CHICAGO – It feels like 2018 all over again, and that’s a good thing. Actually, it’s a little bit better.
In that season, the first for the Bears under head coach Matt Nagy, the Bears started 3-1 but lost their next two games. In 2020, the team won their fifth game of the year to improve to 4-1, something the team hasn’t done in eight years.
But one thing that felt the same about the performance on Thursday night is the play of the man wearing the No. 52 jersey. Khalil Mack hasn’t gone anywhere, but it seemed on Thursday that the linebacker is back to form.
After all, there are a fresh new crop of memes and short videos thanks to his exploits.
After coming up with a sack on Tom Brady at Soldier Field, Mack managed to throw 340-pound Tristan Wirfs to the ground with essentially one hand.
Then on another takedown of Brady, the veteran quarterback rolled his eyes in disgust when he realized Mack had caught him once again.
All of these moments were something that fans got used to back in the linebacker’s first season when he was making a memorable play each and every game. Those slowed a little bit last year when Mack was slowed by nagging injuries and a lot more attention from blockers.
Even lasts week, the linebacker saw a chance for an interception slip right through his hands in the first half in a potentially game-changing play. Mack had just a sack-and-a-half in the first four games as the team waited for the linebacker to break out again.
He couldn’t have picked a better time, and the Bears’ defense was even more ferocious because of it. Mack hit Brady three times on the night and collected two sacks, throwing the future Hall of Famer off his game just enough to slow the Buccaneers’ offense.
Tampa Bay could only manage a field goal in the each of the last three quarters, and all of that was needed as the Bears’ offense struggled once again. But they were able to get just enough to get a one-point victory as the unit once again allowed 19 points on the game.
“You have a guy like Khalil that every single snap he’s bringing it, and you just have to know that he’s coming,” said Nagy of Mack’s performance on Thursday. “And you know, it’s unfortunate on that last sack he had, or the one where he got the penalty because he could have had a third sack and that’s just who he is. The other guys feed off of that.”
Indeed that’s the case as the defense hit Brady eight times with James Vaughters also getting a sack along with Mack. The unit kept up their “bend don’t break” trend, but in the final two drives they shut the door, allowing just 14 total yards to give the Bears’ their best victory of 2020.
It was a defensive chemistry that was trigged by the man that stirs it up from the outside, and when he does so, his teammates often follow his lead.
“Rush and coverage working together, it was a beautiful thing, man,” said Mack after the game.
His return to form made it a work of art.