MONSTER’S MASH: In his second Bears’ season, Khalil Mack continues to inspire

Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum (8) in the first quarter Monday, Sept. 23, 2019 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – What they saw on Monday was nothing new, but it’s certainly not getting old for the Bears.

Once again, he a pair of strip-sacks, and even had another taken away because of a penalty. He made life miserable for Case Keenum on the Redskins’ offense and helped the Bears to a lead they’d never give up.

Khalil Mack has been doing that literally since his first game with the franchise in 2018, yet he continues to earn the praise of his those around him like he was acquired last week.

“He’s on another level right now. He affects every single play, ” said head coach Matt Nagy of Mack. “It doesn’t matter if he makes the play or not, he affects it in every game I’ve watched so far this year. He dominates.”

So far this year he’s got three sacks and three forced fumbles, but his pressure on the quarterback has opened up others on the defense to get to the quarterback as well. This is on par with his progress from last season when he finished with 12 1/2 sacks with six forced fumbles.

Mack was asked this week if he believed that he’s playing on another level. He quietly said he wasn’t sure.

“I want to go out and be better every week,” said Mack when told of Nagy’s comments. “If he said that then I guess it’s true.”

Whether intentional or unintentional, the linebacker’s play inspires the current Bears along with some of the new people on the staff, including first year defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

“That’s blood in the water. When that stuff starts to go, it’s momentum, for your entire defense,  for your entire team, you can feed off of that,” said Pagano of Mack. “The thing is, he does that every day. You guys are out of practice, you see this guy. I’m just in awe of him; the way this guy prepares, but really with how he practices. He does this every day at practice.

“They race out to the ball every period that we have. He takes the field on game day the same way.”

The Vikings Ground Game is “Cook-ing”

When Minnesota signed Kirk Cousins before the 2018 season, it appeared they might go to the air quite a bit more in their attempt to get back to the Super Bowl.

But it’s a running back that is leading the Minnesota attack early in the 2019 campaign.

In his third season, Dalvin Cook is currently leading the NFL with 375 yards rushing, picking up 6.6 yards per carry. It’s his effort that has helped the Vikings to a 2-1 record so far this season.

“They run hard. They try to bully people and try to go ahead and get the ground going,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan of the Vikings’ running game. “Try to not rely too much on the passing sometimes though they have that in their back pocket.”

So far the Bears are sixth in rushing defense in the early season, allowing 68.7 yards per game so far. Cook will be the best back the Bears have seen so far this season, and perhaps one of the finest they’ll see all season long.

“He’s a strong running I feel like as long as we play good technique and we tackle, I feel like we’ll be all right,” said defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris.

Another Week, Another Late Injury List Addition

For a second-straight week, the Bears’ injury report had an unexpected addition.

This time it was guard Kyle Long, who popped up on the report with a hip issue on Thursday and missed practice the last two days. He’s questionable for Sunday against the Vikings, joining Akiem Hicks (Knee), Taylor Gabriel (Concussion), and kicker Eddy Pineiro.

Long had started the first three games of the season and was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Nagy expects him to be a game-time decision against the Vikings.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: 7-1

The record for the Bears when Mack forces a fumble, including the win on Monday against the Redskins.

The only loss came in the linebacker’s first game against the Packers in Week 1 of 2019.

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