Tarik Cohen might have been the only person inside Soldier Field not counting his carries Thursday night.
“I don’t play fantasy football — I don’t need stats,” he said Monday. “We just need the wins to get our ultimate goal. That’s why I feel like it’s not necessary for me to have to get the ball this many times to get in a rhythm.
“However I can get the ball, or I’m making an impact on the game, that’s really what it’s all about — if I’m making an impact.”
The Bears’ do-everything back led the team with eight receptions in the season-opening loss to the Packers and was second with 10 targets. He returned four punts, too. But his zero carries — he fumbled on the Bears’ first offensive play, but it was canceled out by a Green Bay penalty — were a new feeling. Thursday marked only the second time in his pro career Cohen went a game without a handoff.
Cohen will never be the Bears’ lead back and never has been. He averaged 5.4 carries as a rookie and 6.2 last year. But the team needs him to help take the pressure off Mitch Trubisky — either as a safety valve or screen target on pass plays, or as a change-of-pace rusher.
Cohen’s rushing shutout was emblematic of coach Matt Nagy’s struggles. The play-caller struggled to find an offensive rhythm and had issues distributing the carries among rookie David Montgomery, free-agent signee Mike Davis and Cohen, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honor. Davis had five carries for 19 yards, while Montgomery had six for 18.
As a result, the Bears leaned on Trubisky, who played one of the worst games of his career. An efficient running game — or even one with a pulse — would have taken some of the pressure off the third-year quarterback.
“Between [Montgomery], Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen, those three guys, they’re all special when they have the football in their hands,” Nagy said. “I recognize that, I realize that. And again, like I said last week, I’m well aware of it.”
Tight end Trey Burton’s return from a groin injury could help the run game. Cohen lined up at slot receiver — a position that Burton typically flexes out to play — more often than usual against the Packers. Cohen said that wrinkle was installed “a little bit later” in the week.
“I feel like that was good for me and me growing in this offense,” he said. “They see me in the slot now. It’s also another thing we can throw out there, they won’t know what’s coming and I can be in the backfield, well now they can see me.”
Davis — who also split carries with the Seahawks — said a timeshare requires no ego.
“I really don’t care how many touches I have, either,” he said. “As long as we win, I don’t care.”
Rushes and winning might be related, particularly if Trubisky continues to struggle. But Cohen said he doesn’t care how he gets the ball — as long as he gets it.
“For me, the rhythm is not even getting the ball in the running game or getting the ball in the passing game,” he said. “It’s touching the ball in any way I can having the ball in my hand. Punt return plays a part in that. Just having the ball, being able to see how defenders are playing me.
“I’m not really looking forward to getting like this many rushes in a row or this many passes in a row. I just need the ball in my hands.”