Khalil Mack

Bears defensive grades: Porous front seven, lack of pass rush and tackling issues contribute to subpar performance

Bears defensive grades: Porous front seven, lack of pass rush and tackling issues contribute to subpar performance

DEFENSIVE LINE: D

One specific play stood out in the Bears’ defense allowing its first 100-yard rusher in regulation since Week 17 of the 2017 season (trivia answer: That was Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray. Frank Gore and Saquon Barkley needed overtime to cross the century mark against the Bears in 2018).

Anyways: The Bears had just pinned the Raiders down at their own three-yard line, holding a four-point lead with just over seven-and-a-half minutes to go. The end of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium the Raiders were backed up against was the massive southern stand, created to form an imposing “wall of sound” for Tottenham’s soccer matches there. With the crowd heavily favoring the Bears, that wall of sound created an incredible amount of noise as the Raiders took the field.

Josh Jacobs quickly silenced it with a 15-yard run, only the second 15-plus-yard run allowed by the Bears’ defense in 2019 (the other was by Jacobs in the first quarter).

So, while the entire Bears’ front seven will get dinged for how poorly they played against the run, the defensive line especially struggled to get a push against the best offensive line they’ve faced to date. Losing Akiem Hicks on the first drive to an elbow injury was a blow, of course, but a rotation of Eddie Goldman and a bunch of backups did fine against Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings last week. All of that’s to say, injuries are not an excuse, though the amount of cut-blocking by Oakland’s offensive line — only one of which was flagged — might be a more valid one.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: D

Credit Jon Gruden for putting together an excellent plan for neutralizing Khalil Mack’s ability to generate pressure. The Raiders were able to establish the run early and Derek Carr consistently got the ball out quick. When he didn’t, there was generally help in double-teaming Mack — but beyond that, right tackle Trent Brown and left tackle Kolton Miller held their own, too.

While there weren’t many opportunities for Mack and Floyd to truly get after Carr, when there were, neither took advantage. This group should be held to a high standard; Mack only had one pressure (a quarterback hit on which Carr threw the ball away). And against the run, both players struggled with Oakland’s blocking scheme, allowing Jacobs more room to run.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: C-

No one played better against the run than Danny Trevathan, who totaled 11 tackles — six of which registered as “stops” by PFF. But Roquan Smith didn’t play particularly well after returning from his absence last week, especially in coverage. No Bears player allowed more yards after the catch when targeted than Smith’s 38.

CORNERBACKS: B-

Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara played generally well in coverage, and Buster Skrine had a nice pass break-up in the first half. Fuller, though, did commit a holding penalty on a third and three from the Bears’ five that gave the Raiders a fresh set of downs, resulting in a quick score that put Oakland up 14-0.

Pushing this grade higher is the phenomenal ‘Peanut Punch’ that Sherrick McManis executed, which forced a goal-line fumble that Amukamara recovered. McManis was sort of being blocked by receiver Keelan Doss on the play, adding to the impressiveness of the forced fumble. He only saw the field for three plays Sunday, but he made those count — similar to the role he played last year before ably filling in for an injured Bryce Callahan late in the season.

McManis showed up in a big way on special teams, too, and it looks increasingly likely the only two weeks he’ll be healthy scratches this year will be 2 and 3.

SAFETIES: D+

The tackling issues that marred the end of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s tenure with the Green Bay Packers seemed to crop back up Sunday. He whiffed on a Jacobs 21-yard run late in the first quarter, and was manhandled by tight end Darren Waller for a first down on the first play of the fourth quarter. Eddie Jackson played a fine game but didn’t make the kind of splash play he made so many times in 2018 when the Bears needed it the most (that may seem like a possibly unfair standard, but not necessarily for a guy coming off an All-Pro season).

Credit Deon Bush with an excellent tackle on Waller to stop him short of the sticks and force a punt on the Raiders’ second drive of the second half, allowing the Bears’ momentum to continue to build.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Talk about a boom-or-bust game. Cohen set a career high with a 71-yard punt return in the third quarter that helped set up the Bears’ go-ahead touchdown, and Patterson looked outstanding as a gunner, downing a Pat O’Donnell punt at the three-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Eddy Pineiro gritted through three PATs despite getting his right leg banged into by Oakland’s Arden Key.

But how do those successes weigh against some of this group’s glaring failures? Some suboptimal punt coverage allowed Oakland to start a possession at midfield in the second quarter, this after the Raiders already held a 14-0 lead (that possession resulted in a field goal).

Then Anthony Miller was not only offside on a kick return, he also whiffed on Trevor Davis, who dashed 52 yards to the Bears’ 40 (setting up the drive that ended with McManis’ forced fumble).

