Return of Khalil Mack strengthens an already powerful Bears defense

CHICAGO -- The Khalil Mack recovery plan worked close to perfection.

Following a two-week hiatus to rest his injured right ankle, Mack returned with a vengeance, recording two of the Chicago Bears' six sacks in a victory over the Detroit Lions.

For Mack, it was the 11th multi-sack performance of his career.

“It’s cool, man, but I’m happier we came out and got the win. That’s what it’s all about,” Mack said.

Mack probably doesn’t play that way on Sunday had he opted to push through the ankle injury he originally suffered in Miami on Oct. 14. Mack wasn’t the same player the rest of the Dolphins game, or the following week against New England.

Mack had never missed a game in his NFL career, but the decision to deactivate him for two consecutive weeks paid off.

“Kudos to the team trainers and doctors and to everyone that had input,” Mack said. “[The plan] was definitely good.

“It was tough for me not to play, but it was cool. But it was tough because I’m a competitor and I like to be out there with my guys. That’s all it’s about for me.”

By being cautious, though, the Bears still won both games Mack rested (Jets and Bills), and based on Sunday’s effort, the former All-Pro hopes to be healthy enough to finish out of the year at close to full strength -- barring another setback.

“Well, again, our defense becomes better when he's in there, but our defense is pretty good when he's not in there,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “So the biggest question of him coming into this game was how was he going to hold up health-wise, and it seemed like did he pretty well. So I just -- it's going to help us out.”

That’s an understatement.

Mack leads the Bears with seven sacks in 2018. To put that in perspective, Mack’s old employer, the Oakland Raiders, entered Week 10 with seven sacks as a team.

Mack rejoins a defense that is peaking at the right time. The Bears now have 24 takeaways and 30 sacks on the year. Opponents are converting only 34.4 percent on third down. A big reason for Chicago’s success on third down is the pass rush, which Mack anchors. Mack is on target to be the first Bears player to have double-digit sacks in a single season since Willie Young (10.0) in 2014.

“I really liked the way the defense played,” Nagy said. “I thought they continued -- that's three games in a row now that they played well, and that's what we need to do in these division games from here on out.”