Khalil Mack’s attack isn’t enough for Bears vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Bears’ ‘‘Mack Attack’’ officially began at the 13-minute, 37-second mark of the first quarter Sunday against the Packers at Lambeau Field. That’s when outside linebacker Khalil Mack took the field for first time.
On the Packers’ fourth play from scrimmage, Mack replaced surprise starter Aaron Lynch at left outside linebacker. And Mack made a difference on his first snap in a Bears uniform, driving right tackle Bryan Bulaga into quarterback Aaron Rodgers to force an early throw on second-and-10.
It was the start of a good night for Mack. As a unit, however, the Bears’ defense lacked finish. The Packers rallied from a 20-point deficit behind a hobbled Rodgers to pull out a wild 24-23 victory.
‘‘We let them make too many big plays down the stretch,’’ said Mack, who returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown and also had a sack, strip and fumble recovery. ‘‘Especially when we talk about throwing it deep, you can’t have that. We’ve got to put more pressure on the quarterback.’’
Instead, it was an all-time great quarterback who put pressure on the Bears after being carted from the sideline to the locker room in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Rodgers was hurt trying to protect himself against pressure from Mack and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris. As Rodgers — who recently signed a four-year, $134 million contract — lowered himself and braced for impact, Robertson-Harris pounced on him.
It was a major scare for the Packers that turned into a major comeback. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky and coach Matt Nagy will be blamed for the loss, but the Bears’ defense broke down after Rodgers returned in the second half.
Rodgers completed 20 of 30 passes for 286 yards, three touchdowns and a 130.7 passer rating. Nearly all of that came in the second half. He was 3-for-7 for 13 yards in the first.
‘‘He looked like he was hurting a little bit,’’ Mack said. ‘‘He was trying to get it out quick, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a [victory]. He came back and definitely put them in position to win.’’
Overall, it still was a great debut for Mack. He was everything the Bears hoped he’d be after acquiring him from the Raiders in a deal centered on two first-round picks. Heck, Mack was probably more than the Bears expected after missing the entire preseason because of his contract holdout with the Raiders.
Good things even happened for the Bears when Mack missed. Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith sacked Kizer for a nine-yard loss after Mack whiffed late in the first half. It was Smith’s first play in the NFL, too.
Mack should get better, too. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is only getting started with him.
The Packers clearly were monitoring Mack, too. They knew when he was on the field and when he wasn’t. On their second possession, the Packers hurried to the line after gaining seven yards on second-and-20. But it was a ruse. They quickly huddled before Rodgers and running back Ty Montgomery hooked up for a 48-yard catch-and-run, which was negated by a holding penalty.
Still, their trickery prevented the Bears from subbing in Mack for Lynch, who missed the entire preseason because of a hamstring injury. Mack wasn’t on the field, but he still made an impact.
He’s that good — but he wasn’t good enough in the end.
‘‘I’ve got to get way better, especially playing down the stretch,’’ he said.
Mack learned just how tough the Packers are to beat with Rodgers, healthy or not.
‘‘You could talk about potential all day,’’ Mack said. ‘‘Nobody really cares about it on the football field. You want to come out and win these games. That’s the only thing that matters.’’