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updated: 10/4/2011 8:57 PM

Bears need to establish the run vs. Lions

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  • Bears running back Matt Forte rushed for 205 yards in Sunday's victory over Carolina.

      Bears running back Matt Forte rushed for 205 yards in Sunday's victory over Carolina.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

This is the Bears' offense when it fails to establish the run: loss, loss, loss, loss, loss, loss, loss.

Seven straight losses.

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This is the Bears' offense when it establishes the run: win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win.

That's right, 10 straight victories.

The last seven times the Bears have failed to run the ball more than 20 times, they've lost every game. In those losses, the Bears have run the ball an average of just 15 times.

In every one of their last 10 victories, the Bears have run the ball 27 times or more, an average of 32.4 times per game.

That formula should be especially effective against the Detroit Lions on Monday night for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the Bears need to keep the Lion' offense off the field, specifically quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Detroit is tied for second in the league, scoring an average of 33.8 points per game.

The best way to minimize the impact of the Lions' offense is to keep it off the field, and that means possessing the ball for as long as possible by keeping it on the ground, keeping the chains moving and the clock ticking.

The Bears don't have anyone who can win a 1-on-1 matchup with the king-size Johnson, but no one else has been able to match up with the 6-foot-5, 236-pounder this season, especially in the red zone.

He leads the NFL with 8 touchdowns, and he has made a habit of going up and taking jump balls away from whoever or however many defenders are "covering" him.

Bears 6-2, 198-pound cornerback Charles Tillman has done about as well as anyone in the league at controlling Johnson over the years, but that was mostly when Johnson didn't have quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing to him.

In Johnson's seven games against the Bears, the only time he had Stafford at quarterback for the entire game, he caught 8 passes for 133 yards in Week 4 of the 2009 season.

That's the only 100-yard game Johnson has against the Bears.

But it's too much to ask Tillman to shut down the league's biggest and one of the best wide receivers for an entire game.

Another reason for giving Matt Forte as many carries as he can handle is the Bears' offensive line. It is shaky at best in pass protection but always has been considered much better at run blocking.

That is especially true when rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi gets back on the field, although unfortunately for the Bears that won't be this week.

And, in case anyone hasn't noticed yet, Forte is clearly the best and most consistent offensive player the Bears have. Why not put the ball in his hands as many times as possible?

In addition, Marion Barber is now healthy, and his physical style of running can only help wear down the Lions' defense and provide an effective complement to Forte's slashing style.

Against a Lions defense that is No. 20 in rushing yards allowed and tied for No. 23 in average gain per rushing play, a steady diet of Forte and Barber makes sense.

The Lions have been much better when opponents throw the ball. They're tied for third in average gain per pass and 12th in passing yards allowed.

The choice for the Bears seems simple.

JOIN US: If you're a member of Subscriber Total Access at dailyherald.com, join Bob LeGere for more Bears talk at our first "Ask The Sports Writers" event on Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 6:30-9 p.m. at John Barleycorn, 1100 American Lane, Schaumburg. Our panel of experts also will include Mike Imrem, Barry Rozner and John Dietz, with Joe Aguilar as our host. The evening Q&A session includes a free buffet and drinks. For tickets, send an email to Staevents@dailyherald.com with the subject line "Ask the Sports Writers."

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