It’s just one game, but there’s something about a good first impression that gives me hope for the year to come.
The Bears offensive line played well in the team’s 27-23 win against the Lions. Let that sink in for a moment. A much-maligned group that returned all but one starter and graded out as one of the worst in the league in 2019 opened 2020 on a high note. At minimum, the unit’s collective efforts represent a 180-degree turnaround compared to last year’s debut. So let’s talk about it.
Evaluating offensive line play is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to writing about football. However, advanced analytics lend a helping hand in our efforts. And I must say this appears encouraging:
On a team-wide basis, Chicago Bears ball carriers were expected to gain 5.3 yards, the highest of any team so far in Week 1, and about 2x that of the WSH Football Team.
New England (2nd highest avg) called two handoffs with expected yardage totals of 14 yards or higher pic.twitter.com/Vy2oENirVM
— Michael Lopez (@StatsbyLopez) September 14, 2020
By this metric, Chicago’s offensive line was absolutely thrashing Detroit’s defenders at the point of attack. In turn, the Bears’ running game took off.
David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Cordarrelle Patterson combined to gain 124 yards on 24 carries. That comes out to 5.2 yards per carry for Chicago’s three-headed rushing attack. Montgomery (13 carries, 64 yards) led the way, which is impressive considering he was just 17 days removed from what looked like a serious groin injury. If this guy heals like Wolverine and runs like the dickens, the Bears will have a real winner on their hand. And let’s not over look the contributions from Cohen (7-41) or Patterson (4-19), who were sprinkled in here and there, contributed everywhere, and did so in a way that wasn’t predictable.
The most important development from all this might have been that Matt Nagy remained committed to the run. That might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Because to forge through with a working game plan while facing a double-digit deficit takes some stones. Kudos to Nagy for his commitment to excellence in the running game. It paid off.
And to think, none of this would have been possible without the offensive line’s contributions.
Newcomer Germain Ifedi looked good in his return to the right guard spot. Speaking of returning to old positions, the Cody Whitehair-James Daniels re-swap continues to to look like it was the right decision. Whitehair held it down as we have come to expect. And the lack of any notable errant snaps is comforting. Meanwhile, Daniels continued to look at home playing left guard. Tackles Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie played OK, too. Leno gave up a bad sack, but came up with the fumble recovery when Mitchell Trubisky lost his bearings in a scramble drill. Ultimately, when the line gives up just one sack and only four QB Hits, you’ll take it.