Trick play helps Packers dismantle Bears

881993.jpg

Trick play helps Packers dismantle Bears

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Four days after starting the season with a demoralizing defeat, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers looked every bit like the team they were expected to be this season.Maybe even better, at least on defense.The Packers (1-1) pulled off a perfectly executed trick play, then rattled and robbed Jay Cutler the rest of the way in a 23-10 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.The win represented an impressive rebound from a season-opening loss to San Francisco. Had the Packers lost to the Bears, they would have fallen to 0-2, with both losses coming at home."Inside the facility, there wasn't any panic," Aaron Rodgers said. "Outside, I think people were worried if we lose to Chicago, you're kind of putting yourself behind the eight ball a little bit. Good win for us. We're 1-1. Again, it's one game. We need to get better on offense; defense played incredible."Especially Matthews, who was credited with 3 of the Packers' seven sacks of Cutler.With six sacks in the Packers' first two games, Matthews already has equaled his total from last season."I think the statistics speak for themselves," Matthews said. "It's always good when you get after the quarterback, get him off his rhythm and have him throw some balls up there that I'm sure he wouldn't want, or wants back."It was a significant step backward for the Bears (1-1), who were filled with confidence after steamrolling Indianapolis in their opener.Cutler threw four interceptions to go with the seven sacks. As frustration mounted, Cutler vented with emphatic gestures throughout the game, saying afterward it was simply a sign of his desire to win."I care about this," Cutler said. "This isn't a hobby for me. I am not doing this for my health. I am trying to win football games and get first downs. When we're not doing the little things or not doing things the right way consistently, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care, they can get somebody else."Cutler was particularly upset with his offensive line, a position group that did not see a significant addition during the Bears' offseason makeover of their offense."I'm not going to just walk to the sideline and act like everything's OK," said Cutler, who was 11 for 27 for 126 yards. "It's just not going to happen."The loss left at least one prominent member of the Bears wondering if their Week 1 win was something of a mirage."Maybe we're not as good as we thought we were," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We've got a long ways to go, that's obvious. We didn't play like we did last week. Maybe Green Bay's just that good, I don't know. We just didn't play well and they played good enough to do what they did to us."The Bears also lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury. Bears coach Lovie Smith said the severity of the injury was unclear.Smith was impressed by the Packers' rebound during a short turnaround."You've got to give them a lot of credit," he said. "They didn't play as well as they wanted to last week and they came back this week."Smith acknowledged that his team looked "flat-footed" on the Packers' biggest play of the day, a gutsy and perfectly executed fake field goal when the Packers were facing fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27 late in the second quarter."Good call by them," Smith said. "They executed the play to perfection. What else can I say? Normally when a fake works it's a good job by the opponent, and that's what happened tonight."The Packers lined up for a field goal, but punter Tim Masthay, the holder, flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who streaked into the end zone."I had the easiest job of anybody," Masthay said. "All I'm doing is catching the snap, putting it down and flipping it to Tom. The rest of the guys were the ones doing the work. So, yeah, it was really cool."Crabtree credited the Packers' blocking."It's not really on me," he said. "I think any of you could run that play. All I did was catch the ball and run a straight line. The guys did a great job blocking. Tim had a great pitch. Like I said, I just ran a straight line. That was about it."Watching from the sideline, Rodgers at first thought something went wrong."I saw Crabby running out the back side, I couldn't believe it," Rodgers said. "That's a gutsy call. A gutsy call. You've got to score on that."The Packers' defense did the rest, holding new Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards.Earlier in the week, a confident Cutler wished the Packers' defensive backs "good luck" in trying to match up physically in man coverage with a new-look wide receiver corps led by Marshall. Stalked by Tramon Williams for much of the night, Marshall didn't see much of the ball. And he couldn't convert his one big opportunity, dropping a potential touchdown in the third quarter.Charles Woodson said the Packers took note of Cutler's quote."It was everywhere," Woodson said. "You know how it is. Once you make a statement these days, it doesn't take long for it to travel and get to you."Cutler shrugged off any potential fallout from his comment, noting that the Packers didn't play much man coverage."They didn't play man, so why would they say anything?" Cutler said.In all, the Packers showed they're a better team than they appeared to be after Week 1."We got kicked in the (rear end) four days ago," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And we were motivated."

