Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is having an excellent season. Despite playing in a struggling offense behind one of the league's worst offensive lines, Forte has amassed 655 total yards and six touchdowns during Chicago's 4-3 start. He has 26 receptions thus far this season - which would place him tied for second on the Buffalo Bills, and which paces the Bears - and has nearly half of his total production in the passing game. The 6'2", 218-pound third-year pro is well on his way to the best statistical season of his career.
This Sunday, Forte will get to test his abilities against the NFL's worst run defense - a Bills outfit that is currently surrendering a whopping 188.7 rushing yards per game, 34 more yards per game than the league's second-worst unit, Denver. Still, Forte plays for an offense - led by Mike Martz - that has prevented him from getting 20 carries in six of the Bears' seven games this season. He has just 18 carries in Chicago's past two games combined.
I asked Dane Noble, manager of SB Nation's Bears community, Windy City Gridiron, whether the opportunity Forte has this weekend has Bears fans salivating. Noble laughed at the notion.
"Yeah... about that," Noble quipped.
"We looked at Washington's defensive stats week before last, and said the same thing then too," Noble continued. "We've simply not been able to run the ball, and have largely abandoned the run in the last few games. There have been times, maybe one drive per game, where we will start running the ball, and moving the chains... and then it stops. We've all been scratching our heads with the playcalling, especially with the lack of touches for Forte and Chester Taylor. Both guys are dangerous in open space, and both could be used to set up play-action passes, but we've just not seen them get a lot of chances."
As mentioned, Forte has just 18 carries in his last two games, and is only averaging 13 rushing attempts per game. Taylor, meanwhile, is averaging just over six rushes per game, and has only carried more than 10 times in a single game once. So is it poor production, bad play-calling, or both?
"We could easily say that Mike Martz just hates the run game, or say that Martz knows the limitations of our OL and thinks the best path to success is through the air," Noble says. "I think Bears fans would love to see more success running the ball, but we're not holding our breath. Do I think we'll see more of that this Sunday? I hope so."