Four Downs With the Chicago Bears

Four Downs With the Chicago Bears

The Eagles blow into Chicago on Sunday night looking for revenge after last season's fourth quarter meltdown against the Bears, but this is not the same (second-rate) offense that marched 97 yards on 11 plays with under two minutes to go.  Stars such as Brian Griese, Bernard Berrian, and Muhsin Muhammad have all gone to better places.  You just can't replace that kind of talent experience group.

Oh they tried, how they tried.  Kyle Orton was finally given his long overdue shot, and to ensure his success, he's been paired with stiffs and castoffs like Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd.  They do have a nice situation at tight end, but come on!  And you guys complain about the Eagles receivers?  I almost pity the Bears.

Regardless of who lines up across from them, I'm sure the Eagles defense has not forgotten they cost the team a win last time, and they'll leave a little extra on the field to put it behind them.

Tommie Harris (if he plays)

As Tommie Harris goes, so the Bears defense goes.  If Chicago is going to win this game, they need to put a stop to an Eagles offense that has shown the ability to air it out.  For that to happen, Harris needs to take advantage of one of their few distinct weaknesses: the interior offensive line.  With Shawn Andrews out and Jamaal Jackson reportedly battling a quad injury, this could be an area of concern facing a prolific defensive tackle.

Harris is such a large part of what this defense does.  They don't blitz often, so it's important the front four generate pressure and allow the secondary to creep up in their cover 2 assignments and make plays on the ball.  He is just as crucial to stopping the run, as just his mere presence keeps blockers off of Urlacher and allows the middle linebacker to get to running backs faster and stop the play sooner.

Healthy Donovan

The last thing I want to do is create the usual injury panic about Donovan, but this is clearly the type of injury that interferes with the ability to throw a football.  The Eagles did the right thing letting him rest this week, and he is tough enough to deal with some minor discomfort even if he's not quite 100%.

By no means does that mean it should be understated.  One thing the Bears defense does as well as any team in the league is turn interceptions into 6 points, and any injury that changes the quarterback's motion or makes him think about taking a hit always has the potential to result in errant passes.  I think he's going be just fine, but make no mistake, the opponent will keep a close eye on his body language throughout the game.

Bears Offense VS. Eagles Defense

Advantage: Eagles.  The guy least looking forward to this game has to be Orton, especially once he watched the film from the Steelers game.  I actually have to give Orton some credit, he's no Rex Grossman, and I don't necessarily see him slinging pick after pick while he runs for his life.  Honestly though, what's he going to do?

The Bears offensive line is hurting, and they don't have any reliable receivers.  Rookie RB Matt Forte has been a nice addition, but the Eagles have had no problems stopping the run to this point.  All together, it creates the recipe for a long day for the Bears offense.  They are not so tragically hopeless to be written off completely, but if the defense plays with even half the intensity they showed last week, it's over.

No Westbrook?  No Problem.

You hear it all the time, the Eagles wouldn't be able to do what they do without Westbrook.  No doubt about it, anytime you take a player of  his caliber out of the lineup, you're obviously going to battle without a huge weapon.

Their supposed inability to win without him has been blown out of proportion though.  If this were January, I would be far more concerned about the possibility of West being out, but they should be able to do without against Chicago.  For one thing, Buckhalter has proven to be a more than reliable backup, and he may not be quite as dynamic as his counterpart, but Andy Reid is not afraid to split him wide or set up a screen for him.  In fact, love him or hate him, Reid's system has allowed the Eagles to get away with playing backups in important roles for years, and maybe that doesn't win Super Bowls, but it's usually good enough to beat a mediocre team in September.

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Usually when coming up with the final score, I actually try to break the game down drive for drive a few times and run through some different scenarios.  Each time I broke this game down, I simply started the Bears with a touchdown.  Maybe the defense scores, and Devin Hester is always a threat to break one, so right away adjust your thinking by seven.

Even once I had accounted for that, it was still difficult to project the offense actually threatening to keep the game close.  Can they score?  Of course they could.  The Eagles still have to take the field and win, so for right now, the Bears have a chance.

But this is no walk in the park.  Kyle Orton hasn't shown me anything to suggest he's ready for the onslaught he faces, and that's if his porous offensive line even gives him the chance.  This is the kind of team the Eagles need to flatten and continue to assert themselves as one of the best teams in the conference.  The Bears D isn't as good as it used to be, and the offense has next to no redeeming qualities, so I predict the good guys roll to 3-1.  Enjoy the game.

Final Score: Eagles 27, Bears 13



Best of MLB: Trout's 16th home run guides Angels past Marlins

Best of MLB: Trout's 16th home run guides Angels past Marlins

MIAMI -- Mike Trout hit his major league-leading 16th homer, and the Los Angeles Angels reached the .500 mark for the 12th time this season by beating Miami 5-2 Saturday.

Trout's first-inning homer into the beer garden in left field was estimated at 443 feet, which pleased a fair portion of the crowd at Marlins Park.

"Hate Fish Love Trout," read a sign held by an Angels fans.

