Forte as crucial as ever to Bears' success
Gone are the days of surrender.
No longer does the head coach give in to ancient narratives. The Bears' goal isn't only to beat Green Bay. Rex is not their quarterback. And they don't get off the bus running.
The goal is to win the Super Bowl. Jay Cutler is an actual NFL quarterback. And the Bears will run only if that's the best path to victory.
"I never talked about balance," says Bears coach Marc Trestman. "I really never have. I don't think it's significant.
"I think what's most important -- and I've said it from the beginning -- is scoring touchdowns and moving the football. If (running is necessary), that's great. We have a guy (Matt Forte) we feel good about running the football. We feel our line is good at run blocking.
"But I never felt that run-pass ratio is necessarily the most important thing. It's finding ways to move the football."
GM Phil Emery selected Trestman not to run the football but rather to bring the offense into the 21st century. The Bears were 16th in points a year ago, but that included 9 defensive scores. The problem is they were 28th offensively in yards at 310 per game.
Through six games this season the 4-2 Bears are third in the NFL in points at 28.6, 11th with 369 yards per game, 13th in passing and 17th in rushing, and they lead the NFC with a plus-7 in turnover differential.
"We're getting to a point where 21 points sometimes isn't going to cut it in this league," Cutler said after the Bears' 27-21 victory over the Giants. "You have to put up 30, sometimes more. (There are) games where you know it's going to be 21-14, 21-10, 14-10, but I think that's going to be more of a rarity than it was before."
So where does that leave Matt Forte? Well, he's just about where he's been the last few years, and in some ways better off.
Forte is fourth in combined yards from scrimmage per game (114) behind only LeSean McCoy (149), Jamaal Charles (129) and Arian Foster (119), after finishing 11th among backs last season.
After six games a year ago Forte was at 95 total yards per game, and his average the previous three seasons was 118.
Through six games this year Forte has more carries (100) than a year ago (95), more rushing yards (442-436), more receptions (33-18), more touches (133-113) and more total yards (686-570).
It's true that Trestman called 39 pass plays to 26 runs in the game against New York, and through six games Cutler has thrown 217 times to 128 handoffs, while Cutler has run it himself 18 times.
Still, Forte's numbers compare favorably to his three-year averages from 2010-12 through six games of 116 touches (133 this season), 709 total yards (686), 91 carries (100) and 25 receptions (33).
So the perception that the new offense operates at the expense of Forte, or that the increased number of weapons means a diminished role for 27-year-old Forte, simply isn't true.
When asked after the New Orleans game why Forte hasn't been more involved in the offense, Cutler said, "I think he has been involved. I don't think that's an accurate statement. He caught (10) balls in one game (Minnesota). He's getting a lot of touches."
With all the different options for Cutler, it may seem at times as though Forte isn't as crucial or isn't playing as well, leading offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer to say sarcastically last week, "Yeah, he had one fumble (against the Saints) and he had one missed key, so he had a horrible game. But that's football. It's an imperfect game played by imperfect people."
The reality is Forte is an essential cog in the offense and keeping him happy with opportunities remains a focus for Trestman and Cutler. In five-plus years the Bears are 14-1 when Forte scores a TD on the ground and 23-3 when he carries for 100 yards, something he hasn't accomplished yet this season after three 100-yard games last season.
"We are getting better each week and we're heading in the right direction," Cutler said of the offense. "We are calling the right plays. The ball is going in the right direction. Physical things we have to clean up. As long as we are getting better, we don't need a timetable."
As the defense gets worse, the Bears' offense will need to stay on the field more each week, but it doesn't necessarily mean running the football.
Welcome to the 21st century.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.