When the Bears went up to Green Bay and came back with their win on Nov. 4, one group maligned for much of this season was at the core of the victory: the Bears defensive line.
The Packers ran the ball well with Eddie Lacy and James Starks, but the Bears’ front four was able to disrupt enough to turn the Packers one-dimensional.
It was more than just Shea McClellin’s sack of Aaron Rodgers that led to the quarterback’s broken left collarbone. That sack was part of McClellin’s best game as a Bear, with three sacks, five tackles (two for loss) and three quarterback hurries. All were career bests.
Corey Wootton had four tackles, a 17-yard sack, two tackles for loss and an addition quarterback hurry. Julius Peppers had a sack in addition to his two tackles, one for loss, and an interception to go with two passes defended. David Bass was in on three tackles.
The line accounted for all or part of 17 tackles plus five sacks, Peppers’ interception and four hurries. The Packers ran a total of 55 plays, and the defensive line had hands in stopping a greater percentage of them than in any game other than the win over Baltimore.
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Against the Philadelphia Eagles, the line contributed a combined nine tackles and two sacks and two hurries, throws that quarterback Nick Foles simply unloaded as two of his only four incompletions out of 25 attempts.
Safety Chris Conte was credited with 10 tackles; the Bears have lost two of Conte’s three highest-tackle games this season, as the defensive back was left to too often clean up the leakage that occurred in front of him.
That area has benefited from the addition of Jeremiah Ratliff, who has started at both nose and three-technique.
“He gives us some stoutness in the front,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “He’s active. He plays the nose, he can also play the three-(technique). I think he’s become more comfortable in the assignments and what we’re asking him to do within the defense.”
What to look for: The mantra of the Bears’ defensive line going back more than a few years has been that you have to “earn” the right to rush the passer. Meaning: If you don’t take a major part of a team’s run game away, you will lose the ability to rush the passer with the requisite level of abandon. The Bears have rarely earned the right to rush many passers, and Sunday that begins with the down linemen forcing Lacy and Starks to adjust and make moves before getting to the Bears’ second and third levels.