The Bears offense put together its best performance on the ground this season against Arizona Sunday at Soldier Field – generating 250 yards on 39 carries – but just a week earlier, the unit finished with an uncharacteristic 88 yards rushing versus the Browns in Cleveland.
For a running game that has been consistently explosive over the last two seasons, that showing was only going to fuel a greater comeback.
"Last week we took it personally not being able to run the ball," running back Khalil Herbert said. "We came in this week, focused on the details and [were] able to capitalize."
Herbert alone accounted for more rushing yards than the Bears generated in total against the Browns, breaking out for a season-high 112 yards — the second-best output of his career — on 20 carries.
The third-year pro started stacking big games early in the season with 103 rushing yards Oct. 1 against Denver and 76 yards four days later in Washington, but an ankle injury sidelined him for the next five games. Since his return on Nov. 19, Herbert had yet to regain his prior form, totaling 75 yards in the last four contests.
While Herbert led the Bears offense in a 27-16 win Sunday, he credited his blockers as the reason for his success.
"Felt great," Herbert said. "Big boys did a great job up front today, opening up some holes, so I was able to capitalize."
Rookie right tackle Darnell Wright thought Herbert was seeing the field well, running through arm tackles and finding ways to make something out of nothing at times, adding: "It's definitely fun seeing him do his thing."
"Oh yeah, he be ballin','" Wright said. "When the opportunity comes, he definitely be ballin'. There's a lot that goes into a run play — offensive line, there's a quarterback selling it, a running back executing what he do and there's a wide receiver blocking. So there's a lot of things that go into just one play. But when he has an opportunity, he definitely balls, so it's fun."
On Friday when fielding questions about Herbert and the run game, coach Matt Eberflus told reporters the Bears had "some good plays in there for [Herbert] and the other guys to get the ball on the perimeter as well as inside."
Eberflus also noted that he had seen Herbert's burst during practice and was "excited to see it in the game." Following the win on Sunday, Eberflus was complimentary of Herbert's performance, specifically his 11-yard touchdown when he ran around the left edge instead of staying inside like the play was designed.
"It starts up front," Eberflus said. "I liked his tempo and the way he brought it to the game. Everything starts with passion. You've got to start with that. That's the No. 1 thing, and he did a really good job with that. I thought he got his pads down.
"One of the nicest runs that he had, it's just a play that's an inside type of play, and you're reading the Mike linebacker, and he did a really good job of capturing the edge on that touchdown run."
Quarterback Justin Fields also showcased his rushing abilities alongside Herbert, totaling 97 yards on nine attempts, including a season-long 39-yard carry. Fields also accounted for the Bears' first touchdown with a 3-yard scramble into the end zone.
Fields, whose 10.8 yards per carry marked his season-best, also credited the offensive line for creating not just holes, but "highways" against the Arizona defense for himself, Herbert and Roschon Johnson, who added 37 yards on nine carries.
"O-line did a great job blocking," Fields said. "Khalil, Roschon, they did a great job running the ball. Really credit to those guys for working hard and attacking, [practicing] each and every day like they do. Credit to those guys, hats off and hopefully we can keep this thing going."
Left tackle Braxton Jones, who watched Fields pick up 1,143 yards on the ground last season – the second most by a quarterback in NFL history – was not surprised by Fields' involvement in the ground game. Still, Jones was excited to see his quarterback break off a couple big runs.
"Justin does Justin," Jones said. "He's gonna extend plays for us, make it so the O-line isn't in bad positions, and if we do get in bad positions, he [makes] them better situations. It's just crazy to watch. I'm never surprised. I just watch it and try and do my job, try to get out of the way sometimes and let him run because that's what he does. He's an athlete and a playmaker."
The Bears' 250-yard performance marks the 12th game this season in which the unit has surpassed 100 rushing yards. With games against the Falcons and Packers remaining, the group is aiming to continue building on the momentum of their Christmas Eve win.
"We want to finish this thing out right, finish the season out right and get these wins," Herbert said. "Every phase did a great job today. Defense played good, offense played good, special teams played good. So just trying to play team football and come out with some dubs."