Bears Discovering Khalil Mack's Limitations

Gene Chamberlain

Leonard Floyd understands what's going on with how offenses gang up to trash a $141 million Chicago Bears investment.

It's up to the whole defense to keep pass rusher Khalil Mack from being overrun on a weekly basis by a horde of blockers.

"It's Khalil man," Floyd said. "You've got to game-plan to go against him. That's what people are doing."

Mack has come away with one sack in the last six games.  It's the longest stretch of games with only one sack  Mack has had since his rookie season. 

Against the Rams, he didn't show up on the stat line.

"I like to make an impact on the game," Mack said. "But you know, a team is going to do what they feel like they need to do to kind of keep me away from them."

Each week it's looking a little like a guy caught in a bar fight after his buddies bailed on him. Not one blocker, not two blockers, but three blockers at times have ganged up on Mack. 

He's been chipped more times than a Titleist.

He'll probably face it all again Sunday against the Giants

"I know they're using a couple of people to try to stop him," Floyd said. "And then when he does get his one-on-ones they're doing a good job of getting the ball out quick. But we're just going to keep battling and keep fighting." 

The Bears have dropped to a tie for 15th with six other teams in sacks with 25. Mack has 5 1/2 sacks, Floyd three and backup journeyman defensive lineman Nick Williams leads the team with six.

Logic dictates Floyd and others on the defensive front could be freed up if teams dedicate so many blockers to one player.

"It should open up some things for some other guys," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "There are guys that when that happens have to win those matchups."

Floyd said it's always not this simple. 

"They're not just game-planning him, they're game-planning a lot of people, all our key players," Floyd said. "That's what every team does. It's up to us to execute and keep the other team from scoring."

Three-step drops and five-step drops by passers are aimed at preventing the outside pass rush. Play-action passes are freezing the entire pass rush in their steps. The Rams ran it all night and passed only 18 times to avoid Mack.

It all started with the running game in London against the Raiders. The Raiders ran it and made possible the play-action pass.

This all seemed to be possible because of the elbow injury to Akiem Hicks.

Hicks' absence affects Mack in a few ways. He sometimes drew double teams himself, which prevented ganging up on Mack. He could wreck the pass blocking scheme around Mack and free him. Hicks also was the best interior run defender and prevented the run from going, setting up longer down-and-distance situations for the pass rushers to tee off.

"You could say because he's not in there, you know, they don't have to do this that or the other to the guys that are in there," Pagano said. "But you know, we got good football players in there.

"You don't want to be without anybody. We don't want to be without Akiem, we don't want to be without Danny (Trevathan). But that's where we're at. But thank God they build the roster that they build and we've got good players in there. Whether (Hicks is) in there or not, I think they’re going to tend to that guy (Mack). And we would love to have him. We don't, so it's something we're just going to have to deal with."

One way to deal with it all would be to actually lead in a game and force opponents to pass.

That's on the offense and opens up an entirely different dimension in the blame game.

Mack refuses to throw around any blame or let any of it get to him after games, or on Fridays when he occasionally meets with media.

"I don't see frustration at all," Floyd said.

It's what they expect from Mack.

"Khalil is a unique guy," Pagano said. "He's a great person, he's a great pro, he comes to work every single day even though this is happening from the first snap to the last snap.

"He's a hard charger. He just continues to go out there and grind and do what he has to do for this football team."