The math-leaning mind views the Chicago Bears and can’t make sense of what it is seeing.
Chicago ranks 28th in offensive yards per game (312.8), yet the Bears are 5-1. Perhaps they’re a grind-it-out team, one might surmise.
Wrong. Chicago ranks 28th in rushing yards per game as well with 90, and is near the middle of the pack in time of possession per game (30:33, good for 14th). The Bears are 27th in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game.
It must be the defense, then, right? That’s somewhat true, with the Bears ranking seventh in yards allowed per game (337.2), 10th in passing yards allowed per game and second in third-down conversion rate allowed (31.82 percent). The Bears are good at getting off the field, but they just aren’t good enough with the ball in their hands.
“We know that across the board on offense right now there’s different things we can get better at, and that’s everybody, myself included,” Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters Monday following Chicago’s 23-16 win over Carolina. “I saw yesterday, I saw what Nick (Foles) said, what did he say, ‘Would you rather win ugly or lose pretty?’ That kind of sums it up there. But the best part of what he said, right, is that we all care, and we all gotta do whatever we can to get this thing fixed.”
It’s no small feat to win five of your first six games with an offense that, frankly, shouldn’t have more than a win or two under its belt at this point. But the Bears have been able to flip the switch when needed, at least against lesser opponents.
They were able to do so in Week 1 when they overcame a large deficit to beat Detroit. They did it again in Week 3 against Atlanta, riding the spark provided by the insertion of Foles to three fourth-quarter scores in a stunning victory. And even in Week 5 against Tampa Bay, the Bears were able to claw their way 32 yards down the field to get in range for the game-winning field goal.
They just haven’t done it anywhere near enough. Since Foles’ three-touchdown fourth quarter in Week 3, he’s thrown just three scores over the last three games.
Fixing the offense isn’t as simple as replacing Foles, who has demonstrated in his career he’s a quarterback who becomes dangerous once he gets hot. He just hasn’t warmed up long enough to keep that streak going, with his passing yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio and passer rating all decreasing since that explosion in Atlanta.
Perhaps Chicago will just resign itself to riding the defense and hoping for the best. Bears fans will try to point to 2006 as an example of that, when Rex Grossman was Chicago’s starting quarterback and its defense powered the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance. But that team still owned a scoring differential of over 10 points per game.
This squad’s per-game differential is just 2.
“We’re 5-1 right now and we’re not playing well offensively,” Nagy said. “So when we do get this thing up and running — which we will — it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s the goal. We understand where our warts are on offense, we get that and we’re going to keep working on it. But we’re going to continue to stay positive as we do this because of where we know we’re at and where we’re going.”
There’s plenty of road ahead, and at 5-1, history says the Bears’ path looks rather promising. Since 1990, teams that started 5-1 made the playoffs 83.3 percent of the time and won their division 60.8 percent of the time, and 9.8 percent of them won the Super Bowl.
If the Bears figure that offense out, their chances will likely increase. Not bad for a team that has already switched quarterbacks this season.
Gareth Bale was used to having it all his own way at Tottenham… but his brief cameo may have been football’s way of telling him it’ll be different this time around as chance to hit winner goes begging with West Ham netting three AFTER he came on
Tottenham let a three-goal lead slip to draw 3-3 with West Ham on Sunday
Gareth Bale made his return in the 72nd minute with his side leading 3-0
It was his first piece of action since rejoining the club during the summer
The Welshman’s involvement was scarce as his side threw away their lead
It was the last thing West Ham’s beleaguered players wanted. They’d just spent 72 minutes suffering at the hands of Harry Kane only to see Gareth Bale emerge from his seat on the bench, stripped and ready to come on for his second Tottenham debut.
His hair in bun and wearing the No 9 – 30 days after re-signing – Bale was back home, seven years after departing for Real Madrid.
As is it turns out, West Ham players and David Moyes didn’t need to worry.
Gareth Bale’s first game since rejoining Tottenham did not go according to plan
Bale was straight into the thick of the action immediately pulling rank to take the free-kick that allowed his introduction in place of Steven Bergwijn.
His strike from fully 35 yard was easily dealt with Lukasz Fabianski – even by Bale’s sky-high standards scoring with your first touch from a free kick is beyond realism.
Yet, there was a slight tinge of disappointment when Bale’s effort didn’t rocket past Fabianski.
