As the Bears focus their attention on the Philadelphia Eagles this week, they do so with Jordan Howard coming off his best game of the year - 21 carries, 109 yards and two touchdowns against a Minnesota Vikings defense that had only allowed one other running back to gain over 100 yards in a game all year.
Howard finished the season strong, with 399 yards on 88 carries (4.5 yards/carry) and four touchdowns over the Bears' final five games (in his first 11, Howard averaged 3.3 yards/carry and had five touchdowns). The Bears, schematically, figured some things out to jump-start Howard's season - but, on Sunday, also got a boost from the return of right guard Kyle Long.
So today's film review will look at Howard's 42-yard run against the Vikings, and Long's impact on the play, which was Howard's longest run of the year. It's the kind of play that worked against a good Vikings' defensive line, and very well could work against a similarly-good Eagles line led by game-wracking defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
As the ball is snapped, a hole quickly opens up with Long routing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to his outside shoulder and Bobby Massie stonewalling defensive end Danielle Hunter (orange circle). Trey Burton runs across the line of scrimmage (purple arrow), with linebacker Anthony Barr freezing and then moving to his right along with Burton's motion. That quickly opens up a big hole for Howard (blue arrow) to run toward.
Howard plants his left foot and takes off, with an off-balance Harris unable to get to him. By the time Howard hits the hole opened up by Long and Massie (orange arrows) it's absolutely massive.
Howard turns this into a 42-yard run with a shifty move on safety Harrison Smith, who gets completely turned around in the open field.
"It really did set the tone," Burton said. "You know they're going to come out with their best, speaking of Minnesota, and to be able to kind of put a dagger at the very beginning was huge for us."
Long said after Sunday's game that he felt fine after the 27 snaps he played, and coach Matt Nagy said Monday he was hopeful Long would be able to play a full game against the Eagles this weekend. Runs like this aren't possible solely because of Long's return, but they're certainly aided by his presence.
"Jordan had some big runs to his side," left tackle Charles Leno said. "But he's getting back in the feel of things. Practice is different compared to the game and it was good that he got out here and got some reps."
For Long, getting those snaps was important to get his feet under him with an eye on the playoffs. And Long made an immediate impact on the game, the kind that can carry over when Cox and that brawling Eagles' line come to Soldier Field on Sunday.
"I felt good physically," Long said. "It has been a long time since I have had game reps. I wouldn't say it's like riding a bike, but it's somewhere near that. Probably more like riding a skateboard, some balancing and stuff like that involved. Felt good, foot feels good and I knew I was going to be on a pitch count, so I just tried to make the most of my opportunities in there and to help the team."