JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When asked what Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers brings to the table, Jacksonville Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri responded with arguably the perfect one-liner.
A lot of problems, he said.
Here’s the bigger predicament for the Jaguars (1-3): Peppers isn’t the only one wreaking havoc on Chicago’s defense.
The Bears (3-1) have smothered their last two opponents, stuffing the run and forcing turnovers in the passing game. Now they face the league’s worst offense in Jacksonville – and it looks like a mismatch.
The Jaguars have managed a combined 329 yards in two home games, a 117-yard effort against Houston in Week 2 and an even more baffling, 212-yard output against injury-riddled Cincinnati last week.
I can’t explain it, coach Mike Mularkey said. I’ve told them that, at some point, it’s going to go our way. I feel like when it does, it’s going to happen in bunches, and I think they believe the same thing.
The Bears lead the league with 14 turnovers, which Smith calls the most important statistic for any defense.
They are a great defense, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
Sacks are important, but turnovers and takeaways are a whole different animal on the defensive side of the football, Smith said. When we talk about the best defense around and things like that, we’re not talking about total yardage; that’s one of the most overrated things that there is. It’s about what a defense can do for the offense, and that’s taking the ball away, third-down conversions, scoring also.
Peppers has been one of the cornerstones of Chicago’s defense.
He has 21 1/2 sacks in three seasons in Chicago, and only Jared Allen (107) and DeMarcus Ware (104 1/2 ) have more sacks than Peppers (102 1/2 ) since he entered the NFL in 2002. Peppers has 2 1/2 sacks and a team-high five quarterback pressures this season.
With Peppers, fellow end Israel Idonije (2 1/2 sacks) and defensive tackle Henry Mellon (four sacks), the Bears don’t have to blitz often to generate pressure. The front four get so much attention that is frees up Briggs and Brian Urlacher to make tackles in the run game and allows the defense to drop seven guys into pass coverage.
Yeah, that’s been key this year, Briggs said. We’ve been able to get after the passer with our front four, so we haven’t had to blitz as much. A lot of athletic guys that get up the field fast.