Bears defensive line out to prove Julius Peppers not lone star
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com September 10, 2012 8:16PM
Bears lineman Henry Melton (L) sacks Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bears 41-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday September 9, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: October 12, 2012 6:17AM
The first balled-up piece of tape just missed Bears defensive end Julius Peppers as he was in mid-sentence discussing what it was like to stand on the sideline and admire his own team’s offense.
By the time he started talking about Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, there wouldn’t be a second miss. The tape ball found its target, plunking the Pro Bowler near the left shoulder, this time stopping him in mid-sentence.
Peppers stared at teammate — and agitator — Henry Melton, ended his brief media session, and then walked off muttering something underneath his breath.
No one said it would always be easy having ‘‘brothers.’’
‘‘We’ve been together for a few years now and we’re a family, brothers, a brotherhood,’’ defensive end Israel Idonije said of the defensive line. ‘‘We’re all in this together. Our motto is ‘Four as one,’ and that’s what it is. We go in every day and fight together.’’
In some cases, that means fighting for attention.
At 6-7, 287 pounds, Peppers obviously casts a large shadow. As Sunday’s 41-21 Bears victory over the Colts showed, however, there are some members of the defensive line who feel it’s time for people outside the locker room to start noticing them.
It’s not just a one-man show.
‘‘You hear what’s said,’’ defensive end Corey Wootton said. ‘‘It’s a slap in the face, it’s a motivator, it’s all of that . . . when you have a guy as good as Peppers, it’s easy to overlook the other guys on the line, but [Sunday] showed that a guy like Henry, what he can do. Even a guy like [rookie] Shea [McClellin], who we drafted to come in and rush, showed that he can do some things. Izzy [Idonije] was solid and has been doing his thing for a couple of years now. Our depth is a strength now.’’
Wootton is just one reason why, coming off the bench as part of the rotation and recording a sack and fumble in the opening game.
But it wasn’t just the depth that was on display. The four starters seemed to serve notice to Luck early on that pressure was coming, with Melton being the star of that group by grabbing two sacks.
‘‘My coach [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] came and asked me if I wanted to be a star or not,’’ Melton said. ‘‘By the fourth quarter he was like, ‘This is where we make our money.’ I talked to the D-line and said, ‘I’ve got to go right now.’ ”
And so he did, nabbing both sacks in that fourth quarter.
As a unit, the defense finished with three sacks and hit the quarterback five times. As for Peppers? Three tackles and a recovery of the fumble caused by Wootton.
‘‘All the hearsay and stuff on the outside, there are a lot of people on the outside that talk and don’t even understand the strategy of what we’re doing. They don’t assess what’s happening correctly,” Idonije said of the idea that they are a one-man show. “So we take talk like that with a grain of salt.”
And now a new wrinkle.
Besides a deeper rotation, the Bears will continue interchanging positions to mess with offensive lines and take advantage of certain matchups like they did against the Colts. That means Peppers can play his outside spot one play, then move to the inside for a few plays.
“It’s about causing a little confusion,” Melton said. “We just want to be relentless.”
Coach Lovie Smith discussed the group on Monday, but discussed Peppers in length.
“He’s as good an athlete I think as there is in the NFL,” Smith said. “Anything you ask him to do, he can. I’m convinced that if we ask him to play free safety, he would figure out a way to play it well.”
Obviously, every “family’’ has a favorite son.
Keep the balls of tape ready.