LAKE FOREST – In the course of 30 minutes of football, a new face of the Chicago Bears’ franchise introduced himself to a fan base like few had in the past.
Acquired just a week earlier, Khalil Mack made an immediate impact for the team at the outside linebacker position at Lambeau Field on September 9, 2018 . He had a strip sack and interception touchdown, spearheaded a rush that knocked Aaron Rodgers out of the game, and made life miserable for the Packers in general.
Mack’s exploits helped the Bears jump out to a 20-0 lead, and while they lost the game, a new star for the franchise was born. It led to the linebacker winning the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month award as he finished with four strip sacks in September during an incredible start for the Bears.
Naturally, ahead of his first game back in Green Bay against the Packers, Mack was asked about that effort to open his Bears career about 15 months earlier.
“There was a lot of situation football that,” remembered Mack about the game. “They did well down the stretch. He (Rodgers) managed the game for them, put them in good situations to ultimately win. Defensively, we can’t have that, so this week is going to be a good challenge for us.”
If the Bears hope to stay alive in the playoff race, they’ll need Mack to be at his best against the 10-3 Packers, who sit atop the NFC North with three games to play. It hasn’t been as dominant of a season as 2018, but Mack has still made an impact as he leads the team in sacks with five forced fumbles.
Akiem’s Return a Dream For The Defense
One thing that could help Mack’s production on Sunday would be the return of the other player in the team’s front seven that can attract a healthy amount of attention from blockers.
There still is no confirmation if he’ll return against the Packers, but head coach Matt Nagy said that things continue to look good for Akiem Hicks to play for the Bears’ defense for the first time since October 6th.
An elbow injury against the Raiders that day put him on injured reserve, and now that his time on there is finished, the team can’t wait to get him back. For one, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix wasn’t afraid to show his excitement.
When asked about Hicks returning just to the practice field, the safety did a little dance before answering the reporter’s question.
“I’m excited about him, man, he’s one of our veteran leaders,” said Clinton-Dix of Hicks. “He keeps the D-line pumped up and keeps us together on the back end. So he’s definitely a plus.”
A Pro Bowl selection in 2018, Hicks had one sack and three quarterback hits in the four games he’s played this season. The defensive end missed the Minnesota game in Week 4 due to a knee issue.
Clinton-Dix will also get some help from the return of Prince Amukamara, who was a full participant in practice all week after missing the Cowboys’ game with a hamstring issue.
BEAR AND PACKER WEATHER?
Part of playing outdoors in the elements is the shot that things can get a little chilly in the month of December.
Matt Nagy avoided that during his first year with the Bears last season, but the full brunt of the winter is coming his way in Green Bay this weekend.
In one of the colder games in the past few years for the Bears, the high temperature at Lambeau Field will be around 17 degrees on Sunday with the lows dropping into the single digits. There’s no precipitation predicted and winds are expected to be light, but there will certainly be a chill in the air.
The notion of “Bear Weather” has long disappeared and with no other elements playing a factor, Nagy’s not terribly concerned about the impact of the temperatures.
“There’s parts of it. I’d say more so if you’re dealing with teams that are from the west coast that are a little more from the warmer weather coming into this,” said Nagy when asked how much the cold can affect the teams. “But you’re talking about two teams here in Chicago and Green Bay that are kinda used to it.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 102
The number of yards needed by Allen Robinson to become the first Bears’ receiver to crack 1,000 yards in a season in five years. Alshon Jeffery was the last to do so back in 2014, when he gained 1,133 yards.