Bears

Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

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Notre Dame running backs break out in a big way

Cierre Wood's not going to go ahead and paraphrase Keyshawn Johnson, but he just wants the damn ball.

On Saturday, he got the damn ball 18 times on the ground and rushed for a season-high 118 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that production came in the second half, as Notre Dame repeatedly punched Miami in the mouth in a 41-3 win over the Hurricanes at Soldier Field.

"I was past overdue," Wood said. "When I say it's just a matter of when I get the ball and stuff like that, I know I can ball out and I can make plays almost every play. It's just a matter of when the opportunity presents itself."

Wood finally got that opportunity on Saturday to show why he led Notre Dame in rushing last year. He was suspended for the first two weeks of the season, and only carried the ball 17 times in the next two games.

Part of Wood getting a shot on Saturday had to do with starter Theo Riddick suffering a bruised elbow. But more so, Wood's 18 carries were the product of something the coaching staff saw.

"We go with the guy that's running well," Kelly explained. "He did a great job on one of his runs where he showed great patience, stepped on the heals of the guard and bent it back. He had not done that this year."

Wood wasn't getting opportunities through most of the first half, though. At halftime, Wood had rushed four times -- the same number as George Atkinson III and one fewer than Riddick. But Wood's a guy who believes he's at his best when his workload is increased. He just hadn't earned that workload yet, at least in the eyes of the coaching staff.

"Just given the fact that opportunities are real small because we come in so sporadically and stuff like that, once I got handed the ball three, four times in a row, something's bound to happen," Wood said. "It's all a credit to my line, they blocked everything to a T. I just made the cuts and do what I do best."

While Riddick's night was fairly muted -- only five carries for 21 yards -- Atkinson went off, too, rushing 10 times for 123 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown scamper. Once again, though, Tyler Eifert was held largely out of Notre Dame's passing equation, with last year's FBS receptions leader among tight ends reeling in only two catches.

Miami, like Michigan State and Michigan, rolled its pass coverage toward Eifert in an effort to neutralize him in Notre Dame's passing game. And while neither of Notre Dame's last two opponents really got burned for it, Miami wasn't as lucky.

"When they try to double Eifert, that just brings people out of the box and that just opens up more lanes for us to run," Wood said. "It's just really, pick their poison."

With Wood and Atkinson running so well there was no second-half surge for Miami, which could barely get its offense on the field in the third and fourth quarters. And with Stephen Morris being increasingly hurried and his wide receivers dropping passes left and right, it was a perfect recipe for a Notre Dame blowout.

"They were all upbeat and jumping and stuff in the beginning, but you smack a team so many times in the mouth, eventually they're going to want to stop playing," Wood said. "And that's what happened today."

Under Center Podcast: What's the Bears' ceiling this year?

Under Center Podcast: What's the Bears' ceiling this year?

After the Bears' statement-making 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, Laurence Holmes, Lance Briggs, Matt Forte and Alex Brown sat down to talk about how far they think the Bears can go this season. They also debate whether they trust kicker Cody Parkey after a 3-3 performance, and look ahead to Thanksgiving Day's matchup with the Lions. 

You can listen to the entire podcast right here, or in the embedded player below. 

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

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USA Today

Cody Parkey’s bounce-back game reveals something important about the 2018 Bears

 Cody Parkey, of course, noticed the two news helicopters hovering over Soldier Field Wednesday night. Maybe they added a little bit of pressure to his kicking practice session four days before he connected on all three of his field goal tries — including a game-clinching 48-yarder — in the Bears’ 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 
 
Or maybe the literal hovering over his every move didn’t affect him at all. 
 
“They just added a little extra wind for me,” Parkey quipped. 
 
Parkey’s confidence in himself didn’t waver after he missed four field goal attempts off an upright a week ago, even if the rest of Chicago might’s lost faith in their team’s kicker. While Matt Nagy framed his calling of a pair of two-point conversion attempts after the Bears’ two touchdowns Sunday as wanting to be aggressive (“we just felt like we had some good stuff down there in that area,” he said), perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence it came a week after his kicker missed two PATs. 
 
But Nagy’s confidence in Parkey was there when he called on him for that 48-yard field goal with a little under three minutes remaining in, at the time, an eight-point game. Had Parkey missed the kick, Minnesota would’ve taken over possession in optimal field position to drive downfield and tie the game. 
 
Instead, Parkey nailed the kick, and nearly the entire Bears’ sideline rushed onto the field to celebrate with him. 
 
“Parkey’s a dog, man,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack said. “Practice makes perfect. He’s a great kicker and I’m glad he got back to showing it.”
 
“You support your guys,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “There’s always going to be people out there that are hard on you that can never do what you do. I think that’s he’s handled it very well. Very respectful, very humble about it, and he came out tonight and he played one of his best games for us.”
 
“We all believed in him in the locker room,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “There was never a doubt. That happens week to week in the NFL. But we just continue to come together closer as a team, support our guys, have each other's back. I'm happy for Cody. He was big time tonight. He definitely delivered for this team and put some points on the board when we needed them. They were crucial, and he did a heck of a job.”
 
And cornerback Prince Amukamara: “We knew that he had a tough time last week and was very hard on himself. For him to hit the first one and hit the last one, we knew how huge that was and he crushed it. He ended up breaking us down at the end right here. And that goes with what I've been saying all year, we have genuine love for each other and guys celebrate others' success."
 
That last point is important. The Bears have a certain positive spirit in their team, one instilled by Nagy that permeates every corner of Halas Hall. How often do you see so many players sprint off the sideline to celebrate with their kicker after he hits a field goal that isn’t a game-winner? 
 
“That was pretty cool,” Parkey said. “Obviously they saw me down last week and they picked me up. I think that’s just really special about this team and it shows how close we are.”