Chicago Bears must find more running room for David Montgomery

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery is stopped during the first half  against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Chicago.

David Montgomery was one of the first players to leave the locker room Sunday after the Bears’ 19-10 season-opening victory over San Francisco at Soldier Field.

Instead of sticking around for postgame interviews, the running back strolled right through a gaggle of media members ... and just kept going.

Tough to blame him. He saw more daylight with that little maneuver than on almost any of his 17 carries against a stout 49ers front. Montgomery’s first 12 attempts went for 3 yards or less, and he finished with just 26 yards on the day.

Backup RB Khalil Herbert, meanwhile, picked up 45 yards on nine rushes, including a 3-yard TD run that capped the scoring.

This is not to suggest the Bears have a full-blown running back controversy.

Because they don’t.

It is to suggest, however, that the offensive line must improve its run blocking and/or offensive coordinator Luke Getsy must improve his play calling.

Some may blame the weather for the poor rushing numbers, but we all saw the Niners rack up 115 yards on 18 carries in the first half. They picked up large chunks on sweeps, off tackle runs and runs up the middle.

So it wasn’t the conditions that held the Bears back.

“I think we were just trying to find a rhythm,” said quarterback Justin Fields. “The offense ... was dealing with long fields. ... When you’re backed up like that, you just can’t use the whole playbook.”

Fields has a point as the Bears’ first-half possessions began at their own 23, 12, 8, 6, 25 and 24.

Still, what was Getsy thinking by putting Fields in the shotgun with no running back on the game’s first play? Remember, it’s raining and the field is soaked. Even if this is the play you wanted to begin the season with you’ve got to adjust to the conditions.

Fields tried to hit Montgomery, but the errant pass was deflected and could have been intercepted and returned for a touchdown if the ball bounces a bit differently.

After a 3-yard Montgomery run, Fields was almost immediately swallowed up and sacked for a 10-yard loss on third-and-7.

The next series showed promise after a screen pass to Montgomery picked up 16 yards on third-and-6. But three plays later Fields didn’t see a wide open Cole Kmet in the flat and instead threw an interception while trying to squeeze a pass into Darnell Mooney.

Fields said he needs to learn from that moment.

“I just have to not force anything down the field,” he said. “Just take the check down and maybe he catches the ball before the (first-down) sticks and breaks a tackle and gets the first down. So I just have to be smarter ... and just take the odds.”

Let’s not put all the blame on Fields, though. He was under intense pressure on most pass attempts, and it’s difficult to scan the field effectively when you can’t trust the protection in front of you.

The O-line figures to be a work in progress all season. Eberflus went with rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Teven Jenkins and Lucas Patrick at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle. (Jenkins and Patrick rotated).

“Overall there’s gonna be some things to clean up,” Jenkins said. “Even myself, I have some things I need to clean up -- (like) come up on (line)backers faster. Backers were flying around fast today just because they had Fred Warner and everybody else that’s a big name over there.

“But overall I thought the O-line did good.”

Yet, they know they can be much better and they just might be against the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 2. Green Bay allowed 126 rushing yards on 28 attempts (4.5 average) to Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in a 23-7 loss to the Vikings on Sunday.

“At the end of the day,” Whitehair said, “we’ve got to protect Justin better and open some bigger holes for our running backs.”