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Montgomery lauded for work ethic, breaking tackles

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David Montgomery literally hit the ground running.

The talented Bears running back raced 41 yards on his first rush of the season and finished last Sunday night's opener against the Rams with 108 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries.

Montgomery's performance was impressive, but not unexpected. Not after a strong finish last year resulted in his first 1,000-yard season. And certainly not after he worked tirelessly to increase his speed and strength during the offseason.  

"When I talked to him about the positive things he did, he immediately told me he thought I was acting like I was surprised," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said this week at Halas Hall. "Of course, I'm not surprised. That's what we're expecting from David."

Montgomery rushed for 70 yards and 10 carries in the first half against the Rams, including a 3-yard touchdown run that drew the Bears to within 13-7 with :34 remaining in the second quarter. The performance was even more impressive given that it came against a defense that ranked third versus the run last season and didn't allow an opposing back to gain 100 yards all year. 

The Bears are hopeful that Montgomery can continue to power a productive rushing attack in Sunday's home opener against the Bengals and beyond. Veteran tight end Jimmy Graham called the Bears' ability to run the ball in the opener "an extreme positive." 

"We had a ton of first downs, and that at times is where we have struggled early on in the season, running the ball," Graham said. "So, for us it's extremely encouraging, and we're going to keep pressing it and keep getting better."

Graham marveled at how Montgomery broke tackles against the Rams. On his touchdown run, the 5-11, 224-pound running back burst through the arms of superstar defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

"He's got supreme balance and he's hungry," Graham said. "He runs hungry. Every day [he's] here working. I've seen him behind the scenes really work on his body as well to stay healthy. The work that he puts in in the weight room is pretty impressive."

Breaking tackles isn't something that Montgomery learned to do in the NFL. When the Bears traded up 14 spots to select him in the third round of the 2019 draft, he arrived having led the nation in forced missed tackles at Iowa State with 109 in 2017 and 100 in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. 

"If you give Dave some space and things like that, he's going to make guys miss," said receiver Allen Robinson. "He was one of the top backs when he was in college at making guys miss, so he's been able to do that his entire career. That's something that he does."

Montgomery showed promise as a rookie in 2019, rushing for 889 yards and six touchdowns and adding 25 receptions for 185 yards and one TD. 

He followed with a breakout second season in 2020, rushing for 1,070 yards and eight touchdowns and catching 54 passes for 438 yards and two TDs. Montgomery heated up late in the season, rushing for 598 yards and seven TDs in the Bears' final six games, more than doubling his output from his first nine contests when he ran for 472 yards and one TD. 

Last Sunday night Montgomery topped 100 yards for the fourth time in his last seven games and the sixth time overall in three NFL seasons. 

"He's picked up right where he left off last year," said right tackle Germain Ifedi. "I think at a certain point [last season] he really figured out what we were doing and we all kind of clicked at the same time it seemed like. So, being able to come back this year and build on that and be able to follow it up with that performance, it's impressive. It's just a testament to what he was doing in the offseason and getting himself ready to be that guy again."

David Montgomery carried for 108 yards against the Rams. See where his rushing yards ranked among all NFL running backs in the first week of the 2021 season.

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