The Bears’ 20-19 victory over the Buccaneers was yet another game Matt Nagy failed to get any production out of his rushing attack. On the 13 total carries from David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Bears only managed 36 yards.
Coming into Thursday night’s matchup, the Buccaneers were ranked No. 2 in run defense, allowing just 58.4 yards per game. Nagy knew that, so to avoid repeatedly coming up with minimal to negative gains on the ground, the third-year head coach decided to use his backfield in the passing game.
Montgomery caught seven passes for 30 yards and had a career-high eight targets. Patterson was targeted three times and hauled in each pass for 38 total yards. Although the 68 yards on 11 targets between the two didn’t equate to an efficient outing, Montgomery and Patterson still made some of the biggest plays of the night.
On the Bears’ first touchdown drive midway through the second quarter, Nagy took advantage of Shaquil Barrett’s neutral zone infraction penalty on third-and-12 (which the Bears were fortunate to get since Germain Ifedi committed a false start on the play). Since the down and distance was more manageable, Nagy gave his offense a chance to get the first on third-and-7.
The Buccaneers rushed five and Bobby Massie was late to get out of his stance. Barrett ran by him and had a direct path to Nick Foles. Foles felt the pressure off his right side and dumped the ball off to Montgomery, who picked up 12 yards on the play.
Three plays later on the same drive, Patterson made his first big play of the game. With the Bears facing a first-and-10 from the Buccaneers’ 28-yard line, Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles brought five rushers again. Patterson ran a wheel route up the left sideline and got behind Jordan Whitehead, who looked to be blitzing before picking up a wide-open Patterson.
The 25-yard gain on first down put the Bears on the Buccaneers’ 3-yard line and in the red zone for the first time. Two plays later, Montgomery scored the Bears’ first rushing touchdown of the season.
Kyle Fuller’s forced fumble on the following possession put the Bears 27 yards from the Buccaneers’ end zone. After Allen Robinson’s 7-yard catch on first down and an incomplete pass to Jimmy Graham, the Bears faced a third-and-3.
To get the first, Nagy called the exact same play that he did for Patterson’s 25-yard gain, but this time it’s out 13 personnel instead of 12, and Foles hit Patterson in stride for an 8-yard gain. Jimmy Graham scored a touchdown on the next play, giving the Bears a 14-13 lead going into halftime.
Arguably the biggest reception of the night happened while the Bears were trailing 19-17 with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Before the play clock expired, Foles got the snap and threw a touch pass to Montgomery down the left sideline to convert on second-and-11. Montgomery’s critical reception helped put the Bears in a position to kick the game-winning field goal.
(Fox Sports analyst Emmanuel Acho gave an in-depth breakdown of how the play worked.)
Moving forward, the Bears’ backfield may have some more games where their impact is felt more through the air than on the ground.
In last Thursday’s win over the Buccaneers, starting left guard James Daniels tore his pectoral muscle and is most likely out for the year. Second-year guard Alex Bars should be the likely candidate to replace Daniels. The running game also took a hit in Week 3 against the Falcons, when the Bears lost running back Tarik Cohen for the season to a torn ACL.
The Bears did elevate RB Artavis Pierce to the active roster after Cohen was placed on IR, but the undrafted free agent’s role in Nagy’s offense will be minimal.
Nagy will have to get creative with how he uses his backfield for the rest of the season, but last Thursday night showcased Montgomery and Patterson can do far more than just run the ball, and that gives the Bears another option to attack opposing defenses.