Khalil Mack considers himself one of the harshest critics out there, especially looking inwards.
When the linebacker looks back on the first eight games of the season, he doesn't see a dominating performance by the defense he leads. Only allowing 10 points against the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers? Not good enough. Forcing five turnovers against the Redskins? Not quite. Holding the league's premier running back, Dalvin Cook, to 35 yards and his Vikings team to six points?
"I mean, even then, you see a lot of things that we could have done a lot better, you know what I'm saying?" said Mack. "We put ourselves in situations to dominate, and you're asking me about dominating. Yeah, it's coming. I haven't felt it yet, but it's coming."
Mack, the centerpiece of the vaunted defense that entered the season with sky-high expectations, has acknowledged that during the Bears' four-game losing streak the guys on his side of the ball have just not been good enough.
Most vexing has been the lack of turnovers. Since the Vikings game in late September, the team has only forced one fumble and grabbed one interception.
"Going against experienced quarterbacks, you know," said Mack, "they try to put their team in situations where they don't give the ball away and make too many risky plays, so they're doing everything they can to come in and manage the game."
The team has faced veterans like Philip Rivers and Derek Carr in the past month and will see another in Matthew Stafford on Sunday. Stafford, in the middle of a banner year, is a familiar face to Mack and the rest of the defense. Last season, the Bears picked off the Lions quarterback four times in two games while sacking him eight times.
To Mack, last season's success means little going into the divisional matchup. It would be foolish for the defense to assume they have Stafford's number.
"You can talk about last year all day, but that ain't really going to have anything to do with what happens on Sunday," said Mack. "You've got to do everything it takes to keep him on the bench because he's a good quarterback and he's got a lot of weapons. Those two receivers, I mean they've got a special group, and there's going to be a great task for us."
With questions swirling about the future of the franchise, the Bears' premier player says that he's not paying attention to what outsiders say about the state of the team.
"You're asking the wrong guy," said Mack. "I don't really care about nothing else, this 'buzz' and all that type of stuff. They come to me and ask me questions — 'Did you hear this?' — and I don't even know what they're talking about, because I don't really care what's being said on our side. The only thing we can work on and control is in the building, on the practice field, and go out there on Sundays and making the 'buzz' do something else, maybe."