It’s how Tottenham supporters remember Bale. Goals, assists – their very own Superman.
The 31-year-old forward came on in the 72nd minute with his side leading by three goals
He was super-human when he left to become a Galactico in 2013 – everything he touched turned to gold.
Things change, though. Indeed, it may be wise for Tottenham fans to temper their expectations of Bale.
At 31, it remains to be seen whether the Wales international can replicate those barnstorming performances that saw him become the hottest property in European football.
The Premier League certainly hasn’t got any easier as Bale found discovered first hand on his return to the English football.
Bale showed some glimpses of his former self but his involvement in the game was scarce
Spurs were 3-0 up when he came on, they were clinging on for dear life by the end as West Ham scored twice in in quick succession to set up what would turn out to be a phenomenal finish to the game.
Bale’s involvement was scarce as he came on, the majority of his time spent trying to thwart West Ham’s increasingly dangerous forays forward.
Yet, we were still treated to glimpse of his utter brilliance in injury time, Bale searing through the Hammers defence to see the whites of Fabianski’s eyes – only to fire wide when it appeared easier to score.
It was exactly what we remember of Bale. Power, pace and trickery – only the precision that was missing.
The Welshman and his side threw away their lead as West Ham pulled off a stunning comeback
But then Bale was served a cold reminder of exactly how unforgiving England’s top-flight can be.
Agonisingly close to 4-2; moments later Spurs had thrown it all away as Manuel Lanzini thundered home an audacious equaliser to leave Bale’s homecoming in tatters.
When Bale left for Spain, he was used to having all his own way. His 18 minute cameo maybe football’s way of telling him it’ll be different this time around.
‘Covid-19 caught me big time’: Rafael dos Anjos reveals he will not take part in UFC 254 after testing positive for coronavirus with just over two weeks to go until Abu Dhabi showdown
Rafael Dos Anjos was due to fight Islam Makhachev on October 24 in Abu Dhabi
Their bout was set to be the Brazilian’s first lightweight fight for four years
Dos Anjos has now been pulled from the fight after testing positive for Covid-19
UFC 254 is set to be headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje
Rafael Dos Anjos will not be able to compete in UFC 254 after testing positive for coronavirus.
The Brazilian was due to fight Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi on October 24 for his lightweight return.
But the 35-year-old former champion – who has won just one of his last five welterweight fights – has now revealed he has tested positive for Covid-19 and has therefore been pulled from the bout against the Russian.
Rafael Dos Anjos will not be able to compete in UFC 254 after testing positive for coronavirus
The 35-year-old Brazilian confirmed his positive Covid-19 test with a post on social media
Dos Anjos wrote: ‘I came to rescue my dream of becoming a champion again, and that goal was achieved.
‘Sharing my experiences with the Nova Uniao Team and learning many details to improve my game and close the gaps in the future, none of this was in vain.
‘Unfortunately, I will not be able to compete on the 24th. Covid19 caught me big time and the doctors cut me out.
Dos Anjos was due to fight Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi for his lightweight return this month
Dos Anjos was set to drop back down the 155lb, which is where he lost the belt in 2016
‘But soon I will be back victorious inside the octagon!’
Dos Anjos was set to drop back down the 155lb – where he lost the belt in 2016 – for the first time in four years.
The showdown in Abu Dhabi later this month is headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov, 32, and Justin Gaethje, 31, who fight in a lightweight unification.
The showdown in Abu Dhabi is headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) and Justin Gaethje
American Michael Chandler will provide back up for the title bout, but Makhachev, 29, has called on the 34-year-old to replace Dos Santos, while the Russian’s manager Ali Abdelaziz has also offered Tony Ferguson the chance to step in on short notice.
‘RDA is out, yo @MikeChandlerMMA here’s your chance to jump on the Island,’ Makhachev tweeted, before Abdelaziz said: ‘What’s up Tony ? The closest thing to @TeamKhabib is @MAKHACHEVMMA.
‘Now RDA is out Would you like to take this fight? Thank you sir @TonyFergusonXT.’
There’s an argument that Manchester United fans would have complained whatever the club managed to do in the latest window but, in one sense, their frustrations are understandable.
Jadon Sancho didn’t arrive at Old Trafford and there was no remedy to the issue of perceived frailty within the heart of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defence. In fact, Chris Smalling’s departure seems to have weakened his options rather than strengthen them.
