Forte key to Chicago's overall success

Who is the most-used skill player in the NFL? Bears rookie Matt Forte has more touches than anyone, and Chicago needs him to keep producing to keep their defense fresh. The Bears coaches and players know that's their formula to success this year.

If Matt Forte's career-best 132 rushing yards were important against the Rams on Sunday in the controlled climate of the Edward Jones Dome, imagine how vital the rookie running back will be to the Bears' postseason hopes when they play three straight games at Soldier Field in December's chill.

"It's important every game," center Olin Kreutz said of the ground game. "Whenever we're running the ball like that, they say we establish the line of scrimmage. Running the ball is big for us."

In the Bears' six victories, they've run the ball more than 30 times in four of them. Only once in their five losses did they run 30 times or more.

Not to diminish the importance of the defense and especially the front four, but the Bears haven't demonstrated the ability to get off the field or dominate against a good offense, so they need their own offense to control the clock. Forget the Rams game; their offense needs a federal bailout more than the Big Three automakers and Citigroup combined.

The Bears defense is designed to play fast, create takeaways and make big plays, but it is not designed to spend long stretches of time on the field. The more Forte and the offensive line can control the ball, the more rested and efficient the defense will be, and the fewer chances that a porous pass defense will be threatened.

During that three-game homestand in December, the Bears will be facing opponents extremely capable of exposing their flaws on defense.

First up are the Jaguars, possibly the NFL's most disappointing team. But four days later, the Saints come marching in for a Thursday nighter. Anyone who watched Monday night as MVP candidate Drew Brees dissected a Packers pass defense that is far superior to the Bears' must be concerned. Brees leads the NFL with 3,574 passing yards and is on pace to shatter Dan Marino's NFL record of 5,084 passing yards in a season. He's fourth in the league with a 99.9 passer rating and already has thrown for 320 yards or more in eight games this season. There's no reason to think he won't do the same against the Bears if he's given enough opportunities.

After that, the Bears get 11 days to prepare for revenge against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had a 103.5 passer rating against them in the 37-3 rout two Sundays ago. Rodgers is 10th in the NFL with a 90.5 passer rating.

Against top-notch quarterbacks, Forte and the offensive line can make the difference by holding the ball, eating up the clock and keeping the big guns shivering on the sideline. Unlike some of his better-paid teammates on defense, Forte doesn't turn on the talent and effort only when the mood strikes him.

"Matt's played well every game he's played for us," coach Lovie Smith said. "Some games he's had more yards than others, but you get the same player each week — a steady player that can beat an opponent whether he's catching the ball out of the backfield or running the ball."

Forte has shown no indications of diminishing production or of hitting the rookie wall, even though he leads the NFL in touches.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he wasn't aware that Forte had more combined carries and catches than anyone in the league, but he's not concerned about it.

"We're going to get the ball in his hands as much as we can," Turner said, "and over the next five weeks, we're going to have to get it in his hands a bunch."

That's the Bears' best formula for winning in December and playing in January.


  • QB Kyle Orton's 185 passes without an interception are a team record, topping Erik Kramer's old mark of 174 set in 1995. He hasn't been intercepted in his last six games and has only been sacked seven times in those games.

  • RB Matt Forte leads the NFL with 270 touches, and he lost his first fumble of the season last week but scored his eighth and ninth touchdowns on runs of 13 and 47 yards. He leads the Bears with 45 receptions.

  • TE Greg Olsen was blanked for the first time this season, but he still leads the Bears with 391 receiving yards and is second to RB Matt Forte with 33 catches. Olsen had 17 catches in the previous four games.

  • WR Rashied Davis had just one catch (10 yards) for the third straight week. He had 18 in the four weeks prior to his slump.

  • WR Devin Hester led the Bears with 57 receiving yards and, with five catches last week, he leads the team's wideouts with 31 receptions.

  • TE Desmond Clark tied his season high with five receptions (for 40 yards) but left the game in the third quarter with what is being called a mild knee sprain.

  • LB Brian Urlacher had an interception for the second straight game, broke up two passes and had two tackles for loss.

  • LB Lance Briggs had two interceptions, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

  • DE Mark Anderson, invisible most of the season and still seeking his first sack, had a season-best five tackles vs. the Rams, which was second on the Bears, and got credit for two QB hurries.

  • WR Brandon Lloyd had just one catch for 3 yards and has not gotten nearly as much playing time since missing five games with a sprained knee.

  • DT Tommie Harris got two sacks to double his season total.

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