Bears

Bears will ride Jordan Howard going forward after impressive first start

Bears will ride Jordan Howard going forward after impressive first start

When the Bears decided to move on from veteran running back Matt Forte this past offseason, it opened the door for one of the young running backs in their stable to take the reins of the backfield and run away with the job.

Those reins appeared to have Jeremy Langford's name on them, but when he suffered an ankle injury against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, and with backup running back Ka'Deem Carey dealing with a hamstring injury, the door swung open for rookie running back Jordan Howard to show the Bears coaching staff what he could do in an expanded role.

Howard didn't disappoint.

Making his first career NFL start, Howard looked every bit the part of a bell cow running back. He carried the ball 23 times for 111 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and hauled in three catches for 21 yards in the Bears' 17-14 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.

Howard became the first Bears running back to reach 100 yards on the ground since Forte accomplished the task in Week 1 of 2015 against the Green Bay Packers.

"I always knew that I might not be the fastest but I can get the job done," Howard said. "I've always believed in myself because if you don't believe in yourself nobody else will. You have to have self confidence. You have to be a determined runner. Not let the first person tackle you. You have to just keep moving your legs.

"I wasn't expecting the 100 yards but that made it even better. Just getting a win, I'm very excited about that."

Coming out of Indiana University, where he became the 150th player selected and 10th running back to go off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft, Howard was billed as a physical runner who didn't go down on first contact and had the ability to drive through would-be tacklers and fall forward for extra yards.

Howard's scouting report rang true against the Lions, as he wore down their defense by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Howard notched an impressive 68 yards after first contact, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Bears veteran wide receiver Eddie Royal wasn't surprised to see Howard's running style take a toll on Detroit's defense.

"I saw it in training camp. I'm like, 'This kid is going to be a great player for us,'" Royal said. "His physical nature of running the ball, defenses are going to get tired of tackling him and he just gets those extra yards for us, and he did a great job."

One member of the Bears who spent time blocking for Howard shared the same sentiment. 

"He ran so well today," Bears tight end Zach Miller said. "The thing about him is the yards through contact. He keeps his feet turning and he's always falling forward, gaining extra yards. All those things matter so I'm happy for him to get over 100 in his first extended [action]."

Bears head coach John Fox has a history of deploying the running back-by-committee approach throughout his career. He did it Carolina with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and he used the same tendencies in Denver with the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.

Fox also showed signs of taking that same approach in his first season with the Bears in 2015 with Forte, Langford and Carey. While it's not out of the question that Fox will go back to that game plan when the Bears have three healthy running backs, it's no secret he has faith in the rookie as evidenced by Howard's 23 carries compared to Joique Bell's three rushing attempts and third-stringer Raheem Mostert's goose egg.

"Obviously, he has a positive impact," Fox said. "We noticed pretty early on. Jordan is a big back and we knew that when he came out of Indiana University. The thing we didn't know is the quickness of his feet and the vision he has. I think he's outstanding and we will ride him pretty good going forward."

Howard's expanded role in the Bears offense is expected to continue next week when he draws the start at Lucas Oil Stadium — an hour drive from where he starred at Indiana — against the Indianapolis Colts. Don't expect him to shy away from the big stage. 

"I don't feel like the moment is too big for me," Howard said. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity God blessed me with, and the Bears for choosing me and giving me the opportunity to play."

Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Denver Broncos superstar pass-rusher Von Miller is one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He can single-handedly destroy an offense's gameplan, and in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, it was up to Charles Leno and Bobby Massie to make sure he didn't make a game-changing sack of Mitch Trubisky.

Mission accomplished.

The Bears' offensive line wasn't perfect in Denver, but they checked one of the biggest boxes of the week by keeping Miller away from Trubisky all afternoon. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller made no impact -- literally none -- as a pass rusher.

Miller entered the 2019 season with five-straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14.5 in 2018. His rare talent, combined with the defensive genius of Vic Fangio, appeared like a mission-impossible in Week 2. But Leno and Massie answered the call in dominant fashion. They both finished the game with top-10 grades on Chicago's offense, per PFF.

To be fair, Miller registered an elite grade against the run in Week 2, but his 49.3 pass-rush grade was the worst on the Broncos defense. You read that right; Miller was Denver's worst pass-rusher Sunday.

Kudos to Leno and Massie for a job well done. 

John Fox says Eddy Pineiro's Bears career was on the line in Week 2

John Fox says Eddy Pineiro's Bears career was on the line in Week 2

Former Bears coach John Fox knows a thing or two about getting run out of Chicago. He won just 14 games during his three seasons with the Bears and was fired following the 2017 season when Chicago finished 5-11.

Now an analyst with ESPN, Fox was like every Bears fan watching Week 2's game against the Broncos. And he had a pretty strong opinion about the ramifications of Eddy Pineiro's game-winning 53-yard kick moments before the ball split the uprights.

According to Adam Schefter, Fox said Pineiro's Bears career was on the line.

“I’m watching [Bears vs. Broncos] with John Fox later in the day,” Schefter told ESPN Radio on Monday. “He goes ‘Do you realize how massive this kick is for this one individual and the team?’ He said this before the kick, ‘If this guy misses this kick, he probably can’t kick in Chicago again. If he makes it, he’s a hero with confidence and momentum.’ So that’s all that’s riding on this one kick at the end of the game.”

That seems like a pretty extreme hot take. A 53-yard field goal is hardly a layup, especially for a young kicker who before the game-winner had never been in a situation like that. Would it have been another gut-wrenching loss because of a missed kick? Sure. And would it have magnified the kicker drama Chicago's been living with since last January? Of course. But it's highly unlikely the Bears would've cut Pineiro loose had he missed.

Fortunately, we'll never know. Pineiro's clutch performance not only has his confidence at an all-time high, but it's also put to rest any concerns about Chicago's kicking situation. In fact, an argument can be made that Pineiro has been the NFL's best kicker through two weeks.

Pineiro and the Bears will have a fantastic opportunity to build off of Week 2's momentum when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins in Week 3's Monday night showdown.