Bears notes: Montgomery boosts offense, Whitehair’s wild snaps and Miller’s surge
A roundup of odds and ends as the Bears move toward a home game Thursday against the Cowboys.
The Bears’ running game has been one of the least effective in the NFL, which is especially problematic when trying to develop quarterback Mitch Trubisky. But coach Matt Nagy said he saw progress in the victory Thursday against the Lions.
Led by David Montgomery, the Bears ran for 88 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Montgomery averaged 4.7 yards per carry (his third-best average of the season), totaled 75 yards and didn’t have a negative-yardage play.
‘‘It makes it a lot easier because it’s open to what the next play-call’s gonna be based off of second-and-three, second-and-four, second-and-five,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘It’s way easier.’’
Montgomery ran well against the Lions, but the Cowboys are sure to be more challenging Thursday. They have a top-10 defense but are better against the pass than the run. In losses to the Patriots and Bills the last two weeks, they allowed 225 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per carry.
Nonetheless, the Cowboys are sturdy up front, with linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch (questionable with a neck injury) and defensive end Robert Quinn. They’ve struggled lately, but they sure aren’t the Lions.
‘‘Every week is different,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You can’t just put on Tecmo Bowl and all the sudden be playing this front on arcades. It’s different every week, so we’ve gotta try to scheme things up as much as we can. But last week felt good.’’
The Bears have broken 100 yards rushing twice in their 12 games. Only the Dolphins and Jets have fewer.
The Bears are continuing to ride out inconsistent shotgun snaps from center Cody Whitehair, an ongoing problem from last season. He had multiple inaccurate snaps against the Lions, which doesn’t help an offense still trying to find some rhythm.
‘‘We’re always working on it, and we know there have been some of those,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘It can affect timing at times. But Mitch has done a good job when they are high.’’
It might be a product of all the position changes. Whitehair played guard in his first two seasons at Kansas State and tackle in his last two seasons there.
Whitehair began his pro career at left guard before the Bears moved him to center just before the start of his rookie season. After he made the Pro Bowl at center last season, Nagy moved him back to left guard, swapping spots with James Daniels. That didn’t work out, and the Bears reversed it in Week 10.
Nagy likened Whitehair’s bad snaps to a golfer having the yips and said he doesn’t think there’s anything the coaching staff can do besides ride it out.
‘‘You just keep rolling,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We’ve been OK with it. We feel fine with where he’s at.’’
Miller time again?
This is a big week for Bears receiver Anthony Miller after putting up nice games against the Giants and Lions. He has struggled with consistency in his two seasons and can be a game-changer for the offense if he keeps this going.
‘‘He’s working his tail off,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘Last week with the short week, he was locked in mentally. We put a lot on his plate, and he absolutely delivered.’’
Miller set career highs with nine catches and 140 yards and played a season-high 86 percent of the offensive snaps against the Lions, partly a result of Taylor Gabriel’s absence.