The Bears didn’t win any style points Sunday.
But they won the game — and maybe an identity.
“It’s gonna be a gritty and grind-y game when you play us,” running back Jordan Howard, whose 36 carries and 167 rushing yards were career highs, said Wednesday. “It’s gonna be a very smash-mouth game. It’s gonna be a physical game for four quarters.
“You’re definitely gonna wear a defense down just by running the ball down their throat repeatedly.”
The Bears ran the ball 54 times, more than any NFL team has all season, in the 27-24 overtime victory against the Ravens. The Bears’ 38 rushes in their other win this season — Week 3 against the Steelers, also in overtime — were tied for the fifth-most.
Expect to see more of it.
“I know sports is the entertainment business, but we still gotta win games,” guard Kyle Long said. “Right now, the best opportunity we have to give ourselves a chance to win is to pound the rock.
“We understand with our personnel and our running backs that we can put ourselves in a pretty good position to keep our defense off the field and have them fresh and ready to get the ball back in our hands if we run the ball.”
It’s a game plan only an offensive lineman, a running back and coach John Fox could love. Fox compared the rushes to body blows in a heavyweight fight — they’re not “real sexy,” but they take their toll.
“Maybe not as flashy or as exciting as knockouts and those kinds of things,” he said. “But it works.”
Because it does, the Bears will try it again. But it might not be to the same extreme.
It seemed like a slog in Baltimore, even to the man who called the plays.
“I like to throw the football,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “I’m a quarterback guy. But it’s the understanding of whatever it takes to win. And it all goes to the guys up front.”
The Bears will spend the rest of the season trying to accomplish parallel goals: develop rookie Mitch Trubisky and win games. Loggains admitted it was difficult for Trubisky to find his passing rhythm against the Ravens — he threw only 16 passes — but he praised his willingness to embrace the game plan.
“They’re giving themselves a chance to win . . . and they’re giving their quarterback a chance to develop,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Coach Fox has had this formula in the past where he prefers to run the ball and give his quarterback an opportunity.
“I’m being serious, if you ask a young guy to throw the ball 40 times and you expect to win, that’s going to be very difficult. So I think what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to develop this guy — shoot, believe me, I think the young man’s got a chance.”
Loggains said there will be times — “Maybe this week, maybe next week, maybe a month from now,” he said — when the Bears determine the best way to win a game is to throw 45 times.
Don’t bet on it. Listen to his boss.
“This is a combative game, a will-breaking game,” Fox said. “Running the football is not the easy way to do it. You’re not finessing people.”
Fox did the opposite in Denver, where Peyton Manning averaged 38 passes per game over three years.
Does Fox have a personal preference?
“Yeah — winning,” Fox said. “Doing the things it takes to win.”
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