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Chalk Talk: Is Mack being slowed by injuries?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

I see that Khalil Mack missed practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury. I believe he's also been held out of practice with knee and back issues this season. How much do you think his recent lack of production has to do with him being hurt?
Steve A.
Premont, Texas

The only person who knows the definitive answer to that question is Khalil Mack. But he's a warrior on the field who never makes excuses, so I assume we'll never really know the true answer. In my opinion, the injuries have definitely impacted him to some degree; how could they not? Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano was asked Thursday basically the same question you posed, and here's what he had to say: "He'll be the first one to tell you this is football. There's a physical part to it. You're playing with some dings here and there, some bumps and bruises if you will. He's had some, but he plays through it. I'm not saying that it doesn't bother guys. Other than the first day of training camp when you show up, you're never going to feel that good … But [he hurt his shoulder last Sunday against the Lions] because he plays so damn hard, so relentless. He attracts and draws so much attention. He played his tail off. He came out for a minute and then went right back in. You see all those plunge blocks that are happening; we're going to see a bunch of them this week. The offense calls them whacks; we call them plunges. The ball's going here and then this guy's coming back and you're taking on [blockers], you're setting edges, you're doing those things. We all look at him as a phenomenal pass rusher, but he's a great run defender and he doesn't shy away from any contact. It's part of the game. He gets himself right by Sunday, goes out there and does it all over again, and then finds himself a way to get healed up and go out there next Sunday."

I was puzzled with Darnell Mooney's decision to slide to the ground at the Bears' 11-yard line after receiving a kickoff late in Sunday's loss to the Lions. I thought the poor field position really hurt and was wondering whether Mooney was instructed to do that or he did it on his own.
Bruce S.
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Bears had their "hands team" on the field to protect against an onside kick in that situation, so most of Darnell Mooney's teammates were up close to the Lions' 45-yard line. In that situation, Mooney's No. 1 objective is to secure the football, which he did. I can't say whether he was specifically told to slide, but he was reminded not to allow the Lions to take the ball away from him. Here's what special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor told reporters Thursday about Mooney's actions on the kickoff return: "He did what he was supposed to do. We did not do a good job blocking. I did give him specific instructions, which I always do to all the deep guys in a 'hands' situation is 'make sure that you do not get held up and they punch the ball out and you don't take any hits right there.' At the end of the day, the premise still is, people have a tough time with it, we've got to have the football back, and that's what we want."

The Bears have struggled to score in the third quarter all season. Have they made any adjustments to try to improve in that area?
Pete M.
Hampshire, Illinois

Yes, in fact, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor discussed one of those adjustments Thursday during his weekly video call with reporters. The Bears had only one full possession in the third quarter last Sunday against the Lions and they went with a no-huddle attack for part of the drive. Said Lazor: "We actually came out and did some things differently than we've done in the past and we went no-huddle in that drive. [But] that didn't solve the problem. So [we're] still working on it. That was one change that we did make this week and obviously it didn't pan out." The Bears picked up one first down on the possession Lazor referenced before punting from their own 34. The offense started a drive with 3:55 left in the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown, but the score didn't come until nearly four minutes into the fourth period.

Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.

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