All the buoyancy and optimism that came from the Bears’ 24-14 win over the Lions on Sunday deflated a bit when running back David Montgomery exited early in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury.
The team had few details on how serious it was, but it was severe enough that Montgomery winced with pain as he laid on the grass for several minutes while the medical staff evaluated him. He needed help getting to the locker room.
NFL Network reported that initial tests indicated Montgomery hyperextended his knee and avoided a season-ending injury, but he will have an MRI exam Monday.
Coach Matt Nagy gave no specifics and said it would take a few days for the Bears to determine what their running back situation will be for the upcoming game against the Raiders.
That issue was further complicated when Montgomery’s backup, veteran Damien Williams, left with a quad injury with 2:41 remaining. That left rookie Khalil Herbert, a sixth-round pick who mostly serves as a kick returner, to finish the game by getting the first carries of his career as the Bears’ only healthy running back.
They also have Ryan Nall on the practice squad, and ex-Bear Artavis Pierce remains unsigned.
Williams ran eight times for 55 yards and caught two passes for 15. In 2019, his last full season, he had 711 yards of offense and seven touchdowns before starring in the Chiefs’ -Super Bowl win.
There’s never a convenient time for a team to lose its starting running back, but the injury derailed Montgomery when everything was clicking. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who called plays and likely will continue in that role, had him heading toward his career high in carries.
Montgomery had 106 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. He had five runs of nine yards or more and broke off a 24-yarder late in the third quarter.
The cohesion between Montgomery and Lazor was evident from the start as Lazor gave him the ball six times on the opening drive and Montgomery rewarded his confidence with 31 yards, including a nine-yard run on fourth-and-one and a four-yard touchdown.
“We had a great rhythm,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “The O-line set the tone with the run game, and of course David was running hard like he always does.”
If Montgomery is out for a significant amount of time, the Bears would lose not only that production but a player who has blossomed into a leader on offense.
“He always gives you an extreme lift,” wide receiver Darnell Mooney said. “He gives me a boost, for sure. Me and him feed off each other the whole game.
“When he got tackled, I saw his facial expression and I heard him and I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ Got down, prayed, and hopefully everything’s OK and we’ll get him back.”
In three seasons with the Bears, Montgomery has played 35 of a possible 36 games. Last season, he had 1,070 yards rushing and 438 receiving with a team-high 10 touchdowns. He leads the team with 309 yards and three touchdowns this season.