The Bears liked Caleb Hanie so much they didn’t even plan to carry a third quarterback before he suffered a minor shoulder injury in Chicago’s first preseason game. Fans liked him even more.

The Bears liked Caleb Hanie so much they didn’t even plan to carry a third quarterback before he suffered a minor shoulder injury in Chicago’s first preseason game. Fans liked him even more.

Seeing what Hanie could do should have been the one silver lining with Jay Cutler out with a concussion today against Carolina.

But Lovie Smith is correct: This is why the Bears signed Todd Collins. With 20 starts in 16 seasons, Collins isn’t going to take any team anywhere. Hanie might. If Cutler is out for several weeks, the Bears need to look at Hanie. But if it’s just one or two games for a team that thinks it can make the playoffs, then Collins is your stop-gap fill-in. He’ll never be good enough to be anything more than a guy who won’t get you beat, but that is all the Bears need this week against the winless Panthers.

Yankees given strike zone edge
The Yankees are great because they score late in the playoffs and their opponents don’t. An amazing 30 of Mariano Rivera’s record 41 postseason saves have been longer than one inning.

And Yankee hitters get help in scoring late. It’s no surprise that Lance Berkman got a second chance on his game-winning double for New York’s eighth consecutive come-from-behind playoff win over the Twins; Yankees never get called out on strikes in the clutch.

Research physicist John Walsh examined all 33,000 pitches thrown to the Mets and Yankees for two seasons and reported in May that Derek Jeter, Mark Teixera and Robinson Cano get a strike zone between 15.8 percent and 14.4 percent smaller than stadium cameras say they should be.

A quick exam of this year’s box scores shows only two of the Yankees 12 strikeouts were called strike threes, and both came with no one on base. The Yankees were called out on strikes 18 times in six World Series games last year, but only two came with runners in scoring position and both with the Yankees already ahead in the seventh and eighth inning, respectively.

Vikings make wise gamble
Randy Moss only seems to run five pass patterns, but no one is better at getting open deep. Heck, at 6-foot-4, with incredible hands and speed, he’s open even when he’s not open. He hasn’t really been fully utilized as a deep threat since his rookie season.

Brett Favre should change that in a hurry. Moss probably won’t lead the Vikings in catches, but he will in touchdown catches, and that will open up even more room for Adrian Peterson. The Vikings instantly go from reeling (at 1-2) to co-favorites in the NFC with the Packers.

Halladay evens the playing field
Roy Halladay’s no-hitter against the Reds continues to show the easiest way for the National League to catch up to the AL: take its best pitchers.

The NL has signed or traded for nine of the very best AL pitchers in recent years.

Barry Zito and Mark Mulder didn’t work out, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee only stayed for half a season and Johan Santana is now hurt. But Tim Hudson has 73 wins for the Braves and Halladay could help the Phillies to the World Series the way Lee (4-0, 1.56 playoff ERA) did last year and Roger Clemens did for the 2005 Astros, and maybe even help them win it, the way Randy Johnson did for Arizona in 2001.

Matt Trowbridge’s Quick Shots on Sports appear Sundays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.