Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Stock Watch: Guards handle Atkins
By Jeff Dickerson
Kyle Long and Matt Slauson helped neutralize Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins on Sunday.
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler had complete control over the Chicago Bears' offense in the Week 1 victory en route to posting a 93.2 quarterback rating. He connected with Brandon Marshall eight times for 104 yards and one touchdown, but spread around the wealth, targeting Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and Earl Bennett in the passing game. Cutler also showcased his ability to keep plays alive with his feet when the pocket collapsed. Taking a cue from coach Marc Trestman, Cutler kept his composure the entire game and led the team back from an 11-point second-half deficit, displaying the leadership and temperament every playoff-caliber team needs from its starting quarterback.
2. Stephen Paea, DT: The third-year nose tackle quietly had the best game of any Bears defensive linemen with six tackles. While the Bears lacked a consistent pass rush for the majority of the game, Paea disrupted several plays in the backfield, and helped the defense limit the Bengals to 63 total yards rushing on 21 attempts. Paea said at the beginning of training camp that he felt he was in the best shape of his life, and he was apparently telling the truth. The Bears will need another monster effort from Paea in the trenches to slow down Adrian Peterson on Sunday.
3. Kyle Long/Matt Slauson, G: Both of the Bears' starting guards deserve praise after handling Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Atkins wasn't credited with a single tackle and just one quarterback hurry, a far cry from the monster numbers he put up in 2012 when he led all NFL interior defensive linemen with 12.5 sacks. Although the guards did receive help at times from the Bears' offensive tackles, Slauson and Long were forced to win numerous one-on-one battles with Atkins, according to Trestman. Long's performance is especially impressive since he was making his first career NFL start.
1. Julius Peppers, DE: This is likely a blip on the radar, but it's hard to overlook Peppers failing to record a single tackle or quarterback hit despite facing the Bengals' second-string left tackle Anthony Collins. Peppers did battle a minor hamstring injury in camp, but his name did not appear on the injury report, so it's hard to blame health as the reason for his lack of production. Knowing the kind of competitor Peppers is, he'll probably come out with a vengeance against Minnesota. But in Week 1, he was missing in action.
2. Henry Melton, DT: Melton also disappeared up front, assisting on just one tackle despite playing the second-highest amount of snaps (46) on the Bears' defensive line behind Peppers (51). Of course, Melton missed almost the entire preseason due to a concussion, but the Bears placed the franchise tag on the Pro Bowler for a reason. Melton has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but he has never been able to sustain success on a weekly basis. Just like with Peppers, the Bears need a bounce-back effort from Melton in Week 2.
3. Major Wright, S: Wright's statistics were fine on Sunday (seven tackles), but he committed a costly mental error that led to a Bengals touchdown. With the Bears' in zone coverage, Wright bit on an Andy Dalton pump fake and was late helping out over the top on A.J. Green's 45-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Green ran past cornerback Tim Jennings on the play, but Trestman confirmed on Monday that Jennings expected the help to come from the safety. It never did. Wright has been responsible for a host of busted coverages throughout his career, although he is coming off his best NFL season in 2012 when he snagged four interceptions.