Bears

David Montgomery was Bears' highest-graded player in Thanksgiving win over Lions

David Montgomery was Bears' highest-graded player in Thanksgiving win over Lions

The Bears' season remains meaningful entering Week 14's game against the Dallas Cowboys because of the come-from-behind win over the Detroit Lions, 24-20, on Thanksgiving Day.

Now 6-6 and still in the hunt for the NFC wild card, the Bears looked like an offense capable of delivering in the clutch for the first time in quite a while. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky played his best game of the season, throwing for 338 yards and three scores, but he wasn't Chicago's highest-graded star per Pro Football Focus. Instead, it was rookie running back David Montgomery, who not only had the highest mark on offense but also the entire team.

Montgomery ended the game with 16 carries for 75 yards and added two receptions for 21 yards and the game-winning three-yard touchdown catch. His 87.4 PFF grade was his best of the year.

“It was a quick play, so get to the line fast,” Montgomery said of his touchdown catch. “I had a shallow (route) coming across, and I just happened to squeeze open and I just caught the ball. I almost dropped it, but I caught it.”

Montgomery's rookie season hasn't been as productive as expected when the Bears selected him in the third round of last April's NFL draft, but he's been limited by questionable playcalling and an even more questionable offensive line. Nonetheless, he's carried the ball 172 times for 594 yards and five touchdowns, which puts him on pace for just under 800 yards and around seven touchdowns. Every one of those yards and touchdowns will have been earned by the first-year bowling ball of a runner.

Montgomery flashed a little bit of everything in the Bears' Thanksgiving Day win. He was elusive, powerful, patient and had just enough burst to pick up yards in chunks. He set the tone early in the game with a 14-yard run on his second carry from the Lions' 24-yard line; the Bears scored the next play on a Trubisky-to-Allen Robinson dart.

It was a sequence that's been missing for what feels like the entire season. A strong running play that set up an effective passing touchdown. Better late than never, I suppose.

Montgomery will be even more important in Week 14 against the Cowboys, who have an offense that will be a much more difficult challenge than the Lions and quarterback David Blough. The Bears have to play keep away, and it'll be up to Montgomery to maintain his Thanksgiving Day success down the stretch.

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Chicago Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

Chicago Bears Free Agent Focus: Case Keenum

The Bears have been connected to all of the big-name free agent quarterbacks this offseason. General manager Ryan Pace is expected to add competition for the starting job in free agency or the 2020 NFL draft after incumbent and former second overall pick, Mitch Trubisky, regressed mightily in his third season last year.

But rather than focus on players like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and even Marcus Mariota, it makes more sense to pay close attention to the next tier of free agent passers who could offer a potential upgrade from Trubisky while not necessarily creating shockwaves through Halas Hall upon signing.

One quarterback who fits that description perfectly is Case Keenum, the journeyman starter who's entering his 10th season in the league. 

Keenum is coming off of back-to-back forgettable seasons with the Broncos and Redskins, but it wasn't long ago when he was one of the better storylines in the NFL after leading the Vikings to 11 wins in 14 starts in 2017. He threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions that year and earned himself a respectable two-year, $36 million contract with Denver in 2018. His tenure as a Bronco lasted just one season (he finished 2018 with a 6-10 record) and his time as the Redskins starter was short-lived in 2019. He started just eight games for Washington.

For his career, Keenum's completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown 75 touchdowns compared to 47 interceptions.

Keenum's resume isn't overly impressive, which is why he's a great fit for what Pace should try to accomplish over the next two months. He has to find a competent starter who can take advantage of everything else the Bears have going for them (namely, a championship-caliber defense) and who can be aggressive enough on offense to score enough points to win the close games. Keenum proved in 2017 that he can do that, especially when he has a good supporting case around him.

Keenum also qualifies as a solid bridge quarterback in the event Trubisky crashes and burns in 2020. At 32 years old, he's young enough to keep the starting job for a couple of seasons while Chicago attempts to find a younger long-term answer under center. 

Last but not least, he's going to be cheap. He didn't have a good year in 2019, and he was making just $3.5 million with the Redskins. There will be a limited market for his services this March, which means the Bears should be able to land him at a backup's salary despite his starter's upside. And that matters, especially for a team that's trying to free up salary cap space for other positions of need along the offensive line and secondary.

Keenum won't move the needle much for Bears fans in March, but landing a player of his caliber could ultimately be the difference between the Bears missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season and making a deep playoff run.

Former CFL star Tre Roberson has chance to emerge in Bears' secondary

Former CFL star Tre Roberson has chance to emerge in Bears' secondary

The Chicago Bears' decision to release veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara has created a void in the starting lineup on defense, one that recent CFL free-agent signee Tre Roberson will be given a chance fill. The Bears are expected to add more candidates for the job over the next couple of months, but Roberson (who was courted by nine teams this offseason) will have his shot.

“I just feel real comfortable there,” Roberson told Bears All Access about why he chose Chicago. “When I came on my visit to the Bears, my workout just felt like I was at home. They made sure I was real comfortable in every aspect of the trip. I just feel like a great place to be is close to home. I’m from Indianapolis, so it’s not too far away.

"We’ve been to Calgary, so it’s a long way from home. So I just feel like it was the best place for me, and I feel like I can help the organization get to the next level, which is winning the Super Bowl.”

Roberson's two-year, $1.235 million deal is a low-risk, high-reward transaction for GM Ryan Pace. At worst, Roberson turns into a contributor on special teams and a solid depth cornerback. But if the Bears catch lightning in a bottle and Roberson emerges as a legitimate and reliable starting cornerback, his contract will turn into one of the biggest bargains in the league.

Roberson had 10 interceptions during his two seasons in Canada, including seven in 2019. He was considered the top CFL free agent making the jump to the NFL this offseason and was rewarded with the most lucrative contract a Canadian League star has received since Cam Wake.

Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine (slot) have two of the three cornerback gigs locked up, and Kevin Toliver will likely get the first crack at replacing Amukamara (assuming the Bears don't add a veteran free agent this March). Even if they select a rookie early in the 2020 NFL draft, Toliver should have the first opportunity to prove he belongs in the starting lineup. He logged 175 snaps in 2019 and looked like an ascending talent.

By the time the regular season rolls around, however, it could be Roberson who goes from starting in Calgary to lining up as a starter in Chicago.