- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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Peppers has struggled in his 13th NFL season, with his slow start highlighted by the fact that the defensive line has been hit hard by injuries. He has failed to record any defensive statistics in two of his starts this year, the most recent coming last week against the New Orleans Saints.
For anybody looking for some insight as to what has happened or how things can get better, Peppers has preferred to keep it to himself.
The eight-time Pro Bowler was asked Wednesday if the line might have to change its approach in the wake of its struggles that are evident in the group’s eight total sacks and their opponents’ 69.0 completion percentage, both third worst in the league.
“We’re going to stick with the game plan,” Peppers said.
How about the opportunity Thursday night to go against a struggling New York Giants offensive line and an anemic running game?
“We’re going to go into the game and execute the game plan and we’ll see how it goes,” he said after a long pause.
Can blitzes and new schemes help cover for past struggles?
“We’re going to see about the game plan,” Peppers said, making it perfectly clear that he’ll talk, he just won’t say much. “I don’t know. If you want to know about the game plan specifically you have to ask [defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] about that. As far as blitzing and all that, we’re just going to play what’s called and we’re going to get the job done.”
With the Giants’ big-play tendencies behind quarterback Eli Manning, more blitzes could be on the agenda.
“We just have to eliminate the big play,” Tucker said. “These guys take more shots down the field than almost anybody in the NFL. They are in the tops in the league in air yards and shots down the field so that’s big. But [Manning] is a fierce competitor. There isn’t a whole lot that you can throw at him that he hasn’t seen.”
With the Giants struggling, the Bears are making sure they don’t get lulled to sleep. Manning’s career success is being mentioned prominently this week and the consensus is that the Giants won’t lose every game so make sure this isn’t the first one they win.
The defensive line could be in prime position for a breakout game, but Peppers won’t take anything for granted.
“We’re not concerned about having a breakout game necessarily for ourselves, we want to do it for the team because if we do it will more than likely improve our chances of winning,” he said.
If there is one thing the Bears’ defense does well, it’s taking the ball away and creating turnovers, so it is being stressed against a Giants team that struggles in that department. The Bears’ 12 forced fumbles lead the NFL. The Giants lead the league with 20 turnovers.
“We have to be opportunistic on defense,” Tucker said. “Our job is to get stops and take the ball away, score ourselves or set up the offense.”
If there was anything Peppers was willing to be specific about, it was the turnover game.
“Every game, well most of them, come down to turnovers and the turnover battle,” Peppers said. “We’ve been pretty good at it. We didn’t do as well last week so we have to try to win the turnover battle this week.”