LONDON — That Chase Daniel started instead of Mitch Trubisky in the Bears’ 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium didn’t change a concerning offensive trend: This team cannot run the ball effectively.
The Bears averaged 2.5 yards on their 17 carries Sunday, bringing their season total to 403 yards on 118 carries (3.4 yards/attempt). Sixty of those yards — nearly 15% — came on consecutive plays by wide receivers in Week 2. None of the moves the Bears made to improve their running game from 2018 have netted any semblance of improvement.
Flipping James Daniels to center and Cody Whitehair to guard hasn’t helped generate a consistent push. Third-round pick David Montgomery, who the Bears traded up to draft, has looked fine but can only do so much when holes aren’t there. Free-agent Mike Davis barely played Sunday and has nine carries for 22 yards this year.
Maybe we were wrong and Jordan Howard wasn’t the problem after all.
“Numbers don’t lie. Not good enough,” Nagy said. “You put in a lot of work to be better and we know where we’re at.”
It was telling, then, what Nagy said when asked why Daniel looked better in the second half than he did in a sluggish, ineffective first 30 minutes.
“We threw the ball a little bit,” Nagy said.
Run-pass balance in playcalling only goes so far when the “run” part of that is ineffective. Montgomery had two runs of 10 or more yards this season. His longest on Sunday went for six yards. The Bears need explosive plays just as much as they need consistent five-to-six yard gains on the ground.
Not including his one-yard touchdown, six of Montgomery’s 11 runs Sunday went for three or fewer yards, while two more three-yard gains were called back for holding penalties on left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (Leno was not happy with the game’s officiating crew for throwing one of those flags). Tarik Cohen gained 10 yards on four carries. And a lot of the issues fall on the Bears’ offensive line, and perhaps fall on coaching, too.
“It sucks because you become one dimensional,” Leno said, adding that he’s going to take a deep dive into what he can do better in the off week. “You always want to keep your defense guessing and keeping them on their toes.”
The second half Sunday was a reminder of how good this passing offense can be even if it’s one-dimensional — at least until Daniel threw what was an effectively game-sealing interception. Allen Robinson was outstanding, with seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns not telling the whole story of how impressive his play was. Daniel’s connection with him was excellent — the kind of chemistry the Bears hope to get out of Mitch Trubisky to an even greater extent when he returns from his shoulder injury.
But the Bears’ offense still feels like its ceiling is low, irrespective of who the quarterback is. It could be Trubisky, it could be Daniel, but the run game has to be better.
So figuring out run game answers certainly will be near the top of Nagy’s off week checklist. The personnel won’t change much, if at all, in 2019. This was supposed to be the ideal setup. And yet, once again, it feels like the Bears are out of options on the ground.
“Our options are to play better,” Nagy said. “It’s as simple as that. We need to be better. Our run game needs to get better.”