Without a doubt, the manner in which the Chicago Bears lost this past Sunday was heartbreaking.
After seemingly having complete control of the game, Aaron Rodgers led a stunning comeback, something that he is no stranger to. While this loss was a painful one for the Bears, let’s not look past the reason why they were able to have a 20 point lead in the first place. The defense of the Bears looked as if they had gone back to the days in which Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, and Brian Urlacher were in charge, and that same defense could be here to stay.
To start with the most dominant Bears defender, Khalil Mack didn’t attend OTAs or training camp, nor did he participate in any preseason games this August. Given this, Mack was most likely not in “midseason” shape in terms of his conditioning and whatnot. He played on a limited snap count on Sunday, as he appeared in only 42 snaps on Sunday night, roughly 70% of the total Bears’ defensive snaps.
Despite all of this, he had perhaps the greatest defensive half in recent memory, posting a sack, forced fumble, a fumble recovery, interception, and a defensive touchdown. Now don’t expect Mack to make that performance a regular occurrence, but if he can even sniff numbers like those when he isn’t in peak shape, then imagine his defensive potential by Week 5.
Quite similarly, the Bears first-round draft pick this season, Roquan Smith, only appeared in 8 snaps this past Sunday. Smith, the former Georgia Bulldog, dealt with a minor hamstring injury throughout the preseason, and clearly wasn’t 100% healthy on Sunday. However, that didn’t stop him from getting a sack on his first career play. The reigning Butkus Award winner should be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
The last piece of the pass-rushing puzzle for Chicago is Leonard Floyd. Another former Georgia Bulldog, Floyd has proven early in his career that he can be an elite defensive player for the next several years. However, he has also dealt with numerous injury issues over the course of his young career. Despite this, Floyd has entered this season relatively healthy. And when healthy, Floyd has all-pro potential. With the guidance of someone like Khalil Mack, expect Floyd to only improve in the future.
Although the Bears also have other solid defenders such as Akiem Hicks and Eddie Jackson, the pass-rushing has always defined the Chicago Bears defense. Sunday night’s performance was hopefully just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this defense’s potential. With Seattle coming to town on Monday, it will be interesting to see how this defense will shape up against Russell Wilson. Hopefully, the play of the defense continues to improve, so much so that talks about a return to “Monster of the Midway” style may be appropriate.