It's been a long time coming, but the Bears are finally showing signs of improvement on offense after struggling for most of the season.
In what was their best performance of the year in last Sunday's 34-30 loss to the Lions, they tied season highs with 30 points and 26 first downs and compiled their second most total yards (389) and rushing yards (140).
"It's growth for us," coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday. "And I know as frustrating and difficult as this season has been offensively, we felt like that game … it felt like there was an identity, and when you have that, it just builds a little bit of momentum."
The Bears scored on their first three possessions for the first time this year, generated three touchdowns and a field goal on five first-half drives and rushed for three TDs in the first half for the first time since 1990. In addition, Mitchell Trubisky's 108.3 passer rating was the highest by a Bears quarterback in any game this season.
"It feels good," Trubisky said. "I feel like we're making progress as an offense. I feel that it's just a little reassurance that we're getting better in practice, we're doing our jobs and you're seeing the hard work in practice translate to the game a little more. The execution is coming to life and we're able to make plays and move the ball and score some more points. So I think it's just another step in the right direction.
"We have to keep doing that. And we have to continue to stay hungry because we're not getting the outcomes we want. But I think if you continue to trust the process like we are, we'll continue to see progress."
In the first half, the Bears amassed 253 yards and 17 first downs in taking a 23-13 halftime lead.
"We had some explosive runs early on in the game and then some good play-actions and movements that just kept the defense off balance," Trubisky said. "And when those plays are hitting, you don't have to go to third down where they pretty much know it's going to be a known passing situation. I think that just allows us to keep them off balance and just continue to go through plays that we like in our first 15 and plays that we scripted and plays that we worked on all week.
"Really it was just 11 guys playing as one early on in the game. We were playing smart football, not making many mistakes, and we just need to duplicate that in the second half and play four full quarters to really see where we can get to as an offense."
Nagy feels that the resurgence actually began two weeks ago in Green Bay. Even though the Bears fell behind 41-10 through three quarters in an eventual 41-25 loss to the Packers, the offense showed signs of life in the first half. David Montgomery broke loose for a career-long 57-yard run and Trubisky engineered a 14-play, 87-yard drive that picked up nine first downs and was capped by a 1-yard TD pass to Allen Robinson II.
Since their bye week, the Bears have scored seven offensive touchdowns in two games after mustering only four in their previous four contests. They've also rushed for 122 yards against the Packers and 140 yards versus the Lions after failing to top the century mark in seven straight games.
Beginning with the Packers game, the Bears reinstalled Trubisky as their starting quarterback and welcomed back Montgomery after he missed one game with a concussion. They also reconfigured their offensive line, moving veterans Cody Whitehair from center to left guard and Germain Ifedi from right guard to right tackle and inserting young Notre Dame products Sam Mustipher at center and Alex Bars at right guard.
"The way they came off the football [against the Lions] with that attitude and effort, moving guys, playing confident, playing together and creating holes for those backs, I think you'll continue to see more really good runs out of our offense," Trubisky said. "It does make my job a lot easier when we're moving the ball on first and second down. You're in third-and-manageable or avoiding third down altogether. That's where you can really create rhythm in the offense."
“It felt like there was an identity, and when you have that, it just builds a little bit of momentum.” Bears coach Matt Nagy
The Bears are hoping some of the continuity they've developed on offense the past couple weeks will enable them to take another step Sunday when they host the Texans at Soldier Field.
"There's some confidence right now on that side of the ball that maybe wasn't there as much before," Nagy said. "So we want to keep that. We want to keep that going. I want to credit the guys for the tempo of each and every practice—because you start getting tired right now at this point in time and they're not doing that. They're leading each other, and we've got to just keep taking that to the field."