I was impressed by many newish Chicago Bears Sunday. Adam Podlesh (who is not only newish but also Jewish) returned some pop to the punt game. Nick Reed looked like a real contributor on the edge. Chris Spencer played with a burst off the line of scrimmage after replacing injured Lance Louis. Roy Williams delivered exactly the kind of afternoon I expect from him all year long: a couple catches, a couple first downs.
But it was Henry Melton who stole the show Sunday for the Bears, dominating the interior of the Falcons offensive line in a manner reminiscent of the best Tommie Harris had to offer in the middle of the last decade. He was not just disruptive, taking up blockers and freeing the linebackers to make plays in space. He was also suffocating the pocket, hitting Matt Ryan on seemingly every play while admitting he “left a few sacks out there.” Melton’s success, even after one game, seems to be another feather in LoveRod cap. This program knows how to develop defensive linemen.
Olin Kreutz turned down more money from the Miami Dolphins heading into the 2002 season. He was not yet twenty-five years old and was already being received as one of the best centers in the league. In that moment, with that decision, Kreutz cemented his legacy in the hearts of Bears fans across the country. Not only had he honored the Bears organization with his loyalty but he had also spurned Dave Wannstedt, the man some of us (me) believe is actually the mustachioed off-spring of the antichrist. Kreutz would go on to endear himself to Bears faithful with brilliant play on the field and ridiculous incidents at gun ranges.
But Olin’s play declined as the aging veterans brought in to bring the Bears to the Super Bowl (Miller, Brown, Tait) left out the side door. Now he’s moved on to New Orleans for far less than the Bears offered him to return to Halas Hall. He was underwhelming against the Green Bay Packers on opening night and now will line up opposite Melton. The old Bear meets the young Bear in a matchup that might very well define the contest. For the first time in my life I will be rooting for Olin Kreutz to be planted on his back, driven towards the quarterback and embarrassed on a Sunday. Because when an old Bear puts on somebody’s else’s laundry, he has to wait till retirement for to revisit his term of endearment.