Tarik Cohen's 61-yard punt return score -- on which he actually ran 127 yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats -- was one of the most exciting plays by a Bears player in recent memory, and was a much-needed reminder for this team than 2017 hasn't been a complete disappointment.
"I wouldn’t necessarily say it we drew it up like that," Cohen said. "It was designed for me to get to the left somehow. So when I first got it, my job is to set the defense up and they were really coming aggressively, so that’s why I had to take it that far back to finally turn around and get back to the left side. When I got back to the left side I had all my teammates there, my blockers, to escort me to the end zone."
Cohen nearly had another explosive punt return in Sunday's 15-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, too, though that 67-yarder was called back due to a penalty on Ben Braunecker. He played 16 of the Bears' 37 offensive snaps and had six touches, cathing four passes for 39 yards and rushing twice for five yards.
"I think we're using Tarik just fine," coach John Fox said. "As a guy out of the backfield, you know he's one of our most explosive players so I don't think there's a lack of knowledge of who and how we use him."
Cohen's numbers should've been better against San Francisco, too, had there been better execution on these two offensive plays:
This is the first one, coming with the Bears on the 49ers 44-yard line late in the first quarter. Dion Sims (blue arrow) is going to pull to his left, as is right guard Kyle Long, into a hole between left tackle Charles Leno and tight end Adam Shaheen, with Cohen following him.
Long (red arrow) is pulling and will block Brock Coyle (50) in the hole, while Sims' man is linebacker Reuben Foster (56).
Things are setting up well here, with Long and Sims plunging into the hole ahead of Cohen. Also worth highlighting is the green arrow: Adam Shaheen doing a good job blocking linebacker Eli Harold.
If Sims can block Foster (blue arrow), Cohen will have a clear run at the second level, perhaps even the end zone.
But Sims whiffs to the outside shoulder of Foster, who's able to bring Cohen down. Coyle was credited with the tackle in the official box score, but this was mostly Foster's tackle.
The second one is a passing play early in the second quarter, coming one play after Jordan Howard dropped a pass from Mitchell Trubisky on first down. Cohen (yellow circle) is matched up with cornerback Greg Mabin at the top of the screen. The left side of the Bears' offensive line (blue arrows) will head for the second level and look to trigger an explosive play.
Cohen runs a good route, faking a quick slant and stopping on a dime to come back to receive the pass from Trubisky, who just completed a play fake to Howard. Leno (72), Josh Sitton (71) and Cody Whitehair (65) quickly get into position to barge into the second level.
Cohen catches the pass and the Bears have what they want: Two offensive linemen bearing down on a pair of defensive backs in Mabin and Adrian Colbert (38).
Colbert slips and takes out Sitton's knees (blue circle), but Leno engages with Mabin instead of running through the 49ers cornerback. He doesn't disengage until Cohen is past him, and a flag is thrown, negating what would've been a 25-yard gain to midfield.
These are the kind of plays the Bears need to clean up by the 2018 season, when the team can hope Cohen is a key weapon in a much-improved offense.