OPEN­ING SHOT

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGO SPORTS - Steve Rosen­bloom

The Bears list de­fen­sive line­man Akiem Hicks as ques­tion­able to play Sun­day. I list him as prob­a­ble to say hi to Eli Man­ning. More,

Every­body wants to talk about the quar­ter­back head­ing into Bears-Giants on Sun­day.

Ex­cept me. I want to talk about the run­ning back.

But not the Bears run­ning back. No, not Jor­dan Howard. He’s a placebo more than a Pro Bowler th­ese days.

No, the run­ning back I want to talk about plays for the Giants: Saquon Barkley.

I want to talk about him be­cause he’s the kind of guy who can run through the Bears de­fense no mat­ter that the Bears de­fense ar­guably is the best in the league and sta­tis­ti­cally sec­ond-best against the run.

The Bears al­low an av­er­age of 80.8 rush­ing yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry, both sec­ond only to the Saints. That’s stout. Dom­i­nat­ing. Suf­fo­cat­ing. Ex­cept for Frank Gore.

And LeGar­rette Blount.

And, the fear is, Barkley too be­cause he de­liv­ers the same kind of style — the same kind of pun­ish­ment — that showed the Bears run de­fense at its worst.

A 5-foot-9, 212-pound sledge­ham­mer of a back, Gore pum­meled the Bears for 101 yards on 15 car­ries for a re­lent­less av­er­age of 6.7. He was such a stud that the Dol­phins won a game Brock Osweiler started.

On Thanks­giv­ing, the brutish Blount gained 88 yards on 19 car­ries for an av­er­age of 4.6 per touch. He scored two touch­downs and should’ve had a third, not to men­tion more yards, if the Lions weren’t in­fected with such Lionsy play call­ing that helped the Bears win their third straight di­vi­sion game and stave off what would’ve been a dif­fi­cult loss.

If the 6-foot, 247-pound Blount is like try­ing to tackle a Coke ma­chine with legs, then the 5-11, 233-pound Barkley is like try­ing to bring down a turbo dorm fridge.

Barkley is com­ing off con­sec­u­tive 100-yard games — rush­ing for 101 against the Ea­gles and 142 against the Buc­ca­neers — and recorded two other 100-yard games ear­lier this season. He’s av­er­ag­ing 4.8 yards per carry, and his 829 rush­ing yards ranks fourth over­all.

Oh, and he is tied for the lead among run­ning backs with 71 catches and ranks sec­ond among backs with 581 re­ceiv­ing yards.

Oh, one more thing: Barkley has yet to fum­ble.

There’s a rea­son the Giants made Barkley the sec­ond draft choice this year.

There’s a rea­son a Bears team play­ing its sec­ond straight road game should be concerned about Barkley, and that was be­fore we learned of the ques­tion­able avail­abil­ity of Pro Bowl-cal­iber de­fen­sive end Akiem Hicks.

I sup­pose I wanted to talk about the run­ning back now in hopes we won’t be talk­ing about him Mon­day morn­ing.

“It’s go­ing to take all 11 peo­ple to stop him,” Bears de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Vic Fan­gio said.

OK. Fine. All 11 guys on Barkley. Dare Eli Man­ning to beat you.

The Andy Reid coach­ing tree > the Bill Belichick coach­ing tree.

For­mer Pack­ers and Vik­ings quar­ter­back Brett Favre told NBC the big­gest ri­valry in the NFC North is Pack­ers-Vik­ings, and I’m think­ing, nope, sorry, that ri­valry is sec­ond to Aaron Rodgers-Mike McCarthy. Illi­nois sur­pris­ingly gave foot­ball coach Lovie Smith a two-year con­tract ex­ten­sion, and I’m think­ing, it had to be the 63-0 loss to Iowa that clinched it.

Email from Bob P.: “Tell me it ain’t so … Joel Quen­neville is fired by the Black­hawks! Mean­while Rick Ren­te­ria gets a con­tract ex­ten­sion! Fur­ther mean­while Lovie Smith gets a con­tract ex­ten­sion!”

Yeah, and it looks like it couldn’t get worse if the Illini hired Quen­neville and the Hawks hired Smith.

Here’s the thing with the Tiger Wood­sPhil Mick­el­son match: Un­less each of them was putting up $10 mil­lion of his own cash, it was never go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing.

A team of Span­ish and Ar­gen­tinian pa­le­on­tol­o­gists have dis­cov­ered the re­mains of di­nosaurs that lived 110 mil­lion years ago in Ar­gentina, in case you’re won­der­ing about Michal Roz­si­val.

What’s up, Ryan Mundy?

CHRIS SZAGOLA/AP

The Giants’ Saquon Barkley is the type of bruis­ing back the Bears strug­gle against.

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