While quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears’ offense took bows for a breakout performance, outside linebacker Khalil Mack,
inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and the defense just did what they do to spark a 48-10 rout Sunday of the Buccaneers at Soldier Field.
And the Mack Attack had the higher degree of difficulty. With a combined four sacks and three interceptions of Bucs quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston, the Bears’ defense throttled what had been the most prolific offense in the NFL through the first three weeks.
Fitzpatrick had thrown for 400 or more yards in three consecutive games, an NFL record. But he threw for only 126 yards in the first half, was sacked twice and was intercepted once before being replaced by Winston after the Bears opened a 38-3 lead. Even with an entire second half of garbage time, the Bucs finished with 245 net passing yards, well below their average of 400.
‘‘We knew where they were,’’ said Trevathan, who intercepted Winston on the first series of the third quarter. ‘‘We’re the top defense in the league, in my opinion. We knew they were going to try to come in here and light us up. We knew we had to put our best foot forward. We had to make a statement. It’s our home. Nobody’s going to come to Chicago with that stuff.’’
Coach Matt Nagy said last week there will be a day when the defense needs the offense, but Sunday wasn’t it. The offensive explosion quickly became gravy because the defense had this from the first possession, on which nickel back Bryce Callahan sniffed out a bubble screen to stop receiver Adam Humphries for no gain, Mack stopped running back Peyton Barber for no gain and Fitzpatrick threw incomplete on a deep ball.
Defensive end Akiem Hicks and Mack sacked Fitzpatrick to stifle first-half drives. By the time safety Eddie Jackson stepped in front of receiver Mike Evans for an interception, the Bears led 35-3, and the heretofore-potent Bucs offense was a shambles.
‘‘All week, [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] had been telling us that we had to come up with the right mindset to win this type of game,’’ outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. ‘‘They’re the No. 1 offense in the league. We made sure we kept piling it on. We didn’t want to let up. We just wanted to . . . put it on them and keep them down.’’
Mack again played a big part in the rout. He had the stuff of Barber on the second play from scrimmage and a sack and forced fumble on a third-and-11 play in the second quarter. It was the fourth consecutive game in which he has had a sack and forced fumble. On the first series of the second half, he hit Winston’s arm on the pass Trevathan intercepted.
As usual, others joined in. Hicks had his third sack of the season. Trevathan, Jackson and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch had
interceptions. Rookie Bilal Nichols shared a sack with fellow defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris and dropped running back Ronald Jones for a four-yard loss on the next play.
‘‘We’re getting better every week, and that’s what you want to see,’’ Mack said. ‘‘It’s a good feeling, especially going into the bye.’’
It remains to be seen how long Mack and the defense can sustain this level of effectiveness. For now, though, everybody is feeling it. Even the rookies.
‘‘It feels awesome,’’ said Nichols, a fifth-round draft pick from Delaware. ‘‘And it’s funny because we feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on how good we can truly be. We’re playing with a crazy level of swag right now. And we’re just trying to keep it going.’’