There's a changing of the guard in the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears have leaned heavily on running back Matt Forte for the past seven-plus seasons. He's been the heart and soul of the offense his entire career and is the second-leading rusher in franchise history. Yet Forte's reign in Chicago's backfield will soon be over, as the Bears appear to have his long-term replacment(s) already on the roster.
Against the St. Louis Rams this afternoon, fourth-round rookie Jeremy Langford had 182 yards from scrimmage - 20 rushes for 73 yards, 7 receptions for 109 yards - and two touchdowns.
It was a record-breaking day for Langford, who joins Walter Payton and Gale Sayers as the only Bears running backs to ever have 100-plus receiving yards, 1 receiving TD and 1 rushing TD in the same game. That's pretty good company.
This follows last week's quality outing, in which he accumulated 142 yards from scrimmage against the San Diego Chargers.
Langford was supported by last year's fourth-round selection Ka'Deem Carey, who chipped in 56 yards on 14 carries (4.0 ypc). Carey showed good power between the tackles and ran with authority, while Langford showed elite burst, speed and receiving ability.
Remember, Carey was stashed on the roster, despite having no value on special teams, because of his prowess as a ball carrier. The Bears like the way he runs the ball and were willing to clog up the game-day roster just to keep Carey around.
Over the last two games, it's clear that Langford and Carey are a dynamic, productive one-two punch that can carry Chicago's rushing attack.
That means Forte, who turns 30 in less than a month and is in the final year of his conract, is highly unlikely to return next season.
Forte is still a good all-around running back but the difference in speed, elusiveness and overall agressiveness the last two weeks, compared to his six starts earlier in the year, has been stark. Langford and Carey are yound, hungry and under contract for a combined five more seasons beyond 2015. Those two, and not Forte, are the future of Chicago's backfield.
Remember, the Bears had an opportunity to extend Forte's contract this off-season and GM Ryan Pace declined. He then went out and drafted Langford, so in reality, the writing has been on the wall all season. The last two weeks have only confirmed what most of us have known all along: Forte is not in the team's long-term plans.
When Forte returns from a sprained MCL in a week or two, he'll again resume his role as the club's starting running back, although Langford has earned a larger share of the touches. But when this year's campaign is over, so will be Forte's career in Chicago.
Forte is a fan favorite and his departure won't be popular but it's the right thing to, and Pace knows it.