Remember when the Bears led the NFL in sack percentage?
That was awesome.
But it seems like a lifetime ago.
On their opponents’ last 88 passing attempts, the Bears’ once-fearsome pass rush has accumulated one sack. That’s right, one, as in one more than zero. Ironically, that solitary sack came on Sunday, when it appeared the breeze generated by Roquan Smith’s tackle attempt was enough to put down Tom Brady, who was otherwise treated by the Bears as a national treasure.
It was actually just nine days ago that the Bears had the league’s top sack percentage after piling up 18 of them in the first four games. They still rank a very respectable seventh, getting to the quarterback on 8.76 percent of their opponents’ pass attempts.
But they’re way behind the NFL-leading Lions -- yeah those guys in Detroit -- who have been getting sacks on 11.76 percent of pass plays against them. By the way, the Packers are third at 9.73 and the Vikings are sixth at 8.79.
But I digress; we’re discussing the Bears and the disappearance of their pass rush. It didn’t take long for teams to start double-teaming Khalil Mack, and his sprained ankle has also curtailed his effectiveness. But no one has stepped up to fill the void.
What happened to that whole, “next man up,” philosophy? Mack can’t do it alone, especially on one leg.
“When you get doubled — and that’s nothing new, he gets doubled every game — and our other defensive ends and outside linebackers, they’re getting doubled too,” coach Matt Nagy said. "There are times where, if you’re going to go ahead and double the guys on the edges, then we need to be able to get penetration up the middle.”
The only time the Bears got pressure on Sunday was when Smith blitzed. The Bears generally rely on DE Akiem Hicks to get that inside push and, to a lesser extent, NT Eddie Goldman in the base 3-4. Rookie Bilal Nichols has shown occasional ability to be disruptive inside, and he was as close to Brady as Smith on Sunday’s sack, but none of the big guys has pushed the pocket the past two weeks.
And none of the edge rushers have taken advantage lately of the extra attention paid to Mack. As Nagy alluded, the outside linebackers are sometimes both doubled in passing situations. But that isn’t always the case, so more is needed from Leonard Floyd and Aaron Lynch. Maybe it’s time to give young backup OLBs Isaiah Irving and rookie Kyle Fitts some opportunities.
Floyd is still seeking his first sack of the season as he continues to work toward full use of his broken right hand, but Monday was the one-year anniversary of his last full sack.
“If you’re going to double one side, then you’ve got to be able to get pressure from the other side,” Nagy said. “Our guys have got to continue to keep working hard at winning those one-on-one battles. We say it on the offensive line — you have to win your one-on-one battles. Defense? Same thing. You get home.
“It doesn’t mean you always get a sack or you always tip the ball, but you’re affecting the quarterback and you’re breaking down that green grass, and he sees color when he throws. And that’s what we need more of.”