Injuries have forced the Bears to improvise with not only their lineups but also a major area of their roster.
They went against the New York Giants with undrafted rookies at defensive end (David Bass) and tackle (Zach Minter) as well as a starting nose tackle (Landon Cohen) who was signed on Friday Sept. 27, played at Detroit on Sept. 29 and started at nose tackle on Thursday night with Stephen Paea inactive because of a toe injury.
At one point Bass raced from the left side of his line to the right where he bumped veteran All-Pro Julius Peppers inside to tackle in a four-end package.
“It was funny, because I didn’t realize he was in the game,” Peppers said, laughing. “He was telling me where to go.”
With cornerback Charles Tillman inactive because of a knee injury, Zackary Bowman started at left cornerback against a lineup with two Pro Bowl wide receivers (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks). When middle linebacker D.J. Williams was lost with a chest injury in the second half, rookie Jonathan Bostic was thrown in what was a one-score game.
The substitutions were all the more remarkable because of the truncated week in which the Bears had no full practices, only a succession of no-impact walk-throughs to save bodies.
“It was ‘next man up’ all over the defense,” said coach Marc Trestman. “[Defensive coordinator] Mel Tucker did a great job on our staff, just getting the guys ready without any practice.”