From one end of the developmental spectrum, quarterback Mitch Trubisky can see the other end — every time the Bears’ defense takes the field.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Trubisky said. “They’re out there, just 11 guys playing as one. They’re getting after the football, creating turnovers, and it’s really exciting to see.”
With Khalil Mack leading the way, the Bears’ defense has been mostly dominant in the first three games. It leads the NFL in sacks (14), forced fumbles (seven) and defensive touchdowns (two) and is tied for third in interceptions (five) and tied for second in takeaways (eight).
“He has completely elevated everybody else on that defense,” coach Matt Nagy said of Mack, who has four sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown. “Across the board, you can see these guys and how their game has elevated. When that happens, that’s rare, to have one guy affect a team like that. So when you have Akiem Hicks and Danny [Trevathan] and Eddie [Goldman] and then . . . Roquan [Smith is] running around, all of our DBs, it’s contagious.”
The Mack-led defense has increased the margin for error for Trubisky & Co. With the offense producing 16 points against the Packers and Cardinals and 17 points against the Seahawks, the Bears are 2-1 — with the loss by one point to the Packers at Lambeau Field.
But eventually the offense will feel the pressure to keep up — if it doesn’t already. It’s early, but the disparity doesn’t appear to be skewed: The Bears are fifth in the NFL in total defense and 26th in total offense.
“It gives us a lot of confidence on offense, but we also want to continue to get better to take some pressure off them because they are playing outstanding,” Trubisky said. “We are trying to duplicate [that] on offense, make [it] as exciting on offense to see. Once we get that, I think we will be pretty good. We are pretty scary on defense right now. It’s going to be that going forward, and it’s awesome to see. They continue to have our backs. So we just have to step it up for them.”
The defense was expected to carry the majority of the load for the Bears this season, particularly early. But with Mack making an even bigger impact than imagined while Trubisky and the offense show little if any progress that is perceptible to the naked eye, the disparity appears to actually be growing. It’s all good now. But it could become problematic with one side of the ball that much more productive than the other.
“I’m not worried about it at all because of the people we have,” Nagy said. “Our message has been a team thing this whole time. As well and as dominant as our defense has been, there’s going to be a time this year — I can’t tell you when — when they’ll need the offense.”
But even now, Nagy acknowledged it’s a situation he has to manage.
“You’ve got to make sure — I do as a head coach — that you do what you’re saying and that the defense understands that [the offense’s subpar production] is not for lack of trying,” Nagy said. “It’s just where we’re at. This is a ‘we’ thing. This is who we are right now, and we need to make sure that everyone understands that.”
Nagy said the offense feels the pressure to carry its share of the load.
“But they use that as motivation,” he said. “They get that. Everybody in our building knows where we’re at and knows where we can go. The fact that we’re 2-1, winning games — we’ve got a ways to go, but the only thing that matters in the end is to get that ‘W.’ We got that [Sunday], and that’s what we’re focused on.”