Odds and end zones: Bears-Vikings aftermath

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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.

Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

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Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.

Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.

They were at 8-under 202.

Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.

His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

"I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in," Chappell said.

Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.

"I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that," Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is "completely out of my control."

And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.

Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.

The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.

Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.

The 17th hole changed everything.

"I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that," Johnson said. "But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position."

And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.

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