If you think the Bears are worried about keeping Vikings defensive end Jared Allen out of their backfield, imagine the trepidation Minnesota coach Brad Childress and tackle Bryant McKinnie must feel knowing that Julius Peppers will have quarterback Brett Favre in his crosshairs when Minnesota visits Soldier Field on Sunday.
The Bears struggles up front have been well documented this season. Given how Peppers has terrorized McKinnie through the years, this is shaping up to be an advantage for the Bears.
"I really don't want to get into talking about last year," Peppers said during a conference call with Minnesota media members. "That was last year. It's a whole new season against players that have improved. I've improved in different things. I'm playing on a different team, different scheme. So last year was last year. We're looking forward to playing the Minnesota Vikings of 2010."
McKinnie called his performance while trying to block Peppers last season one of the two worst games of his career. The Vikings Pro Bowl left tackle was benched last season after giving up a sack, several pressures and being called for a false start while trying to block Peppers, who was playing for the Panthers at the time.
Peppers dominated McKinnie while finishing with a one sack, a tackle for a loss and three quarterback hurries in a 26-7 Panthers win. He has five sacks against McKinnie since 2005, including three in a loss to the Vikings in 2006.
"One thing that obviously stands out [is Peppers]," Favre said while talking about the Bears' defense. "I'm sure that was the intention when they went after Julius. He is a dynamic player. He's a game changer. I don't know what else to tell you."
Peppers has only two sacks but leads the Bears with 12 quarterback pressures and leads defensive linemen with 28 tackles.
"We all know what I'm bringing to the team," Peppers said during the conference call, referring to players and coaches. "While the numbers aren't popping [off] the page, the things that I'm doing when you see the tape, it's good football out there. I'm pleased with it, I think everybody else is pleased with it, and hopefully by the end of the year the numbers will be matching up to what we're seeing on the field."
The Bears have been flip-flopping Peppers on both sides of the line in an attempt to increase his effectiveness. Peppers said the advantage to switching sides is that the tackle opposing him doesn't have time to learn all his moves. The downside, he said, is that it's hard for him to get into a rhythm with one blocker, although that hasn't proven to be a problem against McKinnie in the past.
"It's not about surprising anybody," Peppers said. "I don't think I could surprise anybody in this league right now. I've been playing well for a long time. I'm used to being game-planned for, and I'm used to having extra attention. It's just one of those things you have to deal with being one of the elite players in your division. You have to deal with that and find out ways to beat it. You just have to be patient and keep working. Sooner or later things will start going your way."