Cutler benched! Clausen to start vs Lions Sunday.

LAKE FOREST—The Bears will start Jimmy Clausen Sunday against the Lions.The move comes as a major surprise. While Jay Cutler has faced scrutiny for his body language and demeanor, the team handed him a seven-year, $126 million contract last season. The move seems to indicate that Cutler is done for the season, and puts his career with the Bears in jeopardy.Clausen has seen time in three games this season, completing three passes in nine attempts. His last start came back in 2010, his rookie season. That year, Clausen threw for 1,558 yards, with three touchdowns against nine interceptions.The Lions are currently 7-point favorites.

Hawks let two goal lead slip away, but beat Minnesota anyway.

The surging Blackhawks keep on finding ways to win.Patrick Kane scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 3:28 left, and the Blackhawks bounced back to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-3 on Tuesday night for their 13th win in 15 games.Kane’s centering attempt from behind the net – intended for Patrick Sharp – struck the skate of Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin and deflected into the net.Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists for the Blackhawks, who dominated in the second period and took a 3-1 lead. But Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter connected on a penalty shot, and Marco Scandella fired in a screened goal in the third period to tie it.

”The power play came up with a big timely goal,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ”I didn’t mind overall what transpired tonight. Tough game.”

Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook also scored, and Ben Smith added an empty net goal for the Blackhawks, who won for the 10th time in 11 games. And they did it without top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was sidelined by an undisclosed illness.

”It’s a good little run we’re on here and we want to keep it going,” Smith said. ”Even when we’re up two goals in the third and they storm back to tie, we found the way to get the job done.”

Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek scored in the first period as the Central Division rivals met for the first time since the Blackhawks defeated the Wild in the second round of last season’s playoffs.Antti Raanta made 26 saves as Blackhawks No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford sat out an eighth game because of a foot injury sustained when he left a concert two weeks ago.Crawford is expected to return this weekend.Niklas Backstrom made 34 saves. Keith missed his first game this season. David Rundblad took his spot in the lineup and was paired with Seabrook, Keith’s usual partner, in the first period before Quenneville shuffled his pairings.Niederreiter’s team-leading 14th goal equaled his career high for a season, set last year in 81 games.Vanek scored the only goal of the first with 7:01 left when he was left wide open in the slot.The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 21-8 in the second period and took a 3-1 lead on goals by Seabrook, Hossa and Toews in a span of 8:11.Seabrook tied it 1-1 at 8:10 when he moved in from the right point and ripped a high shot past Backstrom.Hossa made it 2-1 with 7:41 left in the second.Toews started and finished the play that increased the lead to 3-1 just over four minutes later. He stole the puck from Christian Folin and whipped it back to Smith who was alone in front.Smith took two point-blank shots, and the second slipped between the goalie’s pads. Toews then tapped it in.But the Wild stormed back in the third to tie it.Niederreiter was awarded a penalty shot at 7:13 after he was hooked from behind by Hossa. Niederreiter faked and beat Raanta with a rising backhand shot.Scandella tied it 3-3 with a screened shot from just inside the right point just under three minutes later.Smith’s empty-netter with 1:14 left sealed the win.

”Getting that power play was nice and we were able to bounce one in there,” Seabrook said. ”It was a lucky one, but we’ll take it.”

NOTES—Keith has six goals and 12 assists in 31 games. … Rundblad sat out the previous five games as a healthy scratch. … Scandella returned after serving a two-game suspension. Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second game due to an illness. … Wild F Brett Sutter played his first game this season following his recall from AHL Iowa on Monday. He is the son of Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter, who also coached and played for the Blackhawks.

Saints BREES past Bears 31-15 as awful season winds down.

Turns out all Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints needed to solve their problems was to show up in Soldier Field.Nothing like playing the Bears to break a slump. Even better, the Saints jumped into first place.Brees threw for 375 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans beat the Bears 31-15 on Monday night to grab the NFC South lead.The Saints (6-8) moved into first place ahead of Carolina (5-8-1) and Atlanta (5-9) after losing four of their previous five games. They also rebounded from a 41-10 loss to the Panthers.

