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



Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.