The NFL recognized Thursday what the Bears have known in the one month and three days since they traded for Khalil Mack: the outside linebacker is a star.
Mack was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month , capping a dominant four-game stretch that started only eight days after the Raiders traded him.
Mack ranks second in the NFL with five sacks, is tied with J.J. Watt for the league lead with four forced fumbles and is one of 10 players with a defensive touchdown.
He’s the first player since 1994, when the stat was first kept, to record a forced fumble in each of the first four games of the season. He is one of two players ever — Tony Brackens did it in 1999 — to total four over four games.
Only one Bears defender amassed more sacks from Weeks 1-5 — Rosevelt Colvin had six in 2002.
Sparked by Mack, the Bears have allowed 16.3 points per game, tied for the third-fewest in the league behind the Jaguars and Redskins.
“Our expectations were high for ourselves and then when we were able to bring Khalil into this,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said last week. “He’s upgraded everyone, not just defense but the players, too.”
Sunday, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston called Mack a “future Hall of Famer.”
Mack is the first Bears player to win the award since cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman won it back to back in September and October 2012.