Bears

WATCH: Khalil Mack rips ball out of DeShone Kizer’s hands for strip sack

WATCH: Khalil Mack rips ball out of DeShone Kizer’s hands for strip sack

Khalil Mack is a threat to make a game-changing play on any snap. It took him less than two quarters to get it done for the Bears on Sunday night.

After Aaron Rodgers left with a leg injury, backup quarterback DeShone Kizer came in and sparked the Green Bay Packers offense with a much-needed drive into the redzone.

It looked like he would get a field goal at the very least and put points on the board for Green Bay, but Mack did his thing on third down, ripping the ball out of the quarterback’s hand to force the turnover and maintain the first-half shutout.

The Packers’ right tackle Bryan Bulaga actually didn’t do a bad job. Kizer doomed himself by fleeing the pocket to the right, taking away Bulaga’s leverage and running right into the arms of the incoming Mack.

The Pro Bowl outside linebacker did the rest, locating the ball and forcing the turnover in a show of brute strength. So far, Mack looks well worth the blockbuster trade and record-breaking contract.

Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed

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USA TODAY

Pro Football Focus ranks Bears' O-line fourth in fewest pressures allowed

On Saturday, Pro Football Focus released their fewest pressures allowed offensive lines through two weeks of NFL action.

According to the list, the Bears offensive line has given up the fourth-fewest QB pressures (10) through week 2. 

The statistic shows off the improvement of the young Bears O-line, one that only recently came into focus. Franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky should be able to continue his upwards trajectory this season if that protection persists.

Trubisky has shown off an impressive ability to run, but it won't be needed nearly as much if he gets better at working through his progressions down the field. He has been the recipient of a clean pocket often this season, a situation in which he thrived in last year. 

The Bears would appear to have a relatively easy win on their schedule against the Cardinals on Sunday, but if they can continue to keep pressure off the QB, there is no team that will be able to match their dominance at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball.

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

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USA TODAY

Three keys and prediction: Bears - Cardinals

1. Explosive passing plays. The Seahawks didn’t respect Mitch Trubisky’s ability to do this on Monday night, leading to the dollar store version of the Legion of Boom stacking the box and successful selling out to stop Jordan Howard. Perhaps if Trubisky connected with Allen Robinson on an early deep ball that was picked off, or to a wide-open Gabriel over the middle, Seattle would’ve had to back off from frequently dropping safety Bradley McDougald into the box. 

The point being: The best chance the Bears’ offense has of success, even against a defense that’s allowing a touch over six yards per play, is for Trubisky to link up with a receiver for a big-chunk play. It could be on a downfield throw, or maybe a catch-and-run to Gabriel or Tarik Cohen. Either way, Trubisky and this offense needs to quickly establish that they can make big-chunk plays through the air. Consistency, otherwise, may be hard to come by on Sunday. 

“Just (Matt) Nagy, he’s a great mind and just scripting those things,” Gabriel said. “When the deep ball is there, I’m pretty sure this week we’re going to take it. But at the same time the deep ball, it opens up a lot of things.” 

2. Leonard Floyd winning his one-on-one matchup with left tackle D.J. Humphries. A couple of factors in favor of Floyd: First, he’s no longer wearing a club on his right hand, and his smaller brace allows him use of his fingers. Second, Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries has allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it’d be unfair to make any conclusions about Floyd’s season based on two relatively quiet, club-inhibited games. Sunday will be a good opportunity for Floyd to get after Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford, just as he did last year for two sacks (one of which was a safety) when a banged-up Bradford came to Chicago with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5. 

3. Finish in the fourth quarter. The Bears’ defense has dominated for six of the eight quarters it's played this year, but of the 41 points it’s allowed, 35 have come in the final 15 minutes. Granted, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are two of the more clutch late-game quarterbacks in the NFL, while Bradford has been horrendous this year (maybe the fourth quarter quarterback will be rookie Josh Rosen, for all we know). Either way, this could mean a few things: Kyle Fuller making a play on a would-be touchdown — this after getting beat by perfect throws for scores against the Packers and Seahawks — or, like last week, a couple of players coming up with game-sealing interceptions or forced fumbles. 

Prediction: Bears 20, Cardinals 9. The Cardinals’ defense might be better than its early-season numbers suggest, but Arizona’s offense will struggle to move the ball with any consistency against the Bears’ defense. We’ll say the Bears keep everything in front of them and allow only three field goals (hey, Arizona has to kick one at *some* point this year, right?) while Mitch Trubisky leads a pair of touchdown and field goal drives each to pace a comfortable victory.