ATLANTA – Introductions no doubt were necessary when injuries forced the Bears to start Khaseem Greene, Christian Jones and Darryl Sharpton at linebacker Sunday against the Falcons.
But with Lance Briggs, Jonathan Bostic, Shea McClellin and D.J. Williams all watching from the sideline in street clothes, the inexperienced trio stepped up to help lead the Bears to a 27-13 win.
"It starts with [defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] and our defensive staff with [linebackers coach] Reggie Herring getting them ready," said coach Marc Trestman. "I think that the guys on the defensive line and the back end really wrapped their arms around those young linebackers.
"They played hard. They were in the right place. We asked them to just, 'do your job' and not do anything more than that. They played exceptionally hard. Our entire defense and coaching staff deserve a lot of credit. They worked together."
Greene led the Bears with eight tackles. Sharpton had five tackles and a key pass breakup. And Jones, who was replaced by nickel back Demontre Hurst in passing situations, had four tackles.
"From a defensive line standpoint, never once did we say we've got to play harder than we've been playing," said defensive end Willie Young. "Not one time. We felt comfortable with those guys behind us. We didn't feel like we were going to have issues or a lack of communication."
The three inexperienced linebackers weren't the only ones who made plays Sunday. It was a total group effort as the Bears allowed their fewest points since a 28-13 win over the Cardinals on Dec. 23, 2012 in Arizona.
Young recorded two sacks and Jared Allen added his first of the season. Hurst generated the only takeaway of the game with an interception of Matt Ryan. Stephen Paea registered a sack that forced a Falcons punt and deflected a pass that was nearly picked off. Kyle Fuller forced a fumble and knocked away a pass intended for Julio Jones on third-and-one, leading to a punt.
"They did an unbelievable job," said quarterback Jay Cutler. "To lose as many guys as we lost kind of toward the end of the week and have some of these young guys step up—some guys who don't really have a lot of NFL experience—and play as well as they did, it's a testament to how hard they're working and a testament to how well our defensive coaches are instructing them."
Jones, who entered Week 6 leading the NFL with 552 receiving yards on 40 receptions, was targeted 12 times but caught only four passes for 48 yards. Part of that was due to a consistent pass rush, which only intensified after the Bears built a 14-point lead.
"We had a great game plan going in and we knew we would have some opportunities," Allen said. "They didn't 'max pro' and chip as much as I thought they were going to do, which allowed us to get into a rhythm. Early we were getting there and the ball was coming out fast. We knew if we could just get a lead and get [Ryan] to pump the ball once or twice that we could get at him.
"I thought the pressure all day was huge; disruptions, batted balls, throwing their rhythm off by forcing him to throw the ball before he wanted to and making him move off his spot."