Can Bears overcome loss of Forte?

The Bears lost running back Matt Forte to a knee injury yesterday and he could be out the remainder of the regular season. Can the offense get by the next month without its star player?

The Bears have now lost their starting quarterback, probably for at least the remainder of the regular season, and their all-purpose running back, for at least a couple weeks.

Running back Matt Forte suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday during the Bears' 10-3 loss to the Chiefs. Chicago was playing its second game without quarterback Jay Cutler, who has a broken thumb.

So now what, as they Bears get set to travel to Denver to face the Broncos in hopes of snapping a two-game losing streak? How does a team replace the franchise quarterback and a running back who had more yards from scrimmage through 12 weeks than anyone else in the NFL?

"It's not a running back; it's Matt Forte," linebacker Brian Urlacher blurted out before a question about his teammate could be completed.

It may be asking too much of an offense that wasn't that good to begin with to pick up the slack left by the loss of Jay Cutler and Forte, who may be regretting his rejection of the Bears' offer of a contract extension that included $14 million in guaranteed money.

"They're two of the best players on our team, you know?" Urlacher said. "We had guys step up. Marion (Barber) did a good job. Kahlil (Bell) had a nice run in there. So we've got to find guys who can make plays. That's all there is to it. Someone has to step up and take their spots."

Bell picked up 34 yards on four carries, including his 26-yard run, and Barber added 44 yards on 14 attempts, but neither one of them is as dangerous a weapon as Forte.

"He leads the team in rushing; he leads the team in receiving," wide receiver Roy Williams said. "When a guy like that goes down, I mean .... he's a big piece of this puzzle."

Without Cutler and Forte, who was hurt midway through the first quarter, the Bears' offense went three-and-out on six of 14 possessions. Chicago also turned the ball over on downs after four plays, and twice turned it over on an interception after one play. On only two possessions did the Bears run more than five plays before giving up the ball.

It's possible the Bears will revisit the idea of signing free agent quarterback Donovan McNabb after Hanie's second straight three-interception outing and a 23.8 passer rating, but coach Lovie Smith didn't feel like discussing it publicly Sunday.

"Right now, we're just taking this loss in," Smith said when asked about bringing in another quarterback. "I'm not going to come in here and tell you we're going to start making changes. We're going to evaluate our situation and see where we need to go from here. Don't blame one guy for this loss. We all have a big say in what happened."

Backup quarterback Josh McCown, who has been with the team only since Nov. 23, was not active Sunday, but he should be for the Denver game.

LINEUP WATCH: With Matt Forte likely out two to four weeks with a sprained knee, Marion Barber will have to carry the load, and he should be fresh, as he has just 76 carries this season. But Barber doesn't bring the big-play capability of Forte or the pass-catching skill.

BY THE NUMBERS: 40.8 -- Caleb Hanie's passer rating after two starts. He has completed just 29 of 60 passes and has been intercepted six times while throwing two touchdown passes.

PLAYER NOTES

--SS Major Wright left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return after halftime.

--QB Caleb Hanie posted a 23.8 passer rating with zero TDs and three interceptions. He was also sacked seven times for 45 yards.

--WR Earl Bennett caught one pass for 5 yards for the second straight week.

--RB Marion Barber got a season-high 14 carries but managed just 44 yards (3.1-yard average) after Matt Forte left with a sprained knee.


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