Hello sports fans, Carlos here with the latest Windy City Sports Report. In this edition – can the Bears stop the bleeding? What are the Bulls doing? Will there EVER be hockey?
The Bears had their final home game of the year on Sunday against their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers. On the line was the NFC North title. A win would give the Packers the title. The Bears did not want that to happen on their home turf, but that is exactly what happened as the Packers finished the job in a 21-13 victory.
Once again, the offense was putrid for the Bears. Jay Cutler was running around for his life. The Packers got 4 sacks, but it seemed like they were on him whenever he dropped back for a pass. He completed only 12 passes to three receivers for a total of 135 yards. Matt Forte had 68 yards rushing and 64 yards receiving, but most of it in the first half. He also failed to get in the end zone in the third quarter that could have turned the tide of the game around. Brandon Marshall had 6 catches for 56 yards and an amazing touchdown in which he leveled a vicious stiff arm on Casey Hayward and put him into the ground.
After the game, Marshall was angry. “Everybody in this offense should be held accountable, even if that means jobs,” he said. “Everyone on offense should be held accountable. It’s been this way all year. There’s no excuse. We still have two games left. There’s still hope. But at the same time, we need to be held accountable.”
It was refreshing to see someone on the team be so honest. The Bears have lost 5 of their last 6 games and are in danger of not making the playoffs after a 7-1 start, yet players and coaches don’t want to acknowledge a problem. Lovie Smith said just about nothing in his postgame press conference, and Brian Urlacher chastised the fans for expressing their displeasure at this slide by booing.
Marshall was seething. “It’s been the same way all year. It’s the same thing every single game. We need to be held accountable. What I have to do is try my best to keep it together and not let this affect me because it’s starting to affect me more than it should. I love this game. I’m very passionate about this game, and right now, it’s affecting me way too much. I’m trying my all to do my job. So, that’s it.”
With that Marshall took no more questions and walked off the podium.
What was also great about this was how Marshall showed his personal growth. In previous years, even up to last year, he would not have cut off the press conference and would have gone further on until he said the wrong thing. On Sunday he did not do that. He spoke the words EVERY BEARS FAN WAS FEELING! It was a horrible game that typified this horrible second half of the season. The play calling from the coaches was just awful and the execution by the players was just as bad.
Cutler, who has been criticized himself for being too honest with this offense, again took blame for some errant throws. After the Packers tied the game at 7, Cutler threw an interception that led to the Packers go-ahead score. It appeared that Devin Hester ran the wrong route and was not where the ball was thrown. “You know, it came out of my hands,” he said of the key interception. “I’m responsible. Those things can’t happen. That’s how you lose ballgames against good teams like that.”
At some point, as Marshall pointed out, people have to take responsibility. Hester has been a horrible receiver for the Bears. As great as he has been on special teams, he has been just the opposite on offense. This experiment should be over. Let him concentrate more on special teams and take him out of the offense or just cut ties and let him go. And to think that about a month ago he was complaining that he should be a bigger part of the offense.
This route running has constantly been happening to Cutler since he came to Chicago. That is the reason why Marshall leads the league in targets for wide receivers. He runs the proper routes. When Cutler throws for Hester, Jeffery, Bennett or any other receiver not named Marshall, he is not sure the receiver will actually be where he is supposed to be.
The Bears have two more games to get straight and make it to the playoffs. They are now 7th in the conference, behind the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings, however, have a tough stretch to end the season. They play the San Francisco 49ers and the Packers to end the season. The Bears have the advantage there, playing the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions, two last place teams. The way things are going, it may be difficult for them to win those games. Let’s just start this week with Arizona and see where that leads the team. If they cannot get into the playoffs, then as Marshall said, it could “mean jobs.”
One team that has not had to worry about sliding even though they are without their superstar is the Chicago Bulls. They had a rough schedule two weeks ago, but won 3 out of 4 games (in 5 days), including beating the conference-leading New York Knicks, and found themselves in first place in the Central though Derrick Rose is still not expected back for another two months.
The Bulls had three games last week, starting Tuesday at home against the high flying Los Angeles Clippers. Who would have thought that the CLIPPERS would be the best team in LA? The Bulls played a tough, grind it out game (again) but did not have enough to overcome the Clips in a 94-89 loss.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 24 points and 13 rebounds (his 10th double/double in 13 games), but as it is with Boozer you get some bad with his good. He missed two critical free throws in the Bulls’ 4th quarter rally, and was also called for an offensive foul.
On Wednesday the Bullies traveled to Philadelphia to play the Sixers. It was the first time they returned to Philly since being eliminated there during last year’s playoffs.
It was also the first time Noah returned there since getting injured in those same playoffs. What he remembers most was the cheer coming from Philly fans when he got hurt. Noah remembers that night and uses it as motivation against the Sixers. “I just couldn’t wait to come back here. I just felt like when I went down last year, just people cheering and stuff. I just felt like that was a little disrespectful and it was definitely motivating for me to work even harder in the summer. I’m going to do it for the rest of my career, every time I come back.”
The motivation was in full effect as Noah scored 21 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and blocked 3 shots. He also pulled a Hulk Hogan as the fans booed him down the stretch of the Bulls’ 96-89 victory. As he kept making bucket after bucket and free throw after free throw (he was 7 of 7 at the charity stripe), the boos were reigning louder and Noah put his hand to his hear as if to goad them some more. It was great to see.
Luol Deng added 19 points and 13 rebounds, bouncing back from a poor 8 point performance against the Clippers the night before.
It was an impressive win considering the Bulls were shorthanded and were coming from a tough loss the night before. They were playing without Rip Hamilton (foot) and Kirk Hinrich (knee). Down the stretch, though, it seemed like the Sixers were the tired team (even though they had the previous night off) as the Bulls kept putting the pressure on them.
After a couple of days off, the Bulls faced the Brooklyn Nets at home on Saturday. They used their league leading defense in a 83-82 victory. Joakim Noah forced a turnover late in the game that led to the go-ahead basket, and rookie Marquis Teague harassed Deron Williams as he tried to hit the game winning shot.
Luol Deng led the team with 17 points. Carlos Boozer added 15, and Noah had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
With the victory, the Bulls won 2 out of 3 games for the week. They have 13 wins for the season, good for first place in the Central. They have shown a penchant for winning close games. All of their wins except for 2 have been by 10 points or less.
This week they have 4 games. They travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Monday. Then they come home on Tuesday to face the Boston Celtics. They face the Knicks on Friday at the United Center, then go to Atlanta to go against the Hawks.
In hockey, again there is nothing. The players and owners are not meeting and do not have plans on meeting anytime in the near future.
Well, that is all for now. Until next week, hug your child a little stronger and longer.