For Bears Fans, the last few weeks have been excruciatingly painful. After cranking out three straight victories against the Broncos, Redskins and Vikings, the team has looked utterly lost in their last two games, now sitting near the basement of the NFC North at 3-3.
After dropping a should-have-won game to the Oakland Raiders, the Bears hoped to rebound against the one-loss Saints this past Sunday in a “statement game.” As it turns out, the only “statement” the team made was that they are miles away from being the contenders we all hoped they’d be this season.
This loss was a tough one for fans to swallow.
Coming out of the bye week with two weeks of preparation heading into Sunday’s action, it was assumed that the team’s offense would fare better than they had in their previous five contests, especially with the return of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
This soon became a far-fetched pipe dream, as Trubisky and co. mustered just 85 yards of total offense through three quarters before the game fell well out-of-hand.
With questionable play-calling (yet again) and atrocious quarterback play, the Monsters of the Midway accrued just four first-downs, going 1-for-9 on third-down opportunities. Even so, New Orleans held just a two-point lead heading into halftime — the sole reason being a 102-yard kickoff-return touchdown by Cordarelle Patterson.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from last week’s blunder was Chicago’s unacceptable time of possession. At the end of the third quarter, the Saints had held the ball for 30 minutes compared to Chicago’s 15.
Due to this, the defense suffered.
No matter how great the defense, no unit can withstand this type of pressure. Chuck Pagano’s unit was noticeably gassed coming out of the break, leading to a 24-point barrage for Sean Payton’s squad in the second half.
While the offense did Chicago’s D no favors, the defense isn’t completely faultless.
They didn’t appear nearly as sharp as they had early in the season — even more so the case against the run. Missing their starting running-back, Saints’ interim workhorse (and ex-division rival) Latavius Murray still found a way to torch the Bears’ front-seven for 150 total yards and two scores.
Shockingly, superstar outside-linebacker Khalil Mack was nowhere to be seen. New Orleans’ offensive-tackle Ryan Ramczyk held him in-check the entire game, not allowing Mack even a single quarterback pressure in 19 snaps.
It appeared the Saints had a great game-plan for the perennial All-Pro, doubling and even triple-teaming him at times. If they were going to get beat by the Bears’ pass-rush, it wasn’t going to be by Mack.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 21, 2019
This has been a common theme for opposing teams ever since defensive-tackle Akiem Hicks was sidelined. Against the Raiders in Week 6, Mack was limited to just three tackles and one quarterback hit. This is a shot at the rest of the team’s pass-rush, as nobody else has garnered enough attention to stop opponents from focusing all their man-power on Mack.
Opposite from the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard Floyd hasn’t done enough to warrant anything more than one-on-one matchups on a regular basis (matchups he’s consistently lost).
We’re all aware of the dominant force Mack has been since entering the league in 2014, transforming Chicago’s defense from good to great upon his arrival last season. Although he missed two games in 2018 and played hurt in several others, Mack still notched 12.5 sacks.
However, a lackluster supporting cast this season has taken a toll on his performance in recent weeks.
Although he’s not even top-15 in the league in sacks to this point, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Mack is still one of the best in the business, but he’s not superhuman (although that can be argued at times). Simply put, he needs help from his teammates to remain the game-wrecking juggernaut we’ve all grown accustomed to.
If general manager Ryan Pace is wise, he should have Leonard Floyd on the hot-seat over the second half of the season. If he continues to sputter, the team shouldn’t hesitate to move on from the former first-rounder and get Mack the help he deserves. In order to maximize his talent, the edge-rusher opposite of Mack must produce.
Khalil Mack is a generational talent, and it would be mindless to waste such abilities.