”I think we’ve shown a couple times we can handle adversity,” Brees said. ”Let’s make sure we can handle success, too.”
The Saints host the Falcons before finishing the season at Tampa Bay.
”The tendency after success is to relax, and it’s not time to relax,” Brees said.

Brees completed 29 of 36 passes and reached the 4,000-yard mark for the ninth straight year. He threw two touchdown passes to Josh Hill and another to Marques Colston.Pierre Thomas had five catches for 83 yards. David Hawthorne had three of New Orleans’ seven sacks and the Saints intercepted Jay Cutler three times to bring his NFL-leading turnover total to 24.

”We were not in unison tonight collectively on the offensive side of the ball and that starts with me,” Marc Trestman said.

For the Bears (5-9), the loss comes after a week in which they were again engulfed in controversy. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer acknowledged he was a source behind a critical report by the NFL Network about Cutler, owning up to it in public Friday after earlier asking players and coaches for forgiveness.Cutler completed 17 of 31 passes for 194 yards, and the Bears couldn’t get anything going. They managed only 278 yards against one of the league’s worst defenses on a soggy night in which thousands of seats went unused.There were 10,749 no-shows, and that might not have been a bad thing for the Bears, the way they played.The Saints went ahead in the second quarter after wasting several opportunities in the opening period. Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was called for a 17-yard pass-interference penalty trying to defend Jimmy Graham, setting up New Orleans with a first down at the 8.Brees then rolled to his right on the first play of the second quarter and found an open Hill, who lunged across the goal line.The first half was so bad for the Bears that their best play might have been Patrick O’Donnell’s 56-yard punt that went out of bounds at the New Orleans 5 with about four minutes left in the second. But the Saints responded with a 10-play, 95-yard drive.Brees threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Colston with 38 seconds left, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead. Cutler’s pass was then picked off by Pierre Warren on the final play in the half.Brees and Hill connected for a 7-yard TD on their first possession in the third on a similar play as their first score, making it 21-0. It was 24-0 early in the fourth when Cutler hit Marquess Wilson with a 1-yard touchdown pass, denying New Orleans its first shutout since 2012.The Saints wasted a big scoring opportunity in the early going.New Orleans took over at the Bears 24 after Patrick Robinson intercepted a pass that went off Martellus Bennett’s hands on the game’s third play from scrimmage. Rather than grab the lead, the Saints quickly gave the ball back.Nick Toon got stripped by Brock Vereen after a 10-yard reception and Jared Allen made the recovery at the 3.The Saints came away empty-handed on their next possession when Shayne Graham’s 51-yard field-goal attempt fell short. But the Saints eventually found their stride.

”I think there’s a sense of urgency that we need to create each week, and we need to be mindful of how important that edge is to play well,” coach Sean Payton said. ”It’s something we made a point of emphasis with everyone.”

NOTES—Bears kicker Robbie Gould was inactive with a right quadriceps injury, leaving the kicking duties to Jay Feely for the second straight week. Safety Chris Conte and offensive lineman Michael Ola missed the game because of back injuries. … Saints LT Terron Armstead (neck) started and LB Junior Galette (knee) played after they were listed as questionable. … Singer Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy performed the National Anthem.

