Points: Bears struggle scoring, particularly vs. Green Bay


Points: Bears struggle scoring, particularly vs. Green Bay

The tipping point for the Bears in their hope of staving off further disaster and defeating the Green Bay Packers was put in straightforward perspective by their coach last Monday.

Against Minnesota, we put a lot of yards up, said coach Lovie Smith. We did some good things third downs, passing yardage and all that. But its about points and we still havent scored enough points. Its as simple as that.

Nothing about scoring points for the Bears has been simple, however, particularly against Green Bay.

MORE: Bears must worry about more than Rodgers

The Bears have played the Packers close. Six of the last nine games with Green Bay have been decided by seven point or less, meaning most have come down to or play or two. Seconding Smith: Its as simple as that.

Cutler vs. Capers

The biggest single reason among multiple causes that the Green Bay Packers have beaten the Bears five straight times and are favored to make a sixth has been that one quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) has been better than the other (Jay Cutler).

In the eight games with Green Bay since trading for Cutler, the Bears have scored more than 20 points just once and that was in game 15 last season (21) under Josh McCown. They scored 20 in the only Cutler win over the Packers (first game, 2010) when the Packers contributed 18 penalties.

As to why the Packers have effectively owned Cutler, they have a good game plan, Cutler said. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers does a good job of getting those guys prepared and showing different looks and taking away things offenses are good at and what they want to do with the ball.

Maybe it is a Capers thing. Capers arrived in Green Bay the same year the Bears were trading for Cutler. He already had been a problem for Cutler, however.

Capers was a special assistant and secondary coach under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots in 2008. The Patriots held Cutler to a 64.5 passer rating and intercepted him twice in a 41-7 mauling of the Broncos.

Capers devised a two-man bracketing of wide receiver Brandon Marshall that limited the franchise wideout to two catches and 24 yards, second only to the 2-21 game Marshall suffered through at San Francisco, also a loss on which the Bears scored only one touchdown.

We had a plan and we stuck to it, said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. I thought our defensive line played well in the first game. We have a lot of respect for Brandon and his game and what he brings to the table. Hes a target and obviously the favorite target for Jay Cutler.

Marshall was dismissive of the defensive efforts of the Green Bay defense beyond Capers plan. But he dropped a touchdown pass in the game and the fact was that the Bears could not solve the Packers plan.

Just as they failed to solve the Minnesota Vikings.

We also let the team down this past weekend against the Vikings. Marshall said. We had some crucial drops that could have changed the game. That falls on us, that falls on me being one of the leaders in that receivers room, and we have to change it now.

Whither Forte?

The receivers collectively have failed other than Marshalls 101 catches. But the Bears put 441 yards on Green Bay in game 15 last year (yet only two touchdowns) in major part by running 42 times for 199 yards. And that was with Kahlil Bell netting 121 and Armando Allen 40 in place of Matt Forte and Marion Barber.

Most notably, McCown was not sacked. He ran eight times but came off better than Cutler, who was sacked three times in the game-three loss to the Packers.

That worsened to seven sacks in game one this season, in which Cutler threw four interceptions. Coordinator Mike Tice later took responsibility for poor protection scheming, particularly on the edge against Clay Matthews (3.5 sacks) but Forte was given only seven carries. Michael Bush had 14 but is nursing rib injuries and may be of limited value this week.

Its not just one area, said Cutler, himself dealing with neck and reported knee soreness. Ive got to play better, first and foremost and get the rest of the guys up to speed with me. Youve got to run the ball better, pass the ball better, block better theres no one area we cant improve in.

Curie senior Elijah Joiner commits to Tulsa


Curie senior Elijah Joiner commits to Tulsa

Curie senior guard Elijah Joiner ended his recruitment on Sunday by committing to Tulsa on Twitter.

The 6-foot-3 Joiner helped the Condors with the Class 4A state championship in Illinois last season as the combo guard averaged 11.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Joiner shot 49 percent from the floor, 36 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line on the season.

Forming a dynamic duo with current DePaul freshman Devin Gage last season, Joiner was one of the toughest players to defend in the city. He committed to Tulsa during his official visit to campus this weekend.

"It felt like home and it was a great situation," Joiner said of Tulsa.

Without Gage this season, Joiner will be Curie's go-to player as the Condors will once again be a major threat for a city and state championship. Since Joiner can handle the ball and also play off of it, it'll be intriguing to see how head coach Mike Oliver uses his star in Curie's offense. 

Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto


Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto

It wasn’t a full youth movement on the season's last day, but there was one new face in the Chicago Fire’s lineup and that could signal something to come in the offseason.

Goalkeeper Patrick McLain made the start in goal for the Fire in a 3-2 loss at Toronto FC to close out the season.

With the Fire out of contention weeks ago, arguably more notable than the result is the absence of Sean Johnson. Johnson did not travel to Toronto as a healthy scratch while McLain got the start and Matt Lampson was the backup. Considering coach Veljko Paunovic's repeated assurance that he would play what he thought was the strongest lineup and not rotate players just to give younger players more playing time, this decision stands out.

This will fuel further speculation that Johnson could leave in the offseason. Johnson, 27, has been with the Fire since being drafted in 2010. He is the longest tenured Fire player.

McLain finished with three saves, including a nice reaction save following a corner kick in the first half.

Johan Kappelhof also did not play due to a right hip injury. Rodrigo Ramos started at right back in his absence.

As for the actual game, the Fire (7-17-10, 31 points) took the lead via Michael de Leeuw’s seventh goal of the season in the 18th minute. Arturo Alvarez picked up his ninth assist by sliding a pass to de Leeuw, who finished from a tight angle.

Toronto (14-9-11, 53 points) tied things up just before halftime when Sebastian Giovinco was tripped in the box by Joao Meira for a penalty kick. Giovinco buried the penalty and the match was tied at halftime.

Giovinco showed why he is the reigning MLS MVP on the second goal. He managed to control a ball while being double teamed in the box and cut by his man to get to the end line and crossed to Justin Morrow, who finished with a powerful header in the 54th minute.

Jonathan Osorio made it 3-1 when he dribbled around McLain and scored in the 62nd minute.

John Goossens, who came off the bench in the first half for an injured Matt Polster, scored in the 83rd minute to make for a closer finish to the game. Goossens half-volleyed a loose ball in the box with a hammered left-footed strike and his third goal of the season. Polster left with a knee injury.

The loss meant the Fire became the first team in MLS history to finish last place in back-to-back seasons.