Just in case there are still Bears fans out who are skeptical about Murphy’s Law (Mercury doesn’t even go into retrograde until February!), a significant portion of Chuck Pagano’s press conference on Thursday afternoon was spent talking about how Khalil Mack didn’t show up in the box score against the Rams.
“You guys watch the game, right? You saw the game plan and how they attacked us,” the Bears’ defensive coordinator said. “We understand how they are attacking him and how they’re taking care of him. How they’re tending to him. They were going to come out and try to run the football and keep it third and manageable.
“A lot of 3rd-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-3. Never really any opportunities other than four times to really rush the passer for anybody, not only him but for our defense. So, just because he doesn’t show on [the stat sheet] doesn’t mean he’s not doing his job.”
It’s been a frustrating six weeks for Mack, who has one sack since the Bears’ Week 4 win over Minnesota. Per Pro Football Focus, here are Mack’s Pass Rushing grades – and where they rank – during that stretch:
Week 5: 48.4 (113)
Week 7: 52.3 (92)
Week 8: 71.1 (23)
Week 9: 55.6 (80)
Week 10: 63.8 (34)
Week 11: 59.4 (51)
“You see that with some of the production and you see that with a lot of superstars,” Matt Nagy said on Monday. “You can go back to last year with Aaron Donald, when he played us, there wasn’t any. Sometimes that happens, but it opens it up for other guys. He was a part of that first play of the game with the fumble. He was right in there with Eddie Jackson, ripping that ball out. Khalil, he doesn’t have to change anything he’s doing.”
Pagano admitted that in theory, teams throwing two or three guys on Mack every single play should open up plenty of opportunities for other players but added that, “when that happens, [guys] have to win those matchups.” Not having Akiem Hicks, whose absence matches the timing of Macks' drop in box score production pretty closely, certainly hasn't helped. And now they'll be without Danny Trevathan – cough, Murphy's Law – for the majority of these final six weeks.
"Yeah, 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, but you know, we got good football players in there," Pagano said. "You don’t want to be without anybody. We don’t want to be without Akiem, we don’t want to be without Danny. But that’s where we’re at."
Mack hasn’t had less than 10 sacks since his rookie season in 2014 (4), and he currently ranks 34th in sacks (5.5). Even still, PFF has him ranked as the eighth-best pass-rusher (86.0) and gave him the fourth-best overall defensive grade (89.4). The traditional stats obviously haven’t been there, but neither Nagy or Pagano has seen that frustration creep in and affect his attitude, or that infamous work ethic.
“Khalil is a unique guy,” Pagano added. “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. I think the biggest thing for him is he wants to win.”