After the Bears coughed up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Lions, I hoped to see tangible growth from young Bears who figured to be on the roster next year. And while the most pleasant surprise has been that the team has evolved into one that holds its playoff destiny in its own hands, at the heard of the offense’s revival is running back David Montgomery.
Ahem! That’s 1,000-yard RB David Montgomery to you.
Montgomery became the Bears’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Jordan Howard ran for 1,122 yards in 2017. That’s neat. But what’s most impressive is how he’s done it. Because getting there is one thing. However, the ride has been fun to this point.
It starts with a combination of determination and skill. When given carries, Montgomery runs with patience and vision that allows him to find running lanes, as well as power that makes him tough to tackle:
David Montgomery powers in for his second TD of the game! #DaBears
— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2020
We got ourselves a ball game!
David Montgomery finds the end zone and cuts the Bucs lead to 6.#DaBears
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) October 9, 2020
David Montgomery RB1 szn never ends pic.twitter.com/Ra6l0bfO3p
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 27, 2020
This is of no surprise to anyone who saw Montgomery in college or studied his Iowa State game tape. Montgomery broke all sorts of broken tackle records in college, per PFF’s data. And we’re starting to see that translate to the pro level. Gosh, I love when a scouting report gets it right.
One thing that wasn’t ever really in Montgomery’s bag is straight-line speed. This season hasn’t been loaded with breakaway runs, but Montgomery has shown that he can burn in space:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 30, 2020
David Montgomery TOOK OFF 🔥
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 13, 2020
Speed wins in the NFL. And while Montgomery doesn’t have top-end speed, there’s enough juice for him to make chunk plays happen.
In addition to Montgomery’s rushing prowess, it turns out he is also getting it done as a pass-catcher:
Mitchell Trubisky and David Montgomery make a little magic!
— USA TODAY NFL (@usatodaynfl) September 20, 2020
In the end, this is what a running back should look like in this offense. A versatile player who can be a threat as a rusher or receiver on any given play out of any formation. Someone who shows juice with some straight-line speed, can shake a defender in the open field, and break a tackle to squeeze out a few yards. And someone you can run an offense through when the temperatures drop.
Green Bay allows 4.6 yards per carry, which is tied for the ninth highest average in the league. So if the Bears are to beat the Packers, I reckon they’ll need to feed Montgomery early and often. Showcase him on outside zones. Get an improved offensive line moving downhill and attacking defenders with blocks. Let those guys build up a lather, then build off that with max-protect play-action shots. Don’t force anything. But instead, take what the defense is giving. But make no mistake. Ensure that it starts with Montgomery getting a high volume of touches.