- Created on 07 October 2013
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, right, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall sit on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Chicago.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Suddenly, Jay Cutler has too many targets?
A day after star receiver Brandon Marshall vented after a lack of catches, the Chicago Bears' quarterback brushed off the comments and said his teammate is frustrated because he wants to succeed.
"He's human," Cutler said. "He wants to be personally successful but he knows for us to get where we want to go, and everyone has to contribute. There's games where he doesn't get 10 balls, 12 balls. He might have five and a touchdown and if we win, he's going to be happy. If we don't, everyone's going to work to see what we can do to fix it."
The Bears are coming off their second straight loss following a 3-0 start after falling to New Orleans on Sunday. With the Saints double-teaming Marshall, he was targeted just five times and finished with 30 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Alshon Jeffery stepped up in a big way, though. He set a franchise record with 218 yards on a career-high 10 catches, just what the Bears need if other teams are going to focus on Marshall.
Cutler also had a big game, throwing for 358 yards and two touchdowns, but the Bears came up short again after falling at Detroit the previous week. Back-to-back losses have taken some of the shine off a 3-0 start, and a loss to the winless New York Giants on Thursday night will really ratchet up the nerves around Chicago.
Marshall already was a bit on edge after Sunday's game, saying he was frustrated with the loss in general and his inability to get open. He said the Bears need to adjust, but he also insisted his feelings had more to do with the result than with his statistics.
"The frustration comes when we're not winning and the offense isn't moving the ball," he said. "It has nothing to do with me. It's about I want to win. I've always said, I have a nice contract, been to Pro Bowls, made All-Pro. I want to win. Sometimes the formula may go to me, sometimes it doesn't. Whatever's best for the team to win, that's what we need to do. I'm always going to be frustrated when our offense isn't No. 1 in the league. I'm always going to be frustrated when we're losing. I'm frustrated. We just lost. We lost two in a row."
- Created on 07 October 2013
FILE - In this photo taken Monday, Jan. 21 2013, Ethiopian supporters celebrate a goal during a game against Zambia, during their African Cup of Nations tournament in Nelspruit, South Africa. After falling off the football map for thre decades Ethiopia is now just two games away from qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. (AP Photo / Armando Franca, file)
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — It once seemed inconceivable. Yet, Ethiopia is just two games from reaching the 2014 World Cup.
This was a country that was the champion of African soccer in 1962. Ethiopia then fell off the soccer map for three decades. Civil war ravaged the country and famine killed nearly a half million people in the early 1980s.
Sports still played a part in the country, notably the magnificent runners hardened by poverty and high altitude. After barefoot Abebe Bikila won marathon gold medals in Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), generations of Ethiopian Olympic champions inspired the next. But there were no longer any Ethiopian soccer players of any great renown.
There still aren't, although that could be about to change.
To become one of five African teams that will travel to the World Cup in Brazil next June, Ethiopia must beat current African champion Nigeria in the qualifying playoffs. The first match is Sunday in Addis Ababa Stadium. The return game is Nov. 16.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has played in four of the last five World Cups. It can call upon such stars as Chelsea's John Obi Mikel, Liverpool's Victor Moses and players from the Italian and Spanish leagues.
Ethiopia has never played in the World Cup. Its appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations this January was its first at a major tournament in 31 years. And few outside Ethiopia will have heard of Saladin Said, its top player.
The striker has made the biggest mark of any player on Ethiopia's national team by playing for the Belgian club Lierse. A couple of other players play in Libya and Kazakhstan. Ethiopia is the only team that coach Sewnet Bishaw, a schoolteacher, has managed.
If Ethiopia were to qualify for Brazil, it would join a line of African success stories at the World Cup.
In 1990, Cameroon stunned Argentina and made it to the quarterfinals, highlighted by Roger Milla's iconic hip-wiggling dance at the corner flag. In 2002, Senegal defeated its former colonial power — world champion France. In South Africa three years ago, Ghana provided a gripping story line. The entire continent rallied behind the Black Stars on their march to the knockout round in the first World Cup in Africa.
The passion for soccer in Ethiopia easily matches those of West African nations.
At the African Cup this January, Ethiopia fans unfurled a banner that read: "We're sorry for our behavior but we love the game." That was after supporters hurled plastic bottles onto the field, furious at a red card shown to Ethiopia's goalkeeper for a flying chest-high kick on a Zambia striker.
To reach the last 10 African teams in the World Cup playoffs, Ethiopia came through a qualifying group containing 2010 host South Africa, Central African Republic and Botswana. It also overcame being docked three points for fielding ineligible midfielder Minyahile Beyene while he was suspended.
Sellout crowds in Addis Ababa drive the team. What players lack in technique they make up for with endurance. This, after all, is a country of runners.
