Pride Has Mack on the Attack

Khalil Mack seems to be mentioned as a defensive player of the year candidate less and less despite retaining his dominance, and Sunday night he'd like to help remind everyone he is still a prime-time player.
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Khalil Mack knows what's at stake and is in his element.  

After all, he is a prime-time player.

While Mack has always been the epitome of a team player since arriving in Chicago thanks to Jon Gruden's great mistake of 2018, there is always professional pride.

In recent years, Mack's name slid down the charts somewhat when it comes to preseason talk about possible defensive players of the year. Players like T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett and even two opponents from Sunday night's game—the Rams' Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey—might rate higher with some for consideration with this honor, one Mack took in 2016 with the Oakland Raiders.

"That's something I won't talk about," Mack said. "I show you. I'll show you better than I can tell you.

"I mean, it doesn't matter talking about being an All-Pro in the past or being the defensive player of the year in the past. It's about showing that I am and playing at that standard that I set for myself."

Make no mistake, Mack the team guy realizes if he's in the running for DPOY then he's helping the team.

He'll play in Sunday's game despite a slight groin injury which couldn't keep him off the practice field this week.  In 13 prime-time games with the Bears, he has 11 sacks and eight forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Outplaying Donald and Ramsey, well, this also would fall under the team category and it's the reason Mack might feel something extra starting the season at L.A.

"I mean, there's extra juice every game to feel like that," Mack said. "This game is no different, but it's also more than that with those two other guys (Ramsey and Donald) on the other side of the ball as well.

"It's always humbling to go into games like this, understanding what's at stake, and ultimately just trying to win a ballgame, do whatever you can to put your team in a position to win the ballgame."

Mack seems to step forth in those prime-time games.

He did it in the 2018 game against Green Bay, his first with the Bears and the one when he turned Lambeau Field upside down in the first half—along with Aaron Rodgers and DeShone Kizer.

It was the night when Nagy last year recalled thinking to himself, "Holy Hell," as he saw for the first time the carnage Mack could create for his defense.

"Khalil has like seven sacks and three touchdowns and didn't practice one training camp practice, and then we lost," Nagy said Friday, exaggerating somewhat again but not about the loss.

Mack actually had a 27-yard interception return for a TD, a sack, a pass defended, a fumble recovery and one forced and three tackles in that opener but the Bears did lose 24-23 after leading 20-0. It was true Mack only had a few practices after arriving  gift-wrapped from Gruden the week before the game.

Count Mack among the Bears defensive players who have grown tired of hearing about that 2018 season, first game right on through Cody Parkey's Double-Doinker.

"I mean, absolutely man," Mack said. "You've got to understand, it's a new year, new team, new possibilities and new goals. You continue to set goals for yourself, so you're supposed to get better.

"Ultimately, that's what this year's all about—looking forward to getting better with this new group that we have."

It's not about personal pride or honors, although the group would definitely benefit if Mack is pulling down numbers like a defensive player of the year does, not to mention scoring three touchdowns with seven sacks in the opener.

Khalil Mack with Bears in Prime Time

2018

Packers: 3 tackles 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 TD return, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.

Seahawks: 5 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.

Vikings: 2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.

Rams: 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.

2019

Packers: 5 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 forced fumble.

Washington: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.

Rams: 0 stats

Cowboys:  2 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack.

Chiefs: 4 tackles, 1 sack.

2020

Packers: 3 tackles.

Vikings: 3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defended. 

Rams: 4 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.

Buccaneers: 3 tackles,2 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pass defended.

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