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Bears notebook: Khalil Herbert returns from hit to head, but RB depth is thin

Herbert took a knee to the head and was down for a few minutes before heading to the locker room. Damien Williams hurt his knee and was out for the game. Plus, a look at the pass-rush slump, third-down success and Allen Robinson’s quiet season.

Khalil Herbert had 20 carries for 68 yards before the injury.
Khalil Herbert had 20 carries for 68 yards before the injury.
David Banks/AP

The Bears had better hope they have more untapped talent at running back because their depth chart is running thin again.

Already without starter David Montgomery on Sunday because of a knee injury, the Bears lost Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert during their 33-22 loss to the 49ers. Herbert was cleared to return after taking a knee to the head, but Williams was out for the game with a knee injury.

For a spell before Herbert came back, Ryan Nall was the only available running back.

Herbert had 72 yards on 23 carries and has averaged 86 yards per game while Montgomery has been out.

“I’m feeling good, a little sore,” Herbert said. “Tough loss, tough loss, but we’ve just gotta regroup.”

Montgomery went on injured reserve in Week 5 with a sprained left knee and is eligible to return to practice anytime. If he doesn’t play against the Steelers next week, he would have an extra week to recover before the Bears’ next game against the Ravens on Nov. 21.

The Bears also have Artavis Pierce and Chris Thompson on the practice squad. Tarik Cohen has been on the physically unable-to-perform list all season, and the team has given no timetable for his return.

Pass-rush slump

This was the second consecutive game without a sack for the Bears. They hadn’t been shut out in two straight games since 2017.

The upside is they didn’t put star outside linebacker Khalil Mack on injured reserve Saturday, which had been under consideration. Mack has been playing through a sprained left foot since the Week 3 game against the Browns and has barely practiced.

If the Bears had opted for IR, Mack would’ve been out until at least the Thanksgiving game against the Lions.

Without him, the Bears relied on Robert Quinn to lead the pass rush. But the key to the defense leading the NFL in sacks through the first seven games was that offenses were forced to deal with Mack and Quinn simultaneously, unlike the last few seasons when Mack faced constant double- and triple-teams.

Robinson quiet again

Allen Robinson, the Bears’ top wide receiver the last three seasons, was targeted four times and had three catches for 21 yards.

With 26 catches for 271 yards and a touchdown, he is on pace for his worst statistical season since his rookie year.

Robinson was targeted 11 times in the season opener but has averaged 4.7 passes per game since. The Bears targeted him 8.9 times per game from 2018 through ’20.

Second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney leads the Bears with 53 targets, 33 catches and 409 yards. Robinson is second with 44 targets.

Third-down success

The Bears had their best third-down performance of the season, converting 8 of 15 and cleaning up one failed attempt with Justin Fields’ 22-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one with 9:32 left. They were near the bottom of the NFL with a 31% success rate through seven games.

It was only the sixth time under coach Matt Nagy that they converted more than half of the third downs.