In 1980, about the last time Ethiopia qualified for a major soccer tournament, future Olympic running champion Haile Gebrselassie was 7 years old. He took his father's radio and ran into the fields around his home to listen to commentary from Moscow of Miruts Yifter winning the 10,000-meter gold medal at the Summer Games. That day, Gebrselassie decided that he, too, wanted to be an Olympic champion.
Now, if Ethiopia gets past Nigeria, this team could leave a similar legacy.
- Created on 07 October 2013
Jed Collins #45 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by James Anderson #50 of the Chicago Bears during the first half on October 6, 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) | Getty
CHICAGO (AP) — That Drew Brees-to-Jimmy Graham connection for New Orleans was just too much for the Chicago Bears.
Brees threw two touchdown passes, Graham tied an NFL record with another 100-yard game and the Saints beat the Bears 26-18 on Sunday to remain unbeaten.
Brees was 29-of-35 passing for 288 yards in his first victory in four career games at Soldier Field. Garrett Hartley matched a career high with four field goals as New Orleans (5-0) picked up its first win in Chicago since a 31-10 victory on Oct. 8, 2000.
Graham continued his torrid start for the Saints, catching 10 balls for 135 yards in his fourth consecutive 100-yard game — matching an NFL record for a tight end. Tony Gonzalez was the first to accomplish the streak in 2000, and Graham matched the surge in 2011.
Hartley's third field goal gave the Saints a 23-7 lead with 8:03 left in the third, but Robbie Gould responded with a 27-yarder for the Bears. Chicago was driving in the fourth quarter when Earl Bennett dropped a fourth-down pass deep in New Orleans territory to give the ball back to the Saints with 8:40 to go.
Trailing 26-10 with three minutes left, Jay Cutler led the Bears on one last scoring drive. He passed to Brandon Marshall for a 2-yard TD, and Matt Forte ran it in for the 2-point conversion.
The Bears got the ball back with 21 seconds left and no timeouts. Cutler then passed to Alshon Jeffery in the middle of the field for 21 yards, but time expired before they could run another play.
Cutler was 24 of 33 for 358 yards and two touchdowns for Chicago (3-2), which has lost two in a row after a perfect start. Jeffery had 10 receptions for a career-high 218 yards and a score.
It took a while for Brees to get started, but New Orleans' defense made sure he had plenty of time to get warmed up.
The Saints sacked Cutler twice while limiting the Bears to one first down in the first quarter. Chicago had just 51 yards when it got the ball back with 5:57 left in the first half.
After two field goals by Hartley — including a 19-yard chip shot after Cutler fumbled on a sack by Malcolm Jenkins deep in Chicago territory — Brees started to find his rhythm. He connected with Graham on pass plays of 29 and 38 yards to get New Orleans to the 7 with 7:23 left in the half.
This time, the Saints got into the end zone.
Brees rolled out on second down and flipped the ball to Pierre Thomas, who fought through D.J. Williams' tackle attempt and extended his right arm over the goal line for the 2-yard touchdown that made it 13-0 with 6:02 remaining.
Brees' 11th touchdown pass of the season seemed to wake up the Bears, who responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive. Cutler made a beautiful throw into double coverage for a 31-yard pass to Jeffery, and then found Jeffery again for a 3-yard TD.
But the Bears gave the ball back to Brees with 2:41 left in the half, plenty of time for the star QB to direct another scoring drive. Thomas had a big 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 27, and then went 25 yards for the score on a screen play with 32 seconds remaining.
Thomas' second TD reception made it 20-7 and was the result of a perfect call by coach Sean Payton, who still has a deft touch when it comes to play-calling after missing last season as a result of the bounty scandal. Thomas caught the ball in the flat with a couple of blockers in front of him, and cut back around the 10-yard line to get into the end zone.
Brees was 17 for 20 for 195 yards at halftime, including seven receptions for 106 yards for Graham. The Saints had just 34 yards rushing at the break, but it hardly mattered with Brees operating with his usual precision.
The Bears had only 24 yards on the ground at halftime, a much bigger problem for an offense that relies on a balance of run and pass plays to be effective. They finished with 94 yards rushing.
NOTES: The Saints also won a road game against the Bears in 2002, but that victory came in Champaign because Soldier Field was being renovated. ... Bears DT Nate Collins hurt his left knee in the third quarter and did not return. ... Bears DT Stephen Paea was inactive due to a toe injury. Landon Cohen got the start just 10 days after he was signed off waivers. ... Bears TE Martellus Bennett was shaken up after he was upended in the second quarter, but returned to the game. ... WR Lance Moore (right hand injury), RB Mark Ingram (toe), S Roman Harper (knee) and DL Brodrick Bunkley (calf) were among the inactives for the Saints.
- Created on 04 October 2013
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