As the clock struck 11pm on Monday night, there was a feeling that United had done business that has added strength and certainly some exciting young options, but is it enough to improve on last season’s upturn in form and progress? Do they in fact deserve some credit for not being held to ransom by Borussia Dortmund?
Ultimately, the recent transfer window dances with the likes of Leicester and Sporting Lisbon secured Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes, impressive and important signings, but the tactics and structure of the negotiations over Jadon Sancho were very different.
The discussions over Sancho were complicated by an insistence from Dortmund that they were to be carried out via intermediaries.
Clearly there was a deal to be done as wages and agents’ fees were sorted out weeks ago. I’m told there were people within the Sancho camp who still expected Manchester United to make their move even as late as Monday afternoon.
But the reality is that neither side buckled when it came to the crunch. United wouldn’t increase an offer which could have seen the fee, including add-ons, reach £93.1m. Dortmund stuck to their guns in asking for £108m.
From the very start, I was told that Manchester United would never write a cheque for £100m for Sancho and I’m also under the impression that those negotiating the deal were aware of just how far they were prepared to go too, with Ed Woodward even emphasising where the club stood financially in his programme notes ahead of the opening game of the season.
The “uncertain economic environment” has almost become a stick with which to beat those at Old Trafford with as Premier League rivals seem to have shopped more successfully around them.
I’m not going to get into the politics of what’s right and wrong in the world of COVID-19, but matchday revenues bring in over £100m every season for Manchester United. Since March, they’ve been making huge losses with every game staged at Old Trafford.
Would a deal for Sancho that would have cost well in excess of £200m, including wages, have been prudent or responsible?
Perhaps that doesn’t matter to some but the facts are that in the past three transfer windows, when it comes to net spend, Manchester United have been the market-leaders in Europe at more than £200m.
Centre-back situation is a concern
I do share the surprise of many that a centre-back didn’t arrive.
I’ve often championed Chris Smalling as a possible solution. I’m aware of the counter-argument that time out of the side, for whatever reason, can make players look exponentially better. But allowing him to leave now seems dangerous.
Smalling wanted to get away after 10 years at the club and it would have taken some work to rebuild relationships after a lengthy spell of training on his own.
But the events of Sunday evening and that defeat to Spurs seemed to throw up more worrying defensive questions than were ever asked on Deadline Day.
For what it’s worth, Smalling is delighted to be back in Italy at a club where he feels valued and will play regularly. He was desperate to continue his career with Roma and is looking forward to the next four years there.
But it leaves United to find solutions from within.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof will vie for the centre-back spot alongside Harry Maguire, although many inside the club also point to young academy prodigy Teden Mengi. His potential is clear but so too is the value in really knowing when to push him into the spotlight.
Cavani, Telles deals make sense
So, let’s have a look at the business that Manchester United did get done on Deadline Day remembering, of course, that they had already brought in Donny van de Beek and that Bruno Fernandes’ signing was an acquisition earmarked for the summer that they brought forward to January.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Edinson Cavani’s arrival was his choice of words. “Work, work, work,” is what he promised in the press release we received.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also spoke of his belief that the Uruguayan will deliver goals, which hints at a more central involvement for the striker rather than just providing another option from the bench.
Cavani is 33 but his CV is impressive, with a record of 341 goals across 556 appearances, and he possesses attributes that make him different to Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood, though his role in their continued development is also considered to be valuable.
The hope is that ‘El Matador’ will follow a path laid down by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was two years older when he arrived, and Henrik Larsson, who was 36, and that he’ll be a catalyst and a leader inside Solskjaer’s dressing room.
Quarantine delays Cavani’s Utd debut
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However, Manchester United’s recent record with South Americans in Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez raises doubts over how easily Cavani might settle, but they will be encouraged by his eagerness to work hard.
All in all, it seems like a free transfer that was an opportunity worth taking.
The deal for Alex Telles seems like another good bit of business and means Solskjaer has now brought in three players who will probably comprise the majority of his back four with the Brazil international set to take his place alongside Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Telles is a more physical presence at left-back. He gets up and down well and is a scorer and a creator of goals. In his final full season at Porto, he came up with 13 goals and 12 assists.
Manchester United stood their ground on their valuation of a player they believe to be the best left-back in Portugal and in his prime at 27.
