Maybe all that talk about Bears outside linebacker Robert Quinn turning things around and playing up to his massive contract was more than just talk.
With a smoother offseason and a collaborative effort with defensive coordinator Sean Desai to use him as more of a traditional defensive end, Quinn had a half-sack in the season opener and came through with a big one in the 20-17 victory Sunday against the Bengals.
“Being in a good mental place and having these guys that you’re surrounded by, I think that showed today,” said Quinn, who had two sacks last season after signing a five-year, $70 million deal. “I’m in a happy place. Guys are in a happy place. And that shows on the field.”
As the Bengals tried to answer the Bears’ opening touchdown, Quinn worked an expertly executed stunt with Khalil Mack to take down Joe Burrow on third-and-10 from the Bears’ 35-yard line. It dropped the Bengals well out of field-goal range.
Desai showed ingenuity in the scheme by lining up Quinn and Mack to Burrow’s left, with Mack at defensive tackle. As Mack preoccupied Bengals left guard Quinton Spain, Quinn darted inside, and left tackle Jonah Williams couldn’t keep up with him.
“They start looking at [Mack], and I just happen to be the guy beside him,” Quinn said. “When you’ve got a guy like [Mack] there, their eyes get kind of big. When I go beside him, now they have to really figure out a game plan.”
With Akiem Hicks coming from the other side, that’s extremely difficult.
Quinn’s happy place will get even happier if the NFL credits him for a second sack on a third-quarter play when Burrow ran out of bounds for no gain to escape him. It was initially labeled a sack but not credited as of Sunday night.
Quinn was flagged for unnecessary roughness on that play, but the contact appeared to be incidental. He bumped Burrow after both already had gone out of bounds, and Burrow fell hard.
“We’re both running in the same direction,” Quinn said. “He ran into me, so I don’t know. The game has gotten a little softer.”
He also dropped running back Joe Mixon for a three-yard loss in the second quarter.
The Bears went back to Duke Shelley as their nickel cornerback after making him inactive for the season opener in favor of Marqui Christian.
Left tackle Jason Peters started after missing time during the week because of a quadriceps injury and played the entire game — something the Bears were concerned about heading into the season.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who hasn’t played since the end of the 2019 season, remained out with a knee injury.
With Andy Dalton hurt and Nick Foles inactive, coach Matt Nagy told the Bears’ radio broadcast that running back David Montgomery would’ve been his emergency quarterback.
Second-year outside linebacker Trevis Gipson, who played sparingly in the opener after the Bears raved about him all preseason, was inactive.