Bet­ter day ahead

Dis­ap­pointed Mack ex­pect­ing de­fense to bounce back against Gi­ants af­ter poor ef­fort vs. Li­ons

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY PA­TRICK FIN­LEY pfin­ley@sun­times.com @patrick­fin­ley

Khalil Mack en­tered this sea­son say­ing that last year’s dis­ap­point­ment wasn’t good enough. The Bears’ opener wasn’t, ei­ther. The de­fense gave up 23 points to the Li­ons and was one D’An­dre Swift drop away from al­low­ing the game-win­ning touch­down.

Only three teams gave up more yards in Week 1 than the Bears, who al­lowed 426.

The Bears had one sack — by de­fen­sive line­man Akiem Hicks. Play­ing 86% of the Bears’ de­fen­sive snaps, Mack had four tack­les but never touched the quar­ter­back.

“Ev­ery­thing has to be bet­ter,” Mack said Fri­day. “We know what we’re ca­pa­ble of. It’s go­ing to be an­other chal­lenge this week go­ing out against an­other great back [in the Gi­ants’ Saquon Barkley]. It’s gonna be fun, though, man. We look for­ward to the chal­lenge.”

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Chuck Pagano said this week to blame him for the poor per­for­mance. Mack said to in­clude him on that list, too.

“It’s not up to me or any­body else to make ex­cuses,” Mack said. “He took the blame. I’m gonna take the blame, as well. It’s some­thing that, yeah, that show­ing wasn’t our de­fense.”

Mack has been deal­ing with a knee in­jury — and do­ing it in a new way. In his first two sea­sons with the Bears, Mack was never so much as lim­ited in prac­tice, a tes­ta­ment to his stub­born work ethic. This year, he has been lim­ited in all six reg­u­lar-sea­son prac­tices. That sort of main­te­nance should keep him fresher.

Mack is ques­tion­able Sun­day but will play. “It’s been cool — just un­der­stand­ing how to be a pro and how to ap­proach the game,” Mack said. “It’s noth­ing re­ally too much dif­fer­ent. But I know I’m gonna be ready on Sun­day.”

He’ll have help. Out­side line­backer Robert Quinn, to whom the Bears pledged $70 mil­lion over five years to rush op­po­site Mack, ap­pears likely to play Sun­day af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in his first full prac­tice of the sea­son Fri­day. He’ll be a con­sid­er­able up­grade over Barke­vi­ous Mingo, a spe­cial-teams stand­out, and James Vaugh­ters, who ap­peared in his fourth ca­reer game last week.

Sun­day’s op­po­nent will help Mack, too — Gi­ants left tackle Andrew Thomas, the fourth over­all pick in this year’s draft, will be mak­ing his sec­ond ca­reer start. He al­lowed four pres­sures in his de­but Mon­day night against the Steel­ers.

“Re­gard­less of who’s in front of you, man, you’ve got to take ad­van­tage,” he said. “So, rookie or not, I know from film he’s done some good things, even though they didn’t get the win last week.”

It would’ve been easy for Mack to get frus­trated last week. In­stead, he tried to rally the de­fense on the side­line.

“When he makes his state­ments — if we all agree on some­thing’s go­ing right or go­ing wrong — it’s re­ally just be­ing a pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment be­cause we need a leader,” Quinn said. “He’s been here. He’s that guy. One of the guys.

“Some­times it’s just, make sure guys stay fo­cused all the way through, es­pe­cially with this weird sit­u­a­tion we’re go­ing through . . . . It’s just more pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment. Just be­cause you’re yelling, it doesn’t mean you can’t take any­thing pos­i­tive out of it.”

Out­side lineback­ers coach Ted Monachino un­der­stands Mack’s in­ten­sity by now.

“I know this: It’s re­ally im­por­tant to him that the team plays good de­fense ev­ery snap,” he said. “And he’s go­ing to do ev­ery­thing in his power to make sure he holds down his box with­out ques­tion.

“And this is a guy that, the pro­duc­tion will come. We all know that. It’ll come.”

NOTE

The Gi­ants ruled out safety Adrian Col­bert (quadri­ceps) for Sun­day’s game. Wide re­ceiver Golden Tate and line­backer Carter Cough­lin are ques­tion­able with ham­string in­juries. ✶

RICK OSENTOSKI/AP

Bears out­side line­backer Khalil Mack had four tack­les but no sacks in the sea­son opener against the Li­ons in Detroit. The Bears had only one sack.

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