Solskjaer was clearly concerned by his options on the left side of his defence. Many wanted him to look at his central options with the same degree of concern, but intriguingly he wasn’t prepared to let Brandon Williams leave on loan despite Premier League interest in the youngster.
Diallo, Pellistri offer hope for future
So, that’s the senior signings taken care of, the tried and tested, if you like. Some Manchester United fans might ask where Cavani and Telles sat in the recruitment pecking order, but few could deny their pedigree as players and their potential to improve the squad if they acclimatise to life at Old Trafford as well as the overwhelming majority of Solskjaer’s signings have done.
The two young wingers also snapped up on Deadline Day occupy different territory, particularly in light of the Sancho deal not materialising and talks with other clubs about loans for Ousmane Dembele or Ismaila Sarr coming to nothing.
Dembele and Sarr were just two of the many potential targets considered for permanent or temporary deals. But one of the cold, hard facts about Monday October 5, 2020, is that no one arrived who would be able to step into Solskjaer’s team straight away on the right wing, leaving a priority position as an unsolved dilemma.
I know that sounds dramatic, and in reality Greenwood has shown he can thrive on the right, scoring 17 goals from the position last season, but if we suppose that Cavani is being lined up for a central role, the battle to play on the right will be an interesting one. United were also unwilling to entertain any sort of departure for Daniel James.
When Manchester United fans consider the window that was, it will always be remembered for the long and ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of the club’s number one target, Jadon Sancho.
But what those behind the scenes are hoping is that it will also be remembered as the moment two exciting 18 year olds were recruited, though in Amad Diallo’s case that entrance might not be until the early stages of 2021 due to work permit issues.
What Diallo and young Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri represent is years of monitoring and scouting in Italy and South America which highlighted the pair as two of the most exciting prospects in world football.
United scouts first became aware of Diallo when he played in an U15s game in 2016 and while Pellistri was developed at Penarol by their manager and Old Trafford favourite Diego Forlan, he’s been on the radar for more than three years too.
Diallo will to continue to play for Atalanta in the meantime, subject to his citizenship issues being successfully navigated before January, but Pellistri will be assessed by Solskjaer and could be fast-tracked into the first team squad following his £9m move.
There are two ways of looking at this Deadline Day.
Manchester United did spend and did bring in talented additions while also loaning out some of their fringe players to trim the first-team squad. But, at the same time, it is fair to say it did not deliver what the club set out to do or what the fans expected.
The performance in the 6-1 loss to Tottenham also put their recruitment efforts into sharper focus.
We’ll never know if Sancho would have been the signing to elevate this squad into genuine challengers at home and abroad, but what we will soon be able to assess is whether the business they have done allows them to take a step forward in these unpredictable times.
International Break? Not For Super 6!
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Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho says his side have “no excuses” at Manchester United as they reach the end of a gruelling run of games.
Spurs head to Old Trafford on Sunday for their fourth game in eight days, having booked their place in the Europa League group stages on Thursday.
Mourinho has previously complained about player welfare and said his players’ efforts have been “inhuman”, but he is gearing his side up for one last push before the international break.
“I am used to it. It’s the last one, the last match,” he said. “I don’t want to moan. I moaned enough and I moaned with real things on my hands and I don’t think anyone disagreed with me, even when I was moaning about the situation.
“But now [there] is only one more match, only the United match. But no excuses. They had only one match for the week and it was yesterday and probably the majority of the players who played are not going to play Sunday.
“But I want to forget that. We go there and we go there to discuss the game.”
Mourinho could be boosted by the return of Son Heung-min at Old Trafford as the South Korean recovers from a hamstring injury, which is not as bad as first feared. Son was previously ruled out until after the international break, but he could make a surprise comeback on Sunday.
“I don’t want to lie to you and say he doesn’t play and Sunday he’s there,” Mourinho said. “At the same time I don’t want to say he plays and then he doesn’t.
“So let’s wait and see; in this moment, I honestly don’t know.”
The game sees a return to Manchester United for Mourinho, almost two years after he was sacked as manager there.
One of his first matches in charge of Spurs was a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford last December, but Mourinho reacted with disdain when asked whether Sunday’s match was a revenge mission.
“What’s that? Revenge? I won so many times at Old Trafford as Man United coach and as an opponent coach.
“Revenge for what? Nobody treated me badly there, everyone was so nice to me, I don’t have enemies there, I don’t have bad feelings. Revenge for what? It’s just a football match I want to win.”