‘Make him proud’: Bears’ defense, OLB Khalil Mack deliver on Brian Urlacher Day
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Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack knew that Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher was watching somewhere inside Soldier Field. And he knew what Urlacher — “The ‘O.G.,’ ” Mack called him — would love to see.
“We wanted to go out and make him proud and finish the night off with a win for him,” Mack said.
Mack and the Bears’ defense did just that. They gave Urlacher, who was given his Hall of Fame ring during a ceremony at halftime, plenty to cheer about over the course of a 24-17 victory against the Seahawks on Monday night.
It included six sacks on quarterback Russell Wilson and a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Prince Amukamara in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Danny Trevathan also had a sack and strip of Wilson, which was recovered by outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.
The speed, tenacity and takeaways produced by the Bears’ defense on Monday were very reminiscent of the days of when Urlacher, linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman were the franchise’s cornerstones. This is the Bears’ best defense since them.
“That’s just a glimpse, man,” said Trevathan, who led the Bears with eight tackles. “We’re just getting started. We finally put together four quarters, although we could’ve done things a lot better. I know that’s how our defense feels because we’re always trying to get better. But it was a start, and we’re feeling good. We’re going to keep it rolling for sure”
There is no debating that Mack has transformed a formidable Bears defense into a fearsome one. The Bears lead the NFL in sacks after two weeks. Their front seven with Mack, Floyd, Trevathan and defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman is arguably the best in the NFL.
It can get better, too. Rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith is settling in as a starter. He made seven tackles against the Seahawks.
The Seahawks clearly had a plan to fend off Mack’s attack. It involved using their tight ends in the near slot, which forced Mack to widen his alignment and briefly deal with another blocker before they ran their routes. But it didn’t work.
Nothing seems to against the Mack.
“I’m not going to small talk Khalil,” Amukamara said. “He definitely brings extra pressure and extra attention to his side, which frees up some other guys.”
On Mack’s sack and strip of Wilson in the second quarter, he warded off tight end Nick Vannett before barreling into right tackle Germain Ifedi. Mack reached around Ifedi and knocked the ball from Wilson’s grasp before he released his throw.
It was a big-time play at a big-time moment. It came after quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw his second interception to cornerback Shaquill Griffin. The Seahawks had the ball at the Bears’ 43 and seemingly plenty of momentum.
But on first down, the Bears’ rush — which included Mack — helped chase Wilson from the pocket. But safety Eddie Jackson swooped in and made his first career sack. On third down, Mack batted the ball away from Wilson.
A similar sequence of action for Mack occurred on nose tackle Eddie Goldman’s sack of Wilson earlier in the second quarter. Mack fended off Vannett before bull-rushing Ifedi straight into Wilson. Mack collided with Wilson, who already was being hauled down by Goldman.
“He’s a bad dude, man,” Urlacher said during halftime. “I don’t understand how you give up a guy who’s that good. I’m still baffled that we got him. I’m glad that [general manager Ryan Pace] made it happen and he’s a great addition to our team. He fits in perfectly with our history here.”