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Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk: Did Mack’s injury affect strategy?

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.

Did the Bears drop Khalil Mack back into pass coverage so often against the Dolphins because his ankle injury is limiting what he can do as a pass rusher?

Donald G.
Gurnee, Illinois

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said this week that Khalil Mack's ankle injury had no impact on the decision to drop him into coverage on about 50 percent of his plays against the Patriots. Said Fangio: "We had the plan to mix in some three-man rush … because [Tom Brady] likes to get the ball out quick and try to intermix that in there with everything else that we did. We rushed three, four, five, even six a few times. It was just part of the plan to mix it against a good quarterback."

Is it me or have the Bears have an unusual amount of illegal formation penalties?
Keith C.

It's not just you, Keith. The Bears have been assessed six illegal formation penalties this season, tied with the Bills for the most in the league. Three of the six have come in the last two games, two against the Dolphins and one versus the Patriots. The illegal formation penalty last Sunday against New England nullified Jordan Howard's 1-yard touchdown run early in the second half. Fortunately, the Bears scored a few plays later on Mitchell Trubisky's 6-yard TD pass to Tarik Cohen. A week earlier in Miami, the Bears were flagged for an illegal formation on the play where Howard lost a fumble inside the 1. Here's what coach Matt Nagy said this week about cleaning up the illegal formation penalties: "We have to be better detailed and there has to be a sense of urgency. That can really hurt you, so overcommunicate when you're out there on the field, whether it's with the referee or whoever the sideline judge is. Make sure they know that you're on or off the ball, your teammates know that you're on or off the ball and so our guys understand that. I'll take the blame for that. We can't have that. That's the details they have to have."

Do the Bears have a set rule about when Benny Cunningham takes a kickoff out of the end zone, like if it's five yards deep to just take a knee? It seems like the Bears get better field position when there's a touchback versus a return.
Paul Y.
Provo, Utah

Benny Cunningham has taken four kickoffs out of the end zone this season, with three of those coming in last Sunday's loss to the Patriots. The other one came in the Bears' win over the Buccaneers Sept. 30 at Soldier Field. He caught the kickoffs on those four returns 1, 4, 3 and 5 yards deep in the end zone. His four returns reached the Bears' 17-, 27-, 16- and 23-yard lines. Here's what special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor had to say about the guidelines for bringing kickoffs out of the end zone: "It's really still based upon hang time and those type of things, so it fluctuates each and every week and how you think that you match up. I thought all his decisions that made [against the Patriots], I was fine with them. I'll say this, if you don't bring the ball out, then you have zero chance of scoring. That's how you've got to kind of look at it."

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