Chicago Bears: Khalil Mack helped the Bears finally flourish

Chicago Bears (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bears are on a winning streak after beating the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. While this roster was good heading into the season, one trade helped them find their identity.

When the Chicago Bears pulled off a blockbuster trade for elite linebacker Khalil Mack, there was a lot of hype behind the franchise defender.

Analysts highlighted just how good he was while Bears fans remained cautiously optimistic.

In just a few weeks, Mack proved just how valuable he is as a player and a defensive leader. The Bears are finally back. While it’s been a team effort, Mack has an impact on every snap.

Bears GM Ryan Pace took a risk when he traded away a 2019 first round pick, a 2020 first round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick for Mack.

Even though some experts thought the Bears weren’t quite ready to compete, this aggressive deal showed how much Pace believed in his team.

Mack made his presence known right away in the Sunday night season opener against the Green Bay Packers. The linebacker had a sack along with a forced fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

The Bears blew a big lead and lost the game, but it was evident how much of a difference Mack made for this team. The excitement only grew from there.

Mack stayed active recording three more sacks and another forced fumble by week four and was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. His presence completely changed how teams played against the Bears front seven.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has gotten creative with some good looks on defense, but Mack allows him the luxury of sending blitzers that he knows will be one-on-one just because of the attention Mack gets from offensive lines.

For example, look at this breakdown from the Bears’ Tom Thayer about how effective Mack is and how he is able to impact a play greatly even if he doesn’t sack the quarterback.

The biggest weakness the Bears defense had heading into this season was the lack of a pass rush. Obviously, Mack helped improve this area of play with his elite skills. But he also helped the rest of the front seven get more opportunities to make plays.

Mack was injured with a sprained ankle in week six of the season. He tried to play through it at first, but eventually missed two games with the injury. With Mack sidelined, it became even more apparent how much he means to the team’s pass rush.

While it’s obvious just how impactful Mack is to this front seven, I believe the biggest change his acquisition brought about is the attitude shift in the Bears as a team. These guys always believed in each other, but Mack coming along made them believe in championship contention.

This team as a whole is a close group, and they have a lot of swag to go with it. You have to love how these guys celebrate after big plays. The defense had a couple of creative celebrations during the 23-16 win over the Detroit Lions on Thursday.

The Bears are now firmly in control of the NFC North with an 8-3 record. They’ll look to build on that in the coming weeks and hopefully solidify a playoff spot.

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This team just won three division games in 12 days. It’s incredible just how much they’ve improved in a short time. They won eight games in the past two seasons combined.

Everything around this team just feels different. The team is deservedly confident, and you can tell they have been since training camp. Mack’s presence just added to that feeling. The rest of the season is going to be exciting to watch, and I can’t wait to see what happens.