LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — No matter how dominant Chicago Bears star pass rusher Khalil Mack is, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick wanted to make one thing clear.
He’s no L.T.
“Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now,” Belichick said Wednesday. “Yeah, I’m not putting anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s class. So, you can put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players now, but we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor.”
The Patriots visit the Bears this week and that means Belichick will get an up-close look at one of the game’s top outside linebackers, assuming Mack is ready to play after injuring his ankle last week.
Belichick knows the Patriots could have their hands full with a two-time All-Pro and havoc-wreaking edge rusher who has energized a struggling franchise. He’s just not ready to place Mack — or anyone else — on Taylor’s level.
“He’s already had a huge impact on the Bears’ defense in the first five games,” said Belichick who was Taylor’s position coach and then defensive coordinator with the New York Giants.
“So, I’m not taking anything away from him. You’re talking about Lawrence Taylor, you’re talking about probably the greatest defensive player in the history of the game. So, I think it’s a little early. I mean, look, I wouldn’t put anybody in Lawrence Taylor’s category. Not that I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot of great players.”
Whether Mack will play this week is up in the air after he was injured in an overtime loss at Miami. He did not practice Wednesday, and coach Matt Nagy said he is day to day.
Mack was hurt early in the game against the Dolphins and his 2018 streak of at least one sack and one forced fumble in each game ended. Playing without him would be a huge blow, particularly with Tom Brady and the Patriots visiting on Sunday.
“We’re just going to continue to keep an eye on it and make sure whatever we do, we’re more cautious than anything,” Nagy said. “I believe in that and I think it’s important to go that route.”
Mack has not missed a game since Oakland drafted him with the No. 5 overall pick in 2014. Chicago acquired him from the Raiders just before the start of the season, after he held out the entire offseason and preseason trying to secure a long-term deal rather than play under the final season of his rookie contract. Mack and the Bears then agreed to a six-year, $141 million extension that guarantees $90 million.
The trade for Mack has boosted a franchise with four straight last-place finishes in the NFC North. Despite the loss at Miami, the Bears (3-2) remain in sole possession of the division lead for the first time since late in the 2013 season. But the defense wasn’t the same against the Dolphins with Mack at less than 100 percent.
The pass rush never got to Miami quarterback Brock Osweiler, and the Bears’ league-best run defense was trampled by 35-year-old running back Frank Gore for 101 of Miami’s 161 yards rushing.
Missed tackles on Albert Wilson contributed to two shorter passes going for long touchdowns to cap off a rough game in the heat for the Bears.
“I guess it happens every once in a while, not maybe to that extent, to have that much of an impact on a game,” said cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had two interceptions. “But it’s one of those things we just learn from it and move forward.”
NOTES: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), WR Allen Robinson (groin) and LG Eric Kush (neck) were limited in practice. DB Marcus Cooper (hamstring) did not participate.