It's like a game of Whack-a-mole.
The missing Bears running game keeps popping up, then vanishes.
Consistency is missing, and the end result is Jordan Howard making a few good runs but then getting stacked up at the line – or the Bears abandoning the run all together.
On Sunday they gave him the ball for 13 runs in the first half against the Giants and then only three more after he had averaged over 5 yards a carry.
"In some instances there's some mental errors, execution-wise and there's some times where we could put Walter Payton back there and he's not getting any yards," coach Matt Nagy said. "Then there's other times where the line blocks just phenomenal and for whatever reason it doesn't hit."
Nagy emphasized there's no consistent fault with any running back, especially Jordan Howard, or any single offensive lineman. Guard Bryan Witzmann has become a popular scapegoat for some since he replaced Eric Kush, who replaced injured Kyle Long.
It is true the rushing yardage has gone down since Long's foot injury, but it has hurt not having quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, as well.
The best way to improve the run blocking might be to do it more, at least from the viewpoint of linemen. But it isn't a perfect world.
"The thing you have to remember is I think any time the more you do something the better it is, you get a little better at it," offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. "Circumstances change and that's just a way of life and particularly in line play you've got to be ready to do both. You might have to do 15 in a row pass, and switch. Is it easy, no? But there's nothing really going on out there that's easy anyway."
When there are fewer runs in this offense, it's not always Nagy calling all pass plays. It's the nature of their offense.
When they're using run-pass-options (RPOs), it can be intended as a run but the quarterback can decide to a pass after seeing how the defense is playing during a presnap read.
"In the RPO world – and you have to be able to take the criticism as a coach – there are times when you call runs, and to the outside world it looks like a screen, and it’s an RPO to the ones that really don’t know," Nagy said. "You’re calling a run, and it’s a throw, and you just threw the ball seven straight times, but four of them were run calls and it’s just what the defense gave you so you threw it."
Coaches aren't displeased with the RPO decisions the quarterbacks are making.
"Obviously that's a benefit to our offense," quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone said. "I think those decisions, they happen fast, and we always tell the quarterbacks you make the decision and live with it and we'll continue to coach you off of the film if we like or don't like the decision.
"But we don't want you to second-guess the decision. And I think both of them have done a pretty good job of just living with that decision they made. Again, it's easy to pause a film and say, 'hey you should have done this,' but in the split second they have of making the decision I think they've done a pretty good job."
And the end result is often the Bears ran it too few times to satisfy some, especially in the second half of games like against the Giants.
" 'You didn’t run the ball enough,' " Nagy said. "Well, we tried, but it’s just what the defense gave us. So yeah, it can make it more challenging, but that’s who we’ve agreed to be, who we like to be.
"But we have to continue to keep figuring out, OK, why are we not being as successful as we could be or should be? We take that No. 1 as coaches, not as an insult, but we know we need to be better."