LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jordan Howard found no room to run and Tarik Cohen was more of an invisible man than a flashy playmaker for the Chicago Bears.
The inability to get the run game going was a huge factor in last week’s disappointing loss to Green Bay. And it’s something the Bears hope to correct when they host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
“I think it’s executing better,” coach John Fox said Wednesday. “You know, I think it was apparent that we struggled a little bit in that area. We’ve been that way in a couple games, been a little bit more successful in some than others. You know hopefully we get back more whole this week and see where that takes us.”
The Bears (3-6) stumbled badly in a 23-16 loss to the Packers after showing signs that they might be poised for a turnaround. They won two of three and stayed with the NFC South-leading Saints in a loss at New Orleans prior to their bye.
Chicago could have made a big statement by beating Green Bay even though the Packers were missing the injured Aaron Rodgers. Instead, the Bears delivered a big dud.
The inability to get the ground game going and sustain drives played a key role in that.
Sixth in the NFL in rushing entering last week’s game, the Bears managed just 55 yards on 17 carries. The little they got on the ground came from Howard. And with 54 yards on 15 attempts, it’s not as if the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher did a whole lot.
Cohen carried one time for a yard and was also a non-factor in the passing game. Tops on the team with 29 receptions, he had just one 10-yard catch and was targeted twice. Then again, he was in on just 13 of the Bears’ 60 offensive plays.
“It’s hard not to get impatient and say, ‘Hey, look we gotta get him on the field more,'” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We’ve got to find different ways to get him the ball.'”
So why didn’t they?
Loggains said Cohen needs to improve as a pass-blocker so he can be in on third downs and in the two-minute drill. He also needs to develop a better understanding of opposing defenses and how to run routes.
Sometimes, the matchups just aren’t favorable.
“We might not feel great about Tarik in protection vs. Clay Matthews,” Loggains said. “Or there may be a certain blitz they run. This game is about matchups for us as well as them and that is the first thing we look at when we decide who is going to be in the game.”
The Bears also need to lean on Howard in order to maximize his production. But if they’re not moving the chains and keeping drives going, that also limits opportunities for Cohen.
Chicago had 14 first downs last week compared to 18 for Green Bay. And the Packers had nearly an eight-minute advantage in time of possession — 33:53-26:07.
A healthier right guard Kyle Long would boost the offensive line and help create room for the running backs. But the three-time Pro Bowl lineman has been dealing with a finger injury in recent weeks to go with the left shoulder and right ankle problems that go back to last season.
He hurt his finger at New Orleans and left that game. Long was then held out of the lineup against Green Bay.
Though he was in on one special teams play in the Packers game, the Bears are hoping what basically amounts to two weeks off will allow him to heal in time to face Detroit. They had center Cody Whitehair starting at right guard against the Packers and Hroniss Grasu playing center.
“I think there’s a few things going on,” Long said. “But if you ask everybody in this locker room, everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. You’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”