Defenses have predictably struggled to slow the onslaught of offenses to start the 2020 season. The Chicago Bears, however, are one of the few units that have been a force thus far.
Thursday, Khalil Mack & Co. proved why, pestering Tom Brady like flies on a goat. The Bears’ 20-19 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers marked the third time this season Chicago has held an opponent to 20 points or fewer.
“It’s a special group, man,” Mack said after the W, per The Athletic. “They love that pressure, man. It clicked tonight — like I knew it would. It clicked at the right time. It was a beautiful thing to see going up against one of the best ever.”
The Bears swarmed Brady, sacking him three times and generating a season-high 19 pressures, per NextGen Stats. Mack himself sacked Brady twice — his first two-sack game since Week 3, 2019, snapping a 17 games streak without two-plus sacks, the longest period of his career — and singlehandedly generated six pressures.
“I just know that we smelled a little blood in the water,” Mack said.
The Bears’ front-four did the damage, with 16 of the 19 pressures on Brady coming with four or fewer pass-rushers. Not needing to blitz to discombobulate the Bucs allowed Chicago to play coverage on the back end.
The pressure got to Brady. He completed just 9 of 16 passes under pressure for 78 yards and a 69.3 passer rating. When TB12 had time, he went 16 of 25 for 175 yards, a TD and a 97.9 rating. The Bears’ D-line got so far into Brady’s head that it could have been the reason the thought he had an extra down at the end of the game.
While Chicago’s defensive front beat up Brady, it was corner Kyle Fuller who changed the tenor of the tilt with a bone-crushing, very legal, hit on Bucs rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn that resulted in a fumble. Fuller’s blowup play helped Chicago take a halftime lead in a game in which they looked overmatched for the first 25 minutes.
“Kyle, man, he finally got a call that went his way,” Mack said. “He always plays hard. He had that same hit probably like three weeks, four weeks ago, maybe (when) it kind of went the other way. It was the same play. This guy is an All-Pro player, and you see the professionalism in the way he put his shoulder into him. It was an impactful play. It was a beautiful play. It was a beautiful football play.”
While he’s always a disruptor, entering Thursday, we hadn’t seen vintage Mack through the first four weeks. Thursday night, Mack reminded us he’s still one of the best pass rushers who can destroy any blocker.
His biggest highlight came on a second-half sack of Brady, as he tossed rookie left tackle Tristan Wirfs — listed at 320 pounds — to the ground after the play.
Khalil Mack makes his presence felt. 💪 @FiftyDeuce
📺: #TBvsCHI on NFLN/FOX/PRIME
📱: https://t.co/W5bCPYgMfo pic.twitter.com/52IN9hCVxP
“I can’t explain that, man,” Mack said. “It just happens, man. I play the game very physical. It just so happened that he was holding on to me and I had to get him off.”
Wirfs actually didn’t have a bad game, all things considered, and proved he has big upside. Thursday night, however, he ran into an All-Pro player playing his best game of the season.
If the Bears continue to get performances like this from Mack and the rest of the D, their winning record won’t feel like such a fluke a few weeks down the road.
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