And Kevin Pierre Louis’ running into the kicker penalty gave the Raiders’ new life midway through the fourth quarter. While he arguably was pushed into punter A.J. Cole, it could be argued his rush invited a risk he shouldn’t have taken. The Raiders converted fourth-and-one on a snap to the up-back, using that spark to generate a 97-yard, go-ahead scoring drive.

COACHING: D+

The Bears committed 10 penalties and have been flagged a whopping 52 times heading into their bye week. One week of sloppiness doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on a coaching staff; given that it’s been a consistent undercurrent to the Bears’ first five games, it does.

Nagy’s leadership qualities should be noted given the Bears’ furious comeback in the third quarter. This team has a remarkable competitiveness to it, one that starts with the coach and trickles down to the top leaders on the team.

But from a scheme standpoint, Nagy’s offense still cannot run the ball effectively. And the Bears, through five weeks, are averaging more points per game than just four teams — all of which are vying to be the worst in the NFL when 2019 ends (Dolphins, Jets, Washington, Bengals). Nagy the coach/leader has continually proved himself; Nagy the offensive schemer has not yet.

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Khalil Mack had his most ineffective game of 2019 vs. Raiders

Khalil Mack had his most ineffective game of 2019 vs. Raiders

Khalil Mack was supposed to be unblockable versus his former team, the Oakland Raiders, Sunday in London. He was supposed to send QB Derek Carr running for his life. Raiders coach Jon Gruden was supposed to wake up Monday questioning the meaning of life.

Instead, he did nothing. Literally. Mack was a non-factor, a completely pedestrian edge defender who couldn't disrupt Oakland's offense. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Mack had his worst game of the season. His 61.8 grade was by far his lowest score through five games; his previous season-low was 77.7 against the Broncos in Week 2.

Mack had just one quarterback pressure and four tackles. He came into the game with 27 pressures through the first four games, per PFF. He was stonewalled. Stuffed. Shut down. His 48.4 pass-rush grade was one of the worst of his career.

It's an incredible turn of events and an outcome no one would've predicted. Mack was an unblockable force entering Sunday's game, and with the added incentive of revenge, there was legitimate fear for Carr's safety.

After four quarters and a shocking loss, Mack left London without speaking to the media, which actually made more of a statement than anything he did on the field.

(Too) Bold Predictions: You get a defensive touchdown! YOU get a defensive touchdown! Everyone gets a defensive touchdown!

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USA Today

(Too) Bold Predictions: You get a defensive touchdown! YOU get a defensive touchdown! Everyone gets a defensive touchdown!

(Too) Bold Predictions aims to take nuanced, well-researched information and use it to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

J.J. Stankevitz 1. Khalil Mack will have a touchdown.
It wouldn't be too bold to say Mack will have a bunch of sacks or force a few fumbles against his former team, since after all, that's what he does every week. So the bold prediction here is Mack will score a touchdown in some way, shape or form. How about this: Mack bats a pass from his good friend Derek Carr in the air, and catches it while Carr makes a futile effort to tackle him. Where have I seen that before?

2. David Montgomery will rush for over 100 yards.
The Raiders' run defense has actually been pretty good this year, ranking ninth in DVOA. But middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the rest of the season, and the team isn't too happy about it -- perhaps to the point where they'll be a little off their game, especially in defending the run. The Bears' run blocking has been sub-par this year, but Matt Nagy would do well to stick to giving the ball to Montgomery to alleviate some pressure on backup quarterback Chase Daniel. Do that, and Montgomery will come away with his best game as a pro. 

Cam Ellis 
1. Roquan Smith has a bigger box score day than Khalil Mack. 
Jon Gruden was asked about Khalil Mack earlier in the week and immediately - without ever mentioning Mack's name - pivoted into a compliment of Leonard Floyd. If you're one for rumors or conspiracy theories, the idea that Oakland vehemently lobbied the NFL to take Mack's return game overseas sounds extremely on-brand. I think Gruden sells out to make sure Mack doesn't make impact plays, which of course frees up the other 55 great players on the Bears' defense. Smith had been having a stellar year up until a personal issue kept him out of their win over Minnesota. The guess here is that while Oakland blocks Mack with four offensive lineman and two running backs, Smith and a blitz-happy Chuck Pagano take advantage. 

2. Eddie Jackson gets his first interception of the year ... and then gets another one
It seems like Jackson's barely missed 3-4 interceptions this year already. The Raiders passing game is leaves a fair bit to be desired, and Jackson is around the ball far too often to still not have a turnover. If the Bears can get on the Raiders early and force them to pass their way out of a hole, Jackson's going to eat.

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