ST. LOUIS – Bears tight end Martellus Bennett turned his head and saw teammate Kyle Long about to snap as he lunged toward a St. Louis Rams player on the ground.
The next instant, Bennett saw Long’s brother, Chris, sprinting toward the scene from the opposing sideline.
As someone who has a brother in the NFL, Bennett immediately understood.
Chris Long wasn’t trying to fight his younger brother, who grew up idolizing him in a family known for football greatness. Instead, the Rams’ defensive end rushed from the sideline to try to protect Kyle from his worst enemy: himself.
“I was right there,” said Bennett, whose older brother, Michael, plays defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks. “That’s what brothers do.
“He’s still your blood. You’ve still got to look out for your brother. You don’t want anything bad to happen to him.”
If not for Chris’ intervention, something very bad could have happened to Kyle on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. He drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness for piling on top of Rams defensive end William Hayes, but his brother pulled him away just as he kicked his spiked cleat toward Hayes – and missed.
As it stands, in terms of football, the Bears showcased plenty of ugliness in a 42-21 loss to the Rams on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Bears dropped to 6-5 and likely will need to win at least four of their final five games to make the playoffs.
Fortunately, the team will be the focus as the Bears return to Halas Hall this week.
Because if not for the fast – and risky – reaction by Chris Long to protect his brother, Bears fans could have spent the week asking a different, darker set of questions. Would Kyle be suspended? How long? What would it mean for him and the team?
Instead, Chris pulled his brother away just as Kyle started to fill with rage.
After the game, Chris Long explained his decision to act. In another sport, he could have been ejected for leaving the sidelines. He was lucky to avoid a flag, or worse.
“It’s tough,” he said. “One of your best friends [Hayes] and your brother. …
“It’s not the first time I’ve restrained him. I think both of those big, strong guys probably needed to be restrained there. They’re two of the strongest people I know. I’m just glad everybody got out of there OK. It’s just a heated game.”
But, heated game or not, there’s no excuse for Kyle to nearly stomp on an opponent.
Like the rest of us, Kyle Long is a study in contradictions. The 24-year-old rookie is friendly and polite almost all of the time, but his mood quickly can sour.
As Kyle sat at his locker after the loss, he understood the reason for the crowd of reporters that quickly surrounded him.
“I’m just going to talk football,” Long said, trying to redirect the line of questions with his opening comments. “You can’t lose your cool, and I lost my cool.”
A TV reporter pressed for answers, asking Long what had set him off.
“Look, I’m here to talk football, so if there’s any football questions you guys have– ”
But it happened on the football field, the reporter said.
“– I’d love to answer those,” Long continued, tersely.
Jerk move, right? Another spoiled kid with too much fame and too much money?
A minute or so later, Long looked toward the reporter whom he had shut down.
“I’m sorry about that,” Long said in an earnest tone. “I just…”
After the locker room closed, Long took to Twitter to write a message to Bears fans.
“I want to apologize to the fans for losing my cool today,” Long wrote on his page. “Not a representation of the person that I am or the Bears. Shouldn't happen.”
Now, he and the Bears must make sure that it does not happen again.
Because hot tempers show up on game film just like strong arms or quick first steps. You can bet that next week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, will try to find ways to get under Long’s skin because they know that he can be distracted.
Considering that fact, should someone on the Bears pull Long aside for a chat?
Bennett shook his head no.
Maybe he’s not Long’s brother, but he has brotherly instincts.
“I don’t have to say anything,” Bennett said. “I just give him the look.”
Bennett showed the look.
It was powerful.
“Sometimes, saying nothing does just as much as saying something,” Bennett said. “He knows. He’s a grown man.”
Hopefully, on a heated Sunday, he grew up a little bit more.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @tcmusick.