Bears' rush improves, still work to do

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
2:12
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Osi Umenyiora's six-sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 stays forever burned into the memory of Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton as reminder of a cliché he's uttered a few times this season -- that sacks come in bunches.

“I think I said to you before about the Osi Umenyiora thing, when in one game he had (six) sacks,” Wootton said Monday night, after the Bears' 27-20 win over the Green Bay Packers. “It just changes your perspective. You don't always get a sack. Sometimes production is in spurts. So the biggest thing is to believe in yourself and be confident. Eventually it's gonna happen.”

In Chicago's case, it would take place five times. The charge was led by second-year defensive end Shea McClellin, who racked up a career-high three sacks including one that put Aaron Rodgers out with a shoulder injury that might affect his availability in the coming weeks as the NFC North gears up for the November playoff push.

[+] EnlargeChicago's Shea McClellin
AP Photo/Morry GashShea McClellin had three sacks against the Packers, including the one that knocked Aaron Rodgers from the game.
McClellin joked about eating Wheaties before the game. But the truth is the defense needed some sort of boost. Coming into the contest, the Bears ranked 24th or worse in four defensive categories (points allowed, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense) and six individual players around the league had collected as many sacks, if not more, than the nine by the entire Bears' team.

With three career sacks entering Monday's game, McClellin hadn't contributed more than a half sack since the season opener against Cincinnati. Prior to Monday night, the Bears hadn't produced two sacks or more in a game this season since a Sept. 22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win over Green Bay marked just the second time they've done that all season.

McClellin admitted the criticism he's heard has made his season “like a roller coaster,” that has caused him to be “up and down."

“But you've just got to not worry about the past, and move on to the next game,” McClellin said. “We've definitely felt some pressure on us. We needed a game like this where we kind of stepped up. It was a team win.”

A team win with plenty of warts. Chicago's run defense allowed the Packers to gain 199 yards with a 6.9-yard average per rush. Rookie Eddie Lacy pounded the Bears for 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts.

As Wootton mentioned, “We still have a lot to work on in the run game, a lot of room for improvement.” Even what seemed like an improved pass rush, while encouraging, could be somewhat of a mirage.

After all, the Packers lost right guard T.J. Lang due to a concussion. That injury forced the team to move starting right tackle Don Barclay inside to Lang's guard position, and backup Marshall Newhouse came in to play the right tackle spot. Not surprisingly, the Bears expressed no sympathy for Green Bay's plight.

As many as three players mentioned that “injuries happen in this league,” something they know well, having lost four starters for the season, with six total missing time.

Even Julius Peppers, who has also drawn heavy criticism for his play this season, made an impact with two tackles, a sack, an interception and two pass breakups. Peppers entered Monday's game with one sack on the year.

“We just played as a team and pulled together,” Peppers said. “We made plays, and we had good energy out there. It was a great effort by not only the defense, but the whole team.”

Still on defense, the Bears know they need to play better. The performance on the road against the Green Bay Packers serves as a start, but the Bears host the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field in a game that will decide sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

“We have a long road ahead,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “It doesn't mean much right now. We still need to get better.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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