Julius Peppers wasn’t on the Bears injury report, so we have to trust that nobody is lying and that Peppers is healthy.
If so, then that narrows the options to one: Peppers was just plain bad in the win over the Bengals.
It wasn’t as if he was double-teamed every snap, either. Nor was Peppers facing a starting tackle. He got a backup, but he got nothing. When the Bears moved him inside, he got even less.
Peppers wasn't alone in being inert along the defensive line, of course. Henry Melton, the other Pro Bowler on the Bears defensive line was as much a rumor as Peppers. Shea McClellin, flashed once and Stephen Paea did some solid work, but that's not going to be enough. You shouldn’t have to look that hard when it comes to the Bears’ defensive line. It ought to be obvious.
Unfortunately, it was, and that brings us back to Peppers. The Bears defensive scheme demands pressure from a four-man-pass rush and the pass rush starts with Peppers.
But for most of Sunday, pffft. The Bears put no pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. It looked like a 9-on-7 drill for about three quarters.
Bears defensive linemen said Dalton got rid of the ball quickly. Well, no. Not every play and not the big ones. Just look at the bombs Dalton threw to A.J. Green that were caught or resulted in pass interference against Charles Tillman. You’re not getting rid of the ball quickly if you have time to pump-fake.
So where was the front four?
Or the front five or front six?
That’s another thing: The Bears’ blitzes were troublesome in the way the Bengals swallowed them up easily, so now the Bears were a man short in coverage while still not getting any pressure for most of the game.
The Bears managed one sack, and it was huge because it came late. But one sack isn’t enough, and the utter lack of pressure is just as much of a concern.
Marc Trestman can offer a lack of playing time in practice games as a reason for an ineffective pass rush in the opener, but wait, wasn’t it Trestman who had a big say in who played how much in those practice games?
Every team in the league does that. I get it. Health is more important than technique. Which means Trestman is using real games as training camp for the pass rush and basic tackling.
Seeing Lance Briggs and other Bears struggle to tackle Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham, I’m not having good thoughts on the whole Adrian Peterson thing that’s coming Sunday.
Truth is, there’s no excuse for the Bears’ lack of pressure and tackling issues. Everybody knew when the season started. Everybody talked about being ready for Game 1. Big parts of the Bears game were not ready because of execution errors by the players and coaches.
They’d better hope the muscle memory for veterans playing the same scheme with the same language comes back this week against Minnesota. Perhaps against J’Marcus Webb. For sure, Peppers will face an injured Matt Kalil. It’s all there for the Bears. They have every chance to mount a pass rush before Vikings quarterback Cade McPonder begins to think he’s actually competent.