Darryl Sharpton Starts For Bears

Being without the top four linebackers on the depth chart adds a difficulty factor for the Bears’ or any defense. The NFL doesn’t grade on a curve, unfortunately, but then, the Bears didn’t need special consideration, turning in one of the better group performances of the season against an offense that was No. 3 in the NFL in scoring and yardage.

With Lance Briggs, Jonathan Bostic, Shea McClellin and D.J. Williams all out, Darryl Sharpton started at MLB, Christian Jones at SLB and Khaseem Greene at WLB. Sharpton drew the responsibility of relaying defensive signals, and he and Greene were tasked with duty in nickel situations, the normal domain of Bostic and Briggs.

“These guys did great,” coach Marc Trestman said. “It starts with Mel [Tucker, defensive coordinator] and our staff with getting these guys ready. The guys on the defensive line really came back and wrapped their arms around these young linebackers. They played hard; they were in the right places.

“We asked them ‘just do your job and not do anything more than that. They played exceptionally hard and our entire defense and staff deserve a lot of credit.”

Coaches disdained conservatism and boldly committed their inexperienced ‘backers to blitzing into gaps in ways that stacked up the Atlanta run game. The Falcons managed just 3.2 yards per carry on 13 rushes, with the only serious damage coming on a well-executed and well-blocked screen pass for 41 yards and a touchdown by running back Antone Smith.

The Bears blitzed Sharpton on the third play but were victimized for a 15-yard completion. But Sharpton’s soft blitz and drop-back in the second quarter flummoxed Falcons center Peter Konz and allowed Stephen Paea to get in for a sack with Greene bringing a weak-side blitz as well. Greene and Jones were each credited with three tackles in the first half.

“We just went out there and played,” said Greene, who started four games when Briggs was injured last season and had less-than-stellar results. “We know that we can’t control nothin’ but what we do and that’s what we did. Every time we were on the field we played with maximum effort.”

Greene led the Bears with eight tackles, six of them solo. Sharpton had five, plus a quarterback hit and pass defensed. Jones, in fewer snaps because of Atlanta’s use of nickel packages, added four.

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