Who’s got their backs?
After going winless in October for the first time since 2002, the Bears head to Philadelphia as underdogs for the first time this season. Here are our three keys for Sunday’s game.
Have the best running back(s) on the field.
The Bears can’t force the issue trying to position David Montgomery to have a more productive day than Jordan Howard. But it sure would be in their best interest if that happened. The Bears traded Howard to the Eagles in March, getting only a conditional sixthround pick in return. The reasoning was understandable. Matt Nagy wanted to find a feature back who had more passcatching promise, greater versatility and an ability to create favorable matchups. Thus, 29 days after discarding Howard, the Bears traded up to draft Montgomery in Round 3. The problem is the Bears have struggled to identify a consistent role for the rookie, giving Montgomery an average of just 12 carries over the first six games. Last week, though, with renewed commitment to the run, Montgomery turned 27 rushes into 135 yards. That’s the kind of workload and production that has to become the norm. Howard, meanwhile, is having an impressive first season with the Eagles. Behind a reliable offensive line, he has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, rushed for 443 yards and six touchdowns. He also churned out a season-high 96 yards with a touchdown in last week’s blowout of the Bills.
Defense must get off the field when they can. The Bears defense looked more like its old self in last week’s loss to the Chargers. They allowed only 36 rushing yards and 11 first downs. They forced four three-and-outs. And Kyle Fuller provided a takeaway, a first-quarter interception that he returned inside the Chargers 5-yard line. The defense will face a step up in class, but the Eagles aren’t lighting the world on fire, ranked 21st in the league in yards per play (5.3) and yards per game (343.8). Doug Pederson’s team is effective at moving the chains, though, converting 49.1% of their third-down opportunities. That ranks second in the NFL. Quarterback Carson Wentz, for what it’s worth, also has six turnovers.
Raise the bar for Mitch.
Is anyone else concerned that Mitch Trubisky is now halfway through his third NFL season and the Bears are still spending time working on his game-day mannerisms? Trubisky acknowledged this week that after a nudge from coach Matt Nagy he went against his normal routine and watched the loss to the Chargers via the Fox broadcast copy. “I really wasn’t showing any body language,” Trubisky said. “It was mostly just like a guy who looks super serious, kind of tense. And that’s really not me.” The Bears coaches are rightly tutoring Trubisky for what he needs most. And in the current state, he needs a major confidence boost. But let’s be clear. This is not part of the normal curriculum for Quarterbacking 202. And the Bears have reached a point where celebrating baby steps from their franchise quarterback is no longer practical.