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Rookie offensive linemen Kyle Long, Jordan Mills earn trust

Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals v Chicago Bears

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Updated: September 9, 2013 2:54PM



Right guard Kyle Long heard the most important play of Sunday’s game called in the huddle. It was going to the right.

He turned to a fellow rookie, right tackle Jordan Mills.

“That’s us,” Long said.

Why wouldn’t it be?

Long and Mills on Sunday became the first pair of rookie offensive linemen to start a Bears opener in 30 years.

Together on the right side of the line, they pitched a shutout in a 24-21 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bears didn’t allow a sack for the first time since Week 13 of last season.

Mills helped seal the game when, with about 1:10 left, he goaded an unnecessary-roughness penalty from Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga when the Bears otherwise would have been forced to punt.

So, yes, the Bears were running to the right on fourth-and-1 with 8:32 to play, down four, at the Bengals’ 27.

“I’m thinking in my head, ‘I’ve got to make my block,’ ” said Mills, who said he was quaking with nerves before making his first hit of the game. “That’s the only thing I can do to help my team win — make my block.”

The game plan was to run right in short-yardage situations, left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. That’s how much faith they had in the rookies.

“You gotta bear down and get ready to make a play and hopefully spring our back,” said Long, the Bears’ first rookie right guard of the Super Bowl era. “Matt [Forte] got outside and did a great job.”

Forte took the handoff, bounced it right — past Long, Mills and tight end Martellus Bennett — and galloped for eight yards.

The bouncy Bears scored on the next play after Forte’s run, a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, for the deciding points.

“The way those two guys were playing up front, really all five of those guys, we could’ve called pretty much anything we wanted,” quarterback Jay Cutler said.

The Bears believe in their new linemen, Forte said.

“We’re not babying anybody around here,” he said.

Bennett said, simply: “We trust them.”

“I’ll tell you what, they’re no longer rookies any more … until it’s time to pay for dinner,” Bennett said.

The Bears’ line was sloppy at times, center Roberto Garza said, but that’s not unusual for a season opener. Long and Mills did a “helluva job” against one of the league’s best front sevens, he said.

“Those two guys had been blocking people all day long,” he said.

Bushrod said he was “extremely proud” of the two, who he didn’t blame for ­being nervous. “Those guys, they stepped up,” he said.

Coach Marc Trestman praised Mills’ behavior in the final 70 seconds, when Maualuga was aggressive and the Bears had everything to lose.

“The defense is looking to retaliate, because they’re trying to buy time and buy the penalty,” the coach said. “It was a great outcome — real poise.

“He had teammates around him, who made sure that nothing came out of it.”

The rookie said Maualuga was annoyed because Mills wouldn’t let him go until the whistle.

“I wanted to retaliate but I had to keep my composure,” Mills said. “He got a flag and I just clapped up and walked to the line.

“I was glad our last couple plays were victory plays.”

So was Long.

After the game, on the field, he joked to the Bengals’ Geno Atkins that the all-world defensive tackle was causing him sleepless nights leading up to his NFL debut.

“I told him,” he said, “my sleep cycle will probably be back to normal.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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