In his debut with the Bears, Khalil Mack’s first half was as advertised
GREEN BAY – Sometimes you can miss who trots onto the field for a particular play, especially on defense, where eleven different athletes are out there for any given down.
But you can be that Bears’ fans had their eyes trained toward the sidelines at Lambeau Field in the in the first few defensive plays to see when No. 52 was going to trot out.
On the fourth play, that’s exactly what happened. Khalil Mack trotted onto the field in the white jersey and blue pants for the first time in his Bears career, eight days after joining the team in a blockbuster trade that shook the NFL and fired up a fanbase.
The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year was intent on putting on a show, too. On his first play, he bull rushed Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga, pushing him back towards Aaron Rodgers and forced an incompletion.
Lets just say it only got better from there.
“In the first half, he was pretty much what we thought, but we didn’t know it for sure,” said Matt Nagy of Mack. “We weren’t sure exactly, like I told you, we didn’t know how many reps he would get or where he was at conditioning-wise.”
Well he showed out in the first half, creating havoc in the Packers’ backfield, getting to the quarterback, and even finding the endzone in a memorable debut that had fans talking even after disastrous second half in which the Bears dropped a 20-0 lead in a one-point loss at Lambeau Field.
“You prepare all offseason for the first game of the season so I wanted to come back and make an impact, but you want to win these games,” said Mack of his first performance. “That is the only thing on my mind. I hate losing.”
But his big plays in that first half resonate with the Bears, when Mack showed just what he can do for the Bears’ defense. His pressure on Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter helped Roy Robertson-Harris get a sack that knocked the quarterback out of the game for the rest of the first half.
After the Bears allowed his backup, DeShone Kizer, led the Packers inside their ten-yard line, Mack made his first signature play with the Bears. He first got a quick check on receiver Davante Adams, then shook off Bulaga and reached Kizer, proceeding to strip the ball from him as he was twisting towards the group.
Then came the signature moment later in the second. Again, Robertson-Harris got solid pressure on Kizer and forced him into and errant throw that ended up in the hands of Mack, who rumbled his way 27 yards down the field for the touchdown. With that, the linebacker became the first in the NFL since Lawrence Taylor in 1982 to have a sack, interception, touchdown, forced fumble, and fumble recovery in a single half.
All this happened in the first game action for Mack since the end of last year, and after just a handful of practices with the Bears this week, which was preceded by a lengthy holdout in Oakland.
“I love the game. When you love it, it is easy,” said Mack of being prepared for the game after such little prep time. “That is really what it comes down to.”
Smith would finish the game with three tackles in 42 snaps, playing in 70 percent of the Bears’ defensive plays. Like the others, a poor second half puts a damper on what was a stellar start to the 2018 season, leaving most of the team searching for answers on how to have a better finish.
“I don’t really think much changed. We let them make too many big plays down the stretch and you can’t have that,” said Mack of the Bears’ second half defense, who allowed Rodgers to go 17-of-23 for 273 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-23 loss. ” They did a lot of quick passes and quick throws. They mixed it up. We need to put more pressure on the quarterback.”
Just like Mack did in the first half, one which he gave Bears fans quite a glimpse of what might be to come in 2018 and beyond.