By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) – Julius Peppers stood in the locker room with his left knee heavily wrapped, but also with a grin that went from ear-to-ear.
The defensive end didn’t practice all week because of a knee sprain but still managed to rack up three tackles for loss, including two sacks, and two quarterback hurries as the Bears pounded the Vikings 39-10 Sunday night at Soldier Field.
“We haven’t been playing well. We understand that. We’re all men. (Lovie Smith) brought that to our attention and we tried to get it corrected,” Peppers said after the game.
Indeed the Bears were in a must-win situation against the NFC North’s worst team Sunday and needed a better effort from the defense. Peppers, who was doubtful to play, found out shortly before the game that he was cleared by the trainers and led by example in one of the gutsiest performances of his career.
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“Can’t explain it,” Lovie Smith said about how Peppers played on essentially one leg. “He barely made it through the last game, but this time of year, you play with pain and I assume that’s what Julius was doing.”
Overall, the defense only allowed the Vikings to total 276 yards of offense and it held running back Adrian Peterson to just 39 yards on 12 carries.
Peterson was held to just 12 carries in large part because the Vikings were behind from the get-go. On the Bears’ third play from scrimmage, quarterback Jay Cutler hit Devin Hester in the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown. The blocking was perfect and that set the tone as the Bears offensive line played great, making all the difference.
“When we have time like that, we are going to be able to take some shots,” Cutler said.
The quarterback, who has taken subtle shots at offensive coordinator Mike Martz after losses this season, was clearly more pleased with the game plan but still had a message for the coaching staff going forward.
“We managed them,” Cutler said about the offensive line. “A lot of five-steps and play-actions, left some extra guys in, chipped a little bit. Whenever we help them out like that and get the ball out of my hands, it’s going to be easy on them. It’s not that difficult. Our game plan was very solid this week and we have to be very judicious going forward in what we can do and can’t do.”
Overall, the Bears called 28 running plays and 31 passing plays. Cutler finished 21-of-31 for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Forte gained 81 yards on 17 carries, while Marion Barber added 32 yards on 11 carries.
Harris Doesn’t Dress
Safety Chris Harris wasn’t happy with his demotion on the depth chart this week, so he certainly can’t be happy that he didn’t even dress Sunday night.
The move actually wasn’t all that surprising, however, because Lovie Smith always wants his reserves to contribute on special teams and Harris doesn’t play special teams. The head coach confirmed that was why the safety didn’t dress.
Major Wright and Chris Conte got the start at the two safety positions and played decent games.
Rookie Paea Emerges
Second-round draft pick Stephen Paea dressed for the first time all season Sunday and the defensive tackle contributed in a big way with a first quarter safety on Donovan McNabb.
With Brian Urlacher blitzing, Paea ran over his blocker like a bull and put McNabb on the ground just inside the goal line.
Kellen Davis (elbow) and Devin Hester (chest) both left the game early and did not return. Smith said after the game he didn’t think either injury was serious.
Davis suffered his injury after a collision with Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford, but it was Sanford who took the worst of it as he left the game with a concussion.
It’s unclear when Hester’s injury occurred, but it didn’t prevent him from once again reaching the end zone on special teams. He returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score in the third quarter.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.