Khalil Mack had an all-time great Bears debut by the time the team went into the locker room for halftime:
Hey, so Khalil Mack had a decent first half. pic.twitter.com/I9LIaKUHQb
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 10, 2018
Even with limited snaps (he played just 42 of the team’s 60 defensive snaps), Mack looked like the type of player worth trading future first-round picks to acquire. Heck, there was a moment where I thought to myself that the price Chicago paid to Oakland felt like a bargain. By the end of the game, he had 1 sack, 1 assist, 2 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception, and a touchdown. That was the second touchdown of Mack’s career and his first since 2016. It was truly mind-boggling to watch. He’s definitely a special player.
But despite Mack’s one-man-show, the Bears lost a heart-breaker to the Packers, because the defense couldn’t generate enough pressure (even while blitzing) to slow down a rejuvenated offense led by a resurrected Aaron Rodgers (with one working leg). And Mack knows exactly where the fix has to come from: “We let them make too many big plays down the stretch,” Mack said, via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Especially when we talk about throwing it deep, you can’t have that. We’ve got to put more pressure on the quarterback.”
It was evident that the addition of Mack elevated the level of play when he was on the field, and others around him are going to cash in with how much attention opposing offenses will give him moving forward. We saw that play out when Roquan Smith picked up a sack on his first career snap and when Roy Robertson-Harris cleaned up after Mack on the play that injured Aaron Rodgers. Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Jonathan Bullard figure to get in on the action as the year goes on as long as Mack continues to bring the heat off the edge. Eventually, so will Leonard Floyd, who was a non-factor in his 2018 debut.
While the game ended with an all-time great quarterback showing what elite talent can do at the position, the same game started with the Bears showing how an elite pass-rusher can impact elite quarterback play. Once Mack gets his legs under him, the Bears defense will really take off. Until then, the group will have to make the most of it when he is on the field if his snaps are limited.