Heading into the season, the Chicago Bears were in need of depth at the defensive end position. To that end, the Bears signed rookie David Bass on Sept. 1 after the Oakland Raiders waived the seventh rounder following the preseason.
Bass was inactive for the first four games of the 2013 regular season but has been an active member of the defensive line rotation since Week 5. He’s averaged more than 27 snaps the past three contests, picking up eight total tackles and five quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Bass hasn’t lit up the stat sheet, he’s been quietly solid against both the run and pass as a rotational defensive end. Against the Green Bay Packers last week, he racked up three combined tackles and one quarterback hurry in 23 snaps.
Bass sat down with Bear Report to discuss his first taste of the Bear-Packers rivalry.
“What an incredible opportunity I had to play in the game at Green Bay. It was extremely exciting. It was everything I had heard it would be but even more intense.
“I’m a student of football history, so I was very interested in finally seeing Lambeau Field. What was interesting to me was the way they combined the old look with the new. First, it was huge in there, just overwhelming. I had a chance to look around some during our warmups and was intrigued by the way they had old style bleachers in some sections, then there was state of the art seating in other parts of the stadium. I am in no way a fan of Green Bay but this was really nice architecture.
“The bus ride was great. I think all of us rookies were kind of confused as far as where we were going. Most of the trip was on back-country roads. I’ve never seen so many cornfields. Some of us slept but most of us were so keyed up that we looked out the windows wondering what was coming next.
“On game day, we got to Lambeau really early. I was amazed at all the tailgaters already staking out their spots. Somebody at the stadium told me it is customary for the fans to get there at 7 a.m. on game day, even if the game doesn’t start for 12 more hours.
“And the set up some of these people had – it was really something. I saw converted trucks, fancy buses, custom vans, that kind of thing, all decorated in green and gold. Those cheesehead hats were everywhere of course.
“Our fans did some fancy tailgating as well. I saw Bear head hats, custom barbecues, blue and orange trucks, and lots of cars with Illinois plates. Everybody seemed fairly peaceful and they definitely were having a great time.
“Before we get on to the game I’d like to take a minute to thank everybody who came to Green Bay to support us. I looked out at the crowd just before kickoff and was amazed at the number of Bears jerseys I saw in the stands. It looked almost equal between blue and orange versus green and gold. That is highly unusual for an away game.
“At one point it got so loud in the stadium, I thought the Packers had scored. Nope. It was one of Shea’s sacks and our fans were going wild.
“OK now to the game. Rodgers went down very early on and that changed everything. It wasn’t that we completely altered our schemes but instead of looking for the passing game from the Packers, we geared into a running defense. We also thought there might be some confusion on their offense during that first quarter with the quarterback change and we wanted to take advantage of that.
“Everybody stepped up big time. [Charles] Tillman, [Shea] McClellin, [Julius] Peppers, all of the guys. We’d been working all week on the fine details of technique. We understood that speed would be key so our fundamentals had to be perfect. Having that bye week immediately before was good timing. Guys rested up and healed. We were definitely ready to go.
“To me the Packers game seemed to be the perfect balance of offense and defense, with our offense sustaining those long drives. Both our offense and our defense had aimed to execute three and outs and that plan worked well. If you look at the total time of possession, you’ll see our offense gave us ample time to rest while they were out there doing their thing.
“The emphasis for the defensive guys is all about relearning the fundamentals. Go back to basics and move on from there. It’s time consuming but effective. Watch game film. Make corrections. When you’ve polished that up and it looks sleek, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
“You take what you’ve learned and talk about it in your meetings. Then you work with it in practice as the game plan is put in place. From there you just move that technique and those schemes to game day. It’s an efficient way of handling things. The main thing our coaches told us before kickoff was to keep calm and keep doing what we’d been doing all week.
“Having coach [Mel] Tucker right there with us on the field was extremely helpful, especially for the rookies. We’d get immediate feedback as far as what we were doing right and what needed to be corrected. That instant communication kept us right on target and understanding exactly what was going on.”
How did you feel when you were ahead and the clock was ticking down in the fourth quarter? Any nerves?
“We felt great, confident. There was no way we were going to let this one slip away. Guys were stepping up and making big plays. This team has leaders and every one of them was helping us focus and get it done.
“We noticed the difference in crowd noise as the end of the game got near. The sections with Bears fans were going wild. The Packers sections were a lot quieter than they’d been early on.
“When it was over, we felt relief and joy. Coming to Green Bay and beating the Packers was a very big deal. In the NFL every game is important, but this win was particularly timely for us. Good momentum going forward as we meet the Lions next weekend can’t be discounted.
“Right after the game, the locker room was crazy. A great celebration.”
How was the bus ride home? Was it wild?
“Easy answer: we were all so tired that everybody slept. The next thing we saw was Halas Hall. The perfect end to a perfect day.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.