On Julius Peppers' play today: The guy's incredible. That's just one guy taking over that's out on the field. Tip the ball, dive. The quarterback goes to knock it down and he catches it. The only thing left for him to do is to jump up and run it in the end zone. The guy is outstanding. He's going to make his presence felt in the game. No matter what, he's going to do that.
On expectations: My focus hasn't changed. I'm not blinking. I know that whole situation that went down just opens your eyes to what kind of business this is. It's very finite. It's all about production. Every game I've been working so for me nothing has changed. I just tell myself continue to work, continue to read my keys. I've just got to read my keys a little quicker. The last few weeks I've been focusing on reading my keys a little quicker and it has paid off. There's still a lot of work to do to get better. We're going to get back to work Wednesday. We've got a big game coming up this week.
On the last personal performance as successful as today: College. It feels good. This is what I expect of myself. This is my 8th year and I've been saying it my whole career. I've been looking for an opportunity to get locked in to one position, not play special teams and really develop. For them to say, well alright here's your opportunity. The ball is my court, what are you going to do with it to produce and be able to make plays, I'm happy about that but I know I've got a lot of work to do.
Bears running back Matt Forte
On his touchdowns: Great opportunities. The first one was a fake. They bit on the fake and were wide open. Johnny (Knox) had a great block on the DB in the endzone which allowed him to get into the endzone. That was easy. The second one we ran an outside zone play, I got the ball, read the blocks. Everybody was on a man. Make the safety miss the blocks and get a long run.
On the locker room this week compared to last week: It feels good. Everyone was kind of down after that game. To come out and run the ball like we did it feels good.
Bears safety Chris Harris
On the defensive effort: It felt good. We came out defensively and I thought we played pretty good. That first drive we didn't quite like but after that we settled down.
On Julius Peppers' interception: I saw the end of it. I saw him catching it and that was pretty sweet.
On playing vs. a rookie quarterback: We just try to get turnovers going against a rookie quarterback. They haven't seen everything so you're trying to throw them off, disguise, do some different things back there in the back end to give them a different look and actually have to make them think.
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers
On adrenaline rush stronger in Carolina: It did. I found myself being a little bit more winded earlier with all the energy. I guess it was nervous energy at the beginning of the game. After I played a couple snaps, I settled down.
On the crowd reaction in Carolina: I loved it. I am over here now. See my shirt. I'm not for the home team so that is what I expected. I think when I first came out I heard cheers but I didn't expect to hear cheers the whole game.
On missing Carolina: Yeah, its home. Come on its home. I was here for thirty years so of course I missed it a little bit. As far as the football part of it, I don't really miss anything. I'm happy where I'm at now.
On rating this victory out of his entire career: This is near the top because I have never been in this situation before. It's not like I went off to college and then came back and played against UNC or the home team. It's not like I got drafted by another team and was able to play them before. This was a first time experience and it was special. It felt better to get the win.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The good times didn't end when he finally left the field, surrounded by cameras, saluting the crowd. For Julius Peppers, this reunion likely spilled over into today. While his teammates flew back to Chicago on the team charter, their star defensive end was expected to remain in his home state to bask in the moment.
Nobody could blame him. As far as homecomings go, it's will be hard to top this.
Not only did the Bears pull out a 23-6 road win despite a wretched performance from backup quarterback Todd Collins, but the defense got back on track after a dismal fourth quarter against the Giants last week, holding the run-oriented Panthers to just 85 yard rushing while forcing three turnovers, racking up five sacks and allowing only 62 passing yards.
But that wasn't the best part. For Peppers, the pinch-myself-I-must-be-dreaming moment came midway through the first quarter when he made a play few defensive ends can make.
"The guy is incredible," said defensive end Israel Idonije, who had three sacks himself. "That's just one guy out on the field taking over. Tip the ball, dive. The quarterback goes to knock it down and he catches it. The only thing left for him to do is jump up and run it into the end zone. The guy is outstanding. He's going to make his presence felt in the game. No matter what, he's going to do that."
The play will forever be included in his personal highlight reel. First he deflected Jimmy Clausen's pass. The ball fluttered straight up in the air, and Peppers, like an infielder calling for a pop fly, never took his eyes off it.
He was on his knees, and the ball seemed impossibly far away, but he dove and cradled it to this chest for an interception that set up a field goal that gave his new team a 17-3 lead.
