CHAMPAIGN—Greg Blache was not quite ready to lavish praise on his rookie cornerbacks, but then anyone expecting that Sunday doesn't know the Bears defensive coordinator very well.
"We got out of it, I'll put it that way," said Blache of the Bears' 20-13 victory Sunday. "Neither one of them get the Christmas card right now. I appreciate them, I appreciate the effort and I take my hat off to them, but I called them enough names today to last them a long time. Trust me, their moms would not like to know some of the words they were called today."
Of the two, Roosevelt Williams and Travis Coleman, Williams had the bigger task and the bigger game, starting for the injured R.W. McQuarters at left corner and, oddly enough, not drawing nearly the scrutiny one would think.
Chad Pennington's lone touchdown pass for the Jets was a 5-yarder to Wayne Chrebet in the third quarter that picked on a linebacker, not a defensive back. Still, Williams, who has worked his way up the depth chart this season as teammates ahead of him continued to drop, felt the heat.
"As a rookie, I knew there would be a target on me," said Williams, who garnered the most attention before Sunday as the guy who got caught from behind on his way to the end zone after recovering a fumble against Green Bay. "But my strongest trait is my aggressiveness, so I just tried to play that way. Play by play, I just tried to gain confidence. I think I proved myself to them."
Coleman came in after Jerry Azumah left the game in the third quarter with a migraine. He was more conspicuous for his pass interference on Laveranues Coles, which gave the Jets a 35-yard gain and the ball on the Bears 14-yard line. The penalty set up a 28-yard field goal by John Hall that narrowed the Bears' lead to 17-13.
Azumah returned for the final drive of the game, but Blache said the best thing his young corners had going for them Sunday was the Bears offense.
"When we got scored on at the opening of the third quarter, the offense came back and answered the bell, so we always had a cushion to play with," Blache said. "That was huge for us.
"We were able to take chances doing some things with the young corners out there because we had a little safety net underneath us. We could try to bob and weave a little bit. You didn't have to stay in an eight-man box. You didn't have to stay in a seven-man box. We were able to move in and out of them, which gave us an opportunity to have a little success."
It was Williams who had Chrebet on the Jets final offensive play, a 22-yard completion. But Chrebet tried to get a little too cute with an attempted hurdle over the defense. He dropped the ball and Williams recovered.
It was also Williams who batted away a pass to Chrebet on third-and-6 at the Bears 10 in the fourth quarter, forcing that 28-yard Jets field goal.
"The coach gave me an opportunity and I tried to make the best of it," Williams said. "I had no other options. I knew it was my time to step to the plate."
Blache could be only so magnanimous. "He should have [recovered the fumble]," Blache said with a laugh. "That was his guy who caught the ball. I went from almost wanting to strangle him to kind of give him a hug and a kiss. He doesn't know, but when I first went out to him it wasn't to hug [him].
"But he did make the recovery and it was a huge play for us. And he made another play in the red zone where he broke up the pass. He did some good things. I don't want to minimize what the young guys did, but at the same time, I don't want them to think that what they did today was good enough because, trust me, I saw enough out there that the little hair I have I lost, and the ones I lost were white."