The fourth-year outside linebacker had three tackles against the Lions, but it was his determination to play through pain that inspired the coaching staff.
“He got the crap kicked out of him on a play or two,” said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, “and our trainers came up and said he’s probably not going to come back because he got some type of rib injury or whatever it was. And they took him in for some X-rays, I guess. So he came back out and he said there would have to be bone showing for him to come out of the game.”
The former first-round pick has three sacks this season, two in the opener against the Green Bay Packers, but Pagano and coach Matt Nagy have praised him for his consistency and toughness, regardless of numbers.
“I think for him it speaks volumes that he was hurting pretty good,” said Nagy, “just at a point where we felt like he gutted through it. In this game, it's a physical game, and whether it's mentally, physically, exhaustion -- there's times where you get tired -- and we just appreciate the little things. And that was a little thing in this past game on a short week. He's done a lot of great things and I'm proud of him for it.”
See more of CP: Cordarrelle Patterson's 57-yard return on the opening kickoff against the Lions set up a quick touchdown drive.
Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said Monday that Patterson’s aggressive style in the return game would continue to be a key feature in the Bears’ strategy.
Offsetting penalties on the first kickoff attempt, which Patterson returned to the team’s 25, gave the dynamic returner a second try to break the game open. Despite the admonition from commentator Joe Buck to take a knee seven yards into his own end zone, Patterson broke his longest return since his touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7.
Tabor said the redo played to the Bears’ advantage, not only because one play wore out the kicking team but because there’s always the possibility of Patterson making a big play.
“It’s tough to cover kicks twice,” said Tabor, “especially when you’re covering a player like that. But we’re going to continue being aggressive. I mean, if the thing’s still in the field of play, we’d like to push the envelope.”
Tabor gave credit to the entire return team for starting the game on the right foot.
“I thought the guys blocked real well,” said Tabor. “I liked the fact that you had an opportunity to do that, and we want to be aggressive, set field position, and help us score there, so that’s out deal. We either want to score or set up the score, so we accomplished that.”
Tabor also said that he believed the recovered onside kick by the Lions late in the first quarter was actually an attempted squib kick to keep the ball out of Patterson’s hands.
Inside blitz working: While opposing teams have committed to spare no expense in keeping linebacker Khalil Mack away from the quarterback, Pagano has been able to bring pressure from the inside.
Inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Nick Kwiatkoski have both had success in the pass rush over the past three games. Smith accounted for both of the team’s sacks against the Lions: one at the end of the first half and one to force a fourth-and-long on the Lions’ last drive of the game.
Pagano blitzed both Smith and Kwiatkoski up the middle on Smith’s fourth-quarter sack. He sent both linebackers again on the next play when Kwiatkoski broke through and forced Lions quarterback David Blough to throw a game-sealing interception to Eddie Jackson.
“From a protection standpoint,” said Pagano, “we had run the look earlier but run some zone pressures out of that look, so we understood from a protection standpoint what was going to happen or what we anticipated. But they did a great job executing it.”
Pagano was impressed by Smith’s awareness on the sack.
“Roquan did a phenomenal job of picking the center and then getting vertical,” said Pagano. “It made it tough on the back. He didn’t know really who to pick up. It’s a tough one to get. Everybody did a great job.”
Pagano believes the play was emblematic of the theory of defense he’s working to instill in his players.
“We always talking about rush and coverage working hand in hand,” said Pagano, “and that was a huge play in that game.”
The Bears hit the practice field at Halas Hall as they prepare to host the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football at Soldier Field.