I know the NFL is a passing league. I know the NFL has rigged it to be so.
But still, if I were the Bears this week, I’d commit to the running game.
Matt Forte can run, catch and pick up the blitz. He can and should be the centerpiece of this offense after Jay Cutler.
Problem is, it doesn’t seem as if the Bears can establish him early. Maybe opponents are waiting for him, maybe Cutler is audibiling out of run calls. But I’d stress Forte in Washington this Sunday.
Forte touched the ball 25 times in the win over the Giants, the most since his 30 touches against the Vikings in Week 2. Forte took 19 handoffs, again the most since his 20 against Minnesota. He’s averaging 4.4 yards a carry this season, which is what the Redskins' defense allows on average.
What's more, Washington has the league’s sixth-worst rushing defense based on average yards per game, and the whole thing looks like a weakness the Bears can exploit with a lot of happy by-products.
It’s not that I’m looking for the Bears to hide a bad passing game. Cutler hasn’t thrown an interception in the last two games and he ranks eighth in the NFL in passer rating, but I’m a little concerned that he’ll stubbornly go after Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall to avenge that four-pick game several seasons ago.
No, it has more to do with the beaten-up Bears defense and the offense it will face.
The Redskins bring Robert Griffin III and a read-option attack, and I’m sure you remember the way those offenses pantsed the Bears last season. Russell Wilson engineered spectacular late drives and Colin Kaepernick seemed to make every right play against the Bears last season.
That can be reason enough for the Bears offense to hold the ball and eat clock on the ground. That and the continuing losses the Bears have suffered at critical positions, not to mention tackling issues.
The Bears are on, what, their 84th defensive tackle? Whatever the number, the injuries have further strained an already suspect front four. Corey Wooton had to move inside, which meant more snaps for Shea McClellin, who has been handled like a shopping cart on the end. The less time that front four is on the field, the better. Can I get an amen?
The defense also has a new middle linebacker. A rookie middle linebacker. Jon Bostic replaces veteran D.J. Williams with speed and the ability to hit, but his issue is reading the run fits and coverage correctly to take advantage of his assets.
One potential benefit of Bostic’s inexperience in an NFL defense, however, is his recent college career. He’s freshly familiar with read-option offenses, but still, he’s likely to be targeted Sunday.
Same goes for Zack Bowman. Who knows how healthy Charles Tillman will be, and while Bowman made a terrific opening statement in his place, there are likely to be several oh-no moments.
And with those safeties, you can guarantee oh-no moments.
So, those moments and the Bears’ patchwork defense could use time on the sideline. There are a lot of good reasons to emphasize the rushing game.