(670 The Score) The Bears made major financial commitments in recent years to pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, believing they would form a dominant tandem that would maintain Chicago's defense as one of the best in the NFL.
Instead, Mack, Quinn and the Bears' defense underwhelmed in 2020. The two combined for 11 sacks this past season -- nine from Mack and just two from Quinn in a career-worst year -- and Chicago ranked 21st in the NFL in generating pressures at just 21.8%. The Bears were also 11th in total defense and 14th in scoring defense, which represented regression in both categories.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace is now set to conduct a thorough evaluation of the defense in the coming weeks, knowing the underperformance from the edge rushers played a major part in the problem.
"We have so much pride in our defense," Pace said. "We've invested a lot in our defense, as you know, and we started off strong in so many areas defensively and then there was some regression the second half of the season. Those are just the facts. I think there's a combination of factors why, and that's what we're looking into."
The Bears were also let down by the play of safety Eddie Jackson, who had zero interceptions in his first season of a lucrative new contract that made him the second-highest-paid safety in the league.
Pace pointed to the injuries that Mack dealt with in 2020 as the reason he had fewer than 10 sacks for a second straight season. Mack had a shoulder injury during the final month of the season that Pace felt affected his performance.
"That was real, and I think we appreciate the way that he fought through that," Pace said of Mack.
There was no injury that played a part in Quinn's poor play. Signed to a five-year, $70-million deal last March, Quinn had just those two sacks -- one coming on his first snap in a Bears uniform on Sept. 20 and the other exactly three months later on Dec. 20.
Quinn, 30, registered just 16 pressures in 15 games. In 2019, he recorded 35 pressures and 11.5 sacks. For his part, Quinn made no excuses.
"It’s just surprising," Quinn said. "When I look at it, I’m still shocked. I still can’t believe I had a season like I’ve had this year. But there’s no excuse. The only person I’ve got to blame is myself for that.
"For me personally, it’s been a frustrating year."
Pace added of Quinn, "We expect him to rebound."
The Bears have Mack and Quinn under contract for four more seasons. Pace believes that both players will produce in 2021 and lead Chicago's defense back to prominence -- but first, he must identify what went wrong.
"It was surprising, and in some ways it was disappointing," Pace said. "That's something we're definitely going to look at."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.