Saad’s third period goal the difference as Hawks edge Flames 2-1

Brandon Saad scored with 7:03 left in the third period, and the¬†Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Sunday night for their 12th victory in the last 14 games.After motoring past Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano, Saad took a centering pass from Jonathan Toews and lifted a shot past Jonas Hiller‘s glove.Toews also set up Patrick Sharp‘s power-play goal as the surging Blackhawks dealt the Flames their fifth straight loss. The Hawks had won eight in a row before Saturday night’s 3-2 loss at the New York Islanders.Jiri Hudler had his team-leading 12th goal for Calgary, which has scored just eight times during its slide.Sharp’s goal was his first since returning Tuesday from a knee injury that sidelined him for 14 games. Sharp, who led the Hawks with 34 goals last season, has four this year – all on the power play.Antti Raanta made 23 saves while subbing for Corey Crawford, who is out with a foot injury. Rookie Scott Darling had started the Blackhawks’ last four games.Hiller finished with 26 saves.Before the game, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he expected Crawford to return next weekend. Raanta and Darling have filled in quite nicely since Crawford was hurt while leaving a concert two weeks ago.Neither team had many chances in the scoreless first period.Hiller made a sprawling pad save on Andrew Shaw‘s rebound attempt 6:15 in. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau danced down the slot with a series of nifty moves with 7:59 left, but was stopped by Raanta.Hudler opened the scoring at 4:27 of the second when he trailed in late on a rush and was left open. Hudler took Gaudreau’s cross-ice feed and whistled it past Raanta’s glove.Sharp’s goal at 8:43 – just nine seconds into a power play – came off a fast passing series with Kane and Toews. From below the goal line, Toews dished across the slot to Sharp, who sprinted into the left circle and ripped in a high one-timer.The Blackhawks came on in the up-tempo third period, dominating for chunks of time and outshooting the Flames 10-5. Hiller had to be sharp to keep it close, including making several tough saves on Kris Versteeg.

NOTES—Tim Erixon, acquired from Columbus earlier on Sunday for F Jeremy Morin, played on the left side of a defensive pair with Michal Rozsival. … The Blackhawks also reassigned D Klas Dahlbeck to Rockford of the AHL on Sunday. … Calgary D Corey Potter, recalled from AHL Adirondack on Saturday, was a healthy scratch, as was former Blackhawks F Brandon Bollig. … With Erixon in the Hawk lineup, D David Rundblad, one of his former teammates in Sweden, sat out.

Dunleavy’s big third quarter leads Bulls past Heat

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

MIAMI—Mike Dunleavy scored 22 points and the Bulls overcame a sloppy start Sunday to beat the offensively inept Miami Heat, 93-75.Heat leading scorer Chris Bosh (calf strain) missed a game for the first time this season, which left them without enough punch or size to challenge the Bulls. Miami shot a season-low 35 percent, including 4 for 22 from 3-point range.Dunleavy was shut out in the first half but scored 19 points on eight shots in the third quarter, when the Bulls outscored Miami 33-16. Dunleavy finished 4 for 5 from 3-point range, while the Bulls shot 9 of 18 beyond the arc and 47 overall.Jimmy Butler had 17 points for the Central Division-leading Bulls. They improved to 11-3 on the road -best in the Eastern Conference.Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng led Miami with 17 points apiece. The Heat’s point total matched their season low.The teams slogged through an ugly first half in their first matchup this season. The Bulls committed 13 turnovers but led 39-32 because Miami shot only 29 percent.The Bulls scored only three points in a 7 1/2-minute span after Derrick Rose went to the bench with two early fouls. The dry spell included turnovers on seven consecutive possessions midway through the first half as Miami built a six point lead.Aaron Brooks scored eight consecutive points in three possessions to give the Bulls a 22-20 lead, and they were ahead to stay. They started the second half by outscoring Miami 12-2 to increase their lead to double digits. Bosh sat out with a slight calf strain that began to bother him more before the game, according to coach Erik Spoelstra. Forward Josh McRoberts missed his third game in a row because of a right knee bruise. Chris Andersen played 18 minutes after missing the previous nine games with a sprained right ankle.
NOTES—Doug McDermott is expected to be sidelined another four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Saturday on a right knee injury that has sidelined him all month. Joakim Noah missed his third straight game because of a sprained right ankle….The Bulls are at Atlanta on Monday. The Bulls have won six in a row against the Hawks.

