It is quite possible that the biggest difference in the Chicago Bears team that has now won three straight and four of its past five games are three names I never thought I might offer in that context, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted and Cornelius Lucas.
That the Bears received little from TEs Trey Burton and practically nothing from Adam Shaheen before each landed on the injured reserve list had been an anchor around the necks of Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky.
Look at what Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz mean to the Chiefs and Eagles and you’ll see what the position means to Nagy’s offense.
While it may still be likely that neither Holtz nor Horsted ever become household names, their contributions over the past five weeks have been crucial to the improved play of the offense.
When I asked Matt Nagy about it he explained, “I think that you had two other guys in Trey and Adam that were a little bit beat-up and hurt physically.
“You have two other guys that come in and are 100 percent, and they have different types of talent. So we’re trying to figure out the best way to use them.
“I want to credit them, especially J.P. Holtz; here’s a kid that’s come in here and [has] done everything that we’ve asked and he’s helped us out at that "Y" position.”
Following the win over the Cowboys, Trubisky was clear in his appreciation of two of his newest teammates.
“The tight end group has done a great job stepping up. J.P. and Jesper, just filling in that role, making big plays.
“J.P. had a huge screen early on in the game. With a front like that, I think that keeps them honest the rest of the game, that they have to be alert for screens, can't just go out for the pass every time. “Then making catches, they have to cover all 11 of us on the field. It was a great job by them.”
Nagy added, “Starting out early, you saw J.P. Holtz had some nice catches, got open. That's nice to have that. It definitely helps out.
“He happened to be that guy on some of the plays. Those guys have stepped up. They've helped us out in that role. You can see when you have that tight end, that presence there, it helps out.”
Both Holtz and Horsted remain men of few words in spite of their sudden notoriety.
Asked if he’s having fun after the Dallas win, Holtz said, “Yes, definitely. Definitely. Anytime an opportunity comes your way, you have to execute and make the most of it.”
I had a chance to talk with Horsted on the field immediately after the win over the Lions, in which he caught his first NFL touchdown, and I asked him about the journey from Princeton wide receiver to Bears tight end in only 10 months.
“I’m really just taking it a day at a time and I feel like I’m getting the receiving end of the job down, but my blocking is a work in progress.”
Of that first TD he just said, “Unbelievable feeling!”
So where does Lucas fit in the equation?
Clearly, he has been invaluable stepping in for three starts at right tackle for a banged-up Bobby Massie without skipping a beat, including the second Lions game and the Cowboys game, in which the Bears had two of their better rushing performances.
But they also began using him regularly as a second tight end in "12" and "22" personnel in Week 8 against the Chargers, consistent with when the ground game started to come around.
Lucas is likely to be the Bears swing tackle for some time to come, and while upgrading the tight end position will still almost certainly be a priority of the coming offseason, Holtz and Horsted both appear likely to be part of that equation.
Holtz in particular has earned the admiration of tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, who says, “He just loves to play the game and he loves to hit people — that’s just who he is.”
If the Bears are to continue their winning ways over the next three weeks, expect these three to be a big part of it.