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

LOS ANGELES – On the scale of NBA regular-season epic, Warriors-Clippers on Wednesday night rates a solid 8 for the Warriors. It’s circled on the desk calendars in pencil, a game they want for development and vanity.

For the Clippers, though, it’s a 9.5. Might be a 10. It’s stamped on the calendars embedded in their minds.

They need this game, psychologically, to prove they can stand up to the team that has spent the past two seasons winning a championship and setting a record for regular-season wins, simultaneously suppressing the notion of the Clippers being legitimately elite.

Los Angeles also needs to win the clash at Staples Center if these Western Conference titans are to reignite what once was the hottest rivalry in the NBA.

“We get to see what they do; they get to see what we do,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

“It’s a new four-game journey against this team,” guard Stephen Curry says. “We have history that, when you play in the division, year after year, we’re fighting for the same goal of not only winning the division but playoff seeding and coming out of the west. It’s been a nice little back and forth.”

It has been mostly forward for the Warriors, generally backward for the Clippers.

A rivalry is defined somewhat by geography but mostly by hostilities over both the regular season and the postseason. In the very best rivalries, the teams are hunting the same bounty and end up exchanging feelings of ecstasy and heartbreak.

That has been missing the past two seasons, with the Warriors winning seven of the eight games and the last six in a row. It has been Curry over Chris Paul, Draymond Green over Blake Griffin, Klay Thompson over J.J. Redick and Kerr over Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The contempt that began percolating back in 2012, reaching its apex in 2014 during a spellbinding seven-game playoff series won by LA, has been submerged by this wave of Warriors success.

The “rivalry” has declined considerably, leaving nothing but memories of the days when the teams were striving to reach the same level.

“We were a team trying to break through and make the playoffs,” Klay Thompson says. “They were trying to do the same thing, as far as trying to make noise in the playoffs. We both had an edge to ourselves and we haven’t lost it. They’re still hungry to get to that championship level. You can see that. And so are we.”

Curry traces the origin of the rivalry to Paul’s arrival in December 2011. The decorated point guard brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been every bit as much of a laughingstock as had the Warriors.

“When CP got there and the organization took a different turn, for the better obviously,” Curry recalls. “It was probably that first year we both made the playoffs (2012-13) because the records were a lot better than they usually were and there was a little more excitement around the new and up-and-coming teams.”

Games have featured ejections, multiple technical fouls – once in a preseason game – with an overdose of grabbing and posturing. One beef went postgame, nearly becoming physical in a hallway near the locker rooms.

There has been verbal warfare, sarcasm and slights and insults, though most of it lately has come from LA.

With the Warriors at 18-3 and the Clippers at 16-6, this may be the last season to reignite the conflict, and the first of four meetings will provide a sense of placement. The Warriors are 18-3, having won 14 of their last 15. The Clippers are 16-6, having lost four of their last six.

“It’ll be fun to see how it plays out,” Kerr says.

The Clippers, however, showed up for this season with a sense of urgency. Paul and Griffin both have opt-out clauses and will be free agents in July. The perennial All-Stars have been teammates for five-plus seasons, but this may be the last.

“Their continuity is really key; it’s one of the things that has helped us the last couple years,” Kerr says. “When you have basically the same team for a while, and you’re already a good team, you tend to get better. You tend to grow more and more comfortable with what you’re already doing and then, maybe even have the ability to add on some things.”

So maybe it’ll be different this season. Maybe we’ll have actual back-and-forth.

“They could be a team down the road that we need to get through to get where we want to go, and they probably see us the same way,” Curry says.

Oh, there is no doubt about that, certainly not among the Clippers.

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

mark-smith-athletics-videocoord-astwitter.jpg
ATHLETICS/TWITTER

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.