Only two teams in the NFL allowed fewer points than the Bears’ 10 in Week 1.
The problem: The Packers, who gave up three, were one of them.
It would be only natural for the Bears’ vaunted defense to feel an extra ripple of pressure entering the almost-must-win game Sunday in Denver. But its best player, Khalil Mack, doesn’t see it that way.
“Ultimately, our job is to not allow the other team to score,” the outside linebacker said Friday. “I feel like we’ve been talking about that, and I don’t really care about [the offensive struggles]. Our part is to shut offenses out, and we’re capable of doing that.”
Pitching a shutout might be the only way to guarantee a win against the Broncos, particularly if quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s struggles continue in Week 2.
Amazingly, holding the Broncos scoreless isn’t an unreasonable task. Behind new quarterback Joe Flacco and first-time NFL play-caller Rich Scangarello, they managed only 16 points in a loss to the Raiders.
The Bears, meanwhile, dominated on defense — even if losing to their rivals prevented them from admitting as much.
“We’re not interested in moral victories here,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “We’re interested in just playing good football.”
Only one side of the ball did that against the Packers. Only the Ravens — who played the tanking Dolphins — gave up fewer yards in Week 1 than the Bears’ 213. Only three teams allowed more passing yards than the Bears’ 166, and only five gave up more rushing yards than the Bears’ 47.
“It’s unfortunate that it got overshadowed by the poor performance on offense, it really is,” coach Matt Nagy said. “I think that got hidden.”
The Bears committed three defensive penalties, with one each on the Packers’ two scoring drives. On the 10 drives in which the Bears’ defense wasn’t flagged, it gave up 55 yards — and no points — on 40 plays.
“That’s the thing,” Mack said. “It’s two or three plays. But we’ve gotta learn from those two or three and get ready for this week.”
Nine of the Packers’ 13 drives lasted four plays or fewer.
“There was a lot to be impressed by,” Hicks said. “Impressed by our linebackers and how they can cover downfield. And our linebackers again, how they can come downhill and support in the run when we have a light box. Excited about our secondary play and how they can lock people up and only give [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers a so-so amount of yards.
“I think that our defense is — and can be even more — dominant. We’ve just gotta prove it.”
They didn’t already?
“That’s the culture here,” said new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who replaced Vic Fangio in January after Fangio was named Broncos coach. “That’s the mindset of this football team. If it was any different, you’d be worried about that. But we don’t have those types of guys.”
The Bears’ culture is such, Hicks said, that they don’t fear any locker-room rift between a dominant defense and underperforming offense. He said there were times last year when the defense needed the offense to save the day, and it did.
“Offensively, for us, we want to do better,” Nagy said. “Meaning the players on offense want to do better. The coaches on offense want to do better to help out.”
An NFL truism is that defense travels. The Bears’ did last year, allowing a half-yard less per play on the road than at home. They held quarterbacks to a 67.9 passer rating on the road and 73.4 at home.
On the road Sunday, the Bears’ defense will be as needed as ever.
“It’s not going to be an easy one for us,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “We know how to deal with adversity. And that’s what I love most about this team and about this locker room.”