Khalil Mack’s first game against the Raiders didn’t go as scripted. But 2019 feels like such a long time ago, so I won’t hold it against you if that game was wiped from your memory banks. Because I’ve essentially done the same.
In its place, you can install highlights from the Bears’ 20-9 win against the Raiders. Moving forward, we’ll remember this as the Khalil Mack Revenge Game.
• If it felt like Mack was everywhere and doing everything, it’s because he was doing everything, covering so much ground on that Allegiant Stadium turf, and making it hell for Jon Gruden’s gang. Mack came up with one sack, a huge stop on a two-point conversion attempt, one quarterback hit, and a tackle-for-loss. That’s a season-high in tackles for Mack, who seemingly went the extra mile to really take it to his former mates. Stuffing the stat sheet and leading the Bears defense is exactly why the Bears made Mack the league’s highest-paid defensive player back in 2018. It’s also the type of performance that makes you wonder why Mack was being made available in a trade at all. Thanks, Gruden.
• Let’s circle back to Mack’s performance. That’s now four consecutive games in which Mack has come up with at least one sack, QB Hit, and TFL. At this rate, Mack is on pace for 17 sacks, 17 tackles-for-loss, and 20 quarterback hits. That would represent a career best in sacks, Mack’s most QB Hits since 2017, and most tackles-for-loss since 2015. It’s almost as if we shouldn’t worry too much about how many practice reps Mack gets during the week. If managing his work load by limiting his practice reps results in what we’ve seen to this point, keep on keeping on. Heck, maybe look into who else could use that type of load management to unearth a player’s peak performance. Can’t hurt, could help.
• Mack did so much heavy lifting in wrecking the Raiders’ game plan. But credit Sean Desai for dialing up a winning game plan. The big change on the defensive side of the ball game compared to the last time the Bears and Raiders exchanged pleasantries is having Desai running things. And in a matchup between a first-year defensive coordinator and a long-time offensive guru, it was Desai out-foxing Gruden. The Bears came away with three sacks, four QB Hits, four TFLs, and 3 passes defended. If you tack on DeAndre Houston-Carson’s interception, it adds up to a whopping 15 (!) splash plays from that defense. That it came from seven different players is a testament to a defensive coordinator getting the most out of the talent at his disposal.
Save for some untimely and unfortunate penalties, the Bears were on their P’s and Q’s. Someone should get Desai some free vouchers to those great all-you-can eat Vegas buffets.
• The offense did just enough to make the defense’s superlative efforts stand. Justin Fields might’ve been beat up to the tune of two sacks and six hits. But we’ll all remember this throw in the guts of the game that changed the momentum and led to another scoring drive:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) October 10, 2021
• It wasn’t a touchdown drive. And at some point, you’d like to see the offense put up more 6’s than 3’s at the end of drives. But any time you can put points on the board and extend a lead is a net positive. Especially with the defense playing this way. We’ll dive into this group in more detail later.
• I think Bill Lazor will learn from some things that didn’t work out on Sunday. But one thing he should continue doubling down on is his use of the running game. Bears ball carriers ran it 37 times, including a handful of designed runs for Justin Fields. But the most impressive stuff is in the numbers for Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams. Finding success in David Montgomery’s absence will be a challenge. But in finding balance, Lazor found a winning formula. Herbert led the way with 18 carries and 75 yards. Williams scored Chicago’s second touchdown on a day where he had 64 yards on 16 carries. The passing attack could use some work, but the ground game appears to be getting in gear.
In the end, the Bears should look at this moment as a building block moment. Back-to-back wins for the rookie quarterback is nice to check off the board this early in his starting career. It’s all positive vibes when you win like that on the road. Maybe Sunday’s win against the Raiders can be a springboard to bigger things moving forward.
Up next? The hated Green Bay Packers. 😈