J.C. Ramirez (5-3) limited Miami to an unearned run in seven innings and benefited from excellent defense. Bud Norris, who tweaked his right knee and left Friday's game after throwing only three pitches, gave up a homer to Marcell Ozuna in the ninth (see full recap).

Strasburg K's career-high 15, Nats down Padres 3-0
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg dominated San Diego with a career-high 15 strikeouts while allowing three hits over seven innings as the Washington Nationals beat the Padres 3-0 on Saturday.

Strasburg (6-1) singled and scored Washington's first run on Bryce Harper's RBI grounder in the third inning. Michael A. Taylor hit a two-run homer for the second consecutive game.

San Diego's lineup offered little resistance against Strasburg the day after Max Scherzer dominated the Padres with 13 strikeouts in Washington's 5-1 win.

Strasburg struck out the side in the third and sixth and had at least two in the first six innings.

The right-hander previously struck out 14 batters twice including his Major League debut on June 8, 2010. He set a personal best by setting down Franchy Cordero in the seventh (see full recap).

Yankees held hitless into 6th by Cotton, but beat A's 3-2
NEW YORK -- Oakland rookie Jharel Cotton held the Yankees hitless until Matt Holliday launched a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning that sent resurgent CC Sabathia and New York to a 3-2 victory Saturday.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was in the right spot for a pair of key catches to boost the AL East leaders, who won with just two hits.

Sabathia (5-2) has won three straight starts for the first time since April 2013. The 36-year-old lefty pitched into the seventh and struck out nine.

Dellin Betances escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth, an inning that included the ejections of A's hitter Jed Lowrie and manager Bob Melvin for arguing strike three calls. Betances closed for his fifth save.

Cotton (3-5) was promoted from Triple-A Nashville before the game. He began the season in the Athletics' rotation but was sent down to the minors May 11 to refine his game (see full recap).

Bautista hits 3-run HR, Blue Jays beat Rangers 3-1
TORONTO -- Jose Bautista hit a three-run homer that backed Marco Estrada, and the Toronto Blue Bays beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 Saturday and matched their longest winning streak this season at five.

Shin-soo Choo homered into the center-field party deck on the first pitch of the game from Marco Estrada, but Bautista hit a two-out drive in the fifth, his eighth home run in May after one in April.

Estrada (4-2) allowed four hits in six innings to win for the third time in four starts. Aaron Loup got one out in the seventh, Ryan Tepera finished the inning and Joe Smith worked the eighth. Roberto Osuna threw a perfect ninth for his ninth save, completing a six-hitter.

Darvish (5-3) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings. He had been 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA in six starts since losing April 18 at Oakland. Texas has lost five in a row for the first time this year (see full recap).

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Pete Mackanin gave his team an earful after it lost for the 21st time in 26 games Friday night.
 
Reliever Joaquin Benoit thought it was a good idea.
 
And he believes it had an impact.
 
The Phillies reported for work on Saturday and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, on Tommy Joseph's walk-off hit in the ninth (see game story).
 
"It always helps when the manager comes and talks about different situations and the things we need to do," said Benoit, a 39-year-old veteran in his 17th big-league season. "It always helps. It shows that everybody cares on the whole team and it's a wake-up call for everybody."
 
While Joseph was the ultimate hero for the Phillies on Saturday, Benoit and his mates in the bullpen weren't far behind. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to help put Joseph in a position to win it in the ninth.
 
Not long ago, the Phillies' bullpen was having big problems, giving up big hits and posting big ERA numbers.
 
But over the last five games, the bullpen has racked up a string of scoreless innings that numbers 19 2/3. That scoreless streak has lowered the bullpen's overall ERA from 4.82 to 4.23, not great, but better and moving in the right direction.
 
"I believe that we are going good, taking advantage of the situation," Benoit said. "I think we are being more consistent in the strike zone and getting ahead. That translates to zeroes."
 
Benoit had been critical of Mackanin for not having his relievers in set roles. The manager responded by saying it was difficult to give guys set roles when they were pitching poorly.
 
Performances are improving.

And roles are now emerging.
 
"I believe everything is going well for us and I believe everyone is where they are supposed to be," Benoit said.
 
Benoit took some pride in Saturday's win. He has pitched seven straight scoreless innings.
 
"Every win is a step forward," he said.
 
No matter how many steps this Phillies team takes forward, it will not be a contender this season. It has dug itself a huge hole and it wasn't expected to contend anyway. It is a rebuilding team.
 
But Benoit will likely pitch for a contender later this season. He is expected to be dealt to a contender in July. Who knows what he will bring back, but his value will only go up if he can keep putting up zeroes.
 
Neshek, too. He has allowed just two runs in 18 2/3 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and just three walks.
 
While it's not clear how long Benoit will be here, he believes this Phillies team has weathered the worst and is ready for a turnaround.
 
"It's tough when you are losing," he said. "When you start winning and you do the little things, I believe everything can change.
 
"I'm the kind of guy who likes to start over from zero so everything that happens is in the past and you start over from scratch and let's see where everything goes from now on."