The Bears finally found their offensive identity in Week 4, by funneling their offense through David Montgomery. The lead running back talked all offseason about finally learning how to run properly, and the results have been impressive. But just as soon as the team seemed to finally get back on track offensively, they were derailed. Montgomery hurt his knee in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, and according to a report from Dan Graziano, he could be out for a month or so.
But it’s a next man up mentality in the NFL, and the Bears are confident that they can continue to make progress as a run-first team even without Montgomery leading the way.
“Damien I think on Sunday had eight carries for 55 yards, that’s super impressive stuff,” said Germain Ifedi. “So, David’s special, but we have three or four backs that we really believe in, and coach Pitre has coached them up really good. That room’s been stellar since day one. We really believe in them and they believe in us. We work hand in hand. Hopefully David can get back out there as quick as he can, but we do believe in all of our backs.
“(Williams) was on that Chiefs Super Bowl team a couple years ago so you know he has that championship acumen. You know he's just a pro, he's just a pro. He's played in different schemes and he just always has been successful at getting yards and doing it the right way and that's what he's been since he's got here. We know he's in there he's going to run tough and hard just like David, just like Khalil (Herbert), just like Artavis (Pierce).”
Williams did a good job of picking up where Montgomery left off in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Right after Montgomery exited, Williams rattled off a seven-yard run, a two-yarder, a 23-yarder and an eight-yarder. He also caught a pass for another seven-yard gain. But then he hurt his quad and had to leave the game as well, leaving things up to Herbert.
Nagy did not have an update on Williams’ injury status on Monday, saying they’d know more later in the week. But, again, if Williams isn’t able to go in Week 5, he’d have confidence in Herbert taking the reins.
“Khalil has shown to us from the very first day he got here, he’s very mature, he’s very focused,” Nagy said. “He’s learned… He’s a bright young man and I think he’s got a bright future. It’s one of those deals where, I can remember in the preseason, several years ago when Spencer Ware tore his ACL against the Seahawks in preseason three or four, and a running back by the name of Kareem Hunt stepped up and became pretty good. You just never know where guys are and how they go. If that’s the case, we have confidence in him.”
That’s good to hear, because the worst thing for the Bears offense would be to abandon the run now that Montgomery looks likely to miss several games. Of course the team can’t run the ball 39 times every week, but by committing to the run, everything else opens up in the offense.
“When you’re able to run the ball when they know you’re running the ball that’s always a good thing,” said Ifedi. “It makes the defense have to play more honest. When a D-lineman knows that he only has to rush the quarterback, that’s like Candyland for them. They love that. But when they have to play the run, when they have to have real eye control and stuff like that, that makes their job a little tougher. It makes them have to play honest. They can’t just run upfield every time or we’ll just run it right there every time. So it’s cool. It’s cool to make them play honest.”
When pass rushers aren’t going full throttle towards the quarterback right at the jump, it gives the offensive line a better chance to get set when they do have to pass protect. With better protection comes the time to hit deep passes. With deep passes comes even more “honesty” from the secondary.
“(Hitting deep balls) helps because, I mean you get the DBs moving around a little bit,” Allen Robinson said. “You know you get them having to chase some stuff, so that means一 it's funny because you see them sit a little bit more, then you start to get behind them. Now, ok, like they're going deep and we've connected deep, so now they have to honor that and they have to respect that.”
That, in turn, opens up the middle of the field for intermediate completions. Hitting on those intermediate completions prevents the defense from stacking the box, which goes back and helps the run game. When everything’s clicking like that, voila, you have an efficient, humming, dynamic offense. It’s easier said than done, but it’s a beautiful thing when it all comes together. And it typically starts up front, in the run game.
“You start to make them feel you,” Ifedi said. “When a defense starts to feel you, you start scoring points. I think it was 21-0 at some point. That feels good. That feels good. We just want to keep having that feeling going forward. Because we know we’re capable. We still left some points out there. So we’re capable of even more.
“We love it when coach says, 'Alright, you all want to run it? We’re going to run it. We’re going to run it. We’re going to lean on y’all. If y’all don’t block it up, if y’all don’t move the line of scrimmage, we’re not going to be successful.’ We love those challenges.”
The Bears met that challenge in Week 4, and came away with a win. But with Montgomery likely out they’ll have even bigger challenges ahead: the challenge of building on their success, and the challenge of staying the course with their leading rusher sidelined.