Aside from quarterback Justin Fields, there hasn’t been much for Chicago Bears fans to get excited about in 2021. But it was during their Week 17 victory over the New York Giants—their second win in a row, by the way—that two Bears players made their marks in the team’s record books and gave those same fans a reason to smile. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn registered his 18th sack of the season, breaking Hall-of-Famer Richard Dent’s single-season team record of 17.5. Meanwhile, Darnell Mooney set the new high watermark for the most receptions by a Bears player (regardless of position) through the first two years of their career. He now has 130 catches since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2020. The bigger story is Quinn, who began the 2021 season as one of the first players referenced in the case against general manager Ryan Pace. After a debut season in Chicago that totaled just two sacks, Quinn looked very much like another free-agent bust signed by the embattled GM. But, now, 16 games and 18 sacks into the 2021 season, the Bears have one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL under contract for three more seasons. Here’s the sack of Giants quarterback Mike Glennon that moved Quinn ahead of Dent: https://twitter.com/LakeShoreSport/status/1477743922382266368?s=20 Dent, meanwhile, was on the golf course with fellow Bears great, Jimbo Covert, and offered this video message of congratulations to Quinn: https://twitter.com/ChicagoBears/status/1477744598021816320?s=20 It’s moments like this that make struggling through 17 weeks of mostly disappointment worth it. If nothing else, Bears fans who stuck with the team in 2021 got to witness history, and it’s the kind of history that will be tough to beat. Dent’s 17.5-sack season took place way back in 1984, and while today’s NFL has more games and a lot more pass attempts—meaning more chances for pass-rushers to get home—it’ll probably be a while before we witness a year like Quinn’s again. Quinn’s monster season has solidified his place as one of the cornerstones on the Bears’ defense for 2022. The healthy return of Khalil Mack will provide Chicago with a fearsome one-two punch, and the exciting development of second-year edge rusher Trevis Gipson, who had two sacks of his own on Sunday, has turned the Bears’ pass rush into a big strength moving forward. Mooney, meanwhile, continued his separation from the rest of Chicago’s wide receivers as the team’s go-to guy. His 13 targets on Sunday more than doubled the next-closest pass-catcher (Allen Robinson, six) and his seven catches nearly doubled up Robinson too. He’s 71 yards away from the first 1,000-yard season of his career, and it should be a priority of the Bears’ offensive game plan in Week 18 against the Minnesota Vikings to make sure he gets it. https://twitter.com/ChicagoBears/status/1477706461342015497?s=20 Mooney’s instant success as a pro is remarkable considering he was the 25th wide receiver drafted in 2020. He’s outproduced high-profile names that went several rounds ahead of him, including first-rounders like Jerry Jeudy, Jalen Reagor, and Brandon Ayiuk. If the 2020 draft were held today, there’s little doubt Mooney would be selected ahead of all of those guys… and that’s a huge win for the Bears moving forward. The Bears’ 2021 season won’t be remembered fondly. It’ll likely be the season that ends Matt Nagy’s time as the team’s head coach and, potentially, Pace as the general manager. But players like Quinn and Mooney and the consistent effort they put forth week in and week out should be appreciated, even if the rest of the team makes it really hard to do.
- Sep 20, 2023