Without defensive TD's, Bears 'O' cant tally points of its own

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Without defensive TD's, Bears 'O' cant tally points of its own

SAN FRANCISCO The San Francisco defense was barely allowing two touchdowns (14.1 points) per game, No. 1 in the NFL, and the Bears were down by 17 early in the second quarter with the offense falling to a new low. The Bears ran 23 plays for a net 35 yards, minus-one passing after Jason Campbell was sacked three times in the first 18 plays.

The third-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall was the only touchdown scored by the Bears since the fourth quarter of the Tennessee game eight quarters.

The game was effectively over at halftime with the Bears down 20-0 and the Bears totaling just three first downs while giving up 22 yards in sacks vs. 21 yards on Campbells four completions.

But the problems extended far, far beyond Campbell, who was making his first start in more than a calendar year. Not that he would invoke it, but at least he had an excuse. The rest of what is suddenly one of the most inept offenses in the NFC has none.

QUARTERBACK: F

It was arguably for this exact game more than this one if Jay Cutler is not sufficiently over his concussion symptoms by the start of practices this week that the Bears invested 3.5 million in a one-year deal for Campbell. That investment is suspect at this early moment.

Campbell was inaccurate and failed to get rid of the ball on time to take hits in the first half, one for a sack and one for an interception. That was just the beginning of a horrendous night for a veteran who looked like anything but. He was a woeful 4-for-8 for 21 yards and a passer rating of 16.7 in the first half when the game had some chance of salvage

Campbell threw a second interception in the third quarter, overthrowing Earl Bennett late in a route.

Campbell finished 14-of-22, a rating of 52.7 and 107 yards, which netted to just 58 after the 49 yards on sacks were assessed. He had little enough time too frequently but his play when there was time was far from what the Bears need in this most difficult stretch of their 2012 schedule.

RUNNING BACK: D

The game plan was to run Matt Forte and the Bears did, 11 times in the first half but for only 32 net yards, no carry longer than eight yards. Michael Bush accounted for just nine yards on his five carries but did produce the Bears longest pass completion (18 yards). Forte had three catches for a total of four yards.

Neither back contributed effectively to pass protection, although the hemorrhaging in Campbells protection would have needed more than 11 players on offense.

RECEIVERS: F

Brandon Marshall appeared to lose composure on more than one occasion, demanding the ball before the snap despite tight double coverage, and having a couple of frustration incidents in the first half, but zero catches. When he did catch one for a TD, when the Bears were down 27-0 late in the third quarter, he was in the face of the 49ers DB.

Getting Alshon Jeffery back from his broken hand was supposed to help. But Jeffery was targeted only twice in the first half, both for catches and injured a knee in the second, leaving the game. Devin Hester ran poor routes and receivers gave Campbell little help in situations where he needed lots of it. Hester tied for team-high with three catches but had a long of nine yards.

No Bears receiver had a catch of longer than 13 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE: F-

The breakdowns were virtually everywhere and on play after play. JMarcus Webb failed to handle an Aldon Smith bull rush leading to a first-possession sack and was manhandled by Smith for another in the second quarter.

Smith combined with Justin Smith on a stunt and pushed Chilo Rachal back into Campbell for a third sack in the first half. When Smith flipped over to his left side, he overran Gabe Carimi. Both Carimi and Webb were completely beaten on the sackstrip by basic outside edge rushes by Smith and OLB Ahmad Brooks.

That continued in the second half, with moments ranging from bizarre to surreal. Carimi was knocked over backwards on an A-Smith bull rush while Webb was being caved in by J-Smith for a shared sack. A play later Carimi whiffed completely for another A-Smith sack and strip in the end zone. Rachal was called for intentional grounding trying to grab it and throw it out of the end zone. That was reviewed and the call was reversed to a safety.

Rachal was called for holding to stunt a first-half drive and was flagged again in the fourth quarter behind the play on a Campbell scramble.

COACHING: F

The 49ers schemed to take away Marshall and the Bears had no answer and were unable to protect Campbell repeatedly on the edges or when San Francisco used interior-line stunts.

Play calling did not adjust to the Bears inability to pass-protect for longer than three seconds and players, both backs and receivers, seemed unprepared for hot situations.

The fact that Forte totaled four yards on three pass receptions raises questions about play design or play calling.

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Multiple reports indicated that former Bulls center Joakim Noah will join Derrick Rose and sign with the New York Knicks.

Both the Washington Post and ESPN report that Noah is very likely to sign in New York, his hometown. ESPN's Marc Stein went so far as to say that other teams have already accepted that Noah is all but a done deal to sign with the Knicks.

And according to Tim Bontemps from the Washington Post, Noah's deal with the Knicks will have "a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range," a large but not insane number considering the league's salary cap explosion this summer.

The Vertical's Shams Charania added that Noah will meet with Phil Jackson and the Knicks when free agency begins Friday night.

Noah would fill a void at center left by the Knicks' trade for Rose, which shipped center Robin Lopez back to Chicago. Noah averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games last season before season-ending shoulder surgery in January. Noah spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls and was named Defensive Player of the Year just three short years ago.

But he fell out of grace with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, who opted to bring Noah off the bench for the first time in his career. It was largely assumed that both Noah and Pau Gasol would not return to a Bulls team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can sign free agents beginning July 6.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."