- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Use a skeptical eye when perusing information gleaned from football analytics, but according to the website Pro Football Focus, Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers graded out highest of the club’s defensive players Sunday against the Steelers.
The hope now is that Peppers can take that momentum into Chicago’s NFC-North showdown Sunday at Detroit.
“In terms of individual grades, I like to leave those in-house,” said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker when asked about Peppers. “But overall, I felt good about what he did in the game. We got more pressure this week than we got the week before that, and the week before that. So we got more hits on the quarterback.”
Peppers accounted one tackle, recovered a fumble, and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown against the Steelers. Peppers also contributed four quarterback pressures, playing in 47 of the club’s 66 snaps on defense.
In the first two games, Peppers generated just two pressures to go with one tackle. But it’s worth noting that in the Sept. 15 meeting with the Vikings, Peppers was slowed by flu-like symptoms.
“They’ve both been inside and it gives teams a different look, different matchups, finding weaknesses in fronts and utilizing these guys inside because of their motors and size,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “That’s all part of scheme, working through it each and every week. Whatever Mel and the guys decide are the best matchups, we have the capability with those two guys.”
The Bears registered three sacks against the Steelers, but those came from blitzing linebackers.
Through the first three games, the front four has logged just two sacks, which has caused Tucker to try to manufacture pressure through blitzes with linebackers. That doesn’t mean Tucker no longer believes in the team's defensive line.
“I have great faith in our defensive line and our linebackers and our secondary to go out there and play hard for us, start fast and finish strong; give us everything they have,” Tucker said. “We’ll live with what we need to live with (in terms of blitzing). Again, it’s week to week. It’s game to game. It’s within a game. We’ll do what we feel like we need to do to get them stopped, and then we’ll move on to the next play.”