The focus was on rookies Kyle Long at right guard and Jordan Mills at right tackle but they were part of an overall strong effort against one of the better front-seven units in the NFL. The line allowed zero sacks and just four hits of Jay Cutler, frequently allowing him time to run through progressions and then improvise when options were covered.
“The way those two guys were playing up front, really all five of those guys, we could’ve called pretty much anything we wanted,” Cutler said. “It’s hard in the NFL to burn out the clock in the last four or five minutes running the ball and that’s what we did.”
[More: Cutler 'proud' of his rookie linemen]
Long, center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson neutralized All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who finished with zero tackles, sacks or anything other than one hit on Cutler after a ball was gone.
Left tackle Jermon Bushrod shut down Bengals right defensive end Charles Johnson, who had 11 1/2 sacks last season, with three tackles.
Mills’ composure was significant in not retaliating to a personal foul late blow from linebacker Rey Maualuga. The penalty cost the Bengals 15 yards late in the fourth quarter on a failed third-down conversion, and the Bears simply ran out the clock without giving the Bengals back the ball.
“We needed a first down to win the game, and I came up to the line and had to block [Maualuga],” Mills said. “I wasn’t letting him go, so he kind of got mad because I was blocking him.”