Bears

Dominant duo: Peppers, Melton strong in opener

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Dominant duo: Peppers, Melton strong in opener

Monday, Sept. 12, 2011
Posted: 10:26 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
The Atlanta Falcons ran 52 pass plays, 47 on which Matt Ryan got rid of the ball and five that ended in sacks. Besides the sacks, the Bears were credited with 11 quarteback hits.

Meaning: On nearly one-third of his pass plays, a Chicago Bear visited violence upon his person.

Refining this a little more: Eight of the hits were provided by the tandem of end Julius Peppers (1) and tackle Henry Melton (7). Each had two sacks.

Doing the math, 12 times one of the pair was hitting Ryan. Melton also found time to collect two tackles for loss and Peppers one.

It was, pure and simple, one of the most dominant games by a defensive endtackle tandem in recent Bears history. It was what the Bears hoped was coming last year with Peppers re-igniting Tommie Harris career fires.

It is also potentially the most significant defensive indicator for the 2011 Bears.

The linchpin positions

GM Jerry Angelo identifies three true franchise positions, the ones that individually can dictate the outcome of games: quarterback, running back and a pass-rushing defensive lineman.

Added to that is the importance in the Lovie SmithRod Marinelli CoverTampa-2 scheme of the so-called three-technique position, the under-tackle that the defense is designed to face single blocking or force offensive adjustments to blunt in order to prevent pockets from collapsing.

The Bears invested historic millions to secure Peppers as the franchise pass rusher. When Harris was found to be at the end of his effectiveness, the need spiked for the inside rush threat that makes this and virtually any scheme succeed.

Melton flashed glimpses of potentially being that answer in 2010. When he built himself up with 25 pounds of muscle without losing speed or quickness this offseason, the Bears believed theyd found their three-technique.

The signs were there last season, little ones at first. CSNChicago.com first reported that Peppers and Melton were given license to switch positions (and yes, it was Peppers call) if the matchups created opportunities.

Theyre at it again. A number of the pressures on Ryan came from Melton at end and Peppers inside (Peppers also switches sides with other-end Israel Idonije).

Thats just an agreement we make on the field, Peppers said. We all have that ability; if we feel like somebodys playing well and something might work, we just take it upon ourselves and just rush.

Dance feverish

If Melton is going to have many more games like this (that would in fact be the Bears plan), hell have to put some time in on his moves. Not the ones before the sacks; the ones afterwards. Melton is an athletic 295 pounds but his post-sack routines of Sunday wont land him on Dancing with the Stars anytime soon.

I need to work on my dance, Melton admitted. That was pretty terrible today. I didnt really have anything prepared so I started skipping at one point. That wasnt good. I just need to start with the dance. Then Ill name it.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: