Bears

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack appears in line to play Sunday with Tom Brady, Patriots looming

Khalil Mack participated in the Bears’ final practice of the week on Friday, clearing the way for the edge rusher to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier Friday that the Bears expected Mack, who hasn’t missed a game in his career, to play after suffering an ankle injury early in Week 6’s 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Mack is officially questionable for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. 

Mack had little interest in discussing his ankle with the media on Friday, passing on answering questions about his readiness for New England. Coach Matt Nagy, though, said he thought Mack “looked pretty good” during practice on Friday. 

Mack didn’t record a sack against Miami and was held to just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins’ gameplan was to commit plenty of resources to stopping Mack, but he wasn’t effective even when he had one-on-one pass rushing opportunities as the game went on. 

“He was (affected),” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I can't put a percentage on it, but he definitely was.”

Having Mack available — even if he’s not full strength — will be critical for the Bears’ defense to have a chance at keeping Tom Brady from lighting up the scoreboard. The key for the Bears will be to generate pressure on the 41-year-old quarterback without blitzing, which is something Fangio’s defense was successful at prior to Sunday’s wacky loss to the Dolphins. 

Brady’s passer rating is 138.4 when he’s blitzed, per Pro Football Focus, while when under pressure his rating is 87.2. That’s still pretty good, but it’s worth noting that all of the six interceptions he’s thrown this year have come when he hasn’t been blitzed. And only one of the eight sacks he’s taken has come when he’s been blitzed. 

The point being: If the Bears feel like they have to start blitzing to generate pressure, they can expect Brady to pick them apart.  

“You could say all of that but ultimately (Brady’s) a gamer,” Mack said. “He’s going to take those hits, and you gotta be able to deliver them but also have coverage over the top. It’s going to be real important for us.” 

The good news for the Bears, perhaps, is that New England’s tackles have struggled at times this year. Left tackle Trent Brown has allowed 17 pressures in 234 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus (about one in every 14 snaps). And starting right tackle Marcus Cannon is out with a concussion, giving way for backup La’Adrian Waddle, who’s allowed eight pressures in 78 pass blocking snaps (about one in every 10). 

So the opportunities will be there for Mack, Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and the Bears’ pass rush to affect Brady on Sunday.

A bigger injury concern?

While cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play Sunday, slot corner Bryce Callahan suffered an ankle injury during Thursday’s practice and did not participate Friday. He’s officially questionable for Sunday. 

Callahan “did his ankle,” Nagy said, toward the end of Thursday’s practice, and he felt worse as the day went on. Nagy characterized Callahan’s absence from Friday’s practice as “precautionary.”

Callahan’s availability may be more of a pressing concern than Mack’s, given how well the Patriots’ offense has played since slot receiver Julian Edelman returned from a four-game suspension to begin the season. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping (11 catches on 16 targets, 111 yards, 1 TD), New England’s offense has scored 38 and 43 points in his two games back. 

“Brady has always had a guy in the slot that he’s comfortable with; whether it be (Wes) Welker, (Danny) Amendola or Edelman,” Fangio said. “It’s a big part of their offense. They haven’t missed a beat, but I really think it’s helped their offense and played a big part in them basically averaging 40 points in the last three weeks. I really appreciate and respect how good of a player he is and has been.”

If Callahan isn’t available, Sherrick McManis could be the next man up at slot corner. 

Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

11-12codyparkey.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Cody Parkey could possibly practice kicking at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy: It’s possible Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week

Matt Nagy Monday said it’s possible beleaguered placekicker Cody Parkey could practice at Soldier Field this week after missing two PATs and two field goal attempts in Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions.

Nagy and Parkey both said after Sunday’s game practicing at Soldier Field wasn’t a plan and/or wouldn’t be beneficial. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor indicated the same thought in his weekly press conference last Thursday, too. 

But with a night to sleep on it, Nagy admitted “there’s a possibility” Parkey could do what former Bears kickers like Robbie Gould and Kevin Butler did and practice kicking during the week at Soldier Field. There aren’t any logistical concerns with shuttling Parkey and the field goal battery back and forth from Halas Hall to Soldier Field in traffic, if that decision is made. 

“If that's something that we decide to do then we'll get it done,” Nagy said. 

Nagy re-iterated the Bears will not look at kickers to potentially replace Parkey, which he said on Sunday was not a consideration. 

Nagy on Sunday said Parkey’s woes affected his playcalling for the offense, but said his trust in the kicker with the third-highest guaranteed money figure ($9 million) in the NFL was “not shot.” But while seeing Parkey make kicks during practice or in pregame warmups is good, Nagy will need his kicker to make sure his brutal day against the Detroit Lions doesn’t happen again. 

Perhaps kicking during the week at Soldier Field will be a part of those efforts. 

“As we get going on into the season here, the end of the regular season, these are huge now,” Nagy said. “You've gotta make them. It's just too important. They're too crucial. 

“You go back to a few weeks ago when Mason Crosby missed a few for Green Bay (in a loss to Detroit) and then the next week he ended up kicking the game-winner (against San Francisco). It's just a crazy cycle and it's just a matter of your patience that you have with it and fortunately for us yesterday we did have the lead, but I think in these situations, as long as you're authentic, you're real with each other. But now, he also needs to take the next step of trying to figure out how he can get better and we'll go ahead and do that.”

Bears Week 10 grades: Mitch Trubisky shines while special teams sinks

11-12mitchtrubisky.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Bears Week 10 grades: Mitch Trubisky shines while special teams sinks

QUARTERBACKS: A+

Matt Nagy called Sunday Mitch Trubisky’s best game of the year, and while he didn’t rack up six touchdowns like he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s hard to argue it wasn’t. Trubisky coolly went through his progressions and consistently made good decisions with the football. He was on time with his receivers, displaying good chemistry with Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. And he ran a hurry-up, no huddle offense efficiently, effectively communicating the play calls and making the right checks at the line of scrimmage to keep the Detroit Lions’ defense off balance. His final line of 23 completions on 30 attempts (76.6 percent) for 355 yards (a career high) and three touchdowns, with an additional rushing touchdown, was indicative of how well he played on Sunday. 

RUNNING BACKS: D

Jordan Howard gained only 21 yards on 11 carries, good for an average of 1.9 yards per attempt. Tarik Cohen wasn’t much better, with 15 yards on seven carries (2.1 yards/carry). Add in Taquan Mizzell’s one carry for no yards, and Bears running backs combined for 36 yards on 19 rushing attempts. 

The issues aren’t solely at the feet of this unit — the offensive line didn’t create enough holes — but the Bears need smarter and tougher runs from their running backs. 

Saving this grade from an F: Cohen did have a three-year touchdown run and caught six of seven targets for 29 yards, while Howard delivered a good block to set up Trubisky’s four-yard rushing score on a quarterback draw. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: A+

Robinson took advantage of Darius Slay’s absence and made DaShawn Shead’s afternoon a nightmare, consistently beating him with perfectly set up routes on his way to a six-catch, 133-yard, two-touchdown game. It was Robinson’s first 100-yard game since Week 15 of 2016, and his first multi-score game since Week 3 of that year. Miller, meanwhile, had his first 100-yard game as a pro, giving the Bears their first game with two 100-yard wide receivers since Cameron Meredith and Deonte Thompson hit that mark on Dec. 18, 2016 (Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen each had over 100 yards against Tampa Bay in Week 4). Gabriel wasn’t a factor, though it took Quandre Diggs’ break-up of a perfectly thrown Trubisky pass in the end zone for him to not get a big-play touchdown. 

TIGHT ENDS: B

Trey Burton made a crucial third down catch on the Bears’ opening possession to trigger a touchdown drive, and finishing with 40 yards while catching all four of his targets. Ben Braunecker, too, did well on a scramble drill to come down with a 20-yard catch. This group did miss Dion Sims’ blocking ability from the “Y” tight end position, but could get him — and, potentially, Adam Shaheen — back for Sunday night’s date with the Minnesota Vikings. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: B

Six of Howard’s 11 rushing attempts went for one or fewer yard, with two losing two yards, while Cohen had two runs of one or fewer yards on seven rushing attempts. The Lions’ run defense is better than its season numbers may have shown — it entered Sunday allowing an average of 132.7 rushing yards per game — after acquiring Damon “Snacks” Harrison but a fair share of the blame for the Bears’ running woes fall on the offensive line. 

That being said, this group’s protection of Trubisky was outstanding. Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in particular had strong games against the Lions’ pass rush, and Trubisky was given plenty of clean pockets to work through his progressions and make good decisions. Sunday marked the first time since Week 3 that the Bears rolled with the same five offensive linemen all game — Bryan Witzmann appears to have beat out Eric Kush for the starting right guard job — and while it didn’t lead to a big game on the ground, the Bears were able to score five touchdowns in part because of this unit’s work making Trubisky comfortable. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: A

The push generated by Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Jonathan Bullard, Bilal Nichols was key in holding Kerryon Johnson to 51 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards), while LeGarrette Blount was only able to manage four yards on six carries. That was the starting point for the Bears’ defensive success against Detroit — the Lions won all three games in which Johnson had 10 or more carries with an average of four yards per attempt or higher. Hicks got some good pressure on Matthew Stafford on Roquan Smith’s sack, while Nichols had a sack-strip the Lions recovered and Bullard notched a tackle for a loss and a pass break-up. 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: A

Khalil Mack looked 100 percent when he bowled over left tackle Taylor Decker for one of his two sacks, while Leonard Floyd notched his first sack of the year and had a productive game with three quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. Mack, too, provided excellent help in run support with two tackles for a loss. The Bears are going to win a lot of games when Mack and Floyd combine for three sacks and three tackles for a loss. 

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: B+

Roquan Smith followed his best game of the season last week against Buffalo with…his best game of the season on Sunday against Detroit. He led the Bears with 10 tackles and stuffed the box score with a sack (which backed the Lions up out of field goal range) a tackle for a loss and a pass break-up and was all over the field. Danny Trevathan chipped in with five tackles and played well in run support. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A-

Bryce Callahan had another productive game, hitting home for a sack while picking off Stafford and impressively breaking up a third-and-six throw that kept the Lions to a field goal on their first drive of the second half. Prince Amukamara notched the Bears’ other interception, which came on a Stafford arm punt, and also forced a fumble recovered by Adrian Amos. Eddie Jackson had a productive game, too, with six tackles and a pass break-up. Most of Stafford’s passing success came in the second half while the game was largely out of reach, though Amos committed pass interference in the end zone on third down that helped get the Lions their first touchdown of the game. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

We’ll start this off by praising Pat O’Donnell for a couple of good punts, one of which was downed inside the Lions’ five-yard line and another that came from the back of the end zone and didn’t get Detroit entirely optimal field position. 

The rest of this unit, though, was all bad. Cody Parkey doinked four kicks — two PATs and two field goals of 34 and 41 yards — off the uprights in a self-described “comical” game in which he “let my team down.” Parkey’s post-hitting penchant affected Nagy’s playcalling, though the Bears’ coach said his confidence in his kicker is “not shot.” Parkey isn’t going anywhere, not when he’s guaranteed $9 million in a contract he signed only eight months ago. 

Additionally, Miller was whistled for illegally batting an onside kick out of bounds — the rookie didn’t know he had to bat the ball backward for it to be legal, instead amusingly swatting the ball forward for a penalty. The Lions, given a second attempt, recovered an onside kick and turned it into a touchdown. 

Taquan Mizzell returned two kicks for a total of only 23 yards, though Cohen did manage an 18-yard punt return. 

COACHING: B

Nagy thoroughly out-coached Matt Patricia with his respective gameplan, and Vic Fangio’s defense got the better of Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Nagy, though, was self-critical after the game regarding a late challenge flag he threw when Kenny Golladay fumbled and was ruled to have recovered the ball — a play that likely would’ve been overturned, with possession going to the Bears, had it gone to review. The Lions quickly got to the line of scrimmage and ran a play, though, which left Nagy frustrated with himself. 

“Detroit did a good job of going quick and I was, I was looking down,” Nagy said. “This was one of the faults of going through and calling plays is I was looking at my sheet to call the next play — or to get the next series going — and it happened so quick with the replay and then, late replay. And then getting them going quick and it just was late. So that's my fault.” 

Additionally, Nagy said he “called the three worst plays of my life” before Parkey missed his 34-yard field goal. Those three plays, which happened after the Bears took over on the Lions’ 21-yard line following Amukamara’s forced fumble: A four-yard pass to Cohen, a Mizzell run for no gain, and a one-yard pop pass to Miller.