Peppers looking to dominate Vikes’ McKinnie again

The last time he lined up across from mountainous Minnesota left

tackle Bryant McKinnie, Julius Peppers had his way.

Playing defensive end for Carolina last December, Peppers had

one sack, one batted pass, three hits and five hurries on Vikings

quarterback Brett Favre. One Panthers teammate said Peppers was

playing ”possessed” and McKinnie, after a false start and a

holding penalty, was benched at the end of the third quarter.

Peppers signed a six-year contract with Chicago in March worth

as much as $91.5 million, including $42 million guaranteed for a

guy whose 83 sacks in 130 games since 2002 are the third-most in

the NFL during that span.

The first of two now-annual matchups against McKinnie and

Minnesota will arrive Sunday.

”That’s a guy that definitely has to get game-planned,

Peppers,” Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. ”I mean, just

hearing his name you already know the type of accomplishments, the

type of terror he brings to offenses. So he has to be contained.

You can’t have no wild lion running around the neighborhood, you

know? You’ve got to go out there and get out the

tranquilizers.”

The Bears use Peppers on both sides, so right tackle Phil

Loadholt must get prepared to block him, too. But McKinnie is

expected to have the bulk of the responsibility.

”No doubt Bryant had a tough game last year,” Favre said.

”And really this year you could point to any one of us and say,

‘This guy has struggled. This guy has struggled.’ Moreso than last

year. So Bryant would probably be the first to tell you he could

protect a little bit better. I could make better decisions. We

could run better routes. We could call better plays. We could do

all those things.”

Favre said he’s been talking with McKinnie this week, even

teasing him a bit about the big challenge.

”He’s ready for it,” Favre said. ”Now, he’s playing against a

great football player who will win his fair amount of plays. I

don’t know if that means a sack or what. So he’s got a huge

challenge. And he’ll line up on both sides so Phil will have a huge

challenge as well. This guy is a premier player so to think we’re

going to keep him out the whole time may be asking a little too

much, but I think all of our guys are ready for the

challenge.”

Peppers dismissed his past dominance of the 6-foot-8, 335-pound

McKinnie.

”I really don’t want to get into talking about last year,”

Peppers said. ”It’s a whole new season against players that have

improved. I’ve improved in different things. I’m playing on a

different team, different scheme. So last year was last year. We’re

looking forward to playing the Minnesota Vikings of 2010.”

McKinnie has been unavailable for comment this week. Last year,

he downplayed the apparent ease with which Peppers moved around

him, crediting him for the sack but not much else. Instead,

McKinnie blamed himself for being distracted by penalties and

focusing too much on footwork.

”It was entirely too much thinking going on,” McKinnie said

then.

The Vikings will certainly give him plenty of help, whether with

tight ends or running backs.

But coach Brad Childress summed it up best: ”Sometimes you’ve

got to stand by yourself because nobody’s going to be left in the

backfield.”

Peppers has only two sacks in eight games, but the Bears have

credited him with 12 quarterback hurries. The 6-foot-7, 283-pound

Peppers, who came into the league the same year as McKinnie, also

has three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one interception

for the 5-3 Bears.

”I’ve been pleased. The numbers aren’t where we would like them

to be, but those things will come,” Peppers said. ”But other than

that, I think it’s been a great season. I think it’s been one of my

better seasons playing the position overall, rushing and playing

the run and just being active on the field.”

Like Peppers, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen can relate to

having to be patient with the sack numbers.

Allen had only one sack in the first six games until getting 2

1/2 last week, but both players expressed an All-Pro’s confidence

in their own performance.

”I pride myself in being a complete player, not just a pass

rusher,” Peppers said.

Allen agreed.

”I kind of don’t like how defensive ends these days are solely

judged on your pass-rushing skills,” he said. ”That’s one thing I

really like about Julius is he’s been an all-around guy for so many

years. He seems like he has a niche for making big plays, whether

it’s tackling or forcing the fumble. He’s always made his presence

felt on the field and as a fan of the sport, as a fan of the

position, you look at that and admire that.”