Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
I thought Pat O’Donnell did a good job with kickoffs on Monday and I was wondering, when was the last time a Bears punter handled kickoffs? Also, has any Bears punter ever successfully kicked a field goal?
The last time a Bears punter also handled kickoff duties was on Dec. 3, 2017 in a game against the 49ers at Soldier Field when Pat O'Donnell filled in for kicker Cairo Santos, who injured his groin during pregame warmups. Santos was able to kick extra points and short field goals. He made both extra points he attempted in a 15-14 loss, but the Bears were never in position to try a field goal. Had they had an opportunity to kick a long field goal, they would have had O’Donnell attempt it.
I researched your second question and discovered that the last time a Bears punter made a field goal in a regular-season game was Oct. 22, 1961 in a 31-0 win, coincidentally, also against the 49ers at Wrigley Field. After kicker Roger Leclerc suffered a back injury that sent him to Illinois Masonic Hospital, punter Ed Brown—also the Bears’ backup quarterback behind Bill Wade—made 1-of-2 field-goal tries, connecting from 29 yards, and the only extra-point he attempted.
Great performance by Taylor Gabriel against the Redskins, especially the catch he made on his third touchdown. How many Bears players have scored three TDs in one quarter? I’m guessing it can’t be a very long list.
It’s a very short list. On Monday night, Taylor Gabriel became the fourth player in Bears history to score three touchdowns in one quarter of play. The others are Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers Oct. 17, 1965 against the Minnesota Vikings, halfback Frank Minini Nov. 21, 1948 versus the Boston Yanks and halfback/end Red Pollock Oct. 13, 1935 against the Philadelphia Eagles. All four instances occurred in Bears’ road victories.
It seems like Tarik Cohen isn’t getting as many opportunities with the ball in his hands on offense this year as he did last season. Do the numbers back that up?
Valencia Hill, Georgia
Tarik Cohen averaged 10.6 touches per game last season (6.2 rushes and 4.4 receptions) on offense. Through three contests this year, he is averaging 6.7 touches (2.7 rushes and 4.0 receptions). So you are correct in stating that he hasn’t had as many opportunities as he did last season. Asked this week if Cohen’s play count was where he wanted it to be, coach Matt Nagy said: “Probably not. Play-wise we could probably get him more involved. The neat thing, though, is we’re in four-minute mode there at the end of the game [Monday night against the Redskins] and he’s like our biggest fan down there cheering [David] Montgomery on running the ball. And so you appreciate that. You appreciate somebody because he’s as competitive as they come. The one thing is he’s a very selfless player. And so whatever we ask him to do, he’ll do, whether it’s at the running back position or the wide receiver position. He’s a playmaker. You want to try to get guys the ball as much as you can. We have a lot of different guys. So he could come out one game and have eight catches for 100 yards and another game not. So that’s the balance.”
I think it’s important to note that it’s not all play-calling. Opposing defenses know that Cohen is dangerous and they’re scheming to contain him, much like the Eagles did in last year’s wild-card playoff game. And there are two passes that I recall—one in each of the last two games against the Broncos and Redskins—that Cohen would probably say he should have caught. So those two plays obviously would have increased his touches. Another reason that Cohen’s touches are down so far is that the Bears added two dynamic players during the offseason who have also been getting the ball in Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson.