Struggling Bears offense suffers another big loss in Forte

Updated 12/4/2011 8:22 PM
  • Chris Spencer checks on running back Matt Forte, who injured his right knee in the first quarter and did not return Sunday.

    Chris Spencer checks on running back Matt Forte, who injured his right knee in the first quarter and did not return Sunday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

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

So now what? How do you replace the franchise quarterback and a running back who had more yards from scrimmage through 12 weeks than anyone 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 4 attempts, including his 26-yard run, and Barber added 44 yards on 14 carries, but neither one 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-plays-and-punt on six of 14 possessions. The Bears also turned the ball over on downs after four plays, and twice turned it over on an interception after one play. On only two of their possessions did the Bears' offense 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 3-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."

Hanie had little to build off in Sunday's loss.

"I always expect to play well, and I always expect us to be successful," said Hanie, 0-2 as a starter. "I expect to bounce back from this game personally, and I'll do everything this week to fix the issues the issues that I can fix and help out any way I can."

Backup quarterback Josh McCown, who has been with the team only since Nov. 23, was not active Sunday. But he should be by next week in Denver.

"It seems like it's going to go that way, but we'll see," said McCown, who hasn't played in a game since 2009, when he threw 6 passes. "I'll just keep getting ready and keep being available, and if they go that route, they will."

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