David Montgomery's breakout ignites Bears' late-season surge

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears tailback David Montgomery used one simple word to explain the run game’s current about-face.

“Trust,” Montgomery said after he rushed for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 33-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

“Me trusting in them, them trusting in me. And the guys around us, the wide receivers, them trusting me, me trusting in them. That's what it all falls down on is just trust. Trusting each other from the first snap to the last snap. That's merely what it is.”

The 23-year-old is on a torrid streak with 434 rushing yards on 71 carries (6.1 yards per attempt) and five rushing touchdowns over the past four weeks.

Montgomery is the primary reason the Bears have experienced a surprising resurgence on offense after the team spent most of the year ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of offensive efficiency. The entire team has fed off Montgomery, including quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has enjoyed a mini career renaissance since he reentered the lineup on Nov. 29.

“David's a great running back,” Trubisky said. “He runs with such great passion and will when he has the ball in his hands. He and I both know it all starts up front with this offensive line. The way they are playing together, coming off the line and creating those seams for him to run through ... you get David in the open field, he's a special back. He's going to make guys miss. Guys are going to bounce off him. He runs harder than anyone I've seen in person. It's special when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Bears coach Matt Nagy -- the team’s primary playcaller until offensive coordinator Bill Lazor assumed those duties over a month ago -- believes Montgomery’s toughness on game day stems from the maximum effort Montgomery exudes each day at practice.

“You guys need to see the way that he practices every day,” Nagy said. “He just finishes every run down near the goal line and comes on back for the next play. And he cares so much. The big offensive line are blocking their tails off for him, and we’re in sync there. The tight ends, getting in there and blocking, the wide receivers, sticking their nose in and blocking. It’s an unselfish offense right now, which I like.”

Montgomery acts as the equilibrium. Ideally, the Bears want to play complementary football, but that concept became moot when they abandoned the run and ignored Montgomery during their six-game losing streak. When the focus turns to feeding Montgomery the football, the entire operation becomes balanced and efficient, particularly at quarterback, as Trubisky uses play-action and misdirection to move outside the pocket.

Against Minnesota, the Bears picked up 23 first downs, converted 50% on third down, and had 397 total net yards and 158 rushing yards.

When the Bears faced the Vikings in Week 10 -- Montgomery was inactive that night -- the offense accounted for just 10 first downs, 149 total net yards and 41 rushing yards and went 2-of-11 on third down.

“You get down in games like this, you have to be able to run the football,” Nagy said. “You have to be able to keep them off balance with play-actions. When you’re in the dropback game, whether you’re in third down or first or second, you’ve got to be efficient in pass protection. I don’t know what our average was on first or second down running the ball, but it felt pretty good. And when you’re able to get chunks on first or second, against this defense [the Vikings] on third down; these guys are unbelievable on third down.

“One of the things we said all week long was, ‘If we win third down, we will have a great chance of winning this game.’ It looks like we were 6-for-12 on third down against this defense, and I’ll take that every day of the week.”