KAH-leel Combo: Mack, Herbert lead physical victory over the Raiders
“I don’t have a disco, but let’s all start dancing.”
Jon Gruden joyfully made that comment — and then actually danced like a buffoon — after his Raiders physically beat the Bears in London back in 2019. Gruden was clearly mocking the Bears, and Matt Nagy’s “Club Dub” and had no qualms about doing so.
A funny thing about trash-talking: it has a way of coming back to you. The very best at their jobs can do it without much reservation because they know they’ll be victorious far more than not.
Gruden’s 2021 clan, however, is nowhere near “the very best” and the Bears physically outmatched them for a 20-9 road victory in Las Vegas.
What I remember very vividly about that game in London two years ago is that Akiem Hicks exited early with an injury. And when he left, so did the Bears’ physicality. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs ran wild, seemingly untouched to the second and third levels of the Bears defense, and picked up 123 yards rushing on 26 carries, along with two touchdowns.
In a nutshell, the Raiders imposed their will and it was embarrassing for the Bears’ defense.
Boy, how the tables turned on Sunday.
To be sure, the Raiders did bring a little bit of physicality to the game, knocking around Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields to the tune of two sacks and six quarterback hits. On one run, Fields was hit in the back and ribs area, which he later said both hurt and knocked the wind out of him. He was shown grimacing on the sideline and trying to catch his breath. On another play, he was scrambling to the outside and hyperextended his knee. Bears fans know about that all too well after David Montgomery was lost for a month just this past week.
The knee “injury” knocked Fields out for a few plays as Andy Dalton came in to sustain the team’s drive. But Fields would return and pick up where he left off.
Other than those hits on Fields, the Raiders were doing most of the absorbing of the contact. The Bears’ offense racked up 143 rushing yards behind a strong surge from the offensive line and tight ends. Even Jimmy Graham, known for his pass blocking, was seen driving his defender backward on a first down run, then getting up and passionately pumping a first.
What made Sunday’s run game impressive was the absence of the aforementioned Montgomery. In his stead, backups Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert combined for 139 yards on 34 carries – a 4.0-yards per carry average.
Fields got the first touchdown pass of his career off a two-yard strike to backup tight end Jesper Horsted early in the second quarter. On their very next possession, the drive during which Fields got hurt, the combination of Fields and Dalton led the Bears right back down the field for a Williams touchdown run.
Stacking touchdown drives like that is very encouraging, and it marks the second week in a row that they’ve pulled that off. Now, if they can only sustain that momentum for four quarters, they might actually have something going here.
The offense stalled after the second quarter and they didn’t score again until two Cairo Santos field goals in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach.
This was another game where the defense played outstanding, and complemented the run-heavy offense the Bears put forth.
Khalil Mack – or KAH-leel Mack as the broadcast team was pronouncing it – was a dominant force against his former team. “Uncle Mack” sacked his good buddy, Derek Carr, and also dropped him in the backfield on a two-point conversion attempt. That particular play was huge, given that it prevented the Raiders from drawing to within a field goal early in the fourth quarter. Mack was active all game, finishing second on the team in tackles and generally making Carr’s day uncomfortable.
Roquan Smith was all over the field, per usual. As were fellow linebackers Alec Ogletree and the returning Danny Trevathan. Trevathan has a ways to go to get back into football shape after missing the beginning of the season, but it’s good to have depth at the position.
DeAndre Houston-Carson came up with a big interception and Tashaun Gipson had a sack, tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
The Bears unfortunately had some ill-timed defensive penalties that kept the Raiders’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive alive. But in the end, the Raiders’ offense turtled and looked lost and confused against a more physical and playmaking Bears defensive unit.
Not many analysts wanted to give the Bears a chance in this one, given that the previous road game – against the Browns – was an embarrassment in Fields’ first start of the season. But between the racist email from Gruden that was uncovered last week, which undoubtedly proved to be a distraction, and the fact that the Raiders were overrated from the get go, the Bears were primed to pull off the upset.
Next week, the 3-2 Bears will head back to Soldier Field for a huge divisional game with the Packers. It’s a chance for the Bears to move into first place in the NFC North and it’ll be Fields’ first taste of the rivalry.
I’d like to see the Bears score some more points – who wouldn’t? But I feel the very same game plan of a strong rushing attack that keeps Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense on the sideline, paired with an aggressive, physical defense, will help give the Bears a shot to once more surprise the masses.