Tarik Cohen had as many touches Sunday against the Detroit Lions as he had snaps against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, with that connecting number being 13. The rookie running back was on the field for 29 of the Bears’ 63 snaps (46 percent) in their 27-24 loss, his second highest usage rate on offense of the season.
But when the Bears needed a few plays to, at least, get into field goal range in the fourth quarter, Cohen was nowhere to be found. Why?
“It’s just moreso about me learning more things in the offense, so in hurry-up situations I can be in the slot or I can go to the X receiver or Z receiver, or be in the backfield,” Cohen said.
When asked what he doesn't know, Cohen explained: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”
There’s logic here: The Bears were going to have to pass needing to gain at least 50 yards in 91 seconds to get into range for a game-tying field goal. Cohen hasn’t been featured much in the Bears’ two-minute packages, with Benny Cunningham able to fill a role as both a pass blocker and reliable check-down guy out of the backfield. And if Cohen’s knowledge of the Bears’ hurry-up route concepts is lacking, he may not be effective had he been on the field.
Also: That Cohen doesn’t have expansive knowledge of the Bears’ playbook isn’t necessarily surprising, and that’s not a knock on a guy who’s only played in 10 games in his NFL career. Perhaps the Bears could’ve schemed to get Cohen on the field in that final minute and a half, but thanks to some highlight-reel plays by Mitchell Trubisky, the offense still delivered a makable game-tying kick for Connor Barth.
(The bigger gripe on that last drive may be the absence of tight end Adam Shaheen, who showed good chemistry with Trubisky and caught all four of his targets for 41 yards and a touchdown.)
Cohen, though, was outstanding when he was on the field, tying the game in the fourth quarter on a well-designed pitch play with a leaping lunge into the end zone (“I felt like I had a 44-inch vert,” Cohen said). He carried nine time for 44 yards and caught four of six targets for 15 yards, though he lost eight yards on a reception when Trubisky made a bad decision to throw him the ball a few plays before his 15-yard touchdown.
And the threat of Cohen was something the Lions had to respect, which helped open things up for Trubisky, Jordan Howard and the rest of the offense. It makes it all the more head-scratching that the Bears, coming off a bye week, couldn’t get Cohen on the field for more than those 13 snaps against the Packers a week ago.
“It gives us versatility,” Trubisky said. “We can use him as a decoy and as a playmaker. I think the offensive line did a great job up front creating seams for Jordan and Tarik all game. It’s going to be an emphasis for us moving forward, continuing to stay in rhythm on offense and get the ball to our playmakers. We have to make sure Tarik and Jordan get their touches so we can be rolling.”
And eventually, perhaps those touches will come with a game on the line in the fourth quarter.