Ellis: Who even needs to throw it when you can pound the rock like the Bears are?


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- If you went out into Chicago on Monday and asked Bears fans about the team's game Sunday, the optimists you’d find – they did win, after all – might say that the team doesn’t actually need Justin Fields to throw 30 passes. It’d certainly be nice to see him drop back three dozen times, but the two interceptions that Fields threw in the 23-20 win over the Texans were some of the clearest indicators so far that he’s not quite there yet. And somehow, amidst a growing quarterback crisis that no one seems fully prepared for, the Bears will exit September with a winning record. Having what looks like one of the best running attacks in football will do that.

“We put in the work all week,” said right tackle Larry Borom, who earned himself a standing ovation from Offensive Lineman Twitter on the Bears’ first touchdown of the game. “I feel like it’s our will versus theirs. We know who we’ve got in our room and the type of work we put in to be able to run the ball like that. It’s really our will versus theirs.”

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For all the unknowns surrounding the Bears' offensive identity through the first month of the season, run-blocking isn’t one of them. There are plenty of question marks about their pass protection – something Borom openly admitted after the line allowed five sacks Sunday – but their approach and attitude on the ground can’t be questioned or even criticized right now. Through their first three games, the Bears have 560 rushing yards. At the end of the early afternoon games Sunday, the Bears ranked second in the NFL with 186.7 rushing yards per game. Their run block win rate, which had been sitting as 16th-best, is probably primed to enter the top 10 after Chicago averaged 7.0 yards per carry during its 40-rush, 281-yard afternoon against Houston.

“It’s mostly from what the defense is going to give us,” guard Teven Jenkins said. “Basically, as you see, as we kept on running it over and over and got successful, you’re just going to keep wearing them out. And as the offensive coordinator, I feel like it’s good to have that in your back pocket. If that’s the hot hand, let’s keep on feeding it.”

Even on a Bears offensive line that’s still rotating players in and out on a series-by-series basis, you can feel an identity and confidence with the running game that’s growing by the week. Their goal this week was to come out of the gate hot, and like right guard Lucas Patrick quipped, it was obviously working “when we had 100 yards in the first quarter.” The line’s ground success has a lot to do with the type of practice that coach Matt Eberflus runs – after the game, multiple linemen talked about how well Eberflus’ messages are working.

“You’re going to have bad plays," Patrick said. "They’re going to make plays – it’s the NFL. It’s just – coach Flus has been harping on this – the cycle of the snap. Play the play. Learn from it. Take your corrections, flush it, hit your assignment for the next play. I think that holistic approach on how he’s coaching us to play is really helping. Because you can take information – good, bad or indifferent – use it for the next play and just keep going, keep going, keep going.”

It’s a mantra that became especially evident Sunday, when starting running back David Montgomery got hurt in the first quarter. After Montgomery went into the locker room with what the team called a right knee/ankle injury, Khalil Herbert took over the game, both literally and narratively. Looking at his stat line, (20 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns), it’s hard to imagine that he’s not even the first running back on the depth chart.

“I’d probably say that’s the most consistent room on our football team, on the offensive side,” Patrick said. “Every day in practice, in walk-through, in lift, every day when we get there, they bring it every day. When you’ve got two guys like that, it’s pretty awesome.”

Of course, it won’t always come this easy – and if it does, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will be getting introduced somewhere as a head coach the day after this Bears season ends. But all things considered, having one of the elite rushing offenses in football through the first month is a pretty pleasant surprise. There’s plenty of time to talk about the passing offense later.

“They say that pass pro doesn’t have to be passive, but as a run-blocker, you get to be the aggressor,” Jenkins said. “You can dictate and control how you want to do it.

“Run blocking is so much more fun.”

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.

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