Late flurry carries ISU past DePaul

ROSEMONT—Paris Lee converted a four-point play to spark a 12-3 run in the final minute, pushing Illinois State past DePaul 78-72 on Sunday night.Billy Garrett Jr.’s layup gave DePaul a 58-49 lead with 8:16 remaining. Illinois State answered with a 17-9 run to pull within 69-66 with 1:15 left before Lee made it 70-69 with 58 seconds to go.Daishon Knight’s three-point play pushed the Redbirds’ lead to 73-69. Garrett split a pair of free throws to make it 73-70, but ISU made five of six from the line to seal it.Knight scored 25 points. MiKyle McIntosh added 14 points, and Reggie Lynch 13 points and 13 rebounds for Illinois State (5-3).Jamee Crockett scored 22 points, and Tommy Hamilton IV had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead DePaul (6-3). Durrell McDonald dished out five assists for the Blue Demons.

Mississippi Valley no match for NU

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Alex Olah scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Northwestern snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Mississippi Valley State 101-49 on Sunday.Nathan Taphorn had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting while Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps had 15 points apiece for the Wildcats, who were playing without senior guard JerShon Cobb (right foot) but still eased to their highest point total and most lopsided victory of the season.Northwestern (6-3) dominated play for most of the night – placing five players in double figures – and shot 57.4 percent, including 11 of 24 from beyond the arc, after dropping decisions to Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech and Butler. Cobb averaged 12.2 points last season but has struggled so far, contributing only 5.1 through eight games. He wore a large gray walking boot on his right leg during the game.Latrell Love led MVSU (1-8) with 15 points.Two Olah free throws with 8:53 remaining in the first half gave the Wildcats their first 10-point lead. Vic Law’s emphatic one-handed dunk with 7:54 to go in the half gave the Wildcats a 29-15 lead, and Demps’ slam with 3:09 to go before halftime grew the lead to 17.NU got a scare with 15:38 left in the first half when Olah was helped off the court favoring his right knee. Olah returned with 12:42 remaining.The Delta Devils shot only 29 percent from the field and lost their second straight following their lone victory of the season, a 66-63 win over North Carolina A&T on Nov. 29.

Rose goes off for season high 31, Bulls use balance to beat Blazers 115-106

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Derrick Rose scored a season-high 31 points, and the Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 115-106 on Friday night.Rose, who tore the meniscus in his right knee against the Blazers last season, went past his previous high of 24 points and scored over 30 for the first time since March 12, 2012. He was 14 of 24 from the floor for the Bulls, who have won three of four and improved to 4-5 at the United Center.The Bulls broke a seven-game losing streak to Portland.Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his eighth straight double-double and 14th of the season. Rookie Nikola Mirotic had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Aaron Brooks scored 17 points for the Bulls, whose bench outscored Portland’s 40-15.LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 of his 35 points in the first quarter, his 10 field goals in the period matching a team record set by Darius Miles in 2005. But he was held to two points in the final quarter.Damian Lillard also had 35, making seven 3-pointers and scoring 18 in the fourth for the Blazers, who have lost back-to-back games and dropped their first against an Eastern Conference team. Wesley Matthews had 10 and made the 717th 3-pointer of his career, putting him into a tie with Damon Stoudamire for second in franchise history.Portland had won seven straight overall before losing 90-82 in Minnesota. The Blazers were held to their fewest points of the season and had their worst shooting night (.388) in that one, but went 43 of 88 from the field in the United Center.The Bulls were without center Joakim Noah and forward Doug McDermott. Noah sat his second straight game with a sprained right ankle, and McDermott was absent for the fifth consecutive time due to a right knee problem that will require arthroscopic surgery Saturday.But despite Noah’s absence and Aldridge’s explosive first half, the Bulls led 59-51 at halftime.

NOTES—Portland recorded 20 assists, running its streak of at least 20 to 23 games to start the season. . Portland couldn’t improve to 11-0 against the Eastern Conference, failing to tie a team record set last season for most consecutive wins against the East to start a season…..Bulls Swingman Mike Dunleavy was inadvertently elbowed in the nose by Nicolas Batum in the first quarter but returned soon after. . The Bulls ran their streak of 100 or more points to eight games, their longest since an eight-game span from March 26-April 11, 2009.

