MONSTER’S MASH: Return of the Mack?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears reacts in the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on September 17, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – He’s been the man who has taken the Bears’ defense from solid to potentially elite.

But when he was slowed just a bit, as he was against the Dolphins, it can have a major effect on the Bears defense.

Khalil Mack means just that much to the Bears, as his pressure from the outside has helped to turn the unit into one of the league’s best. With the outside linebacker coming off the edge, Vic Fangio’s unit finally fixed the pressure and turnover problems that had kept them from cracking the Top 5 in the NFL the past two years.

With Mack slowed by an ankle injury, the Bears failed to get a sack against the Dolphins, and were noticeably a bit off all game long. The injury has lingered into this week as the Bears prepare for the defending AFC champion Patriots for a home game this Sunday.

The linebacker is questionable for the contest after missing the first two days of practice. He was limited in participation on Friday, opening up the hope that he’ll be in his usual outside linebacker spot on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been a cool week. Just getting prepared mentally more than physically,” said Mack. “Just getting ready for the game.”

Meanwhile, the defense did spend the week preparing in case Mack wouldn’t be able to play against the Patriots. While it seems likely the linebacker will be on the field for at least some, if not all, the game on Sunday, the unit says they’ll be ready if they have to move on without him.

“He’s gonna handle his business. He’s a pro. He’s one of the best at it. We’ve got to keep moving,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan. “He knows that, the defense knows that, and we each have to get this win – with or without whoever we have on the field. We know that he’s still teaching those guys and we still out on the field playing for one another.”

About Those Missed Tackles….

If there is anything that’s remained consistent in an era of change for the Bears, it has been the aforementioned defense.

Fans and coaches figured they could rely on Fangio’s unit to carry the team as the offense continues to adapt to a more complicated system under head coach Matt Nagy.

But for the first time this season, the unit struggled to do the most important part of their job: Tackling.

Per Pro Football Focus, the Bears missed 19 tackles against the Dolphins, which is more than they had in the first four games of the season (15). A few of them came on long touchdown receptions by Albert Wilson, which led to Miami’s ability to push the game to overtime and eventually win.

“It was real difficult to handle. You’re starting out hot. You could see them doing some things that challenged us,” said Mack of the Dolphins game. “I didn’t know we had so many missed tackles. It’s understanding the situation. Understanding that it’s up to us to get it done and be ready to answer the challenge this week.”

Eddie Jackson believes that the errors we more of a fluke than a signal of true problems with the defense, believing that those issues with right themselves this week.

“We knew it was a blip,” said the safety of the Dolphins game. “We talked about how many tackles we missed and some of that could have really changed the momentum of the game if we would have made some of those tackles. Unfortunately, two of them resulted in big play touchdowns.

“But we come in here and watch film and put that behind us and we focus on New England.”

No Gronk?

While the Bears are still wondering about the availability of Mack, the Patriots will likely be dealing with the loss of one of their best players.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t make the trip to Chicago with the team as he continues to deal with a back injury. The Patriots have yet to officially rule him out, hoping for a change in health before Sunday’s game.

The versatile tight end has 26 catches for 405 yards and a touchdown in six games this season.

STAT OF THE WEEK – 87-30

The combined score of the last two Bears-Patriots games.

In a blizzard in 2010, New England beat the Bears 36-7 at Soldier Field. Four years later, it was even worse at Gillette Stadium, as the Patriots crushed Marc Trestman’s team 51-23.