No Bears player has performed at a higher level or with more consistency this season than outside linebacker Robert Quinn.
The 11-year NFL veteran is tied for fourth in the NFL and first in the NFC with a team-leading 11.0 sacks. Quinn has recorded at least half a sack in eight of the 10 games he's played this year. He has also made a slew of excellent plays against the run.
Since being selected by the Rams with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft, Quinn has been one of the NFL's top edge rushers. He signed with the Bears last year after recording 80.5 sacks in nine seasons with the Rams (2011-17), Dolphins (2018) and Cowboys (2019).
After a down first year with the Bears—Quinn produced only two sacks in 15 games last season—he has rebounded in a major way in 2021.
"Last year, everybody was a little bit off, [it was] a little bit difficult with the COVID stuff," said coach Matt Nagy. "Everybody had their own issues that we all went through.
"For Robert, as we get to where we're at this year right now, to see him bounce back and be whatever he is, top five in sacks right now, what I instantly put it to is this guy in the offseason, he cared immensely about wanting to get better and how could we do that, creating a plan in the offseason and then him following it.
"From the very first day he got here in the offseason, in training camp and into the preseason and regular season, his motor goes 1,000 miles per hour every play."
Catch this: Nagy hasn't been surprised with the continued emergence of second-year receiver Darnell Mooney. The 2020 fifth-round pick from Tulane leads the Bears in all receiving categories with 46 receptions for 694 yards and three touchdowns.
"You can see somebody that continues to challenge himself throughout each week," Nagy said.
Mooney has recorded back-to-back 100-yard games, hauling in five passes for 121 yards and one touchdown against the Ravens and recording five receptions for 125 yards versus the Lions. He was not pleased with his performance against Baltimore, however, because he only caught five of 16 targets.
"He was kind of frustrated about that, that he had a lot of targets and not a lot of catches off of that," Nagy said. "But I like that about him because he cares. His want to be great is really, really high. We see that, we feel that. He's always staying after practice, he's getting extra work in, and that pays off. We knew that when we drafted him, that he has that in him."
Stepping up: With the Bears down two of their top receivers against the Lions—Allen Robinson II was sidelined with a hamstring injury and Marquise Goodwin exited with a foot injury—Damiere Byrd made the most of a rare opportunity.
The six-year NFL veteran caught four passes for 42 yards after entering the contest with just five receptions for 32 yards this season. Byrd sustained the Bears' game-winning drive with receptions of 13 yards on third-and-5 and seven yards on third-and-4.
"It felt good," Byrd said. "That's what the goal is every week, to be prepared and ready when those opportunities come and then being able to take advantage of them when they happen. It was great to be able to have that on the last drive to help our team pull out a win that we needed."
New faces: Decimated by injuries, the Bears defense has been in a state of flux in recent weeks, starting 17 different players in the last three games.
"It's always tough when changes happen," said linebacker Christian Jones. "But I think we prepare a certain way that when guys step in, they're not really a step behind. We've just got to communicate with each other and just play ball. That's the reason why we have practices and all these meetings. I won't say it's easy, but it's a smoother transition."
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan are out for the season, while defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and inside linebacker Roquan Smith are sidelined with injuries.
Despite the rash of injuries, the defense has shown improvement of late, allowing three touchdowns in its last two games after permitting 14 TDs in its previous four contests.