Joniak's Journal: Mack's Attitude, Work Ethic 'Contagious'

The Bears credit Khalil Mack for setting the tone every day.

Jeff Joniak
October 02, 2018 - 4:27 pm
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(WBBM Newsradio) The Bears are enjoying their bye with after a 3-1 start, but there's still plenty to address. 

First impression

Bears football is fun. They're 3-1 after a month, and this team is just starting to grow. Jacked-up Chicago fans were noisy in the Seattle and Tampa home games and the Arizona road win. The defense is a must-see production, while the offense has now flashed big-play potential and creativity. We're all intrigued.   Thrilled as well that Oakland shipped Khalil Mack here. He loves playing football. Period. 

"When elite players are the hardest workers, it raises everybody’s practice skills," defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. "It isn’t something that he just said 'we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do that.' It just happened. He’s a humble person that loves playing football."

Mack’s impact on the entire team and coaching staff grew organically on the practice field, as football players follow the leader.

"Some of the younger players see this is the way he’s done it," Rodgers said. "'It’s worked for him, why don’t I join that group?' What you see is a group of guys who race toward the football every single time a period starts. It’s contagious."

Second thought

Mack is proving a perfect fit for a team learning how to win. He's a no-nonsense, no-drama superstar who gets as big a kick out of a teammate making a big play as he does when he makes one. He's a grinder who hustles and makes big plays in clutch situations. 

And he's also helping fellow outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, whose pash rush should really come on once his fractured right hand is done healing. Floyd also is rounding into top form after having a repair of his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, injuries that ended his 2017 season. He has a chance to come up big from here on out as a complement to Mack.

"He’s got the club off and all that, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was in surgery," linebackers coach Brandon Staley said. "I think that once he gets the full strength of his hand back, that’s going to help him in one-on-one pass rush situations, but we’ve been very pleased with the way he’s played."

Floyd has drawn praise for his work against the run for a Bears defense that's allowing just 64 yards rushing per game, the second-fewest in the league, and only 3.4 yards per carry. If Floyd’s pass rush takes off, look out. 

Third degree

The Bears' 59 consecutive weeks of being a sub-.500 football team ended with a win against the Seahawks in Week 2. Then, after 1,736 consecutive days and 248 weeks, they reclaimed sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a win against the Cardinals in Week 3.

In a 48-10 rout of the Buccaneers on Sunday, the Bears posted their most points in a home game since 2009. They did so behind a career day from Mitchell Trubisky, whose six touchdown passes were the most in franchise history since Johnny Lujack also had six in 1949.

In eight quarters at home, the Bears defense has forced 12 punts and forced five turnovers in 22 drives. Of the 16 first-through-third quarterbacks that the Bears have played this season, they've held their foe scoreless in 12 of them. Blending that with opening-drive touchdowns by the offense in three of the first four games for the first time since the 1970 merger, and the Bears have the ingredients for an identity that coach Matt Nagy expects to be defined by midseason.

Fourth-and-short

Trubisky is the third quarterback in Bears history to have more than eight touchdowns and a passer rating above 100 through the first four games of the season, according to Pro Football Reference. Jim McMahon and Rex Grossman are the other two, and both led the Bears to the Super Bowl.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.