Offensive grades: Bears return to prominence

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Offensive grades: Bears return to prominence

A desperately needed rebound from the disaster in San Francisco is the only way to look at the overall offense.

The distribution of the ball bordered on the bizarre with Brandon Marshall targeted on 17 of 31 throws by Jay Cutler, but Mike Tice put together a plan and packages to force the Minnesota Vikings to respect the run, with the result that Cutler was sacked only once, and that when he tripped over his own centers feet.

The commitment to the run (39) and balance (32 pass plays) was a decisive factor with the offense putting together drives of 10, 14 and 12 plays, and at least one first down on eight of the first 10 possessions when the game was remotely in any question. The offense scored on four straight possessions in the first half, three times for touchdowns, and took the heat off the defense for a change.

QUARTERBACK B

Jay Cutler evinced no signs of his concussion of two weeks ago and was an efficient 23-of-31 for 188 yards, a touchdown and one interception off a tipped ball. He used mobility in the pocket well and spread the ball among eight different receivers, albeit with 17 throws to Brandon Marshall.

Cutler created a problem by tripping over the foot of C Roberto Garza on his first dropback for a sack. Cutlers gratuitous flip of the ball at the end of a successful scramble inside the Minnesota 20 cost the Bears 15 yards and was an inexcusable lack of composure in a critical situation, and resulted in the Bears losing a TD chance.

Overall, an important return from injury and managing the game well without excessive exposure to risk other than some forced throws toward Marshall.

RUNNING BACK B

The numbers were not big but the effects from backs were. Michael Bush reaffirmed the value of his signing last offseason with two rushing TDs and yeoman work throughout the game, particularly after Matt Forte suffered an ankle injury in the second half. Bush moved the chains and also moved the pile as well for 60 yards on 21 carries, none for more than eight yards.

Forte fought for 42 yards on 14 carries before his injury. Fortes fumble on the Bears first play from scrimmage gave the Vikings three points and was just poor ball control since he wasnt hit by a tackler. It was his first of the year in 145 carries but a big mistake at the time.

Evan Rodriguez swung out of the backfield for a key 11-yard catch for a third-down conversion in the second quarter.

RECEIVERS A-

A difficult group to critique if only because the passing game was so Marshall-centric. Marshall was exceptional with 12 receptions for 92 yards, many times working against double-plus coverage and taking hits. His average per catch was a modest 7.7 and he gave away yardage with questionable moves after a couple of catches, but he also blocked well and created a place for Cutler to go in crisis.

Earl Bennett caught all four of the balls thrown to him, with a Bears-long of 20 yards and picking up three first downs on his catches. Matt Spaeth made a picture-book catch of a 13-yard TD pass in the second quarter and his blocking throughout was key in the run game.

Kellen Davis grab in traffic in the first quarter set up Bushs first scoring run. But Davis had two catchable balls get away and missed chances to sustain drives.

OFFENSIVE LINE A-

Have to grade on a curve here. This group spent the last week in turmoil with changes at RT (Jonathan Scott for Gabe Carimi) and LG (Chris Spencer for Chilo Rachal). And it only got more chaotic on Sunday.

Spencer and Louis both exited with knee injuries, forcing Edwin Williams in at left guard in the second quarter after Spencer was shaken up, and Carimi at right, for the first time in his career high school, college or NFL.

Carimi as an extra tight end and JMarcus Webb caved in the Minnesota right side for Bushs one-yard TD run in the first quarter. Webb more than atoned for his nightmare in Game 16 last season against Jared Allen, holding Allen without a sack and to one quarterback hit, that long outside the pocket.

Scott was outstanding on the right side, containing Brian Robison with one hit and a couple of tackles.

COACHING A

Mike Tice called himself out on his play-calling but had a plan in place for the Vikings. The Bears had 39 snaps in the first half, with 21 runs and 18 pass plays on the way to a 25-3 lead. The running wasnt dominating (2.7 yards per carry) but the physical play slowed the pass rush.

Using a jumbo package of Gabe Carimi as the extra tight end, Matt Spaeth as a wing, and Michael Bush behind Evan Rodriguez gave the Bears some heft in the run game.

Tice used a mix of max-protect with chipping on Jared Allen to slow the blindside rush from the All-Pro end. But the mix of signals was key against a defensive front that had allowed only seven rushing TDs all year but gave up two to the Bears.

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks knew their meeting against the Minnesota Wild two weeks ago was a critical contest. This one is right up there, too.

The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace with the front-running Wild, who are seven points ahead of them entering tonight's game.

"There's certainly always something to play for," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks are 10 points ahead of third-place St. Louis. "We want to keep getting better and we're starting to improve over this part of the season. But the point of importance of today's game and keeping it close is important for us, so we'll approach it that way. We were going into the break a week ago, and I'm sure it's an important game for them but it's an extremely important game for us."

