Bears position coaches spoke to the media Monday at Halas Hall. Here are five things we learned from those sessions:
(1) Rookie running back Khalil Herbert has made the most of his chance to play due to his professionalism and love for the game.
In four contests since starter David Montgomery was injured, Herbert has taken the ball and ran with it, literally and figuratively, rushing for 344 yards on 78 carries. Only three NFL backs have gained more yards during that span: the Titans' Derrick Henry (427), the Colts' Jonathan Taylor (375) and the Patriots' Damien Harris (345).
"He's taken advantage of the opportunity," said running backs coach Michael Pitre. "He prepares like a pro. He's not afraid to ask questions. And most importantly, he's having fun playing football. I think all those things combined and just how he works, it's created a great opportunity for him to step in and help this football team."
In the last four games with Herbert as the Bears' primary ballcarrier, the rushing attack has generated 143, 140, 143 and 176 yards.
"He's just a guy who has natural vision, but it's all set up with the other 10 guys on the field doing their jobs, which allows him to go do his job," Pitre said. "He has a very good feel for our scheme—what we do—and the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, all those guys are doing a great job blocking their tails off."
(2) Rookie right tackle Larry Borom's tireless work ethic enabled him to start Sunday against the 49ers after being sidelined for six weeks with an ankle injury.
The fifth-round pick from Missouri returned to practice last Wednesday for the first time since getting hurt in the season opener versus the Rams. Four days later he made his first NFL start.
"The important thing with Larry," said offensive line coach Juan Castillo, "was he was at all our meetings and what he did is when he was able to walk and do things, he started working on his technique and his sets, even though he couldn't go full speed, just simulating that so when he came back, he wouldn't be that far behind."
The extra work that Borom put in paid major dividends.
"Larry was at home walking through his technique, slow jogging through his technique, over and over," Castillo said. "Sometimes he would send me videos of him doing that so that I could see that he was working on his technique.
"To me, that's what's special, and I felt like he wasn't that far behind because of all the work that he had been doing. The trainers did a great job with him, and he did a great job when he was out, just staying in shape and staying with the technique. Technique is about consistency; it's about doing it over and over and over. What he was doing was doing it over and over and over, just at a slower speed. I think that really played a big part in him coming back."
Kmet caught three passes for 24 yards and now has eight receptions for 67 yards in his last two games, while James caught three passes for 38 yards, including a diving 8-yard touchdown from Justin Fields against the 49ers.
"It's been something that we try to do in every game plan," Barone said. "Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. It seems like the last couple of weeks it's been kind of working out more times than not. It's always good to get those kind of plays going. Having big guys that run real hard with the ball in their hands is always going to be something that the NFL needs to have."
Barone hopes that the tight ends will continue to be featured in the passing game.
"Jesse got involved on some over routes and corner routes, things of that nature," Barone said. "Cole's route running is so much better than it was last year. It's much better now than it was in August. That's true, I think, for all young players. Nothing really takes the place of time on task and doing it live versus other top opponents. Those are things I think we can certainly build on as a group and as an offense."
(4) Defensive line coach Chris Rumph is pleased with how nose tackle Eddie Goldman is progressing in his return to the Bears after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Goldman showed Sunday why he's considered one of the NFL's top run-stuffers when he held running back James Hasty to a one-yard gain on third-and-2 on the 49ers' first possession of the game.
"One of the bright spots about that game, I thought he's starting to get his legs under him a little bit now," Rumph said. "You see him playing with his hands, playing with some good pad level."
(5) Defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend knows that the defense must improve from Sunday's outing as they prepare to play his former team, the Steelers, next Monday night.
In Sunday's 33-22 loss, the Bears defense allowed a season-high 467 yards while failing to record a sack or forcing a 49ers punt or turnover.
"That's not our standard at all," said Townsend, who played defensive back for the Steelers from 1998-2009. "One thing I talked to the guys about yesterday was, it's one of those days where you've got to look in the mirror. And when you come back in here on Tuesday, Wednesday, you've got to be ready to step back on the field because Pittsburgh doesn't care. They don't care about what we did in this game. It's their job to go out there and try to beat us, and we better be prepared to beat Pittsburgh.
"That's how we better prepare when we step back in here and realize what we did in that game wasn't good enough. If you can look at that, accept it for what it is and make sure we're ready to go to work on Wednesday, that won't happen twice. That's how we have to approach it."