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Pace talks Bears in advance of Texans game


General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of Pace's comments:

On the Bears closing Halas Hall briefly Thursday following another positive COVID-19 test:

"I look at it like this: throughout the process when we make these decisions, it always goes back to what's best for the health and safety of our players and our staff. And I just feel like we're fortunate to have the right people in our building that have been able to respect the situation and then just adapt along the way. That's the way it is for every team this season. But I think it's a big credit to [head athletic trainer] Andre [Tucker] and his staff. It's also a big credit to Matt [Nagy] and his coaches for just being flexible as we've gone through these situations."

On losing to the Lions and whether he's angry about where the Bears are right now with six straight losses:

"Yeah, to be honest, all of us are angry right now. To start off 5-1 and lose six in a row, that's painful for everyone in our building. You've just got to take that emotion and then channel it the right way; keep working to identify why we're in this situation, and then every single person in our organization doing everything in their power to get us back on track."

On how difficult this is for him and his message to fans to fuel optimism:

"I look at it like this: we have a quarter of the season remaining. That's significant. And we've shown what we can be on each side of the ball when things are clicking. We just need to do that collectively as an entire team. We do have a close team and you can feel that togetherness right now as we go through this time. But at the end of the day, we've just got to find a way to get a win, however it comes. That's what the focus is today versus Houston: find a way to get a win."

On the poor performance of the defense in recent games:

"We started the season the way we know we're capable of playing on that side of the ball, and when you look at it, [we were in the] top 10 in most defensive categories for the first part of the season. We haven't played like that in recent weeks and it's frustrating for all of us. But what gives me optimism is it's the same players, it's the same coaches, so we have it within us. We just need to play like that today."

On whether he's concerned with what outside linebacker Khalil Mack has been dealing with physically:

"I'm not concerned. I think at this point in the season, a lot of players are fighting through different things, and unfortunately that's part of the physical game that we play. With Khalil, he's always going to command additional attention from our opponents. That just shows the respect he has in this league. When we're talking about how bad these losses hurt and doing everything in your power to get us back on track, Khalil's one of the guys that's leading that charge for our team."

On safety DeAndre Houston-Carson making the most of his limited playing time on defense this season:

"He's really grown in his role. You feel it on defense. He's been doing it on special teams for a while. It starts with his preparation and his professionalism. Throughout the week he operates that way and then it translates to gameday. He's made all these key plays for us this season, and knowing DHC, it's really not surprising when you know the person."

On second-year defensive back Duke Shelley's development:

"When we drafted Duke when we did [last year in the sixth round], the vision was the nickel position; that's an area where he could excel. Last year I thought he went through your typical rookie season. He had some moments when he was inactive and going through that transition. But this year, Duke's made a really big leap. It started with him making plays on special teams and doing well in that area. And then I would say about maybe halfway through this season in practice, he really started making an impression on defense—and really from that nickel spot. So as Duke gets an opportunity with some of these injuries, I think we're all confident and excited for him to take advantage of it."

On whether quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is dialed in to rising above his circumstances and how that's shaping final month of season:

"I think when you look at him right now, I think we all feel that he's in a very good mindset. He's been leading our offense and he's been making good decisions along the way. Mitch is doing everything in his power to get us back on track and win football games, and that's his job."

On inevitable comparisons between Trubisky and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson because they were part of the same draft class, and whether there's more to the Bears-Texans game because of that:

"I think we all understand that comparisons are always going to be part of it; it's part of our sport. Not to be cliché, but this game's about two teams going for a win. Both teams are fighting for a win. It's not just about Mitch and Deshaun. It's the Texans and it's the Bears and what we can collectively do as a team to find a way to get back on track."

On whether he feels the offense can rely on the running game:

"I think so. I think in regards to the run game, we thought our offensive line and our running backs did really well last week. To rush for 140 yards and average 4.5 a carry, that's a positive thing. And I think what you're seeing is an offensive line that's gelled together as a group, and then David [Montgomery] and CP (Cordarrelle Patterson) just ran the ball decisively and extremely physical."

On Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham, the NFL's leading tackler:

"Second-round pick in 2017 draft, and I think what makes him unique is for an inside linebacker [is] he's got rare height and length. He's 6-3½, his arms are over 34 inches, which is rare for an inside linebacker. He's also got really impressive speed. You've seen him chasing down plays in pursuit. He's a good blitzer, too. When they bring him, he shows pass-rush ability to beat offensive linemen. He's really been a full-time starter since they drafted him, and he's a big part of their defense."