The Chicago Bears had their second straight impressive defensive performance in primetime defeating the Seattle Seahawks 24-17 on Monday Night. It was the second consecutive game in which the team sacked the opposing quarterback four or more times, forced two turnovers, and returned an interception for a touchdown. For as well as the defense is currently playing, the best is still yet to come.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack is the main reason to why the Bears defense has been so imposing in the first two games of the season. The team acquired Mack from the Oakland Raiders following a contract dispute that saw him sit out both training camp and the entire pre-season.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has lived up to the massive contract the Bears have given him, but he has been slowed by fatigue late in the first two games. The defensive’s second best pass rusher in edge rusher Leonard Floyd has played the first two games with a club on his right hand following a break back in pre-season. Once Mack is able to get his full stamina back and contribute through the entire game and Floyd has his cast removed, the Bears will have their starting outside linebackers at full strength.
Another reason as to why the defense is not playing up to their full potential is because the valuable reps and study time first round pick Roquan Smith missed with his holdout this pre-season. The rookie inside linebacker held outlasted mid-way through the pre-season schedule, and he did not appear in the game. Smith made his first NFL start on Monday Night against the Seahawks but appeared to be relying more on his physical attributes rather than his mental awareness. Smith most likely won’t be up to speed with the playbook and the reps until the Miami game following the team’s week five bye.
Looking ahead, The team have more opportunities to sack their opponents as they will face a string of less mobile quarterbacks compared to the ones they faced in their first two games. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are regarded as two of the league’s best when it comes to extending plays with their feet. they are able to move around in the pocket to avoid sacks and make the big play. Even with their talents, the Bears defense still managed to register 10 sacks against the two which currently leads the league.
From Week 3 to Week 7, the Bears will face quarterbacks that are either 30 years are older. Furthermore, of the four quarterbacks they will face, three have undergone ACL surgeries limiting their mobility. Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill are all viewed as traditional pocket passers and are not the best when it comes to extending plays. The Bears will play Bradford when they take on the Cardinals on Sunday. In three games with Vikings the last two seasons, Bradford has been sacked nine times.
With the mix of the Bears getting fully healthy from both a physical and mental standpoint, it could be very scary to see what the ceiling could be for the defense. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could even add to the dominance by using opposing offensive blocking schemes against them. With teams’ focus on slowing down Mack, it will allow others on the defense to rush the opposing quarterback unopposed.
The next few weeks could be extremely fun for everyone involved with Bears from their players to the media, and the fans. In eight quarters of football, the Bears have held their opponents scoreless in four, while only allowing a touchdown in two of those quarters. It is truly remarkable that a defense that has played as impressively to start the season has still yet to hit their full stride because of them not being full ability.