Offensive Grades: Line, Forte earn high marks

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Offensive Grades: Line, Forte earn high marks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The offense again failed to control a game that it desperately needed to and was bailed out by the defense scoring as many touchdowns as Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall did.
Its not supposed to be that way, but perhaps its fitting that the Bears were what the NFL thought they were, based on the last six games. The offense finished with 297 yards and was an anemic 3-of-13 (23 percent) on third downs, mostly because of failed first- and second-down passes, usually toward Brandon Marshall.
It will not be good enough for the playoffs. It remains to be seen whether it is even good enough to beat the Detroit Lions, who couldn't score more than 18 points at home with Calvin Johnson breaking receiving records.
QUARTERBACK D
Cutler locked in on Brandon Marshall for five targets in the first two series, for zero completions (six attempts) or points in the first quarter. He was 1-of-11 midway through the second quarter and gave the offense no rhythm with sustaining drives through smart completions and moving the chains. Folded in is the fact that he was under limited pressure from the Cardinals, who sacked him just once.
Cutler finished with 12-of-26 passing for 146 yards, a TD and rating of 76.8. This is the second straight sub-standard performance by the central figure of the offense with the season hanging on his play. Cutler targeted Marshall on 14 of his 25 passes and repeatedly put the offense in long-yardage situations on third downs because of questionable throws against a team whose defensive strength was against the pass.
RUNNING BACKS B
The backs combined for 128 yards on 30 carries (4.3 per carry) and took advantage of breakdowns in the Arizona front. Matt Forte bounced a play for 36 yards in the first quarter that seemed to ignite a stagnant offense and then finished the drive with a four-yard TD burst.
Forte was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury after the half but finished with 85 yards on 11 carries, the second time in the last three games hes netted 85 on the ground.
Kalil Bell, signed last week after Michael Bush went on injured reserve with a rib injury, was able to get some snaps, and Armando Allen acquitted himself well with 24 yards on five carries in the third quarter alone after Forte went out.
RECEIVERS C
Brandon Marshall did battle all afternoon with Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety help and finished with six catches for 68 yards. He exploited a blown coverage in the secondary when Peterson failed to get the anticipated safety help and Marshall also made several catches on sheer physical effort.
He and Evan Rodriguez both posted drops on successive plays from inside the Chicago 5 that could have gotten the offense out of the hole.
Alshon Jeffery caught one pass for 35 yards and drew an interference call on the Cardinals.
Tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth sealed the edge for Fortes TD run with their blocking, and got a strong assist from Eric Weems on the play. The Bears spent much of the game in two- and even three-TE packages to help with Arizonas edge rush pressure and running the ball.
Other than Marshall, Davis (two) was the only receiver to catch more than one pass.
OFFENSIVE LINE A-
Against a good defensive scheme and personnel, the line performed well overall, particularly with Chris Spencer back at right guard and Gabe Carimi at right tackle. Spencer had opened the season at left guard and Carimi at right tackle and coaches could have a decision to make when Jonathan Scott is deemed OK from his hamstring injury.
Carimi and JMarcus Webb were solid against two very good defensive ends in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Center Roberto Garza had assignments under control despite the stunting and blitz work of the Cardinals 3-4
Rookie James Brown took a step of improvement at left guard and kept the stunts at bay. Overall the Cardinals had just one sack, which was Cutler running into the pursuit on an aborted scramble, and one quarterback hit.
COACHING C
Timeouts were wasted in the first half and the offense was fortunate to finish the second quarter with a touchdown in two-minute work. But coaching is not easy to evaluate when the quarterback is making decisions that send such a huge proportion of plays through one wide receiver.
The Cardinals were vulnerable to the run but the Bears repeatedly were going downfield early against the strength of the Cardinals defense. The lack of rhythm in the overall offense can be laid at Cutlers feet to some extent but the game plans continue to lack a sense of purpose, just Cutler dropping back, looking for Marshall and waiting for his favorite target to work open.

