Better late than never for Chicago Bears run game
It took longer than a lot of the critics would have liked, but it appears the Bears’ run game, specifically Jordan Howard, may finally be clicking.
After going 13 weeks without coming close to a 100-yard game – something he did seven times as a rookie in 2016 and five more times last year – Howard has cracked the century mark twice in the past four weeks. Coach Matt Nagy said he never gave up hope and hinted that the ground game could be a bigger force for the Bears in the postseason.
“Believe it or not, I really have had confidence (in the run game),” coach Matt Nagy said. “It hasn’t been the actual players, whether it’s the O-line, the tight ends, the running backs, it’s just been trying to stay positive with our coaches and with the players and saying, ‘Hey, just trust it. It’ll take a little bit of time.’
“But when it does end up clicking for all of us, again with the identity of who we are as a run team, you’re starting to see that now.”
Howard had his best game of the season in Week 17 against the Vikings, rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He started with a bang, busting off tackle for 42 yards, the lonest run of the season by the Bears and Howard’s longest run since Nov. 19, 2017.
“We’re starting to feel confident in certain schemes,” Nagy said. “And when you have that, now you can get rid of all the stuff that you don’t feel good about that you were using before to try to make it work, (but) it wasn’t working. Then you put together a good player like Jordan, he had 50 yards in the first two runs of the game last week, and that immediately is going to bring confidence.”
Howard’s nine touchdowns this season tied his personal best set a year ago, and last week he flashed the tackle-breaking ability that defined his first two seasons.
“I thought last week he made a statement,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “He truly broke some tackles and ran through some guys. We have that one run at Buffalo where he scored, and he kind of did the same thing.
That TD against the Bills in Week Nine was vintage Howard. During the course of the 18-yard run he destroyed Bills S Jordan Poyer before reaching the end zone.
“We want that and need that on every snap from him,” Helfrich said.
Nagy appreciates that, even during a disappointing season, especially early on, Howard remained the same even-keeled player.
“He really has been the same from the start,” Nagy said. “Nothing has changed. He doesn’t say a whole lot. He just comes out and does his job. If he has a game where he didn’t have a lot of yards, or his yards per carry was low, or he didn’t have a lot of attempts, any natural human being in that situation is going to be frustrated because they want to be able to help.
“But even after a game like this that he just had, 100 yards, couple touchdowns, it’s the same. It’s flat line with him, and I appreciate that.”