LONDON – Opposing teams work hard to stop Bears pass-rusher Khalil Mack. They’re rarely effective despite significant attention always being paid to Chicago’s All-Pro edge rusher.
The Raiders know full well that Mack’s a game-wrecker. He won a bunch of games for the Silver and Black before being traded to Chicago in Sept. 2018 for a compensation package that included two first-round picks.
They surely didn’t want Mack going off against his old team. Mack sacking Derek Carr over and over again would be a bad look, and the Raiders seemed set on shutting Mack down.
Jon Gruden varied his tactics trying to slow Mack down, from cut blocks to double teams to chipping tight ends and running backs. The head coach’s blocking scheme worked wonders.
Mack had three tackles, a fumble recovery he didn’t force, and just one quarterback hit in the Raiders’ 24-21 victory over Chicago here at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The most important stat: Zero sacks. No takeaways. No game-changing plays.
The offensive line was highly motivated to shut Mack down, especially after he said he wanted to make his old team pay in this game.
“Of course we take that personally,” left guard Richie Incognito said. “He’s over there talking about how he’s looking forward to playing us and all this stuff. There’s a history, and we came out and we were physical with them, and they didn’t like it.”
Jon Gruden gave game balls to left tackle Kolton Miller and right tackle Trent Brown, players chiefly responsible for blocking Mack.
Those guys were solid throughout protecting both flanks, giving quarterback Derek Carr plenty of time to work the ball downfield.
“I thought we had a good plan for him and we executed it well,” Miller said. “It was important to slow him down as much as possible. The key there is just being consistent with your technique and fundamentals. I think we were able to do that in the run game and the pass game.”
Mack got around Brown once and was bearing down on Carr, but the quarterback got rid of it in time.
Mack declined to speak after the game despite requests for him to do so.
The Mack vs. Gruden storyline dominated the entire practice week, creating significant hype around this international NFL game.
The matchup itself came down to execution, and Miller and Brown led a quality effort to slow him down.
“The entire offensive line took this game as a challenge,” Miller said. “It was a big test for us, and we were able to run the ball and protect the pocket.”