When it comes to causing havoc in the offensive backfield, Khalil Mack is one of the NFL’s most dangerous linebackers. And while everyone was expecting a monster game on Sunday against his former team, Mack was unable to trouble the Oakland Raiders.
After the game, however, Richie Incognito shared Oakland’s gameplan. The Raiders, it turned out, came up with a specific strategy to slow down their former teammate and the Chicago Bears defense.
Khalil Mack’s time as an Oakland Raiders
After a dominant college career with the Buffalo Bulls, Khalil Mack was selected fifth overall in the 2014 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. He immediately slotted into the lineup and made an impact; the team might have struggled, but Mack played himself into consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
His performance would only improve over the next few years, however. In 2015, Mack earned AP All-Pro First Team honors as both a defensive end and linebacker; the next year, he helped the Raiders break their playoff drought and claimed the Defensive Player of the Year title. The club would pick up his option for the 2017 season, but things would start to break down after that.
Khalil Mack’s holdout and move to the Chicago Bears
After playing the 2017 season in Oakland, Mack held out through the entire preseason. While neither side looked willing to budge on their contractual demands, the Raiders finally cracked. They traded the linebacker to the Chicago Bears in exchange for four draft picks, including two first-rounders; Chicago promptly signed Mack to a massive deal, making him the league’s highest-paid defensive player.
While he would miss games due to injury for the first time in his career, Mack’s first season in the Windy City was a success. He recorded 12.5 sacks in 14 games while forcing six fumbles as the Bears returned to the postseason.
The rematch with the Raiders
On Sunday, the Bears and Raiders met in London, meaning Mack had his chance to show his old team what they were missing. While he spent the week expecting a win, Oakland got the last laugh, taking home a 24-21 victory.
After jumping out to a 17-0 lead, the Raiders let the Bears back into the game; the AFC West club needed some help from the replay officials down the stretch, but they eventually came out on top. Beyond the scoreline, though, they also took pride in limiting Khalil Mack, who finished the game with three tackles and one fumble recovery.
Richie Incognito shares the Raiders’ game plan
The Raiders obviously knew how dangerous Mack can be, so they took steps to limit his effectiveness. They primarily relied on a quick passing game to keep him out of the backfield, but, as offensive lineman Richie Incognito explained, they had another tactic: physical play, which came in the form of constant double teams and meeting Mack head-on.
“There’s history [between Mack and the Raiders],” Incognito explained. “We came out, and we were physical with him, and they didn’t like it.”
Mack apparently didn’t like it, since he refused to speak with the media after the game. He might be a world-class defensive player, but, in this case, he talked a better game than he played.