"[Geoff] Schwartz tried to cut me and he didn't get me down," Peppers said. "I was able to get my hand up. The ball popped straight up into the air. I was on my knees and everyone else was falling down around me. The ball just came right back to me and I pulled it in."
Peppers grew up in North Carolina. He was a two-sport star for the Tar Heels. He spent his first eight years in the league with the Panthers but was still booed whenever his name was announced. No big deal. He expected it.
But he couldn't help himself from leaping to his feet and putting his index finger to his lips and holding it here after his interception, shushing the crowd.
"That was right on the spot," Peppers said when asked if his celebration was premeditated. "We had a little fun out there. It was a good time. It was all in fun."
The much-anticipated matchup between Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross and Peppers never materialized for a lot of reasons. The Panthers were determined to run the ball, limiting the opportunity for Peppers to get into the backfield.
But as Bears fans have learned through five games, their prized free agent doesn't always have to record sacks to make an impact.
"It was a funny game plan because they didn't really throw a lot," Peppers said. "The times they did throw it was out of funky formations with running backs and tight ends chipping. The matchup with Gross didn't materialize the way a lot of people wanted it to. We didn't really get to see each other too much."
Several of his Bears teammates said Peppers would remain behind to spend a few days in his Charlotte-area home, where he still maintains his primary residence. Peppers said he hadn't decided whether to say or fly home with the team, but he was dressed in a sweat shirt while his teammates wore suits and ties for the flight home.
If he spent an extra day here, which he almost assuredly did, it was well deserved.
"Come on, it's home," he said. "I was here for thirty years or so. Of course I missed it a little bit. As far as the football part of it, I don't really miss anything. I'm happy where I'm at now."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If there was any doubt that the Bears planned to run and run often against the Panthers, it was erased when it was announced that J'Marcus Webb will start at right tackle for veteran Kevin Shaffer. The 6-7, 328-pound rookie is a road grader who does his best work moving forward.
It was evident then, if not before, that this was not a day for a fancy passing attack.
''When you lose like we did last week you have to come back with a vengeance,'' Webb said after helping the Bears rush for 218 yards in his first NFL start. ''You don't want to loaf around or anything like that.''
This game was about redemption for a much-maligned offensive line that allowed an NFL record nine sacks in the first half of the loss to the Giants. The unit, which also started inexperienced Edwin Williams at right guard for Lance Louis, remains a work in progress but proved for the first time that it can open holes in the running game. Matt Forte's touchdown runs of 18 and 68 yards gave the Bears an insurmountable early lead and were the product of solid blocking up front as well as key blocks thrown down the field by receivers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett.
''We deserved what we got last week,'' center Olin Kreutz said. ''We'll take a little pat on the back maybe this week but every game in the NFL is so different. That's the NFL these days. You just have to stay even-keeled and come back and play well the next week.''
Breaking old habits
When Chris Harris ran through the tunnel and onto the field he momentarily headed for the home sideline out of habit before realizing his mistake.
''It feels good when you go up against your former team and beat them,'' the ex-Panther said. ''It's my second time experiencing that. I did it in Carolina when we played the Bears. I'm 2-for-2 in that area. It's a fine line between love and hate. Fans are going to be fans.''
Carolina linebacker Jon Beason said Julius Peppers was just being himself when he responded to the Carolina crowd that was giving him the business all day.
''He's getting paid to do a job,'' Beason said. ''He was himself today. I don't think he did anything that was 'un-Pepp.' He had fun. He made plays. And we still had opportunities to move the ball.''
Beason said he got a ''pat on the back'' after the game from his friends on the Bears, including Peppers and Harris. ''But in the offseason they'll be jabbin' at us. But that's part of the business.'''
Getting a break
Bears receiver Devin Hester got a breather in the fourth quarter on several plays. That's part of the plan, he said.
''I'm a returner, too, so they're just trying to keep my legs fresh throughout the course of a game,'' said Hester, who had a catch for five yards and a run for 10 yards. ''We just have too many athletes, for everybody not to get an opportunity to get on the field.''
Right in his hands
Safety Danieal Manning rued a missed opportunity for an interception when he appeared to bat down a long pass with two hands near the goal line.
''It was weird,'' Manning said. ''I slipped on that play. I was trying to catch up to the ball and it was right there in my face. There was a glare and I lost it.''
