May 20, 2024

Maybe some of the Chargers never have been here, part of a team that quite convincingly has failed to meet grand expectations.

But Khalil Mack can relate, the veteran edge rusher on Sunday recalling his time with Chicago, particularly the 2018 season, when the Bears had the NFL’s No. 1 defense in points allowed.

That team finished 12-4 and won the NFC North but lost in the wild-card playoffs to Philadelphia. Mack was an All-Pro and finished second to the Rams’ Aaron Donald for “Defensive Player of the Year.”

“There’s a lot of disappointment just understanding what this team is capable of,” Mack said. “I don’t think everybody understands the potential and the opportunities that we’ve been given. Making the most of the opportunities, it’s been a downfall.”

Khalil Mack meets with family before a home game against the Broncos.

Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack says he has seen plenty of lost opportunities this season.

(Ryan Sun / Associated Press)

The Chargers entered the season fully expecting to play improved defense. With an offense led by Justin Herbert, the forecasts called for good things in coach Brandon Staley’s third year.

Instead, the team sits at 5-8 and is all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Mack’s position coach on the 2018 Bears was Staley, who now is facing serious questions about his future with the Chargers.

“Looking back on that, [we] took L’s,” said Mack, who spent four years with the Bears and made the playoffs twice. “Right now, we’re taking L’s. It’s just up to us to keep pushing forward.”

In his 10th year, Mack is having one of his finest seasons. He entered Sunday leading the NFL with 15 sacks and five forced fumbles. He is half a sack away from 100 for his career.

But Mack also is still looking for his first postseason victory. He often has talked about being concerned with nothing — at this point of his career — other than winning.

He explained that, as one of the Chargers’ most experienced players, he’s trying to set an example and remind his younger teammates about the importance of seizing what’s in front of them.

“You see the older guys trying to push and show with our actions that we want this,” Mack said. “But everybody’s got to want it. Everybody’s got to put the work in. Everybody has to know what to expect on Sundays.

“It’s just about understanding the opportunity that we have. … I don’t feel like we’re taking full advantage of it. … It’s everybody, myself included.”

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