He was held out of practice last week after spraining the MCL in his left knee vs. the Lions, but Julius Peppers, despite being listed as doubtful for the game on Friday, played Sunday night vs. the Vikings and was far more effective than he had been in previous weeks.
Although Peppers, who had two sacks in the game — his first multi-sack game since Nov. 18, 2010 — was considered a long shot to play 48 hours before kickoff, it came as no surprise to Bears MLB Brian Urlacher that he suited up.
"I knew he was playing all week long," Urlacher said. "Tough guy. As players, we knew he'd play."
Head coach Lovie Smith was asked if he could explain Peppers' play Sunday, given his injury.
"I can't explain it," Smith said. "The last game, talking about Detroit, he barely made it through that game. This time of the year, you play with pain. I assume that's what Julius was doing, playing with pain. This past week he really couldn't go. When a player doesn't practice Friday, history has told us it's not looking good. He made progress after that.
"You can't really explain a guy like Julius Peppers. He's special, and there's nobody like him in the league."
The PFW Spin
There was talk over the weekend that the Bears wanted to pull off a surprise on the Vikings to, in effect, get back at them after Minnesota had listed QB Brett Favre as being out in Week 15 last season and then suddenly upgraded his status and started him when the Bears played the Vikings.
The Bears didn't violate any rules. There may have been some gamesmanship involved, but with that behind them, the Bears need Peppers to more consistently deliver performances like he had Sunday.
Smith was right when he said there's nobody like him in the league.
Peppers was a constant disruption, against both the pass and the run, last season and is arguably the team's most valuable player on defense. This season, however, he hasn't been as good or as consistent as he was in 2010.
The Bears have some decent pieces around Peppers on the defensive line, but no one who can make up for him if he's not at his best. Their next opponent — the Buccaneers — beat the Saints Sunday and didn't allow a sack in the game. That was against blitz-happy Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, so the Bucs have a pretty good left tackle in Donald Penn and a big, tough, smart quarterback in Josh Freeman, who is mobile enough to move in the pocket and elude pass rushers.
Peppers' knee might still be bothering him Sunday in London against Tampa Bay, but he's a far better player than Penn or ORT Jeremy Trueblood. It would be no surprise if Chicago flip-flops Peppers and Israel Idonije frequently to try to exploit the Peppers vs. Trueblood matchup, but no matter whom Peppers is lining up across from, Peppers will be, by far, the most talented player on either line.
The Bears need him to play as though he is that good. Each week. Consistently.
Follow Dan Parr on Twitter