8:22 AM CDT, October 31, 2013
Perhaps the only Bears playmaker who has made fewer plays against the Packers than quarterback Jay Cutler has been running back Matt Forte.
Which is not good news for a team that doesn’t have Cutler -- for this week, at least, depending on who you believe -- and will have to rely more heavily on Forte.
The Bears quarterback is 1-7 against the Packers and has thrown 16 interceptions compared to nine touchdowns with a 61.5 rating. Some of the worst and dumbest passes he has ever thrown have come against the Packers. Arguably, for a Bears team trying to stay playoff relevant, this might be a good game for Cutler to miss.
You could make the same dismal case for Forte, except the Bears can’t afford more of the same.
Forte averages 51.7 rushing yards a game and 3.37 yards per carry against the Packers. He has scored one touchdown and has yet to register a 100-yard day on the ground. Both yardage stats are worse than backup Michael Bush’s career averages against the Packers. Not by much. But worse nonetheless.
This season, Forte ranks fifth in the NFL with 795 total yards from scrimmage --- 533 rushing and 262 receiving. He still hasn’t run for more than 100 yards in a game, but he’s averaging 4.6 per carry and his rushing total ranks eighth in the league.
Still, Forte described the Bears' running game as “average,’’ adding that the Bears “haven’t run the ball a whole lot.’’
The Bears will need Forte to change that in a big way if they are to have a chance Monday night, even if Forte doesn’t agree.
For starters, the ground game has to be a weapon. This has nothing to do with a balanced offense. It’s all about being effective.
Second, it would slow the Packers’ aggressiveness and prevent the pass rush from sacking backup quarterback Josh McCown on to the injured reserve list.
McCown will tell you that this is the most talented offense he’s ever played with. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery out wide and Martellus Bennett at tight end, along with Forte, this certainly features the greatest number of quality choices the Bears have had since Cutler got here.
But Dom Capers’ 3-4 has been a miserable experience for the Bears. The Packers have won six in a row, including the NFC Championship Game, and eight of the last nine. During the losing streak, the Bears have scored an average of 13 points, managing just seven offensive touchdowns -- three of those by Kellen Davis, if you can believe that, and I can’t.
The Bears have run for more than 100 yards twice during the streak, with the best game coming when Kahlil Bell gained 121. Not Forte. Kahlil. Fumbling. Bell.
So, not pretty.
Not acceptable, either. Not for an alleged big-boy attack. That has to change for the offense’s sake, and just as importantly, for the defense’s. Running the ball effectively will eat clock and protect the Bears’ bloodied defensive unit from getting drilled by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
And the defense will get drilled, believe me. Rodgers is having the best season of his career if you combine numbers and the fact that he’s doing this while throwing to guys who are fresh off the street. Rodgers has lost offensive weapons just as important as defensive players the Bears have lost, but Rodgers keeps winning --- geez, he keeps getting better --- while the Bears perform a death spiral.
That’s how far the Bears are from being actual Super Bowl contenders, in case you wondered. But the issue for now is Monday night and desperately trying to find some way the Bears can stay with the class of the division.
Like Bears coach Marc Trestman said this week, the other phases of the roster have to perform to help the defense -- to cover up the disaster that is the Bears defense. In a lot of ways, that seems to start with Forte.
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