Tight end Desmond Clark was inactive for a second consecutive week. Quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion), safety Major Wright (hamstring), cornerback Josh Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, tackle Chris Williams (hamstring), defensive end Charles Grant and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison did not dress.
For the Panthers, QB Tony Pike, RB Tyrell Sutton, safety Sherrod Martin, linebacker Jamar Williams, center Chris Morris, DT Andre Neblett, tackle Jeff Otah and receiver Steve Smith were inactive.
CHARLOTTE -- Nevermind the yellow blades of grass sticking out of Israel Idonije’s beard after the Bears' 23-6 win Sunday over the Carolina Panthers.
He could easily brush off the grass. The smile, however, could take forever wipe away.
“This is what I expect of myself,” Idonije said. “It feels good.”
It should, given the situation the defensive end took advantage of in almost immediate fashion. Given sole possession of the job at left defensive end opposite Julius Peppers finally, Idonije made the most of a new opportunity, pumping out three sacks for the first time in his eight-year NFL career.
Idonije also tied Chris Harris and Lance Briggs for the team lead in tackles (five), in addition to forcing a fumble. The performance capped an intriguing week at Halas Hall for Idonije.
“I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get locked into one position, not play special teams, and really develop,” Idonije said. “For them to say, ‘Well, all right, here’s your opportunity. The ball is in [your] court, what are you doing to do with it to produce and be able to make plays?’ I’m happy about that, but I know I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Idonije’s opportunity came earlier in the week, when the Bears released Mark Anderson, who was expected to play opposite Peppers. Anderson posted 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006, but his production had dipped substantially since. So with the acquisition of Peppers, the Bears figured Anderson -- who was sharing the job with Idonije -- could consistently beat the one-on-one matchups created by all the attention offenses would devote to their high-priced acquisition.
Opponents devoted extra manpower to neutralize Peppers. Yet Anderson couldn’t consistently win his matchups. When the Bears released Anderson last week, he had contributed just five tackles in four games with no sacks.
The lack of production prompted the Bears to add Charles Grant last week. Despite expectations that he would play, the Bears placed Grant was on the inactive list for Sunday’s game, which gave Idonije an opportunity as the main option opposite Peppers.
Idonije wasted no time making the most of the situation, dropping Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen for a 5-yard loss in the first quarter in addition to poking the ball loose. Idonije sacked Clausen again on the Panthers’ second play from scrimmage to start the second half.
“He’s done some good things,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “That’s the reason why we went with Israel. He did make some plays.”
That’s precisely what the Bears hoped from the defensive ends playing opposite Peppers.
Peppers spent the first eight years of his career with the Panthers, and met his former team for the first time on Sunday. Peppers said teammates such as Idonije helped to diffuse some of the hoopla concerning his return to Carolina by making big plays.
“I think they felt a little bit of pressure with all the hype surrounding this game,” Peppers said. “Those guys stepped up, and told me that if [the Panthers] have a problem with me, they have a problem with everybody. They came to my defense and played well.”
Idonije now has four sacks in the last two games this season. During his first four years (2004-2007), Idonije tallied just two sacks, before he picked up the pace somewhat in 2008 and 2009 for a total of six sacks.
Getting ready to hop into a shower at Bank of America Stadium in the minutes after Sunday’s game, Idonije figures he needs to look no further back than last week before reality kicks in to bring him back down to earth. Sure, the defensive end produced the best day of his career in terms of production.
But there’s pressure to keep up the pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
“My focus hasn’t changed; I’m not blinking,” Idonije said. “I know that whole situation that went down [last week] just opens your eyes to what kind of business this is. It’s very finite. It’s all about production. I just tell myself to continue to work.”
Linebacker Lance Briggs re-injured his left ankle in Sunday’s third quarter and left the game, replaced by Brian Iwuh. Briggs left Bank of America Stadium with a walking boot on his ankle and is likely to be limited this week in practice but will play next week against the Seattle Seahawks.
this might be worrsome, though iwuh did a ecent job replacing him- he def was limping on the sideline. Hope its nothing serious or chronic for 2010
The 24 points scored by the Bears in the first quarter were more than their combined first quarters in the first four games (13)…. Matt Forte entered the game with 134 rushing yards through four games. He had a career-high 166 for the game, 101 in the first quarter alone, the first time a Bears back has had 100 yards in a first quarter since Raymont Harris on Nov. 3, 1996 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the first time a Bears back had 100 yards in any quarter since James Allen’s 120 in the second quarter of the Dec. 20, 1998 game against the Baltimore Ravens….
