Forte Finally Feels Like Himself Again

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte starred as a rookie, and a sophomore slump he went through can now be attributed to injury. So far in 2010, the former second-round pick looks better than ever.

When the Bears signed talented unrestricted free agent running back Chester Taylor in the offseason, there was concern that it would undermine Matt Forte's role as the team's featured runner.

But it took about 10 seconds in Sunday's season-opening victory over the Lions for Forte to assert himself as the lead dog in the Bears' backfield. That's how long it took the Tulane product to sprint 89 yards with a screen pass to score the first of his two receiving touchdowns on the day. It was the longest touchdown from scrimmage ever by a Bears running back.

"He's a great player," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "He's so smart and has such a great feel for football with his instincts. He knows when to cut, knows when to make it happen in the passing game."

Forte also caught the winning 28-yard touchdown pass from Cutler, making a difficult adjustment and catch of a deep ball with 1:32 remaining in the game. Forte's seven catches for 151 yards and 17 carries for 50 yards combined to make him just the fourth player in franchise history with 200 or more total yards in a game. It was the second-most receiving yards in Bears history, trailing only Hall of Famer George McAfee's 157 yards in 1947.

After an injury-plagued sophomore season, Forte said he feels better than he ever has and can't help but look forward to the rest of the season.

"It's a great start to a great season," he said, "and there's more to come from here."

The same could be said for Taylor, who caught three passes for 44 yards and added 29 yards on nine carries. Cutler has confidence in both players being able to contribute in a variety of ways.

"[Forte] is one of those guys that it's hard for you to take him off the field," Cutler said, "but we've got Chester and we can put Chester back there. Those guys are kind of a one-two punch. If you're going to drop off [in coverage], we can still check it down to them. They're going to get 10 [yards]. And if you're going to play soft, we can run it with either one of them."

That was exactly the idea when the Bears offered the former Viking $12.5 million over four years, $7 million of which will be paid this season. The other consideration was taking some of the burden off Forte, who had 694 touches in his first two seasons, a pace that very few running backs have ever been able to maintain for more than a couple years.

"Matt's our starting tailback," coach Lovie Smith said. "We've always said he's a complete running back, being able to run the ball in between the tackles, outside and catch the ball out of the backfield. But still, he can't take every snap. You need to have another player to come in, which we have in Chester Taylor, who can do some of the same things. Chester has taken advantage of the opportunities he's getting, and he'll get more. There are enough carries, there are enough catches for two running backs to be productive."

Sunday's game was a perfect example of that.

C Olin Kreutz
Tom Hauck/Getty

Center Olin Kreutz was satisfied with a victory to start his 13th NFL season, but he wasn't thrilled with the offense's inability to move the ball 18 inches on four tries after Lance Briggs forced a Lions fumble and recovered it inside the 1-yard line.

"That's man on man, and Detroit beat us," Kreutz said. "As an O-line, that's extremely embarrassing, one of the embarrassing parts of this game, and we understand that. But we don't want to take credit away from Detroit either. They kicked our [butt] down there, and that's something we have to remedy as an offensive line.

"Down there, you just have to go one on one with your guy and get under him and move your feet, because really it's a battle of wills at the goal-line. Your coach can't really help you down there. There's not very many things you can do down there. Just line up and get half a yard."

Kreutz downplayed his block earlier in the game that was a key in springing Forte after he caught a screen pass that turned into an 89-yard TD.

"People can talk about the block all they want, but Matt outran like seven guys," Kreutz said. "That's my job on that play, that's what they asked me to do and that's what I did." ...

Six screen plays picked up 132 yards Sunday, execution that hasn't been seen from the Bears in a long time.

Mike Martz called for a variety of different screens, although five went to Forte and one to tight end Greg Olsen. Cutler said the screens worked because the Lions were frequently playing Cover 2 and taking deeper drops in coverage.

"It depends on the coverage," he said. "We started off early, and we shifted them to death a little bit. They started backing off and going with a little bit of Cover 2. If you get [receivers] up on the linebackers, those screens are going to go a long way." ...

For the first time in his career, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, the third-round draft pick from Arkansas in 2008, was inactive Sunday.

The Bears tried to hand Harrison the starting nose tackle position last year, but he handed it back to Anthony Adams with mostly uninspired play. Now he has fallen to third on the depth chart, behind Matt Toeaina at nose tackle and Henry Melton at the three-technique tackle. Coaches had hoped the 6-3, 312-pound Harrison could at the very least be an effective backup at both tackle positions, but he has failed to live up to expectations – again.

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