After fighting off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense for Jordan Howard, the Bears’ offensive line still sounded as if they wanted to keep blocking for a running back who wowed them with his toughness in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win.
Howard, who NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, was clearly playing through pain against Pittsburgh. He was helped off the field multiple times by trainers and was trying to protect his banged-up shoulder on some of his runs in the second half. But he quickly returned to the game after those scares, which was not lost on the guys leading the way for him.
“He’s tough,” right guard Kyle Long said, emphasizing the word tough. “And toughness is something that’s talked about in football a lot, but Jordan Howard’s tough. He really is.”
“He’s a f***ing soldier, man,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “He was a Pro Bowler for a reason.”
“F***ing loved it,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “I loved it. It showed that he cared and wanted to be out there for us, and it made me go harder. I just told him that — it made me want to block for him extra hard. And when he does that and he shows that courageousness, man, comes out there and keeps battling back after we know he’s hurting, I’m going to give it everything I got for that guy.”
The Bears’ offensive line (and tight ends and wide receivers, it should be said) continually opened up lanes for Howard despite the Steelers knowing what was coming. Mike Glennon and the Bears’ passing attack didn’t stretch the field and only saw one wide receiver catch a pass (Deonte Thompson about halfway through the fourth quarter), but no matter how much the Steelers schemed to play the run, Howard kept hitting creases and getting into the second level, where he’s at his most effective.
“He’s a tough son of a gun,” coach John Fox said. “The more you have of those, the better off you are and the better chances you have to win.”
Howard finished with 138 yards on 23 carries — an average of six yards per attempt — after only gaining 59 yards on 20 carries in his first two games of the season. His walk-off touchdown was a fitting end to This was a reminder, as Massie said, of why Howard was a Pro Bowler and the NFL’s second-leading rusher last year — even as he wasn't at 100 percent.
“Sometimes I was hurt pretty bad,” Howard said. “I didn’t feel like I could finish. But Benny Cunningham, he kept pushing me through, and my coach, and I just saw my team – they kept fighting, so I had to keep playing.”