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

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USA Today Sports Images

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

MIAMI -- Rookie Willson Contreras homered and drove in three runs to help the Chicago Cubs break their longest losing streak of the season at four games by beating the Miami Marlins 5-4 Friday night.

Contreras hit a two-run homer in the Cubs' four-run first inning. His RBI single in the seventh put the team with the best record in the majors ahead to stay. He's batting .412 with three homers and eight RBI after seven games in the big leagues.

While Contreras again excelled as a reinforcement for the injury-hampered NL Central leaders, they endured another setback when second baseman Ben Zobrist left the game after he was hit by a pitch on the left ankle.

Four pitchers held the Marlins to two hits, including Justin Bour's grand slam.

Each team scored four runs in the first inning, when Kris Bryant and Contreras homered for the Cubs. It was the first time in the majors this year that both teams scored at least four runs in the first, according to ESPN.

Despite the early onslaught, both starters settled down before departing with the score still 4-all.

The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks pitched five innings and allowed only one hit -- Bour's slam. All four runs were unearned because of an error by shortstop Addison Russell.

Miami's Tom Koehler gave up six consecutive hits in the first but still pitched six innings.

Trevor Cahill (1-2) threw a scoreless sixth to help the Cubs break their longest losing streak of the season. Hector Rondon retired all four batters he faced for his second four-out save in a row, and his 13th overall.

Mike Dunn (0-1) retired only one of the five hitters he faced in the seventh.

The Cubs' outburst in the first included Bryant's 18th homer and Contreras' drive. They nearly had hits by their first seven batters, but Jason Heyward was robbed by center fielder Marcell Ozuna to start the game.

The Marlins tied the game in their half of the first, with all four runs unearned because Russell mishandled a grounder to start the inning. Hendricks gave up a pair of two-out walks, and Bour hit a breaking pitch into the center field shrubs for his 13th homer.

TRAINER'S ROOM

The Cubs endured another loss after Zobrist was hit by a pitch from Dunn on one bounce. Zobrist took his base and stayed in the game until the end of the inning, but was then replaced in the field. ... Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo (stiff back) and C Miguel Montero (right knee) were held out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row but were both feeling better, manager Joe Maddon said. Contreras started for Montero, who was available off the bench and is expected to start Saturday.

WHERE WAS BARTMAN?

Chicago 3B Javier Baez dove into the stands to catch J.T. Realmuto's pop foul in the fourth.

UP NEXT

Cubs RHP John Lackey (7-3, 2.78) is scheduled to start Saturday against RHP Paul Clemens (0-1, 5.40), who will make his second start since being recalled from Triple-A. Lackey has faced the Marlins twice -- in 2005 and 2015.

Saturday on CSN: White Sox continue series with Blue Jays

Saturday on CSN: White Sox continue series with Blue Jays

The White Sox take on the Blue Jays this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: R.A. Dickey (4-8, 4.08) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (1-2, 4.29)

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White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

Zach Putnam is weighing his options after he had a second opinion on Friday and surgery is one of them.

The White Sox reliever went on the disabled list Tuesday with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Putnam, who has a 2.30 ERA in 25 games this season, last pitched on Sunday in Cleveland.

“(Surgery is) possible,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “But again, we are exploring all the options. We want to make sure we have all the possibilities laid out before us. It’s just one of the things we are considering.”

“Still parceling through the options and at this point we don’t have a specific timeframe for him.”

The White Sox bullpen already is short-handed after losing Jake Petricka to potentially season-ending hip surgery earlier this month. Daniel Webb is out for the season after he had reconstructive elbow surgery earlier this month.

The White Sox bullpen currently features three rookies as result of those injuries and manager Robin Ventura doesn’t see any way of avoiding using them in key spots. Michael Ynoa and Chris Beck both got in and out of trouble and earned holds in Boston.

“We’re gonna have to find a way to get nine innings in and they’re gonna get tested,” Ventura said. “I thought Michael did a nice job the other day. I think even Beck after the first hitter, it could have been a mess. I thought he really showed what he’s made of by coming back. He gave up the sac fly and that was it.”