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Dick LeBeau vs. Bill Belichick.

 

Doesn’t get much better than that for NFL fans. Tennessee linebacker Wesley Woodyard believes the rare matchup is a showdown for the ages.

”Oh man Adidas Eric Staal Jersey , it’s going to be a battle of the masterminds,” Woodyard said when the Titans defensive coordinator tries to outwit Belichick and his New England Patriots.

”Two Hall of Fame coaches, I’m sure Belichick will be there hands down. Coach LeBeau’s seen a lot, coached a lot of playoff games, so we’re relying heavily on his experience and to go out there and play hard man. That’s all we can do for our coach.”

Well, LeBeau is only in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his 14-season career as a cornerback, though he certainly qualifies for consideration for designing the zone blitz on defense. LeBeau also has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, putting ahead of only one man – Belichick with 43 – in that category.

The two will be very instrumental in determining the outcome on Saturday night when the upstart Titans (10-7) visit Belichick and his defending Super Bowl champion Patriots (13-3) for a spot in the AFC championship game.

And Belichick made it very clear that coaching against LeBeau is not something he enjoys.

”I wouldn’t use that word, no,” Belichick said. ”It’s very challenging. Coach LeBeau is a great coach, he does a tremendous job, (he) has for his entire illustrious career as a player and as a coach. Really revolutionized the game, and his system has certainly withstood the test of time.”

Belichick ticked off how LeBeau’s Titans have led the NFL in rushing defense over the past two seasons and led the league this season for the fewest big plays allowed of 20 yards or longer. Belichick says the foundation of LeBeau’s defense remains the same over the years Adidas Shea Weber Jersey , modified for the players he has and the teams he’s facing.

The man with five Super Bowl titles as head coach in New England made clear he has great respect for LeBeau, whom he considers a good friend.

”He’s such a great person, very humble guy that accomplished so much but he’s very modest about it,” Belichick said. ”I learn an awful lot from watching him, watching his defenses and watching the way that he does things. Techniques and adjustments and schematics and so forth. He’s one of the great coaches to ever walk the sidelines in this league.”

Told that Belichick said he learned a lot from him, LeBeau said he was humbled.

”Not very many coaches have the record Coach Belichick’s gotten, in fact he’s probably closing in on the best ever,” LeBeau said Wednesday. ”That’s quite a compliment.”

The two haven’t coached against each other in the playoffs but once before with Belichick overseeing the Patriots. LeBeau and the Pittsburgh Steelers won home-field advantage in 2004 by beating the Patriots 34-20 on Oct. 31, then Belichick and New England won the AFC conference championship Jan. 23, 2005, beating the Steelers 41-27.

”It’ll be interesting to see how it comes out,” LeBeau said.

LeBeau said preparing for a Belichick-coached team means understanding the players won’t beat themselves. Add in Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game makes the Patriots always a formidable opponent Adidas Carey Price Jersey , according to LeBeau.

The Titans trust that LeBeau, who turned 80 the day before this season opened in September, will put them where they need to be. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan said that’s what LeBeau did in the second half of the Titans’ upset of Kansas City 22-21 in the wild-card game. The Titans allowed only 61 yards total offense and no points in the final 30 minutes.

”He has all the experience in the world, probably been to 50 playoff games give or take,” Morgan said. ”We have a lot of confidence in him that he’s going to put us in the right positions.”

After kickoff, LeBeau said both coaches will be focused only on what’s happening on the field.

”Once we walk on that field,” LeBeau said, ”we won’t know who the hell’s on the other side of the field to be honest with you.”

Everyone else will know.

Once Clayton Kershaw exited, the Chicago Cubs put a positive ending on a 2-6 road trip.

Anthony Rizzo’s three-run double and Addison Russell’s two-run homer highlighted a seven-run seventh inning as Chicago broke loose late and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-5 on Thursday.

The Cubs pounded out 15 hits, including a season-best four by Rizzo. Russell drove in a season-high four runs in the final regular season meeting between the teams that played each other in the NL Championship Series the last two years.

