The Chicago Bears are the best defense the Los Angeles Rams will face all season. They’re great against the pass. They’re great against the run. They have a linebacker with a natural, full head of hair (Khalil Mack). The latter, of course, being one of the best—if not the best—part of this defense.
Mack is a one-man wrecking crew. Listen to Brian Baldinger and his weird pinky explain just how disruptive Mack can be.
But Mack is just one piece of the pass-rush. The Bears defense is a balanced unit with pressure coming from any given side. This will put the Rams offense, and their line, in uncomfortable situations. It’s not a possibility. It will happen.
The question is how will the Rams respond to it?
This came against Nate Solder, an 8-year veteran. Mack is so strong with his stiff-arm, stabbing an off-balance Solder with one arm INTO Manning. for the pressure. The pass fell incomplete. Mack had one sack for five tackles. Not the best stat day. But it’s plays like this that prove stats don’t tell the full story of how well a guy plays. Remember that when your varsity high school basketball days are brought up at your holiday parties and someone makes fun of your 2.3 points-per-game.
Mack gets a lot of praise for his pass-rushing ability and rightfully so. But one of the under-appreciated aspects of his play is maintaining his space. Look at the way he watches the play develop. His hips stay parallel to the play and he contains his space, refusing to bite on the play-fake. This allows him to to rush Eli Manning and get the pass-deflection.
Mack might only face Rob Havenstein a few times on Sunday night, as he’s been lining up predominantly on the right side of the defensive line. On this play, the Giants need to pass on a third-and-long. Mack’s pursuit is relentless. It’s not exclusive to running plays. Here, he heads back to the middle of the line after running into a mob and pressures Manning to make a bad throw (incomplete).
When Mack faces Havenstein, I doubt he will face much of a fight. While a solid at times, Havenstein is the weakest blocker of the unit. He didn’t have to face the Green Bay Packers edge-rusher Clay Matthews often, but when he did, he struggled. His footwork and technique is completely abandoned when trying to prepare himself for an quick pas-rusher. Look at the way he hops in front of Matthews. It doesn’t take long for Matthews to adjust and shoot inside of Havenstein to force Jared Goff out of the pocket.
Fun with friends
Leonard Floyd (94) was the Bears 2016 first-round pick. After a solid rookie year (seven sacks), he’s suffered injuries and performed like a bust (6.5 since 2017). His first sack came last month and has been a decent pass-rusher for the Bears, generating more pressures than anything else. Still, he’s effective and he will be Robert Havenstein’s main objective on Sunday night.
Chicago is T-No. 5 in the league in sacks (37) and it’s easy to see why. The pass-rush isn’t reliant on Mack’s presence. The defensive line is capable of applying pressure.
Take this third-and-five. Mack is a few yards away from Manning. Yet the pressure is directly in his face thanks to the bull-rush from Roy Robertson-Harris.
Rams vs. the pass-rush
The Rams allowed five sacks against the Kansas City but the Chiefs didn’t record their first sack until the second quarter. Andrew Whitworth and Robert Havenstein kept the Chiefs pass-rush at bay for most of the first half. The offensive line also received help from Sean McVay, who went no-huddle at times and called for quick-throws, which cutdown on how long they would have to hold their blocks.
But eventually, the Chiefs pass-rush penetrated the line with overwhelming rushes.
Take the first sack for example. The Chiefs blitz puts the o-line in a mismatch. Havenstein chooses to block the outside rusher instead of helping Austin Blythe with the defender over the B-gap.
The Packers found success with mismatches as well. But instead of putting big bodies on the line, they sent a defensive back on the blitz, which pushed Goff towards the sack. The Bears have plenty of speed on their defense and are likely to overwhelm the Rams with this kind of blitz.
The outside pressure isn’t always the greatest threat and the Bears have interior linemen capable of penetrating opposing protection. On this play, Saffold gets beat straight up and is knocked off his stance, which forces Goff to scramble and get taken down for the sack.
This will not likely be a high-scoring game and the Rams’ offense is going to endure another difficult test against the toughest defense on the schedule. They need to be quick and put Todd Gurley beside Goff for good measure. The continued success of screen-passes and play-actions passes will also help Goff maneuver around oncoming pressure.