Week 1 was rough for the Bears, there’s no getting around it. But if you’re looking for a silver lining among all the negative plays, look no further than David Montgomery. The starting running back spoke all summer about how he’s reworked his running style, dedicated himself to taking on an increased leadership role and showing the world that he is a top-five back in the NFL. Those are some of the reasons why Matt Nagy made Montgomery the team’s offensive captain against the Rams.
“He’s somebody that exemplifies from start to finish just everything about how the day goes,” Nagy said of the decision to make Montgomery a captain. “I think he’s worked extremely hard to get to this point. He’s being a leader out there on the field. I see it. I feel it. The guys see it. They feel it.”
During the game, Montgomery backed up the talk, too. On the second play of the game, he reeled off a 41-yard run that displayed elusiveness, strength and breakaway speed, that latter attribute sometimes lacking earlier in his career. In all, Montgomery rushed for 108 yards, a whopping 81 of which came after contact. His most impressive carry was his touchdown run, when he managed to break four tackles, including wriggling away from Aaron Donald in the backfield, to score.
Put that off-the-field work and attitude together with his on-the-field playmaking ability and fight, and you’ve got one popular running back in the locker room
“It makes it easy to want to block really hard for a type of guy like that,” said Sam Mustipher. “A type of guy who sometimes, like on his touchdown run, there was movement, a guy across my face. I was able to get a hand on him but (Montgomery) ran through I think four tacklers. So when you have a running back who is able to make you right when you're wrong, it just makes you want to go even harder for a guy like that. There's not much that he really needs to say vocally. He runs with his pads down. He's always going forward. So to understand that you have a guy like that behind you is something that gives you great confidence on the offensive line.”
“I appreciated him from the moment I got here and to see what he一 the way he works, the way he prepares, the way he practices,” said Andy Dalton. “Then to see it in a game shows what he's able to do, and it's been fun to just see his ability and how he just keeps fighting and finds ways to get extra yards, and make some explosive plays for us.”
For many inside Halas Hall, this is not surprising. Bill Lazor said a performance like Sunday’s is what he’s come to expect from Montgomery. Dating back to 2020, it’s possible we should have all seen this coming. After missing Week 10 in the concussion protocol, Montgomery finished the season on a tear. He rushed for 598 yards on 116 carries, good for a 5.2 YPC rate, and scored seven touchdowns. Montgomery added another 226 yards on 24 receptions (9.4 YPR) and a receiving touchdown too. At the time, there was a narrative that Montgomery picked up the pace because the Bears were facing lesser opponents. But in Week 1, he showed he can still do it against one of the best run defenses in the league.
“He's picked up right where he left up last year,” said Germain Ifedi. “I think at a certain point he really figured out what we were doing, and we all kind of clicked at the same time it seemed like. So being able to come back this year and build on that and be able to follow it up with that performance, I think he only had 15, 16 carries, so it's impressive. It's just a testament to what he was doing in the offseason and getting himself ready to be that guy, be that back for us again.”
The Bears will need Montgomery to be that back again in Week 2. In their first game of the year, the Bengals proved they’re no cupcakes. Going into the season, it looked like the defensive line was going to be a strength in Cincinnati, but they clearly showed their worth in limiting the Vikings’ star-studded offense. The Bengals D-line sacked Kirk Cousins three times, but more impressively they limited Dalvin Cook to only 61 yards on 20 carries.
That said, Ifedi believes that their ceiling on offense won’t be dictated by their opponents. They will be the ones who either reach their own potential, or limit their own production.
“If we're doing our things and we're executing and we're clicking, I think we can have some success,” Ifedi said. “We just can't shoot ourselves in the foot. We can't beat ourselves. But I think if we're executing the play call and doing what we're coached to do in practice all week, I think we can have success. And that goes for any defense.”