As one of the few players to excel in Matt Nagy’s offense, Bears running back David Montgomery figures to be even better with offensive coordinator Luke Getsy running the show — that’s the theory, anyway.
It didn’t happen in the Bears’ season opener against the 49ers last week. Montgomery was stymied at the line of scrimmage on almost every carry. He rushed for just 26 yards on 17 carries. In fact, Montgomery’s average of 1.7 yards per carry was the lowest of his four-year NFL career.
Khalil Herbert provided a bit of a spark with nine carries for 45 yards and a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. And Justin Fields rushed 11 times for 28 yards. Still, the Bears finished with 99 rushing yards on 37 carries, averaging 2.7 yards per carry — 31st in the NFL in Week 1.
“You have to take advantage of what’s given to you,” Getsy said. “And when you play an elite defense like we did last week [against the 49ers] — and we’ve got the same challenge this week [against the Packers], things are going to be hard.”
But while they weren’t very effective running the ball, they stuck with it — with 19 carries for 65 yards in the first half when they were shut out, and 18 carries for 34 yards in the second half when they took the lead.
“Coach Getsy came in at halftime and said, ‘We’re sticking with it.’ We’re doing this. We’re doing that,” Herbert said. “Just the belief that the OC has in us and the o-line has — that’s very important, because not every run is gonna be a big run. Being patient — some runs might hit; some might not, but knowing that we’re still gonna have the opportunities to make a big play –that definitely helps.”
In these parts, that’s an encouraging sign. The Bears too often abandoned the run at the first sign of difficulty under Nagy. The 99 rushing yards against the 49ers are the most the Bears have gained while averaging 3.0 yards or less per carry in the last 10 seasons.
“When you get three yards a play, you can’t get frustrated by that,” Getsy said. “We stuck to the plan and we kept going. We kept the mentality the way we wanted to keep it … the play-style the way we wanted to keep it. We just have to stick to the plan and not get too caught up by the result too much right now. I think that paid off for us.”
As was evident under Nagy, committing to that mindset is easier said than done. And Getsy doesn’t have the luxury of an established passing game to facilitate the running game like the Packers had in Getsy’s seven seasons on their offensive staff. His patience will be tested.
“I’m a quarterback [at] heart, so I want to throw the ball every play,” Getsy said. “That part is hard for me every time. But it’s an important part about our style of play and how we’re gonna win football games. If [the plan] is to throw it 50 times, then you gotta stick to that plan. If your plan is to attack them in the run game, you have to stick to that plan.”
But for Getsy — and this is key –the game plan is more of a philosophy than an ideology.
“When you feel like there’s something that’s off, you make those adjustments,” Getsy said. “They weren’t earth-shattering [changes], just a little different way wanted to go about doing it. Those [little] things were more important than saying, ‘We gotta run the ball. We gotta run the ball.’ We’re not gonna be stubborn, either. I really believe it’s about taking advantage of what the defense gives you, not just running the ball or passing the ball.”