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Sweat finishes season as sack leader for Bears, Commanders

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In Year 5 of his career, defensive end Montez Sweat accomplished a feat that no other NFL player has — lead two teams in sacks at the end of the season.

Sweat finished the 2023 campaign with a career-high 12.5 sacks. He recorded 6.5 sacks as a Commander and registered 6.0 sacks as a Bear after being traded to Chicago on Oct. 31.

"Man, it's a cool stat to have," Sweat told reporters Monday. "Surprised that it's never been done. But really when I look at that, I feel like I left a lot of meat on the bone, so I'm going to analyze that over the offseason and come back ready to go."

Behind Sweat on the Bears sack list was defensive tackle Justin Jones, who recorded a career-high 4.5 sacks in his sixth NFL season, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue with 4.0 and defensive end DeMarcus Walker with 3.5.

Sweat's career year earned him his first Pro Bowl Games invitation and solidified him as a core member of the defense — a unit that climbed in the league rankings following his arrival.

Coach Matt Eberflus coined the defense's ascension as the "'Tez effect" after seeing how Sweat elevated the players around him.

Sweat understands the impact he's had on the Bears defense, but he has also credited his teammates for rising together in the second half of the season. After seeing "how the defense performed when we're on all cylinders," the star pass rusher is confident in the team's trajectory heading into 2024.

"It was really a great time," Sweat said of being with the Bears this season. "What a great group of people. I know we fell short of our goal that we set to make the playoffs, but I think we're heading in the right direction," adding "there's definitely a foundation here that we're building upon."

While Sweat spent just over half of the season with the Bears, he quickly realized the value of the club's "family-oriented" atmosphere, developing close relationships throughout the locker room.

"After the game [Sunday], it was a bittersweet feeling — you know you need that break to let your body rest, but I really wanted some more time with the guys in this locker room," Sweat said. "Obviously after every year, the team will change and some people will stay and some people will go, but with this group, personally, I just wanted just a little bit more time."

Sweat, who signed a four-year extension with the Bears just four days after the trade, is also looking forward to spending a full offseason with the team. He's eager to learn the defense from the ground up and find new ways to keep improving the unit for next season.

"Yeah, I'm excited," Sweat said. "I'm excited to see who we bring in and I'm just ready to hit the ground rolling. Get a full year of OTAs and training camp and go from there."

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