LAKE FOREST – Before this week, the Bears had been rather fortunate when it came to a major variable in the 2019 season: COVID-19.
Only practice squad player Badara Traore had been diagnosed with the virus during the regular season, and his positive test came during an off weekend after a Thursday night.
But in Week 9, Matt Nagy had to deal with his first major issues when it came to COVID-19 when offensive lineman Jason Spriggs then Cody Whitehair tested positive. For the first time since the season began, Halas Hall was closed, and the Bears worked virtually on Thursday.
Friday the team was back for practice, but Saturday saw another player get placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Safety Deon Bush. He’ll miss Sunday’s game with the Titans along with Spriggs and Whitehair. Then on Sunday, just two-and-a-half hours before the game, offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons was placed on the list.
Dealing with such a scenario, where multiple players end up with the virus or on reserve, was always something that could happen with a contact sport like football. But over the last few months, Matt Nagy has learned how to adjust quickly to such a scenario, so he’s ready to tackle his biggest COVID challenge of the season so far.
“All we can do is control what we can control by following the rules, and if I get that phone call in the middle of the night, things have been a lot calmer for us on how to handle it,” said Nagy. “What happens is; I think the players feel that from us and they realize that ‘Hey, they trust us’ and we’ve got to put in a plan to action, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
THE TENNESEE THROWBACK
In a game that more and more is going towards speed, especially at the running back position, No. 22 for the Titans is quite a throwback.
Derrick Henry is a power back that reminds fans of previous generations of the game, using sheer force to pick up yardage for Tennessee. It’s certainly worked for him, as he leads the Titans in rushing with 775 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Since he’s unusual in today’s game, Henry presents a unique challenge for the Bears, who have to be clinical in trying to get the running back to the ground.
“I think he’s the best running back in football right now, and deservedly so. The big thing is you’ve got to get hats to the ball,” said safety Tashaun Gipson of stopping Henry. “I think that two is greater than one and that’s what we pride ourselves on defense – we’ve got linebackers that can run, we’ve got safeties that can come up and tackle and corners that’s willing to tackle.
“We’ve got a D-line that’s capable of stopping the run and playing the pass. So with that, it’s about getting hats to the ball.”
KHALIL’S GONE STREAKING
Once again, the Bears’ best pass rusher is finding his way to get to the quarterback on a weekly basis.
For the first time since his first season with the Bears in 2018, Khalil Mack has put together a lengthy streak of games with a least a sack. He’s got one in the last four contests, which ties his highest streak with the Bears, which was set in September of his first season.
That’s currently the longest streak in the NFL and has elevated Mack’s sack total to 6.5, which is currently fourth in the league.
“Those are gonna come,” said Mack of the sack streak. “The thing that’s most important to me is that the whole D-line gets going, then everyone starts getting there sacks in bunches.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 51
The amount of points the Bears’ scored in their last game against the Titans at Nissan Stadium on November 4, 2012. It’s the last time the Bears have scored 50 points in a game.