Meanwhile the Wild will be trying to do tonight what the Blackhawks did on Feb. 11: go into their bye on a high note. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Devan Dubnyk will get the start as the Wild look to keep extending their lead.

"It's one of those games that's a great challenge for your group," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You're playing a team that's still won three Stanley Cups in the last seven years and they've been in every battle you can imagine. That team gets up for every important game, and I think they'll think this is an important game. It's just about being an athlete. It's one of those things, you love to play in these situations."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Tuesday marks the Wild's 59th game of the season; they had caught up to Chicago during the Blackhawks' bye week, yet will go into their break with a game in hand. Still, the Wild are ready for the respite.

"We're not complaining about it," Charlie Coyle said. "It's a little different, yeah, but in the long run it's going to help us. Just get this rest period, rest the legs, the body, [rest] mentally, come back and get ready for the grind. It's going to be crucial for us and we'll try to take advantage of it."

Matt Dumba (knee) could return to the Wild's lineup tonight but Boudreau wouldn't say for sure.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com and NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks

Forward lines
Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

Injuries/illnesses: None

Minnesota Wild

Forward lines
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Jordan Schroeder

Defensive Pairs
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Gustav Olofsson-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba

Goaltender
Devan Dubnyk

Injuries/illnesses: None

CSN to carry live coverage of the 2017 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

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CSN to carry live coverage of the 2017 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

CSN, CSNChicago.com, and the NBC Sports app to carry LIVE coverage of the Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

from Redbird Arena in Normal, IL over the next two weekends

CSNChicago.com to also air highlight packages of all games throughout the weekend;

CSNChicago.com & IHSA.tv to also live stream every post-game press conference

Chicago, IL (February 21, 2017) CSN Chicago (CSN), the television home of the IHSA Championships, will be airing LIVE cross-platform coverage of the 2017 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Girls Basketball State Championships on Friday, February 24 & Saturday, February 25 (Class 1A & 2A) and Friday, March 3 & Saturday, March 4 (Class 3A & 4A) from Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal, IL.  Over the next two weekends, Illinois preps hoops fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed semifinal, consolation and championship battle starting Friday at 11:00 AM CT featuring four, live semifinal match-ups, along with a pair of consolation and two huge state championship title games on Saturday.  Plus – EVERY game will be telecast in a high-definition (HD) format.  The 2017 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast will once again be streamed live on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated CSN Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Several IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecasts, which includes every Class 3A/4A semifinals/consolation/finals match-up, will air on CSN+ (available in high-definition on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area/South Bend, IN & on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 285 in the Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets, along with being made available in DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, RCN, and WOW! homes among others; viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • CSNChicago.com & IHSA.tv will also be providing fans with a live stream of every IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship post-game press conference. 
  • Fans can interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams.   In addition, fans are urged to visit CSN’s official preps Twitter handle (@CSNPreps) for up-to-the-minute tournament news, scores, and more 24/7.

In addition, CSNChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (csnchicago.com/preps) will feature highlight packages from all games over the next two weekends, plus – CSN viewers can look forward to a special championship editions of High School Lites on Friday, February 26 & Friday, March 4 (both nights live at 11:00 PM) for a complete rundown of every girls championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews, along with the latest highlights and playoff scenarios for the upcoming IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships, which will take place the weekends of March 10-11 & March 17-18 at Carver Arena in Peoria, IL.  (NOTE: Full schedule details regarding CSN’s live coverage of the 2017 Boys Basketball State Championships will be announced the week of March 6.)

The following schedule details CSN’s coverage of the 2017 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships over the next two weekends (all times Central Time) (play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM –      Class 1A Semifinal #1: Harvest Christian Academy (Elgin) vs. Annawan (Lee Hall/Kelly Burke/Zach Kerker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A Semifinal #2: Unity (Mendon) vs. Calhoun (Hardin) (Lee Hall/Kelly Burke/Zach Kerker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #1: Byron vs. Central [Coop] (Camp Point) (Dave Bernhard/Chloe Barnes/Katy Winge)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #2: St. Edward (Elgin) vs. Central Catholic (Bloomington) (Dave Bernhard/Chloe Barnes/Katy Winge)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25

11:00 AM –      Class 1A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Kelly Burke/Zach Kerker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Kelly Burke/Zach Kerker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Chloe Barnes/Katy Winge)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Chloe Barnes/Katy Winge)

FRIDAY, MARCH 3

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: SEMIFINAL #1 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/Kristi Faulkner/Zach Kerker) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: SEMIFINAL #2 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/Kristi Faulkner/Zach Kerker) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: SEMIFINAL #1 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Katy Winge) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: SEMIFINAL #2 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Katy Winge) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, MARCH 4

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/Kristi Faulkner/Zach Kerker) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/Kristi Faulkner/Zach Kerker) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Katy Winge) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Katy Winge) (NOTE: This game will air on CSN+; please visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)