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Bears defense looks to keep its rhythm

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Despite only allowing 17 points against the Los Angeles Chargers, linebacker Khalil Mack wouldn't let the defense off the hook.

"I feel like it was on us as a defense," said Mack. "Because we were capable of holding them down. We shouldn't have let them score 17 points."

Speaking on the Bears Coaches Show Monday night on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said that was precisely the type of attitude he was looking for from his team leaders.

"You love the mindset," said Pagano. "We gave up too many points. He said it perfectly, and we can't do that. Based on how the game was going, that's just what our job is, so I loved their mentality. I loved his quote. I love where they're all coming from."

Aside from the outcome, Pagano spoke highly about his defense's performance Sunday. He highlighted the Chargers' last drive when the defense forced a quick three-and-out to give the offense one last chance to take the lead.

Using a tip from safeties coach Sean Desai, who identified the Chargers' tendency to attempt a long throw on first down going into the two-minute warning, Pagano called a corresponding coverage scheme, which led to Mack collecting his first sack since Week 4. 

"It's always just extra hitch or two," said Pagano, "and it gives your pass rush a chance to get to the quarterback. Then you've got a second-and-long and a third-and-long and then the guys executed on third down."

The Bears' defense excelled on getting off the field quickly. Only one of the Chargers' 10 drives lasted longer than four plays. Combined with the emergence of the Bears running game, this allowed the defense to play more rested than they have all season.

"You look at the time of possession at the end of the game," said Pagano, "and we had the ball 38 minutes. Where we've struggled is that we haven't been able to get off the field on third down."

Pagano suggested that it is just as crucial for the defense to find its rhythm as the offense. The defense's ability to stymie its opponent early allowed the offense to take an early lead and control the game until late in the fourth quarter.

The Bears forced two straight three-and-outs before a Kyle Fuller interception set up the Bears' first field goal of the day. While Pagano credits Fuller for the play, he also called attention to the pressure by defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, which forced Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers into a rushed throw.

"We talked going into that game that to get after Philip Rivers," said Pagano, "who's obviously going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it was going to be rush coverage in disguise. The guys did a great job all day. On that play, we had a pressure called. We got great pressure."

Pagano felt that Sunday's game put the Bears' defense back on track after two uncharacteristic performances in the past three weeks.

"It's a blood-in-the-water type mentality," said Pagano. "Anytime you can have that kind of success--especially coming off the last couple games where we haven't played as well, or executed as well, as we can--to able to do that series after series after series, it only gives you great confidence going back out there."

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