Rookie Paea makes impactful debut

Stephen Paea made an immediate impact for the Bears in his NFL debut, recording a safety. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- A knee injury to starting defensive tackle Matt Toeaina paved the way for rookie Stephen Paea to be active for the first time in his short NFL career.

It's safe to say the Bears' 2011 second-round pick made the most of the opportunity.

Paea jumped right into the flow of the game and sacked Minnesota quarterback Donovan McNabb in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter. After that play, the Bears opted to keep Paea on the field for much of the evening.

Besides causing the safety, Paea also had two tackles, one tackle for a loss, one quarterback hurry, and he might get credited with another half sack when the coaches grade the film. Paea and defensive end Julius Peppers dropped McNabb for a 9-yard loss in the third quarter, although Peppers got the sack in the official NFL statistics book distributed in the press box.

"Coming into this game, all I could do was show the coach what I can bring to the table," Paea said. "I had confidence that I would be able to showcase my skills to my teammates and be able to contribute. Hopefully, I'll keep getting better every week and that will be fun.

"I played with great emotion. Like they say, don't let your emotions play with you. Overall, this could be a defining moment for our team. This is the best game we've played all year, either in the preseason or the regular season, so let's hope this is the start of a good run."

It could be the beginning of a good run for Paea, who should now factor into the rotation at defensive tackle next Sunday when the Bears travel to London to face Tampa.