The Chicago Bears front seven on defense turned in their best performance of the 2016 season against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8.
In the 20-10 victory, the Bears front seven racked up five sacks on Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford. They took advantage of a bad Minnesota offensive line, who were publicly called out by their head coach the week before.
“They came out rearing and ready to hit,” DL Akiem Hicks said. “We anticipated that and I think we countered that effectively.”
Hicks finished with two sacks in the game, as he had his way with Vikings right guard Brandon Fusco. He added four quarterback hurries to his stat sheet and plugged up running lanes all game long.
The 26-year-old signed a two-year deal in the offseason and has proved to be a bargain find for the Bears eight games into the season.
While Hicks dominated on the line, the Bears saw rookie Leonard Floyd turn in another impressive performance.
Floyd added another sack, giving him 3.5 on the season. The rookie beat veteran tackle Jake Long early in the second quarter to get the sack on Bradford. It forced a third down as the drive resulted in a Vikings punt.
It’s the second-straight game Floyd has recorded a sack, as he built off his impressive showing against the Packers in Week 7.
“I’m just doing a better job of executing,” Floyd said. “I’m going out and doing what I’ve been coached to do. That’s all it comes down to. I’ve been coached up a lot, everyday.”
The emergence of Floyd the past two games is huge for the Bears, as the club's 2016 first-round pick is starting to show strides.
With veterans around him, he’s learning more and more as each week goes on.
“I listen to all of my vets in the linebacker room,” Floyd said. “Willie, Pernell, Sam Acho. I just try to listen to the advice they give me and just run with. I try to use that to become a better player.”
One of those veterans is outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who returned from PUP two weeks ago. He played just 19 snaps in the loss to Green Bay and looked rusty. His snap count increased in the Week 8 win, as did his production, as he recorded a sack and three QB hits.
McPhee looked healthy and showed signs of dominance rushing the passer. In 2015, McPhee recorded 5 sacks in his first eight games of the season before being slowed down with the knee injury.
The Bears are hoping he can return to that form in the second half of the season.
Despite going into the bye week at 2-6, McPhee and the defense still believe there is time to turn things around. With the way they played against Minnesota, it could be the wake up call the team needed.
“I hope it pisses everybody off,” McPhee said. “That’s what I hope. I hope it pisses everybody off and know we can really dominate the league if we put our mind to it. We just played a great team and we dominated them. So it's got to piss everybody off and say we shouldn’t lose no more games to teams we ain’t got no business losing to.”
The Bears will play back-to-back road games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants coming out of the bye week, both of which are very winnable contests.
-The Bears are above average in nearly every major defensive category. They rank 9th in yards per game (338.9), 11th in passing yards per game (238.1), 12th in rushing yards per game (100.8) and 16th in points allowed per contest (22.4).
-As a team, Chicago has 20 sacks through eight games, which is 8th most in the NFL.
-Willie Young's 6.0 sacks are 8th most in the league.
-Leonard Floyd's 3.5 sacks are 2nd most among NFL rookies, just 0.5 behind Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue (4.0).
-Despite the recent surge up front, Chicago's pass rush is still inconsistent. According to Football Outsiders, the Bears are generating pressure on just 14.1 percent of pass plays, which ranks 28th in the NFL.