David Montgomery: I ‘gotta keep trusting it’ despite run-game troubles
It will be hard for Sunday’s game — or its plan — to be more of a debacle than it was last year, when head coach Matt Nagy called a franchise-low seven rushing plays in a season-defining home loss.
The last time the Bears played the Saints, David Montgomery ran the ball only two times.
“Last year, you know, things just didn’t go as planned for us,” he said Thursday. “So this year, we’ll have a better plan — just going out, playing hard and having fun.”
The Bears and their plan probably can’t be worse than they were last year against the Saints, when coach Matt Nagy called a franchise-low seven rushing plays in a season-defining loss at home.
“I know we need to run the ball more,” Nagy said the next day. “I’m not an idiot.”
This season, the Bears still can’t run the ball. Nagy’s play-calling remains suspect. And the verdict is still out on Montgomery, the versatile second-year running back who has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in a game only twice.
Although Montgomery is blos-soming as a pass catcher while Tarik Cohen is hurt — he has 25 catches for 184 yards after totaling 25 catches for 185 yards all last season — the Bears’ running game is going south. Montgomery averaged five yards per carry over the first two games this season. Coinciding with quarterback Nick Foles replacing Mitch Trubisky, he’s averaging 3.1 yards per carry since.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Montgomery said. “But we’re not far off, though.”
Just as Nagy and Foles have all year, Montgomery painted the Bears’ rushing offense as heading for a breakthrough, even though the already porous offensive line could play Sunday without starting center Cody Whitehair, who missed his second straight practice Thursday with a calf problem.
“It’s this close,” Montgomery said, holding his fingers an inch apart. “It’s always just that little piece — and this close. You’ve just got to keep trusting it, keep going to work every day and understanding that it’s going to pop, something’s going to happen. We’ve just got to keep fighting. That’s all you can do.”
He said he needs trust — in the play, in his path and in where the hole will be.
“A lot of times I find myself . . . going outside of the play trying to make stuff happen, when sometimes it’s best not to do,” he said
Nagy, who believes in Montgomery, must be concerned about the potential for the Bears’ ugly running game to encourage, if not
ingrain, bad habits.
“I think where I can really improve is . . . just trusting it, instead of trying to do stuff on my own,” Montgomery said. “And just trusting the guys in front of me and that the play-call is going to be there and where my pads are going to be is going to hit.”
It’s impossible to separate Montgomery’s rushing performance this season from the blockers in front of him. As evidence, his fellow running backs haven’t done much better. Before tearing his knee in Week 3, Cohen averaged 5.3 yards per carry — roughly what Montgomery did to start the season.
The Cordarrelle Patterson experiment at running back isn’t working. In the last four games, he has run 10 times for 14 yards. On the season, he’s averaging 2.8 yards per carry. The Bears could promote former Pro Bowl running back Lamar Miller from the practice squad, but he would be just a situational runner.
That leaves Montgomery as the Bears’ workhorse.
“There isn’t anything you could ask him to do that he wouldn’t be ready to do,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “He doesn’t say much, and he gets it done. I would say it’s an unbelievable amount of trust that we have in him.”
Now Montgomery needs to have that trust in each play — even when his blockers and play-callers give him reasons not to.
“Really, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Montgomery said. “Just going back and re-evaluating myself, so I can clean up me first.”