Julius Peppers' decline exaggerated

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Julius Peppers finished Week 1 with nary a stat in the official game book of the club’s 24-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, prompting speculation that all of a sudden he’s fallen off as a player.

Don’t buy into such talk, as one game isn’t sufficient to make a definitive judgment. The website Pro Football Focus surely isn't buying into Peppers diminishing. The site gave Peppers a “high quality” grade for his performance.

“They did a good job [on Peppers],” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “They had a good plan coming in. They have a good coaching staff and some really good players. This was a good football team. We all want to play better this week. That’s the mantra this week. He’s always pretty focused, and I have complete confidence he’s going to come out and give us his best effort.”

You should have that confidence, too. After a review of the tape, the coaching staff credited Peppers for one tackle against the Bengals. But if you look at Peppers’ body of work, he’s produced several games in which he didn’t contribute much in terms of statistics, yet still finished the season with double-digit sack totals.

Of the 49 regular-season games Peppers has played with the Bears, he’s finished 26 of those contests with zero sacks, seven with zero tackles, and eight with only one stop. Yet with Peppers in the lineup, the Bears have compiled a record of 30-19 as he finished the 2012 season with 11 sacks or more in back-to-back seasons. He's the first Bears player to accomplish that since Hall of Famer Richard Dent (1986 and 1987).

So an off game from Peppers shouldn’t fuel concern, especially when considering he’s got 15 more to play. In 2012, Peppers racked up 5.5 sacks in Weeks 2 and 3 after finishing without a sack in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, and throughout the defensive end’s tenure with the Bears, the sky didn’t fall when he didn’t contribute a sack.

In fact, the Bears are 17-9 throughout Peppers' time in Chicago in games where he didn’t post a sack. Considering the offense is expected to be improved in 2013, perhaps the Bears don’t need Peppers to be a three-sack-per-game player.

“I don’t think you have to have three sacks or two sacks to impact the game,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “[Peppers] played his position [against the Bengals in Week 1]. He was effective at times, and we were ineffective, collectively, at times.”

But that’s always the case over the course of a season in the NFL.

One game into 2013, there’s nothing to worry about.