GROBBER’S NFL WEEK 15 PICKS

AFC GAMES:
INDIANAPOLIS over Houston
CLEVELAND over Cincinnati
BALTIMORE over Jacksonville
NEW ENGLAND over Miami
KANSAS CITY over Oakland
Denver over SAN DIEGO
NY Jets over TENNESSEE

NFC GAMES:
CAROLINA over Tampa Bay
NY GIANTS over Washington
SEATTLE over San Francisco

INTER-CONFERENCE:
Pittsburgh over ATLANTA

THURSDAY NIGHT:
ST.LOUIS over Arizona

SUNDAY NIGHT:
Dallas over PHILADELPHIA

NFC NORTH GAMES:
Green Bay over BUFFALO
DETROIT over Minnesota
New Orleans over BEARS
HOME TEAMS in ALL CAPS
LAST WEEK: LES 12-4, ADAM 11-5, ZACH 12-4, KEVIN 12-4
THROUGH WEEK 14: LES 139-72-1 ADAM 138-73-1, ZACH 128-83-1, KEVIN 134-77-1

Hawks hold off Bruins, Toews hurt with Seidenberg cheap shot.

BOSTON—The Boston Bruins got their captain back on the ice for the first time in seven weeks.The Blackhawks lost theirs, and they hope he won’t be gone much at all.The Blackhawks beat the Bruins 3-2 on Thursday night for their eighth consecutive victory, a win that was tempered by the loss of forward Jonathan Toews, the Hawks captain and No. 2 scorer who left the game after Dennis Seidenberg came up behind him, hit him on the back of the shoulder and sent him face-first into the boards in the second period.

”Dangerous. Tight area. Strong guy,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ”He seemed all right. We’ll see how he is tomorrow, but it looks like he’s going to be all right.”

Seidenberg said he was aiming for the shoulder and had no intent to injure Toews, who was the MVP of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time NHL champion, Toews has 11 goals and 12 assists in 28 games so far this season.

”It was unfortunate how he went into the boards,” said Seidenberg, who waited in the hallway outside the Blackhawks dressing room after the game to shake hands with alternate captain Patrick Sharp.”I try to be clean,” Seidenberg told reporters. ”I would never want to hurt anyone.”

Ben Smith assisted on the Blackhawks’ first goal and scored their second as they opened a 3-0 lead before Boston rallied. Scott Darling made 32 saves for the Blackhawks, who have won 11 of their last 12 games and lost just twice in the past month.Tuukka Rask stopped 18 shots for Boston. The Bruins have lost four of their last five games and six of eight.The Bruins were boosted by the return of captain Zdeno Chara, who missed seven weeks with a torn ligament in his left knee. But they couldn’t take advantage of the 6-foot-9 defenseman’s presence.Klas Dahlbeck and Patrick Kane also scored for the Hawks, and Marcus Kruger had a pair of assists. They then had a lengthy power play, including almost two minutes of a 5-on-3, thanks to three penalties in a row against Boston.One of them was the boarding call against Seidenberg that knocked Toews out of the game.

”We definitely hope it’s not too serious,” Smith said. ”He’s our leader, and he’s our catalyst. We definitely rallied behind him.”

The Bruins killed off the power plays, and near the end of the period Reilly Smith scored to make it 3-1. It stayed that way until there were eight minutes left, when Milan Lucic bulled his way through two defenders, taking them both with him behind the net before passing it back to Torey Krug for the goal.The play ended with several players pairing up and fighting, with the longest-lasting Boston’s Chris Kelly against Andrew Shaw.

NOTES—The Bruins observed a moment of silence before the game for former Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau. … The Blackhawks scored at least three goals for the 12th time in 13 games. … Chara, who is annually No. 1 on the Bruins in time on ice, played 24:11. He was not on the ice for any of the five goals. The Bruins went 11-8-1 while he was out.