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Bears’ pass rush eyes Derek Carr, the NFL’s leading passer

The Bears lead the NFL with 15 sacks.

Chicago Bears v Oakland Raiders
Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack tackles Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in 2019.
Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

The Chargers hit Raiders quarterback Derek Carr all Monday night. Then after the game, they hit him again.

“We knew once we hit him a few times, he really gets shook,” Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa said after their 28-14 victory against the Raiders. “And you saw on [defensive end Christian Covington’s] sack, he was pretty much curling into a ball before we even got back there. Great dude, great player. He’s been having a great year. . . . But we know once you get pressure on him, he kind of shuts down.”

The Bears, who lead the NFL with 15 sacks, want to see if they can come to the same conclusion Sunday.

“If you consistently get pressure on the quarterback, I don’t think they like that,” said outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who leads the Bears with 4½ sacks. “I mean, when you’ve got someone in your face basically trying to get you to the ground, and they gotta make an accurate pass, I think any quarterback would get frustrated. I guess you could really say that about any quarterback.”

Though his 98.1 passer rating is perfectly average — it ranks 16th in the NFL — Carr leads the league with 1,399 passing yards through four games. While Bosa hinted that Carr has a reputation when pressured, the numbers don’t agree. Last year, Carr averaged 8.7 yards per attempt when he was under pressure, the ninth-best mark in the league. He had a 111.6 passer rating when he threw passes in 2.5 seconds or less. He had a 103.7 passer rating in the same circumstances in 2019.

“He’s feisty, trying to make plays down the field,” said Quinn, who had a strip-sack against the Lions. “Keep it simple. If you get to the quarterback, you should rattle him — if you do it consistently.”

Quinn and fellow outside linebacker Khalil Mack have combined for 8½ sacks. Mack was hampered by a foot injury all last week but had a sack Sunday. He hasn’t practiced this week because of foot and rib injuries. Still, he figures to try to play against Carr, one of his best friends going back to their days together on the Raiders.

Mack and Quinn dominating together is what the Bears had in mind when they signed the latter to a five-year, $70 million deal last year.

“If you’re the [offensive coordinator], what would you do?” Quinn said. “Of course, my numbers may be OK, but I think they’re still a little concerned about [Mack] on that other side.”

Carr has some of the NFL’s best pressure release valves. Darren Waller’s 24 catches and 274 yards rank second among tight ends — behind only Travis Kelce. Slot receiver Hunter Renfrow has 22 receptions. By contrast, Bears wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, tight ends Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet and running back Damien Williams have 25 combined.

“I don’t see any issue with [Carr] handling any rush,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “He handles it really well. And you see that in a lot of games this year. He can throw the rock, he can avoid, he scrambles to pass and he has his eyes up the field. And they have targets they can hit at all levels of the field, and he can make all those throws.”

Carr has never played so well, Desai said.

“The offense runs through him,” Desai said. “He’s able to control a lot at the line of scrimmage. He’s able to make his adjustments and attack defenses as he sees fit. He’s got the arm talent and the mindset to go do that. He’s playing with that confidence.”

A good pass rush, though, might have something to say about that.

“I guess guys are just tired of always talking about it,” Quinn said. “Now it’s just simple, saying we’ve got to walk the walk.”