For a Chicago Bears team that is (somehow) undefeated through their first three games after their 30-26 comeback win over the Falcons, inconsistent play in all three phases has been a reoccurring issue this season.
Sunday’s win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium featured yet another game where the Bears’ offense waited until the fourth quarter to score three touchdowns. Defensively, the Bears gave up 371 total yards and 26 points to a Falcons team that didn’t have Julio Jones, starting right tackle Kaleb McGary and wide receiver Russel Gage, who left the game after an injury in the second quarter. On special teams, Cairo Santos missed another field goal and the punting unit had two false starts thanks to Josh Woods and J.P. Holtz.
The Bears have plenty to work on to become a more well-rounded team, but there has been one thing that has been consistent this season: Akiem Hicks sacking quarterbacks.
Hicks — who missed 11 games due to a dislocated elbow last season — is currently tied with Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt for the second-most sacks in the league with 3.5. For Chicago, he is the only player to record at least one sack in each game.
And his 1.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and four total tackles against the Falcons helped the defense to shut out the No. 5 ranked scoring offense in the fourth quarter.
Hicks’ first sack of the day comes on a third-and-goal play from Chicago’s own 4-yard line in the second quarter. The 6-foot-4, 347-pound defensive lineman simply overpowers Falcons right guard Chris Lindstrom and ends up splitting the sack with teammate Khalil Mack.
Although this next play did result in a roughing the passer penalty, look at the move that Hicks puts on Lindstrom. Hicks gets both of his hands on the right guard’s shoulder pads, then uses his left hand to pull Lindstrom towards him and finishes with a swim move to complete his pass rush.
Hicks’ sack in the fourth quarter illustrates exactly why he is one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
Again, Lindstrom is the man who has to block Hicks and like the previous two plays, the right guard is unable to do his job. Hicks drives Lindstrom back 7 yards and lunges over the top of him to bring down Matt Ryan.
After the 4-yard loss on the sack, the Falcons attempted a 48-yard field goal, but kicker Younghoe Koo missed it left up the upright.
A healthy Hicks changes how offenses attempt to attack this Bears defense.
Even though the Falcons still took some deep shots in the game, those types of plays were less frequent in the second half, and that can be credited to how fast the Bears’ pass rush was getting to Ryan.
Hicks’ interior pressure combined with both Mack’s and outside linebacker Robert Quinn’s ability to collapse the pocket from the edges forced the Falcons to get the ball out of Ryan’s hands quickly. Since offenses can’t double team all three defenders, the opportunities for Hicks, Mack and Quinn to make impactful plays should only increase as the season progresses.
Now, if the Bears can gradually become more consistent in all three phases, similar to the regularity that Hicks applies pressure to opposing quarterbacks, then this team will be considered an actual contender in the NFC come playoff time.