No quick fix for Bears’ run-game funk

The Bears have averaged 42 rushing yards in their last 3 games — last in the NFL in that span. The solution? ‘‘Execute better,” LT Charles Leno said. How do you do that? “Practice over and over again.”

SHARE No quick fix for Bears’ run-game funk
Bears running back David Montgomery (32) rushed for 58 yards on 19 carries (3.1 avg.) in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Bears running back David Montgomery (32) rushed for 58 yards on 19 carries (3.1 avg.) in the Bears’ 23-16 victory over the Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Brian Westerholt/AP

Asked about his “trust and faith” in the Bears’ running game, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor pushed back ever so slightly but still acknowledged reality: In the last three weeks, the Bears are last in the NFL in rushing yards (126, 42 per game) and last in yards per carry (2.3).

“I think it’s a good question,” Lazor said. “I don’t know if I would use -exactly those words, but I understand where you’re coming from because you hit those points where you get frustrated in different areas, and it’s going to happen at some point. I fully expect to come out of it, whatever funk we’re in as far as our run-game production this week.”

It’s a tough spot for Lazor because the Bears don’t really have any answers for their regressing run game. They’re left to just hope for the best, that hard work, repetition, attention to detail and all those other clichés will eventually pay off — like a shooter shooting his way out of a slump.

“Week in and week out, we’re trying to get better,” center Cody Whitehair said. “Obviously, we’re not where we want to be yet. But we’ll continue to get better. That starts each week in practice.”

And they almost literally have no answers. Asked what the line collectively has to do to get back to where it was earlier this season, left tackle Charles Leno said, “Execute -better.”

How do you do that? “Practice over and over again,” Leno said.

Before last week, the Bears could legitimately claim they hit the wall against teams (Colts, Buccaneers) with two of the better defensive fronts in the NFL. Before that, they were 11th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (138) and seventh in yards per carry (4.9) after playing the Lions, Giants and Falcons.

Then they still were stymied against the Panthers, who came into the game ranked 25th in rushing defense and 31st in yards -allowed per carry. The Bears had 25 carries for 63 yards (2.5 average).

So now what? All Lazor can do is promise that they’ll keep working at it.

“I don’t know any quick fixes for all this stuff we do,” Lazor said, “because the other team, their coaches are studying, too. Give them credit. Just be painstakingly thorough, trust the process, fight your way through it and buckle up because something else will be in a rut at some point as the season goes.

“It’s not a sexy answer, and it’s kind of a grueling process sometimes, but that’s what we’re doing.”

The Bears’ success in the first three games at least provides hope they can regain the groove that worked against lesser defensive fronts. The Bears had 36 carries for five yards or more against the Lions, Giants and Falcons. But they had only two over the next 10 quarters — through the first half against the Panthers.

The second half, though, provided a ray of hope for the running game. After David Montgomery gained only 10 yards on his first eight carries, he gained 48 on 11 carries in the last 20 minutes — including runs of five, 11, 12, nine and seven yards — as the Bears seemed to at least wear down the Panthers’ defensive front.

“I did feel progress,” Lazor said. “Sometimes you just gain momentum as you go. You feel better. I think we definitely felt some spurts there where we gained momentum, so that probably had to do with it.

“Will that momentum carry over? Big picture, yes. But we will be lining up against a whole new group of guys this week, so we are going to have to kind of start doing it again.”

The Bears face a Rams defense Monday night at SoFi Stadium that is tied for 11th in rushing defense and 18th in rushing yards per carry. That’s a formidable but hardly impossible challenge. The Bills rushed for 101 yards on 21 carries against the Rams in a 35-32 victory in Week 2, including 71 yards on 15 carries in building a 21-3 halftime lead.

Losing James Daniels to a season-ending torn pectoral muscle complicates the matter. Rashaad Coward, playing left guard for the first time after starting 10 games at right guard last year, was inconsistent at best against the Panthers. If he doesn’t improve, the Bears might have a hole they cannot fill.

“I think we underestimate live reps,” Lazor said. “I feel good about how it went. I feel really good about how he was on the sideline, the communication. I’ve learned not to underestimate going from one side to the other. Some guys do it, [but] if you don’t do it often, it takes a little bit. I feel great about his future.”

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