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.

----

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



Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

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Report: Sixers in California for NBA draft workouts

As the Western Conference Finals are taking place in Oakland, the Sixers are looking for new talent of their own in California.

This week, members of the Sixers' front office are attending pre-draft workouts organized through multiple agencies, including BDA Sports Management, CAA Sports, Landmark Sports Agency, Octagon and Wasserman Media Group.

While the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, these workouts are opportunities for them to evaluate players that could be fits for their 24th and 26th selections.

On Thursday, the list of workout participants included projected first-rounders Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) and Cheik Diallo (Kansas), according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

The scouting process takes NBA teams coast to coast. Earlier this week, the Sixers reportedly attended a private workout with Excel Sports Management in New York City, in which Brandon Ingram and Jamal Murray participated.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own practice facility, bringing in a total of 12 prospects thus far.

As the draft nears, 57 early-entry candidates withdrew their names from the 2016 draft.

NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Stephen Curry, Warriors fight off elimination

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "We ain't going home! We're not going home!" Stephen Curry screamed at the top of his lungs.

No, his Golden State Warriors are going back to Oklahoma City, after keeping their title reign and the winningest season in NBA history alive for at least one more game.

Curry scored 31 points, raising his arms in the early moments to fire up Golden State's raucous crowd, and the defending champions staved off elimination with a 120-111 victory over the Thunder on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

"We just did what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to win at home," Curry said. "We know what we still have to do going forward. ... We knew if we didn't win we were going home. There's no other motivation you need."

For all the speculation about the current state of Curry's beat-up body -- that troublesome ankle, sore knee or tender elbow -- he did it all.

"I thought he looked like 91 percent," coach Steve Kerr cracked. "He came out and played a really good game. That's all I can tell you. He's going to compete every night. He had an excellent night and helped us get it done."

Led by Curry, the Warriors looked like their old winning selves again.

The MVP made a snazzy layup late and dished out six assists, while Klay Thompson added 27 points as Golden State sent the best the best-of-seven series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. The Warriors trail 3-2 and are trying to become just the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.

"None of us want to go home," Thompson said. "We're having too much fun out there."

Kevin Durant scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook added 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals for the Thunder, trying for the fifth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history and first championship since moving from Seattle.

The record-setting, 73-win Warriors, coming off their first back-to-back defeats all season, had been blown out in two losses at Oklahoma City by a combined 52 points.

"We have to take that game and travel," Curry said of keeping momentum.

Durant's 3-pointer with 4:34 left got the Thunder within 103-98, then Curry answered with a three-point play.

Curry scored seven points in a 58-second stretch of the second quarter and hit more big shots late, but the Thunder didn't go away easily.

"I liked our will, I liked our fight," Kerr said. "We were embarrassed in OKC the last couple games."

Trailing 58-50 at halftime, Oklahoma City came out of the break with a 9-2 run. Westbrook's 3-pointer with 6:06 left in the third put Oklahoma City ahead 68-67 for its first lead of the night. But Golden State led 81-77 going into the fourth and began the final period with an 8-0 burst.

"We didn't shoot a particularly good percentage when we got into the lane and got into the deep paint," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "We had our opportunities."

Curry shot 9 for 20 and also had five steals, while Thompson had his 11th 20-point game for the second straight postseason despite shooting 2 for 9 from 3-point range. After struggling the past two games, Draymond Green had 11 points and 13 rebounds a day after receiving some encouraging words from Kobe Bryant on the phone.

"We really relied on the entire team tonight, which is when we're at our best," Curry said.

Kerr figured his Warriors might have an edge against the percentages of teams having trailed 3-1 because they're the defending champs and were playing at home, where they have been nearly unbeatable.

He wasn't surprised to see this team respond so well.

"We played with great desperation," Kerr said. "I knew how we would play. This is a championship team."

Kerr called for center Andrew Bogut to do more and the 7-footer delivered with a playoff career-high 15 points and 14 rebounds for his second double-double this postseason and seventh of his career.

Marreese Speights had a pair of three-point plays on follow shots and a 3 in the second quarter to give Golden State a nice lift off the bench. He had nine points in four minutes during that stretch and 14 points overall for his fifth double-digit scoring game this postseason.

"Their bench came in and made shots, made plays for them," Durant said. "We know we're going home. We can't relax."

Golden State made 31 of 34 free throws.

With his 1,248th career postseason point in the third, Curry passed Wilt Chamberlain (1,246) for second place on the franchise's playoff scoring list.

"That's who he is, that's what he's done, and that's what's made him a very good player," Donovan said.

Tip-ins
Thunder: The franchise lost in the finals in 1977-78, 1995-96 to Kerr and the Chicago Bulls and in `12. ... Steven Adams sat down with his second foul at the 9:34 mark of the first quarter. The Thunder had seven fouls to Golden State's one after the first. ... Oklahoma City took Game 1 at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only three times all season. ... The Thunder started the game 3 for 14.

Warriors: Green picked up his fifth technical of the postseason. He also has at least one steal in 16 straight playoff games. ... Golden State missed six of its first seven 3s. ... The Warriors supported Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager with "Sager Strong" T-shirts for sale to support awareness and research for leukemia and lymphoma, both blood cancers.

Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

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Best of MLB: Jose Fernandez strikes out 12 in Marlins' win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez struck out 12 in seven innings Thursday and won his sixth straight start for the Miami Marlins, a 9-1 decision over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fernandez (7-2) struck out eight of the last 10 batters he faced and struck out every hitter in the Rays lineup at least once. The 23-year-old right-hander from Tampa gave up six hits in beating his hometown Rays for the first time in three tries. He finished the game with 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, highest among major league starters.

Adeiny Hechavarria and Chris Johnson homered for the Marlins, who won three of four in their annual series against the Rays.

Hechavarria's third home run drove in the final two runs of a three-run second inning off Rays starter Drew Smyly. Johnson made it 5-0 with his second homer an inning later, Johnson's first hit in 22 interleague at bats (see full recap).

Rockies silence Red Sox, Bradley's hit streak
BOSTON -- Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Dustin Garneau hit two-run homers and the Colorado Rockies stopped Jackie Bradley Jr.'s 29-game hitting streak with a 8-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night.

The win ended a three-game losing streak by Colorado and it ended a four-game winning streak for the Red Sox. Bradley's major league-best streak was halted when he went 0 for 4 after moving up to the leadoff spot for the first time this season.

Jon Gray (2-2) gave up a two-run home run to David Ortiz in the first, but pitched six scoreless innings before leaving in the eighth.

Clay Buchholz (2-5) took the loss. He pitched three perfect innings before things came apart in the fourth, when he gave up Gonzalez's homer with the other two coming the following inning (see full recap).

Happ leads Blue Jays past Yankees
NEW YORK -- J.A. Happ pitched seven strong innings, Edwin Encarnacion and Devon Travis had two-out RBIs, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Yankees 3-1 on Thursday to win the three-game series.

CC Sabathia was the tough-luck loser for New York, allowing just two unearned runs. Alex Rodriguez went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since going on the disabled list May 4 with a strained right hamstring.

Happ (6-2) allowed one run on three hits in seven innings with five strikeouts and three walks. He has given up three earned runs or fewer in 19 of his last 20 starts.

Sabathia (3-3) retired the first seven batters before an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius on Travis' grounder with one out in the third (see full recap).