On the strength of a 23-rush, 147-yard game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Jordan Howard did something no other Chicago Bears running back has ever done.
Howard broke through the 1,000-yard rushing barrier with his Week 14 performance, becoming the first Bears running back in franchise history to run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Gale Sayers didn’t do it. Walter Payton didn’t do it. Howard did it. And he’s certainly blossomed into one of GM Ryan Pace’s best draft picks.
And interestingly, the second-year rusher has done significant damage against the AFC North, in particular. With three games in the books against the hard-hitting division’s three best teams, Howard has scored four touchdowns, picked up 82 carries, and gained 454 yards.
To put those numbers in perspective, Howard would put up 2,421 yards on 437 carries if he played to his averages against AFC North teams over the course of a 16-game season.
So if you want to crown him King of the AFC North, then crown him:
While it was easy to be enamored with Mitch Trubisky’s performance (you should be, he was that good), Howard’s excellence makes the offense go and makes it easier for Trubisky to operate. The game plan to spread the offense, have Howard attack north-and-south as a rusher, and play to Trubisky’s strengths via play action with bootleg throws led to nearly 500 yards of total offense and the team’s first 30-point game since 2015. If the Bears offense is to reach new heights in years to come, this formula will be used early and often.
Howard’s numbers are down a bit compared to his rookie season. He is averaging fewer yards per carry and per game, but has scored more touchdowns and is getting more carries per game. And yet, Howard is on pace for a 1,270-yard rushing campaign and is just three rushing scores away from securing his first double-digit touchdown season.
Howard has established himself as one of the league’s best backs in just two seasons. Sure, there are things he could work on (his pass catching for starters) but the arrow is pointing in the right direction for him – and the offense – after Sunday’s win.