After his best game of the season, Julius Peppers flashed a knowing smile when asked the obvious: Had he been redeemed?
“The good thing is, I don’t hear that stuff because I don’t listen to it,” the Bears defensive end said after the 23-20 overtime victory Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field.
“That’s the good thing: I try as best as possible to block that stuff out. I don’t hear it, so it doesn’t affect me. Of course it’s out there. This is not my first time doing it, either.
“I’ve had times where people have been on my case about sack numbers, this and that. It’s just one of those things that you kinda get used to.”
The look at Peppers’ face — as if he were smiling while sucking on sour candy — told a different story.
Take a look at Sunday, then:
◆ Peppers had two sacks, matching his season total entering the game.
◆ His four tackles for loss doubled his mark over the first nine games.
◆ His team-high 11 tackles came after he entered with 17.
“He’s such a quiet guy, but he walked by me earlier and said we were gonna play well, we were gonna do well,” coach Marc Trestman said.
Stories from the Bears’ locker room told varying versions: that he gave the team a pep talk during the 1-hour, 53-minute delay, that he congratulated the team afterward, that he predicted a big game for himself.
Asked about those stories, Peppers shyly — if not slyly — refused to give specifics.
“He certainly had some juice to him today,” Trestman said.
Peppers should receive an assist for another sack.
Cheta Ozougwu sacked Joe Flacco on fourth-and-eight from the Bears’ 32-yard line in the third quarter. Peppers lined up at tackle, in part to compensate for the loss of defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who left with a toe injury.
The left tackle looked inside to block Peppers, leaving Ozougwu with a clean shot at the quarterback.
“It’s the attention he gets from the offensive line,” Ozougwu said. “Everybody knows where he’s at, where 90’s at. So it allows us to be kinda free. It puts us on an island.
“Also, it’s a leadership. The insight of the game. He just leads by example.”
Peppers said the game had an old-school feel to it — “The muddy uniforms and everybody slipping and sliding around” — and characterized the footing as “terrible.”
“That’s what makes the game great,” he said. “Sometimes it’s muddy. Sometimes it’s snow, cold. However ya gotta play, you just gotta play in it.”
Peppers certainly did that.
“He was on point today, man,” defensive tackle Landon Cohen said. “He was getting those feet in the ground and rushing.”