Bears' Howard runs for a franchise first
Late in the first half last Sunday, Jordan Howard got stuffed for no gain on a second-and-1 at the Bengals' nine-yard line, and the Chicago Bears settled for Mike Nugent's 27-yard field goal.
"Jordan came to the sideline and said: 'I gotta get that,'" offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "And from there on, I just saw a little bit different edge in his finish. He was a little disappointed he didn't get the first (down) for us. He took personal responsibility and accountability, like, 'I'm going to turn it up a notch.'"
From that point on, Howard rushed for 84 yards on 12 carries (7.0-yard average) and pushed his season rushing total to 1,032 yards, fourth in the NFL. Howard is on pace for a 1,286-yard season, which would leave him just shy of his Bears rookie record of 1,313 last year.
"It's a mindset," Bears coach John Fox said of Howard's inspired running Sunday. "Not that he hasn't had that all season; he's had pretty good run totals in many of our games this year. I just thought he finished runs (Sunday), and he's done that before, and it was good to see it again."
Howard is the first player in franchise history to top 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. The four other Bears rookies who rushed for 1,000 yards -- Matt Forte (1,238), Anthony Thomas (1,183), Rashaan Salaam (1,074) and Beattie Feathers (1,004) -- all failed to make it back to 1,000 in their second seasons.
Howard's twelve 100-yard games since the start of the 2016 season are the most in the NFL, and he made it to 2,000 yards in fewer games (24) than any Bear, eclipsing Walter Payton, who did it in 26 games.
Loggains believes Howard is an even better player this season than he was as a rookie.
"I think he's in much better shape," Loggains said. "He's able to consistently do it. His numbers are getting up there, and he's (near) the top of the league."
Only two players have more carries than Howard's 235: the Rams' Todd Gurley with 236, and the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell with 283. Among players with 700 rushing yards, only three have a higher average per carry than Howard's 4.4; the Saints' Mark Ingram and the Ravens' Alex Collins at 5.1, and the Chiefs' Kareem Hunt at 4.8.
"He's done a really good job this year," Loggains said. "A lot of the credit goes to the offensive line, but Jordan's so good with yards after contact. He's really growing in pass protection, (so) we're able to keep him in a little bit more."
Never was that more evident than in Week 6. Howard established personal bests with 36 carries and 167 rushing yards to lead a 27-24 overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are the only NFL team with three shutouts this season, something only five teams have done in the past 30 years.
But Howard gashed them for the most rushing yards they've allowed at home since Marshall Faulk had 192, 19 years ago. It was Howard's 53-yard run in overtime that set up the winning field goal.
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