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Hoge's Week 11 Rewind: Defensive Line Shines Despite Poor Field Conditions

By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) — A sloppy, muddy field like the one the Bears and Ravens played on Sunday is going to affect all 22 players on any given play, but it particularly impacts the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Defensive linemen typically struggle to get any kind of push when they can't dig in and get traction on the turf, which is something Bears center Roberto Garza eluded to Monday when talking about how it affected his battle with the Ravens' defensive linemen.

"The good thing is that they can't get off either so they're not going anywhere. If they try to, they fall flat on their face," Garza said.

That's why it's remarkable the Bears' defensive line played one of its best games of the season Sunday, despite nose tackle Stephen Paea playing only 19 snaps because he aggravated his toe injury. Three of my top five grades went to defensive linemen, and two lesser-known contributors came through with big pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco on the game's most important play.

Here's how the Bears graded out Sunday:

Five Highest Grades

DE Julius Peppers - Peppers matched his highest grade of the season, which he set in Detroit in September. Sunday was a truly dominating performance with 11 tackles, two sacks and four TFLs. He had plenty of other pressures that didn't appear on the stat sheet either. Amazingly, Pro Football Focus gave him a negative grade because of two debatable penalties. One was a neutral zone infraction when Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda should have been called for a false start and the other was the personal foul Peppers was called for when he slid into Joe Flacco on a surface you couldn't exactly stop on.

DE Corey Wootton — Again, somehow Pro Football Focus gave Wootton a negative grade Sunday. As usual, Wootton consistently got a push at two different positions and also drew a holding penalty and batted down a pass. His contributions weren't as obvious on the stat sheet, but trust me, they were there.

QB Josh McCown - McCown continues to have the highest overall grade on the team this season and we're getting close to the point where we can stop mentioning the small sample size as a caveat. He's played well in all four of his appearances, including two starts, and Sunday's performance happened despite horrible weather conditions.

DE David Bass - The pick-6 stood out, but it was an overall good game for Bass, who ended up playing 56 snaps (72 percent) because Stephen Paea got hurt. The Bears tried to use Wootton at defensive end more, but when Paea went down, Wootton had to kick back inside, putting Bass on the field.

LB Jon Bostic — After a rough starting debut in Washington last month, Bostic has improved in each game. Marc Trestman said Bostic played his best game of the season Sunday. He's showing improvement with his run fits and proved with his interception that he is starting to get more comfortable covering the deep middle. The lateral speed he showed on the Ravens' end around in overtime is exactly why the Bears drafted him.

Five Lowest Grades

CB Zack Bowman - Bowman was guilty of five penalties Sunday, one of which was declined. The horse collar on the Ravens' game-tying drive was debatable, but Bowman still showed poor technique on the play, trying to tackle high.

LG Matt Slauson - After going the first eight games without a negative grade, Slauson has been in the red the last two weeks.

TE Martellus Bennett - Bennett's 43-yard catch in overtime was an elite-level play, but it wasn't a great day overall for the tight end. He missed a couple of blocks and was guilty of two false start penalties.

LT Jermon Bushrod - It was an up-and-down day for Bushrod, who made some really good blocks and also had some bad misses. The poor footing seemed to affect him a little more than others so his performance shouldn't be any cause for concern.

RB Michael Ford - The third-string running back ended up in red simply because of his offsides penalty on the overtime kickoff. It cost the Bears 16-yards and also resulted in safety Craig Steltz suffering a concussion on the re-kick. That's simply a penalty that can't happen.

Other Observations

- Landon Cohen and David Bass both had quarterback pressures on the key third down stop at the goal line that forced a Ravens' field goal late in the fourth. There was actually a missed assignment in the secondary and Torrey Smith was open, but a low snap, combined by the pressure from Cohen and Bass, forced Joe Flacco to throw it over Smith's head.

- Rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene only played 16 snaps, but he made the most of it. He was particularly sharp with his run fits, including a nice goal line play in the first quarter when he shot the gap to stop Ray Rice for no gain.

- The Bears were in nickel on 77 percent of their defensive snaps Sunday.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.


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