Bears notes: RB Khalil Herbert puts up strong numbers in starting debut

Plus, a look at Darnell Mooney’s rise, Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack playing through pain and a new concern in the return game.

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Herbert ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Without their top two running backs, the Bears were just fine against the Packers with rookie Khalil Herbert making his first start.

A sixth-rounder from Virginia Tech who began the season as a special-teamer, Herbert ran 19 times for 97 yards and a touchdown in the Bears’ 24-14 loss Sunday. In his two games in a full-time role, he has yet to be stopped for negative yardage.

“I really liked the way that he ran,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It was just like last week — when he makes the one cut and gets vertical. We need him right now.”

The Bears figure to be without starter David Montgomery for at least another two games, and Damien Williams is in question for next week against the Buccaneers.

Herbert also had what could’ve been a 16-yard touchdown run, but center Sam Mustipher was flagged for holding.

Nonetheless, he had three runs of 10 or more yards, including a 25-yarder in the first quarter.

“It’s just getting in there, getting the feel of the game,” Herbert said. “Being able to get the play speed is helping me slow things down.”

Mooney still Plan A

Since making the switch from Andy Dalton to Justin Fields at quarterback, it has become clear that wide receiver Darnell Mooney is Fields’ favorite target.

Mooney has gotten a team-high 24 targets in Fields’ four starts, including eight against the Packers. He caught five passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Mooney leads the Bears in targets (39), receptions (25) and yards (306) and is tied with Allen Robinson and tight end Jesper Horsted for the team lead with one touchdown catch.

Return man needed

When the Bears moved Herbert to offense, they traded for Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant to be their punt and kick returner. Grant has been impressive, but he suffered an ankle injury against Green Bay.

He took a hit to his legs on a return in the first half and came back briefly before the Bears sat him again. They sent out wide receiver Damiere Byrd to return a punt and used backup running back Artavis Pierce as their kick returner.

Injury roundup

Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Khalil Mack played a full load of snaps and each had a sack despite barely being able to practice during the week.

Hicks returned after missing most of the Lions game and all of the Raiders game because of a groin injury. After he sacked Aaron Rodgers at the end of the third quarter, he grabbed his groin muscle in obvious pain.

“I appreciate that grit and toughness,” Nagy said of Mack and Hicks. “Those positions they play at, it’s physical. It’s not easy. . . . These guys are warriors, and you understand that. It’s a battle down there in the trenches.”

Defensive back and special-teamer Deon Bush suffered a quadriceps injury during the game.

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