Julius Peppers signed a six-year $91.5 million contract with the Bears in the spring – $42 million of that deal guaranteed. Peppers signing in Chicago marked the arrival of the first certifiable sack man since perhaps Richard Dent to Lake Shore Drive and his presence improved the entirety of the defensive line, especially Israel Idonije on the other side. I think it can be said, without argument, that Julius Peppers earned the $13 million plus he’ll receive for his performance over these first seventeen games of the 2010 campaign.
But this is game eighteen. This is the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field. Some of the Chicago radio hosts, one with the last name Waddle, are looking to nickname this football game but that’s not how football games work. Most classic football games are nicknamed by the conditions (see: Ice/Fog Bowls) or defined by plays within that game (see: Music City Miracle, The Catch). The action dictates the nickname. Barring the miraculous within the game, the stage is set beforehand. And this stage is set. So forget about Peppers’ eight sacks, his nine passes defended, his two interceptions and his fifty-four tackles from the defensive end position. Those statistics are the gaudy power numbers of a mid-lineup power hitter. This is the postseason now and this is when stars must carry the day.
What I do want from Peppers Sunday? A big hit. The kind of big hit that alters the course of a football game by altering the mental state of the opposing quarterback. Aaron Rodgers is playing the position better than any other man in the sport but all that can change with one hard journey to the finest turf in all the land (which is apparently worrying some folks who work in Wisconsin). He wouldn’t be the only young, terrific quarterback of the NFC North who has seen his season come to an end at the hands of Orange Julius.
Sunday is when fans are allowed to expect great things from their great players making great amounts of money. Money that came from the fan’s wallet for the $9 MGD at the ballpark, the $24.95 ball cap at Sports Authority and the $80 Peppers throwback I see in front of me at Josie Wood’s on Sundays on the back of my buddy Hull. Sunday is when great players make great plays. Idonije, Toeaina, Harris, Melton, Wootton and Adams are good players. Not great. Peppers is. And I expect him to play like it Sunday.