The Bears’ defense holding the Rams’ offense to six points was remarkable on Sunday night. But perhaps just as remarkable: Jordan Howard having his first 100-yard game of 2018 in the face of Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL.
Howard ran for 101 yards on 19 carries, proving to be a critical component of a 15-6 win that all but assured the Bears of a playoff spot. Not only was Howard effective and efficient, his success on the ground — along with that of Tarik Cohen (nine carries, 69 yards) — led the Bears to Bears have the ball for about 13 1/2 more minutes than the Rams. Meaning: The league’s best offense was only on the field for a little over 23 ineffective minutes on Sunday night.
“I just had to stay patient, I knew my time was going to come,” Howard said. “I didn’t know when but I just knew I had to be ready.”
Upping the impressiveness of Howard’s game was it happened on a field shared by Donald, who was being talked up as a legitimate candidate for league MVP despite not being a quarterback. Donald was largely invisible, recording only two tackles and one quarterback hit as the Bears blocked and schemed him out of having a major impact.
For an offensive line that didn’t have much success run blocking against lesser competition, what Harry Hiestand’s unit did Sunday night to set up Howard’s day was nothing short of impressive.
“If you study his film and know how he’s going to play, and know how he can hurt plays, so if we run the ball just make sure he doesn’t do this because that hurts the play,” left guard James Daniels said. “So that’s just something we focused on all week.”
Those game-wrecking plays were absent from Donald all night. Howard didn’t have a single rushing attempt that went for negative yardage, this a week after five of his 16 runs against the New York Giants went for a loss.
“We just trusted our technique and the coaches put us in a good spot, and we had a good plan in store,” center Cody Whitehair said. “But credit to our guards and the guys that blocked him. They did a nice job and handled him very well.”
Donald barely pressured Mitch Trubisky, too, the product of strong blocking from the entire line, Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie and Bryan Witzmann. The Bears’ strategy was to not let Donald beat them, and while the offense was hardly at its best on Sunday night, it accomplished that goal.
“He didn't have any game-destructive plays that he usually causes,” Trubisky said. “That's something that we definitely kept in the back of our minds. If we just play smart, take care of the football, create positive plays on offense, get a few more scores, then we can come out and get a W, which we did.
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“… We definitely want to score more, but we did what we had to do, didn't give up any game-changing plays to Donald and the defense did the rest.”