The two teams combined for 28 passing yards in the first half, 20 by the Bears and eight by Carolina….
The Bears used their third different starting offensive line in five games with another shuffle in search of some kind of consistent quality up front. As expected, rookie J’Marcus Webb was inserted as the starting right tackle with veteran Kevin Shaffer moving back into the role of swing tackle. CSNChicago.com reported early last week that Webb was ticketed for the No. 1 job, although the return of left tackle Chris Williams means another change coming somewhere.
But Williams is only at the point of starting to work with training staff on the sideline at practice and is likely to be out another couple of weeks to ensure that his right hamstring, injured at Dallas, is fully healed.
Edwin Williams started the third game of his career, at right guard in place of struggling rookie Lance Louis. Williams, cut by the Washington Redskins Aug. 31 and signed the next day by the Bears, made the Washington roster last year as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland.
Tim Jennings started for the second straight week at left cornerback over Zackary Bowman, who was handed that job over Charles Tillman during the offseason….
Devin Aromashodu reappeared as a wide receiver for more than one play, after getting one play in Dallas, being inactive for Green Bay and not playing in New York despite dressing.
Former Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton spent his first Sunday in an NFL uniform after being inactive for the first four games and was unofficially credited with one tackle. “It felt good to be out there after just watching from the sidelines the first four weeks,” Wootton said. “It was great.”
Jimmy Clausen posted higher passer ratings than opponents Carson Palmer and Drew Brees in his first two starts and even with an 18.1 mark for the first half, he was ahead of Todd Collins’ 12.9. Clausen’s first pass attempt Sunday was deflected and intercepted by Julius Peppers, then he was sacked and fumbled on the second pass play called.
Clausen finished with 9 completions in 22 attempts, was sacked five times and was replaced late in the fourth quarter by Matt Moore after posting a 29.7 passer rating.
“It’s definitely not the worst day I’ve ever had,” said Clausen, a second-round pick by Carolina in the 2010 draft. “I’ve had worse…. You are not going to go from a rookie quarterback to All-Pro quarterback in one week or a few games or a season.”
Well, so much for my prediction of a Panthers' upset in this game. That'll teach me to pick this 2010 team to win anything this season -- Chicago dominated the Panthers, 23-6, despite getting some of the worst play by the Bears' starting QB that you'll ever see.
There are dozens of bad things to choose from today, but let's narrow the field to the traditional "5 things I didn't like":
1. Jimmy Clausen. The rookie took one step forward against New Orleans a week ago and at least two back on Sunday. He was so bad that he had thrown an interception and fumbled twice against the Bears before he completed one pass. He was so bad that he got yanked out of the game late in the fourth quarter after misfiring (or mis-communicating with his receivers) on three straight passes. He was so bad... OK, fill in your punchline there. He was just plain bad.
2. Panthers' run defense. The Panthers' pass defense was excellent (intercepting Todd Collins four times). The run defense? Matt Forte had a 68-yard TD run that basically put the game out of reach in the first quarter (Jon Beason and Charles Godfrey both took bad angles or got caught up in the wash on the play). Forte had a career-high 166 rushing yards.
3. Brandon LaFell. He did get open for one deep ball (that Clausen threw way short), but he also committed a crucial penalty, had a couple of drops and caught only one of the eight passes thrown to him. A nasty day for the rookie wideout.
4. Offensive play-calling. As John Fox pointed out after the game, throwing a quick screen to Julius Peppers' side is not a good idea. Peppers got cut-blocked, jumped up, blocked Clausen's first pass and intercepted it. Clausen seemed shot for the rest of the afternoon. So why even tempt fate by throwing that pass -- or calling it? -- in the first place?
5. Special team errors. The Bears had a 50-yard punt return and a 62-yard kickoff return as a Panthers' unit that had made a lot of progress from 2009 went backwards.
