Bears' Mack brings 'sense of calm' to defense
Khalil Mack's value to the Bears is undeniable.
Watch the games, peruse the stat sheet, read the reviews.
Mack's greatness in his first four games with his new team was validated by his most recent honor, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award. The outside linebacker recorded 5 sacks in September, forced 4 fumbles and snagged an interception, which he returned for a touchdown. He is the first NFL player to have a sack and a forced fumble in each of the first four games of a season.
But the five-year veteran's importance to what has become a dominant defense is much more than what he does when he's wreaking havoc from sideline to sideline.
Mack's frenetic play on the field, and his knack for making big plays at the most opportune times, belies his steady disposition, which came as a surprise to Bears OLB coach Brandon Staley.
"His game, and the way he plays, would suggest a much different personality," Staley said. "But it could be him just saving his energy for the field."
Like in the season opener when Mack sacked and stripped Packers QB DeShone Kizer and recovered the fumble and, on the next on possession, picked off Kizer and returned the interception 27 yards for a TD.
When the game's on the line, Mack plays as if his hair were on fire, like when the Cardinals were at the Bears' 21-yard-line in Week Three poised to extend their 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter. Arizona QB Sam Bradford tried to escape a collapsing pocket, but Mack sacked him for no gain and forced a fumble that ILB Danny Trevathan recovered for the Bears, who then drove to the winning field goal.
But what Staley sees from Mack, regardless of the situation is: "The consistency of his demeanor each and every day; each and every moment that he's on the field, that he's in a meeting, in a game or at practice. You're getting the same guy each and every day. No matter what the situation is - the highest of highs like in Green Bay or the lowest of low like maybe the first half of the Arizona game - same guy. That gives incredible confidence to his teammates, and to his coaches.
"I use the phrase 'Calm is contagious.' I think that really impacts all of us in a real positive way."
Against the Cardinals in Week Three, in a hostile environment, the Bears found themselves in a 14-0 hole before the first quarter was over.
"We didn't get off to a great start," Staley admitted. "But one of the beautiful moments in that game was (Mack) gathered the defense together after the second (Cardinals) touchdown. He got everybody together and gave everybody a sense of calm. And then we went out there and played the way we could, the way we're capable of playing. I think he had a lot to do with that.
"He has so much confidence in himself, and I think that can't help but spread to his teammates. Like, 'Hey, this is going to turn out OK.'"
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is of the same opinion.
"He's a guy that's talented, likes to play the game and has a great attitude," Fangio said. "He's (playing) for the team. That stuff's contagious."
• This article first appeared Friday in Pro Football Weekly's newsletter. To subscribe, visit www.profootballweekly.com/subscribe/bears/