Bears’ David Montgomery on fateful pick: ‘I could have caught it’

The Bears running back had his most productive day since Week 2 — 121 total yards (67 yards and a touchdown rushing; 54 yards receiving). But he had nothing to celebrate after Justin Fields’ high throw went off his hands and was intercepted with 1:07 left.

SHARE Bears’ David Montgomery on fateful pick: ‘I could have caught it’
Bears running back David Montgomery (32) scores on a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Bears running back David Montgomery (32) scores on a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

John Bazemore/AP

Running back David Montgomery didn’t have anything to say about the Bears’ fateful final offensive play in their 27-24 loss to the Falcons on Sunday and didn’t add much Monday.

The too-high Justin Fields pass that Montgomery had to leap for went off his hands and was intercepted by Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins with 1:07 left.

“It was a ball; it hit my hands,” Montgomery said. “I could have come down and caught it. Didn’t catch it, and they intercepted it.”

That lament has been all too familiar for the Bears, who have lost four consecutive games — the last three by three, one and three points because of offensive failures in the fourth quarter — to fall to 3-8.

Every mistake seems to burn them in those late-game moments. On the play before the interception, Fields ran up the middle and was hit by defensive lineman Grady Jarrett after he slid — aggravating a shoulder injury that has put his status for Sunday’s game against the Jets in jeopardy.

“That was a mistake,” coach Matt Eberflus said Monday. “That was supposed to be a halfback draw. [Fields] was supposed to hand it off. That was supposed to be [Montgomery] going up the middle.”

Eberflus said it was a miscommunication between Fields and Montgomery. That happens, but winning teams make those mistakes in the first quarter, when there’s time to make up for it. The Bears aren’t there yet.

They think they’re close. The next six games could determine how close they are.

“I still feel the same as far as what we can be,” Montgomery said. “We’ve lost a lot of close games that we should have won, where it comes down to five, six, seven plays.”

The Bears have lost seven of their last eight games after a 2-1 start. Six of the eight losses are by eight points or fewer. The only decisive loss was 49-29 to the Cowboys on Oct. 30 at AT&T Stadium.

“Ultimately, we’ve got to do our part,” Montgomery said. “We can’t [have] mental errors; we’re not good enough to do that.”

Montgomery included himself in that assessment. With Khalil Herbert (hip) on injured reserve, Montgomery had his most productive game in eight weeks — 121 yards on 20 touches. He had 17 carries for 67 yards and three receptions for 54 yards.

It was the most total yards in a game since he had 136 on 17 touches against the Packers in Week 2 (15-122 rushing, 2-14 receiving). In seven games since then — with Herbert emerging as a more productive weapon — Montgomery was averaging 55 total yards per game until Sunday.

But he wasn’t celebrating. He wasn’t even in a good mood. Even on his best play of the day — a 32-yard catch down the right sideline on a perfect throw from Fields — he blamed himself for being lazy on the play-fake that helped force the improvisation.

“I kind of just fell asleep on the detail part of it,” Montgomery said.

That’s where the Bears are right now.

“I have to be better,” said Montgomery, who has 501 yards on 132 carries (3.8 average) with three touchdowns. “I gotta look myself in the mirror and be honest enough with myself and tell myself, ‘I need to improve, so I can be better for the guys around me.’ I still think we’ve got a bunch of potential as far as who we can be in the future.”

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