There was a whole lot that went wrong for the Bears offensively in Week 3. The offensive line missed blocks and missed assignments. Wide receivers had a tough time getting open. And on a few rare occasions where Justin Fields had time and space to make a play, he held the ball too long instead of firing a pass in decisively. But arguably the most concerning aspect of the day was that the offensive didn’t have any rhyme or reason to it. They completely lacked an identity.
One week later, Matt Nagy believes they’ve solved that last problem.
“Whatever happened, whatever the result was of today, we were going to come out of this thing with an identity,” Nagy said. “I think that’s important, and again, this isn’t something that just happens today on Sunday in a game. This is something that happens every day, Monday through Saturday, and then we gotta do it today.
“I told you there was a lot of talks. I told you there was a lot of honesty and it’s about solutions. And so now I thought we did a good job of that today, but let’s build off of that.”
That identity seems to have been built around David Montgomery. Coming into their game against the Lions, Montgomery had been the best and most consistent player on offense. On Sunday, the Bears finally fed him the ball like a bellcow, and he delivered.
“David has a knack for the red zone,” Nagy said. “He shows that. He’s proven that all year long. He’s proven that his whole career. So that you hang your hat on the O-linemen, those tight ends. Sometimes the O-line gets all the credit, and they did a helluva job, but we can’t forget about those tight ends either, and the way that David runs, and Damien and those other guys. If you could wake up in the morning and say, ‘I wish this could happen on the first drive,’ that’s what happened.”
Being able to lean on a dominant running back not only helps the Bears control the ball, it also helps their rookie settle into the game, and succeed when he needs to throw, too.
“Getting the run game going like we did today, it definitely opens up play-action,” said Fields. “It makes the linebackers have to come up and try to play the run more. Like I said before, from the o-line to the tight ends, they were blocking their butts off today. It was an overall good day.”
“We’re starting to put it all together,” said Darnell Mooney. “Looks very good. Feels very good.”
In the end, the Bears ran the ball 39 times for 188 yards and all three touchdowns. Montgomery accounted for 23 of those carries, 106 yards and two of the scores. But midway through the fourth quarter, Montgomery went down with a knee injury. Besides Fields going down himself, losing Montgomery feels like a worst-case scenario, especially given this rushing explosion and newfound identity. But after the game, his teammates were trying to keep a positive outlook on the unfortunate injury.
“David’s a leader,” Fields said. “He’s one of the team captains. He talks to us before every game. I mean, he’s a dog. He’s bringing the same energy every day at practice and every game. And I hope my boy, I hope it’s not too serious. But you know, even if it is, he’s still going to be a leader on this team and still going to continue to lead this offense each and every day.”
“He always gives you an extreme lift,” said Mooney. “Just him being out there, his presence. The way he talks. He gives me a boost for sure. Me and him feed off each other the whole game. We see him go down literally when he got tackled, I seen his facial expression and I heard him, and I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ So I’m literally bringing the trainers over as fast as I can and waving my hand一 got down, prayed and hopefully everything's OK and we’ll get him back.”
“I could speak about Dave for hours, what he means to our team, the identity that he has,” said Sam Mustipher. “I know it's early in his career but you see the way he runs, you see the way he plays, the energy, the effort. He really is the embodiment of what it means to be a Chicago Bear. Hopefully things are great with him.”
Nagy didn’t have an update on Montgomery’s status after the game, saying the team needed to “work through it.” Meanwhile a report from Ian Rapoport said “initial belief” is that Montgomery avoided a “major injury” based on their early tests. He’ll undergo more testing and hopefully the Bears will know more on Monday. Then there’s Damien Williams status. He came in to replace Montgomery, and the rushing attack picked up right where it left off, with runs of seven, eight and 23 yards. He added a catch for seven yards too. But Williams also got dinged up, with Nagy reporting a quad injury after the game.
The Bears offense faced one of its biggest challenges of the Matt Nagy era trying to bounce back from a historically bad performance to find an identity, and they succeeded. Now they’ll face a fresh challenge: how to maintain that identity if Montgomery misses an extended period of time.