but he’s preparing to be their Game 1 designated hitter on Tuesday night at Progressive Field after a remarkable recovery from major surgery on his left knee.

“It was impossible to avoid some of the names — particularly the Cubs — (with) the year they were having,” Miller said. “Whether I wanted to avoid it or not I heard it. Guys in the clubhouse, our media was certainly bringing it to us.”

Even in other possible deals for pitching, the Cubs never came close to selling low on Baez, who broke out as the National League Championship Series co-MVP for his offensive production and defensive wizardry. 

Instead of getting Miller’s late-game dominance for three pennant races — and giving up five potential 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with Schwarber — the Cubs closed a different blockbuster deal with the Yankees for a left-handed power arm.

The Cubs wanted Aroldis Chapman’s 100-mph fastball to get the last out of the World Series and would rationalize his 30-game suspension to begin this season under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. Already holding an age-22 All-Star shortstop in Addison Russell, the Cubs surrendered elite prospect Gleyber Torres.

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“Gleyber’s a good baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That kid’s going to be really good. So you have to give up something to get something. But also our guys felt if we got Aroldis this year, we’d have a chance to be sitting here and answering this question. And they were right.

“It’s an entirely different thing when you get a guy out there throwing 100 miles an hour. You feel pretty good about it, regardless of who is hitting. So he’s really a big part of why we’re doing this right now.”

Chapman has saved five playoff games — and become that reassuring ninth-inning presence at Wrigley Field — but he clearly responds better to a scripted role.

Miller has been untouchable during the postseason, throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out 21 of the 41 batters he’s faced, giving Terry Francona even more freedom to manage a lights-out Cleveland bullpen.

“To be utilized like Miller,” Maddon said, “not everybody is cut from the same cloth mentally, either, or the ability to get loose and prepare. Andrew Miller — having done a variety of different things in the big leagues as a pitcher — is probably more suited to be able to be this guy that can get up in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth and warm up in a manner that gets him in the game both mentally and physically.

“Whereas Aroldis — if he wanted to do that — I think that would have had to be done from spring training. He’d have to differentiate his mindset. He’d have to have a different way to get ready. I do notice he throws a heavy baseball before he actually throws a regular baseball. That’s his routine.

“Whether you agree with it or not, that’s just the way it is. So with a guy like Aroldis — to ask him to attempt to dump his routine right now (and) do something else — I think you’re looking for failure right there.

“We stretched him to five outs the other night, which is a good thing, I thought. So now going forward he knows he can do that. But to just haphazardly throw him in the sixth, seventh or ninth, I think would be very difficult to do.”

Even in a World Series featuring historic droughts, Cy Young Award winners, MVP candidates and star managers, this October could come down to the bullpens shaped by deals with the Yankees.

“Both teams made aggressive trades,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Both teams are still standing. There’s something to that.”