Notebook: Forte Is Chicago's Go-To Guy

Drafting Matt Forte in the second round with the 44th overall selection this past April, the Bears were hoping they had found their running back of the future. What they got instead was their running back, and in some respects their offense, of the present. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 19


Bears RB Matt Forte

Drafting Matt Forte in the second round with the 44th overall selection this past April, the Bears were hoping they had found their running back of the future.

What they got instead was their running back, and in some respects their offense, of the present.

The degree of impact Forte has had on Chicago's attack would be significant for any one player, but it's downright remarkable considering Forte is just a rookie. In already besting Gale Sayers' franchise record for yards from scrimmage for a rookie set in 1965, the Tulane product already has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and 50 receptions on the season, with team-high totals of 1,115 yards and 58 catches.

All told, he amounts to 35.2 percent of the team's yards from scrimmage (1,539 of 4,373) and nearly one-third of the touchdowns (11 of 37). (Note: a team's total yards from scrimmage does not include yards lost due to sacks.)

"When you draft a running back that high, the plan of course is for him to eventually help you," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "We liked Matt a lot coming out of college, we liked him as a person, we liked his production at Tulane, we liked him being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. A lot of things he was able to do (in college) we were hoping he'd be able to do (in the NFL).

"We didn't know exactly how soon he would be in the lineup and things like that. He definitely exceeded our expectations as far as that's concerned."

Forte is listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) on Chicago's injury report this week with a toe injury sustained last Thursday night against New Orleans. But he practiced on a limited basis on Friday for the first time all week, and all indications are he'll be available to play.

Forte's 35.2 percent figure of his team's yards from scrimmage ranks first in the league, just ahead of Minnesota's Adrian Peterson at 35.1. A couple of additional comparisons illustrate just how singularly valuable Forte is to Chicago's offense.

No player on the Packers has accounted for more than 23 percent of the team's yards this year (Greg Jennings: 1,153 of 5,005). And if you go back a couple of years to one of the most dominant NFL seasons in recent memory, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson racked up 2,323 of his team's 5,990 yards from scrimmage, or 38.8 percent. He was the league's runaway MVP.

That's not to say Forte is going to enter this year's MVP discussion. With the Bears on the periphery of the playoff chase and another running back in the NFC North, Peterson, already in the conversation, Forte won't garner that kind of hype. In an NFC loaded with other top backs like Washington's Clinton Portis and Atlanta's Michael Turner, Forte couldn't even crack the Pro Bowl roster.

But he is ranked third in the league in yards from scrimmage, just 5 yards behind Portis for second (1,544). Peterson leads the category with 1,690. Forte also is a close second to Peterson in total touches with 338, tied with Turner and just one behind the leader.

The Packers certainly are aware of how much Chicago feeds the ball to Forte, having faced him already last month.

In holding the Bears to their third-lowest yardage total of the season back on Nov. 16, the Packers saw Forte get the ball exactly half the time he was in the game - 22 touches (16 rushes, 6 receptions) on Chicago's first 44 snaps, before he was replaced by backups Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe. With 64 yards rushing and 40 receiving, Forte gained 104 of the team's 242 yards from scrimmage, or 43.0 percent, in that game.

"He's a cure-all for a lot of things," Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton said. "Whether it's his running the football, catching the passes, and pass protection and being able to adjust on the fly. We do a lot of communication at the line of scrimmage, and to be able to adjust like he does as a rookie is very impressive."

Another strong day needed

In the Packers' previous 37-3 victory over the Bears, Chicago's defense employed a two-deep safety look designed to limit the explosive passing plays, and to a certain extent, it worked. The Packers had just one completion longer than 21 yards in Aaron Rodgers' 30 attempts.

But the Bears paid for the lack of run support at the line of scrimmage, as the Packers piled up a season-high 200 yards on the ground. Ryan Grant had 25 carries for a season-high 145 yards, and Brandon Jackson added 10 carries for 50 yards.

The Packers will find out Monday night if the Bears plan to change their defensive alignment, but Grant knows a defense as proud as the Bears' will be determined not to be run on like that again.

"One thing I do think is I expect them to be very physical," Grant said. "I believe it's their last home game. I know what they have at stake, I know what happened last time, especially at Lambeau. They probably feel like they want to come out and make it a physical game, which we're all for that. We expect the same thing."

With Jackson and fullback Korey Hall both questionable for the game with wrist and knee injuries, respectively, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it's likely DeShawn Wynn will be active for the game and could end up as Grant's primary backup if Jackson must be held out.

"DeShawn has been getting a lot of work," McCarthy said. "He's always been part of the rotation. We're very, very comfortable with him in there, and I feel we wouldn't miss a beat."

{sportsad300}Jackson was able to do more in practice on Friday than initially thought, but he is wearing a brace on his wrist and his ability to carry and hold onto the ball will determine his playing status. McCarthy said Hall is unlikely to be able to play.

More on injuries

For the second straight week, defensive tackle Justin Harrell has been ruled out for the game due to an injury setback. Harrell continues to have trouble with his hip and his surgically repaired back, and McCarthy said the medical staff would see if he can progress enough in his rehab to play the regular-season finale next week vs. Detroit.

"It's kind of been ongoing," McCarthy said. "It's getting worse. It's not getting better. We're going to put him in the rehab mindset and take it throughout the weekend and see if there's a chance for Detroit."

Tackle Chad Clifton (knees), cornerbacks Al Harris (shoulder) and Charles Woodson (toe), and tight end Tory Humphrey (concussion) are all probable for the game. Of that group, Woodson was the only one not to participate fully in practice on Friday.

For the Bears, defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) is probable, receiver Marty Booker (ribs) is questionable, and fullback Jason McKie (quad) is out.

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