Sunday afternoon didn’t start out all too well for the Chicago Bears’ defensive line. The Baltimore Ravens came out running early and often, and the Bears simply couldn’t get a handle on RB Ray Rice, who ultimately ran for 131 yards in the game and very nearly cost Chicago the game.
Despite that though, the Bears’ line did come up with a couple of big stops in the game, and they came from some unlikely places. Sure, Julius Peppers had two sacks in the game, and yes Corey Wootton seemed like a new man as he returned to the familiar confines of his defensive end position after an exodus at defensive tackle, but it wasn’t those two that had the biggest plays for the Bears on Sunday.
Instead, it was guys like David Bass who stole the show. With the Bears’ offense coming off the field after only scoring three points despite having six attempts from the Baltimore 6-yard line to punch the ball in, Bass was able to make a tremendous play to swing the momentum to Chicago in a big way. As soon as Baltimore QB Joe Flacco dropped back for a pass, Bass shed his block at the line and made his way around the edge. Rice tried to stop him with a diving block attempt, but Bass was able to evade the block and stayed upright.
Flacco must have thought he could still squeeze the ball past Bass despite Rice’s failed block, but as soon as he let the ball go, it stuck to Bass’ gloves, and the Bears’ seventh round pick snared the ball for an interception and brought it all the way back to the end zone for a key touchdown that tied the game at 10-10.
It was an incredibly athletic play by a guy that had been demoted from the starting lineup in a surprise move earlier in the day (Landon Cohen started at tackle, with Wootton replacing Bass at end), and the Bears got a big lift from him.
Bass wasn’t the only surprise on the line Sunday. The Ravens were marching down the field in the fourth quarter with the wind howling at Soldier Field, but despite their best efforts to give the Bears the ball back, Chicago once again got into penalty trouble and gave the Ravens better opportunities at third downs, which they were converting on with startling regularity.
Baltimore was facing a fourth down situation later in that drive, and Flacco once again dropped back to pass despite the deteriorating conditions on the lakefront. All of the sudden, Bears DT Cheta Ozougwu came flying around the edge and drilled Flacco with a hit, forcing a fumble that the Ravens barely recovered. Despite that, the damage was done, and Baltimore had turned the ball over on downs.
Ozougwu, who had only played two NFL games in his career before taking the field Sunday, was only just activated from the Bears’ practice squad on Saturday, but he came to play when called upon in this one. He took advantage of a big coverage breakdown by the Ravens’ offensive line, and even though Flacco tried to get rid of the ball quickly, there was no way he could get rid of it quickly enough, and the Bears took the momentum from Ozouwgu’s sack and pushed the ball down the field to ultimately score the go-ahead touchdown.
In a situation where injuries are ravaging the team, lower-tier players need to step up in a big way in order for a team to continue winning, and that’s exactly what Bass and Ozougwu did in this game. Without their nose for the quarterback, Flacco may well have completed the two passes he was attempting at crucial junctures, and the Bears may have lost the game.