”Over the course of this road trip everyone has been fine-tuning their approaches,” Russell said. ”Today you see a clear example of it being executed. It’s nice to see the ball fly.”

The teams met seven times in 10 days, with the Cubs winning four games over the two series.

”We’re doing this without everybody right now, too Adidas Jonathan Drouin Jersey , and that’s the even better part,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ”We have part of our bullpen but not everybody. I give these guys a lot of credit. During this little stretch they’ve been above and beyond.”

The Dodgers staked Kershaw to a 3-1 lead before he departed after five innings because of a pitch limit.

”He’s that good where he can rehab in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. ”It’s amazing.”

The Cubs jumped on reliever Walker Buehler (4-2), who arrived earlier in the morning from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he had been set for a rehab assignment. Albert Almora Jr. homered on Buehler’s second pitch and Russell’s sacrifice fly tied it at 3 in the sixth.

”Some bad pitches to good hitters,” Buehler lamented.

The Cubs didn’t let up in the seventh when they batted around.

Jason Heyward’s pinch-hit RBI double gave them the lead for good, 4-3.

Almora followed with a popup to first base. Max Muncy used his glove as a shield against the sun in a cloudless sky, but the ball dropped for a single and scored Kyle Schwarber, who reached on a walk.

Rizzo stroked a double to right-center field off Erik Goeddel, extending the lead to 8-3. Russell followed with a two-run shot on an 0-2 pitch that made it 10-3. The Cubs’ seven runs were the most by a Dodgers’ opponent in an inning this season.

”I just want to stay consistent,” said Rizzo, who has 53 RBIs this season. ”That’s what I’ve shown over the last few years and that’s what I want to get back to.”

Steve Cishek (2-0) got the win with 1 2/3 innings of relief.

Muncy hit his team-leading 17th homer in the third and Justin Turner added a two-run shot in the ninth, giving the Dodgers a major league-leading 53 homers in June and tying the franchise record set last year. Enrique Hernandez drove in a pair of two-out runs with a single in the second and a double in the fourth.

Kershaw tossed five innings of one-run ball in his second start since coming off the disabled list with a lower back strain. He allowed four hits Adidas Filip Forsberg Jersey , struck out six and didn’t walk anyone while restricted to 68 pitches.

”Today was a good step and hopefully next time the restrictions should be off,” Kershaw said. ”I kept the pitch count down and didn’t walk anybody. There’s definitely some things to be positive about.”

Cubs starter Jose Quintana gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, the fourth time in five starts this month he hasn’t completed six innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked three.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cubs: RHP Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) threw a bullpen session that didn’t go well when he experienced pain. He will return to Chicago to be re-evaluated and RHP Tyler Chatwood will start in his place on Saturday. Chatwood was activated from the paternity list. … INF Kris Bryant (shoulder) has yet to be cleared for baseball activities, although it’s hoped he will come off the DL next week. … RHP Carl Edwards Jr. (right shoulder inflammation) will pitch for Triple-A Iowa on Friday and if it goes well, he could rejoin the rotation.

Dodgers: RHP Josh Fields (right shoulder inflammation) went on the DL.

QUICKEST TURNAROUND

Buehler had the quickest turnaround of any of his teammates who faced a day game after a night game. The rookie right-hander arrived in Oklahoma City for a rehab assignment on Wednesday only to board a 6:15 a.m. flight Thursday to LA. He came off the DL where he had been nursing a rib microfracture. The Dodgers needed him with four others unavailable in the bullpen. Buehler, who has been starting this season, refused to use the travel as an excuse. ”These guys are good. You can’t make pitches like that,” he said. ”I didn’t execute.” Manager Dave Roberts said Buehler would toss a bullpen session and then return to the rotation.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Mike Montgomery (2-2, 3.39 ERA) starts Friday against Minnesota in the opener of an eight-game homestand. It will be his seventh start to go with 18 relief appearances.

Dodgers: LHP Rich Hill (1-2, 5.30) starts Friday against Colorado. He is 0-3 with a 7.52 ERA in four career starts against the Rockies.

 

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