CHICAGO | He is everywhere on the field, like a burned lawn in July. And when he's on the sideline, opponents' blood pressure drops considerably.
He's Julius Peppers, worth every cent of the millions the Bears are paying the right defensive end.
Sunday's 30-12 pasting of the Atlanta Falcons was so typical of this 6-foot-7, 290-pound "freak" of nature, as he is so often referred to.
Brian Urlacher might've stole the show statistically with his fourth career defensive touchdown, but Peppers was always a few feet away on every hit, sack and hurry.
When Charles Tillman stripped running back Michael Turner, it was Peppers who pounced on the football at the Chicago 40.
When Urlacher scooped up Matt Ryan's fumble and ran 12 yards for the score, it was because the ball had squirted loose from Peppers' massive grasp.
When Ryan tried running on a keeper down the right sideline, it was Peppers who ripped off the QB's helmet and slammed him to the ground for a sack.
And when the Falcons attempted a two-point conversion after their lone touchdown, it was Peppers who suffocated Ryan as he threw incomplete.
"It was a great start to the season and something to build off of," said Peppers, always a hard guy to satisfy. "We have a stat that says if we're up two in the takeaways, we're gonna win 70 to 90 percent of the games.
"That's our emphasis in every game."
It's OK to smile, you know. This is a much-publicized Atlanta team that went 13-3 last season.
"We feel like we're pretty good," Peppers said. "But we're not gonna get too full of ourselves after one game. It's good to see some of our hard work paying off."
Peppers contributed two sacks for minus-16 yards and a forced fumble. As is often the case, his presence had more of an effect on the outcome than his personal stats.
Offensively, the Bears averaged 6 yards per rush and 8 yards per pass completion.
"It's great to have everybody pitch in on a win and not have one side of the ball carry the other," Peppers said. "I was impressed. We played well on that side. They give us 30 points and we're gonna be hard to beat this year."
If Sunday's convincing win proved one thing, it's that Peppers and Urlacher must stay healthy. A serious injury to either (dare we even think that?) would erase any postseason hopes.
By the way, what did Peppers think of No. 54's performance?
"Nuthin'. Same guy I've known since I've been here," Peppers said. "That's what he does. That's why he is Urlacher.
"There was nuthin' today I haven't seen already."
Sonny needed Cher. Michael needed Scottie, sort of.
Peppers and Urlacher are in the same conversation.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.