Bears' Wootton taking the next step
Defensive end gets 2 sacks vs. Jaguars after coaches urge him to pick up his play
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
6:52 p.m. CDT, October 8, 2012
Corey Wootton appeared to have the snap count down when he blew around Jaguars right tackle Cameron Bradfield to sack and strip Blaine Gabbert on what turned out to be the defensive play of the game for the Bears on Sunday.
Wootton didn't reach the end zone like defensive teammates Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs in the 41-3 romp, but he made a game-changing play when the score was tied 3-3 late in the first half with the Jaguars in position to take the lead before halftime.
On a handful of rushes, the defensive end was around the corner before Bradfield could set himself. Wootton finished with two sacks to give him 31/2 after entering the season with just one. Only nine players in the NFC — including Bears leader Henry Melton with four — have more.
Wootton said his quick first move was due to reading Bradley, not picking up the snap count.
"I felt the tackle leaning a little bit," he said. "So I kind of figured it would be on one."
Julius Peppers recovered the fumble. The rest was a blur. The Bears scored 38 points in the second half, the most by the team since Nov. 30, 1941.
The defense has 18 sacks, tied with the Packers and Bengals for the most in the NFL entering the Monday night game with the Texans at 13. That puts the Bears on pace for 57, which might be a difficult pace to maintain. The most they have had since posting 70 in 1987 was 48 under defensive coordinator Greg Blache in 2001.
Wootton said the coaches challenged him to elevate his game after a weak performance the week before at Dallas. In his third season, and having played in only 18 games, he doesn't deliver the same pass rush on a weekly basis. Against the Cowboys, Wootton got caught rushing too deep upfield, which allowed the tackles to take him out of the play.
"I was just trying to get off the football," he said. "Last week I didn't have too good of a game, you know. Coaches were on me and needed me to pick up my play. I knew I needed to come in and show an impact off the bench. I just really got a good take-off all day and was able to get a couple."
Lovie Smith echoed what Wootton has said since the season began — he finally is injury-free and back to being explosive.
"He is capable of making those type plays," Smith said. "And he's got great size for a defensive end, but he can rush the passer too. We do see improvement from him. But he hasn't played a lot. He'll get better and better."