LONDON – Injuries on the Bears defensive line have opened a door for Roy Robertson-Harris, and the third-year pro has stormed right through it.
With Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols both sidelined last Sunday against the Vikings, Robertson-Harris recorded 1.5 sacks, three tackles and two quarterback hits while playing a season-high 60 percent of the Bears' defensive snaps in a 16-6 win.
"He's really big, he's long, he's lengthy," said coach Matt Nagy. "He plays hard. This is one of the best years he's had so far. He's playing with ultimate confidence. He's getting an opportunity to play No. 1, and then he's making the most of those opportunities."
Robertson-Harris is not only making more plays because he's getting more opportunities. The increased reps also enabling him to apply what he's learning about his opponents.
"It was always a thing for me that I felt like I didn't get enough reps against a particular dude to work a move," Robertson-Harris said. "So being in there, seeing how he's playing, feeling out the game, you have a better opportunity to maybe work a certain rush on that guy, make extra tackles or whatever the case may be."
The People's Elbow: Robertson-Harris paid homage to two popular professional wrestlers against the Vikings, first imitating Ric Flair's famous strut and then later mimicking the Rock's finishing move, "The People's Elbow" following a sack of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The Rock, otherwise known as Dwayne Johnson, retweeted a Bears tweet showing Robertson-Harris executing the move and wrote: "Big Xan with the most electrifying celebration in the league."
"That was actually pretty cool," Robertson-Harris said. "I got back to my phone and I saw, 'Dwayne Johnson.' At first I thought it was probably a parody account. But I went to it and he had replied to the Bears tweet and I was like, 'Man, that's crazy.' It was pretty awesome to see that, and it went viral from what I saw. It was pretty cool. It was a good moment for me."
Super sub: Robertson-Harris isn't the only defender who's epitomizing the Bears' "next man up" mentality.
After inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski learned on gameday that he would start against the Vikings in place of Roquan Smith, the four-year veteran registered a team-leading nine tackles and produced a strip/sack on a blitz.
"There was a lot to like about what he went in and did," said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "You're talking about a guy who doesn't get many reps during the week. Guys like that come in and they prepare and they study and they watch the film and they're taking the mental reps when the ones are going. But to see him go out there …
"We blitz him and he gets a sack fumble. He runs over a running back and forces another sack. He was great in coverage. Sideline-to-sideline, he was good in the open field. He played a really, really good football game."
Support system: Nagy is confident that the Bears will receive strong fan support at Sunday's game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
"And that doesn't shock me because everywhere we go, I feel like it's a home game," Nagy said. "Our crowds are amazing. It's all over the country and obviously now we're going to see it and witness it across the world.
"I remember when I went a few years ago [as a Chiefs assistant coach in 2015], you saw a bunch of different jerseys from different teams that are there, from everybody rooting on their teams, supporting their teams. But I have a sneaky suspicion that there are going to be a lot of Bears jerseys there."
Get an insider's look as the team travels into Heathrow Airport in the UK ahead of Sunday's International Series matchup with the Raiders.