I'll leave the final word here to one of the more well-known Panther fans -- former Davidson basketball star Stephen Curry. Panther fans everywhere are getting frustrated. This tweet came from Curry's Twitter account during the game: "Dang...shoulda waited to check the score before I shot out my panthers. Just not our year I guess...RIP John Fox"
CHARLOTTE N.C. -- It took Bears defensive end Julius Peppers about 8½ minutes Sunday to remind the Carolina Panthers why they came away the biggest losers during the off-season free agency wars.
Peppers failed to get a sack in his return home to face his former team, but his first Bears interception provided the highlight reel play that energized the defense in its strongest effort of the season during a 23-6 victory.
“My impact on games goes far beyond what a stat sheet would say, Peppers said.
The stat sheet did show 4 Peppers tackles and his pass defended when he tipped Jimmy Clausen's short toss to wide receiver David Gettis high into the air before falling to his knees and catching it lunging forward.
The interception set up the Bears' offense at the Panthers 27 with 6:20 left in the first quarter and led to Robbie Gould's 28-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead.
“(Tackle Geoff) Schwartz was trying to cut me and he didn't get me down, Peppers said. “I was able to get my hand up.
The Panthers should have known better than to tempt fate based on Peppers' first eight seasons in their uniform.
“Quick screens to his side are not recommended, coach John Fox said. “Last year we played Arizona and he made a pretty nice play on one of those. He was actually cut to the ground, got back up and still tipped it. He's real athletic. We had him down on the ground. He made a great play. That is what great players do.
Peppers got credit for one quarterback hurry when he forced Clausen to throw away the ball, but he probably will get one or two more when film is reviewed. His biggest impact might have been on the other defensive end, Israel Idonije.
When offenses double- or triple-team Peppers, the player on the line who normally gets the opportunity to make a play due to 1-on-1 blocking is the other end. Idonije took advantage with a career-best 3 sacks for 19 yards in losses, plus a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.
Afterward, Idonije only wanted to talk about Peppers.
“The guy's incredible, Idonije said. “That's just one guy taking over that's out on the field. Tip the ball, dive, the quarterback goes to knock it down and he (Peppers) catches it. The only thing left to do is for him to jump up and run to the end zone.
“He's going to make his presence felt in the game, no matter what. He's just going to do that.
Peppers gave it back to fans who had booed him earlier with a post-interception celebration.
“I loved it, I loved it, he said. “I'm over here now you see my (Bears) shirt. I'm not from the home team.
“That's what I expected. I think when I first came out I heard cheers but I didn't expect them to cheer for the whole game.
Early on, Peppers felt somewhat exhausted because of the emotion of playing in the state where he grew up and played both college and pro ball.
“I felt myself getting a little bit more winded earlier because of all the energy, he said. “I guess it was nervous energy at the beginning of the game. But after I played a couple snaps, I settled in.
Safety Chris Harris, a Panther for three seasons, also had a big game against his old team. He tied for team high with 7 tackles as the defense held Carolina to a season-low 147 net yards, the Panthers' lowest total since Dec. 15, 2002, in a 30-14 loss to Pittsburgh.
“After the first series, we kind of settled down, Harris said, alluding to Carolina's first drive, a nine-play march that included 8 runs.
Peppers tried to low-key his whole situation during the week, but not Sunday, when he called the game one of his top career moments.
“This is near the top because I have never been in this situation before, he said. “It's not like I went off to college and then came back and played against UNC or the home team. It's not like I got drafted by another team and was able to play them before. This was a first-time experience and it was special.
Have we ever seen worse quarterbacking than we had to endure in the Bears' 23-6 beat down of the Panthers? Carolina rookie JimmyClausen was 9-of-22 for 61 yards and one interception -- and he was the most efficient passer in the game. Bears starter ToddCollins finished 6-of-16 for 32 yards and four picks, before being yanked in favor of CalebHanie.
Clausen actually got benched too, with former Carolina starter MattMoore re-entering the picture in the second half. Moore didn't exactly reclaim the starting job, however. He completed 5-of-10 passes for 35 yards and two interceptions in his relief stint.
• I knew ex-Panther JuliusPeppers would be ready to play when the Bears visited Carolina this week, but that was one of the interceptions of the year he made against JimmyClausen. Tip it up in the air, then dive and pick it off just above the turf. That's about as good as it gets for a defensive lineman. The only one better on Sunday was Atlanta's Kroy Biermann's against Cleveland, which the defensive end tipped, dove to catch and then got up to return it for a touchdown.