Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Anthony Collins managed to get through his team’s 24-21 loss to the Bears without allowing a sack to All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers. He also wasn’t called for holding, so how did he do it?
“I can’t tell you the key,” Collins told CSNChicago.com. “I might see him in the Super Bowl.”
Given that the Bears have been dissed as an 8-8 also-ran by more than a few analysts, that would be an upset. Or maybe not entirely in their minds. One veteran observer remarked that he had not seen a post-game locker room so happy and chatty in his memory, including after a playoff. Co-captain Lance Briggs presented a game ball to Marc Trestman after Trestman’s first win as an NFL head coach.
The Bears earned their feel-goods. They had been knocked reeling by perhaps the best single team on their schedule (with apologies to the Green Bay Packers), giving up touchdown drives of 97, 91 and 80 yards on the way to falling behind 14-10 in the first half and 21-10 in the third quarter.
An offensive line with two rookie starters held the No. 3 pass rush (51 sacks in 2012) to zero sacks and a total of four quarterback hits. As Jay Cutler walked through a near-empty locker room on his way out, he pointed toward Kyle Long and Jordan Mills still sitting by their lockers.
“Good job,” he said, nodding. “’Proud of you guys.”
The key to the game was not exactly pure excellence so much as resiliency. Indeed, a year ago the Bears probably lose this game.
In the time since Cutler’s arrival in 2009, the Bears are 5-22 when trailing after three quarters. And Sunday was a game against the No. 6 yardage and No. 8 scoring defense in the NFL last season.
“We just slowed some things down in the second half,” said left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who held Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Johnson without a sack. “We had some no-huddle calls in the first half and we like that, but it just wasn’t working for us.
“We made the adjustments and put up two-and-half-times as many yards as we did in the first half.”
If the play calling slowed down, the in-play action did not. With the game effectively on the line midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-one from the Cincinnati 27.
Last season that would have been Michael Bush up the middle for a yard. This time it was a sweep right, Matt Forte moving around the edge and the blocking of Mills at right tackle and Long at right guard.
“I have no idea what that says about us,” Long said, laughing. “I just feel great they had the confidence in us,” Mills added.
A whole lot of feel-good. For a week at least, they earned it.