Going up against a couple of unproven tackles on the Green Bay line on Monday night, just about every pundit or fan worth their salt in the Windy City had Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers’ names circled as guys who would need to step up if the Bears had any chance of beating the Packers.
While many said that the duo needed to play a good game, it’s unlikely that anybody could have possibly predicted what they did. They combined for four sacks in the game, with McClellin picking up three of them. Peppers had an interception as well as the pair keyed a tremendous effort by the Bears’ front four in a winning effort.
McClellin had a big hand in setting the early tone for the Bears’ attack when he sacked Aaron Rodgers on a key third down play early in the first quarter. The Packers had been driving down the field at will, with Eddie Lacy gashing the middle of the Bears’ line to shreds. Rodgers rolled out for a pass, and McClellin shed his blocker and slammed Rodgers’ shoulder into the Lambeau turf, and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal.
Obviously, it was not McClellin’s intention for it to be the case, but the hit took Rodgers out of the game and likely will take him out of action for a while, as Zach Zaidman reported during the game that Rodgers had suffered a broken collarbone on the play. After the game, McClellin had this to say about the hit:
Shea McClellin on whether he felt good about knocking Rodgers from the game w/ clean play: "Not at all. I wish him a speedy recovery." — Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) November 5, 2013
When Seneca Wallace stepped into the game to replace Rodgers, he didn’t exactly get off to a great start. On a designed quick throw to the edge, Wallace turned and threw to the weak side of the formation, but unfortunately for him, Peppers was standing right there, and he deflected the pass and intercepted it to give the Bears great field position at midfield. It was a very athletic play from a guy that many have criticized for being a step slower this year, and it threw more fuel on the fire that burned for both defensive ends in the game.
Even when the Packers were threatening as the game wore on in the second half, McClellin continued his stellar evening. On a crucial third down play just inside Bears’ territory, the Packers called for a Wallace pass, but McClellin burst right through his block and picked up his second sack of the game to force the Packers to punt the ball away. It was a watershed moment in the game, as on the ensuing drive, the Bears ate up over eight minutes of the clock and gave the Packers the ball back with less than a minute remaining.
In that final minute, the Bears picked up two more sacks on consecutive plays to end the game. First Corey Wootton drove through a hole in the middle of the line and got to Wallace before the Green Bay QB could even get set to throw. Then, on the final play of the game, it was McClellin appropriately who finished things off, sacking Wallace and letting the clock expire on a tremendous Bears victory.
The Bears are going to be in for much sterner test next week against a Detroit Lions team that has made a habit of protecting Matthew Stafford this season, but if this game is any indication, then both Peppers and McClellin could use their effort on Monday as a springboard to a second half resurgence as the Bears continue to scratch and claw for a playoff spot.