Bears fans at Soldier Field are criticized for not knowing to be quiet when the offense has a big third down to convert. But they are locked into everything that happens on defense — conditioned by years of excellence.
So the anticipation of Robert Quinn breaking Richard Dent’s Bears record for sacks in a season was palpable Sunday in the home finale against the Giants. The crowd cheered knowingly when Quinn had quarterback Mike Glennon in his grasp in the first quarter only to have Glennon escape by dumping the ball to running back Devontae Booker at the last second.
“I thought the refs were going to blow the play dead, and they didn’t,” Quinn said. “He made a nice play. That’s football for you. Sometimes it’s just football.”
And the fans roared even more when Quinn appeared to sack Glennon on a fourth-and-nine play in the fourth quarter — only to have that nullified by a holding penalty on linebacker Alec Ogletree. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
“Nah,” Quinn said. “You just keep going. It’s football. It’s toward the end of the game, and you’re just trying to finish it out strong, and guys are having fun, and I guess I caught fire at the right time.”
Indeed, he did. Just when it looked like it wasn’t Quinn’s day, the veteran outside linebacker made history. On the next play, Quinn beat a chip by tight end Evan Engram and flew past left tackle Andrew Thomas to strip the ball from Glennon for his 18th sack to break Dent’s record of 17½ in 1984.
Quinn was typically subdued about breaking the record of a revered Hall of Famer. And truth be told, Quinn has had more sacks in a season — 19 with the Rams in 2013.
“It’s an honor,” Quinn said. “A Hall of Famer in Richard Dent — I guess to take the record [from him], it’s an honor. But . . . I’ve just got to make sure I keep building my résumé the right way, just keep doing my job.”
With 8:08 left and the Bears coasting to a 29-3 victory, coach Matt Nagy called a timeout to give his teammates — and the crowd — a chance to toast Quinn for the accomplishment. It’s not Quinn’s style, but he appreciated the gesture.
“I was trying to figure out what was going on — why did we stop?” Quinn said. “For them to do that — I don’t know — I guess it just shows a little respect. It’s an honor for them to even do that.”
It meant something to Nagy.
“It just pays respect from all of us — coaches and players — to him, how much we appreciate [him],” Nagy said. “What’s cool and what’s important for these young players is to see somebody at his age  practice the way he practices.
“And what a great person to look up to and see [that] if you practice like this, this is what can happen — especially coming off of last year [when Quinn only had two sacks]. Resilient. He’s been through a lot in his life and to get to this point right now — he’d be the last person to tell you that he wants any attention. But he deserves it.”
Quinn said Dent called him Saturday to chat about the record and mentioned that when he had those 17½ sacks, he only started 10 games.
“So he let me know what company I was in,” Quinn said.
Dent was as supportive as he could be.
“Does anybody want their records broken?” Quinn said with a laugh. “I think he was excited but not really, you know?”
Regardless, “it’s just an honor to break the [record], a blessing,” he said. “The powers have blessed me greatly. So thank you [to God] and thank you to everyone who supported me.”