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By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)
Mitchell Trubisky is doomed to have pulled the short stick out of the quarterback class of the 2017 draft, but for one day he had a stick big enough to beat down one of the young stars to whom he’s always compared.
On the strength of the star-crossed signal caller’s three touchdown second quarter, the Chicago Bears thumped one of their would be-franchise QBs, Deshaun Watson, and his Houston Texans 36-7 Sunday at Soldier Field.
It was the first meeting between the two signal callers since Ryan Pace decided a roll of the dice on an inexperienced quarterback was less of a risk than to gamble on an elite college winner with a reconstructed knee and an NCAA championship to his credit in the 2017 NFL Draft, a decision that will always be picked over and deemed notorious in most football circles.
But on this day, the Bears finally got the satisfaction again of knowing something an opponent didn’t. Coincidentally, this day came nearly a year to the day Kansas City Chiefs dynamo Patrick Mahomes — the supposed other main target for the Bears at QB in ’17, yet was selected eight picks behind Trubisky — torched and trolled the Bears for three scores on Sunday Night Football.
BUY – Bears Strike Back in Dominant Win
It materialized a week later than Matt Nagy’s rallying cry had aimed — and was likely tardier than a playoff berth would merit — but the Bears (6-7) righted themselves in resounding fashion Sunday.
Never mind that the 36-7 victory, which ended the franchise’s longest losing streak since 2002, came against Houston, one of the few teams clearly their inferior in the NFL.
Of substantially more consequence are the so-called Monsters’ chances of advancing to the postseason, which improved Sunday, albeit marginally, and the self-assurance that comes from a season-high scoring outburst along with seven sacks and the most takeaways the defense secured in a month.
The Bears picking themselves off the mat after a pair of stunning losses is important.
Also noteworthy is the improved play of the offensive line of late and Trubisky’s inarguable impact on David Montgomery. In each of Trubisky’s six starts this season, the Bears have gained 100+ yards on the ground. Montgomery’s 80-yard scamper to the house on the opening drive of the game resulted in his third rushing touchdown in the last two games after rushing for just two scores in the first 11 games.
Next up is the Minnesota Vikings (6-7) and another opportunity to gain ground in the NFC wild card race.
BUY – Bulls Square Up With Rockets In Pair of Preseason Games
Overreaction to the Chicago Bulls’ preseason opener against the Houston Rockets Friday flew in the face of how that result, a decisive loss, would typically be ingested with a grain of salt.
And while any response to Sunday’s 104-91 payback victory should also be just as measured, fans can at least back away from the panic button after seeing a better example of the potential of this squad.
There’s only so much that can be gleaned from two games against the same opponent, particularly one missing its most phenomenally prolific scorer in James Harden. With that being said, encouraging signs emerged from throughout the weekend, not the least of which was rookie Patrick Williams.
He didn’t find near the amount of success with his shot Sunday as he did Friday, but the No. 4 pick from just under a month ago looked poised in all his time on court, showing a decisiveness and ability to get to his spots that gives credence to comparisons to Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.
A nice bench nucleus of Williams, Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison played well together off the Friday, and were a part of the group that trimmed a deficit to Houston that grew as large as 32 points to nine in the second quarter.
In getting used to his established role now as the team’s lead guard, Coby White gritted through his trial by John Wall’s searing fire, mending a team-worst -29 player efficiency rating with a team-best +14 Sunday (of any Bull to play at least 15 minutes). Otto Porter Jr. was efficient from the field as well, sparking hope that he can finally stay healthy after playing only 70 games over the course of the last three seasons.
And Zach LaVine is, well, Zach LaVine.
Much more tinkering is left to be done ahead of a pair of games at Oklahoma City to close the curtain on the preseason this week — such tinkering should include figuring out if Wendell Carter Jr. is capable of not just taking, but making those long-range shots Billy Donovan has green lit for him.
BUY – White Sox Not Letting Up On Championship Mission With Lynn, Eaton Signings
On the South Side, Lance Lynn and Adam Eaton aren’t just the White Sox’s most-prized acquisitions of this still young off-season.
The decision to sign Eaton, 32, and swap promising prospects Dane Dunning and Avery Weems for the 32-year-old former ace of the Texas Rangers, Lynn, is exemplary of an organization that’s looking to do more than just win its first playoff series since riding the waves of momentum to a championship in 2005.
The two vets’ arrival, as well as that of the hoary Tony La Russa in October, is an indication that this club’s immediate goal is jumping through the championship window blown open by its offense that scored the fifth-most runs in baseball last season.
In spite of trailing only Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Oakland as the American League’s stingiest rotation in 2020, the Sox’s most glaring weakness was their pitching.
That group now boasts three former Cy Young finalists in Lynn, Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito as well as Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech, who opted out of the 2020 season but is said to be in “a very good spot” after missing all of 2019 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and openly battling depression and anxiety.
The ironic return of the occasionally prickly Eaton, who was shipped to the Washington Nationals four years ago in a deal for Giolito as the Sox began their plod back to respectability, could diversify a predominantly right-handed lineup — his bat mostly betrayed him before injury abruptly ended his season in September — but should definitely plug the hole left in right field by the non-tendering of Nomar Mazara.
Inviting a needling player into an otherwise congenial clubhouse is always a dicey endeavor. So, too, is mortgaging young talent, especially when said talent plays the most important position on the field.
But those are risks any franchise on the cusp will readily take if it feels an immediate payoff is in the cards.
HOLD – Cubs Yet To Gain Off-Season Talent to Offset Key Losses
While title hopes permeate the around 35th and Shields, up north the Cubs fans are holding their collective breath as a future of either prolonged contention or perturbing calamity hangs in the balance with every off-season decision.
It’s a circumstance made more unsettling given the ratio of withdrawals — Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber and Ryan Tepera among others — to deposits — right-handed pitcher Gary Fenter via the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft — made by team president Jed Hoyer.
What remains from last season’s NL Central champion is a team in need of starting pitching depth, back-end bullpen arms and a more defensively adept center fielder to push Ian Happ into left field on a full-time basis.
With every move wedged between a desire to remain competitive and a commitment to bargain-bin hunting, Cubs fans could be further removed from reasons to exhale than February’s spring training is from the publishing day on this post.
HOLD – Latest Signing Shows Fire In Midst Of Full On Youth Movement
Continuing its concerted effort to revitalize its roster, the Chicago Fire Football Club acquired 21-year-old Bulgarian winger Stanislav Ivanov Wednesday.
Described by the Fire’s Sporting Director Georg Heitz as “dynamic and hard working,” Ivanov is expected to be an integral part of a Fire squad that now features 16 players aged 23 years old or younger on its 30-man roster.
Ivanov set career highs in goals (9), assists (5), games played (27), and starts (25) during his 2019-2020 campaign with Levski Sofia (Bulgaria).
The Fire have finished each of the past three seasons with losing records.
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago