Bears-Bengals RB Viewers Guide: Thinking “back,” Bears “O” runs through Forte/Bush
For all of the focus expected to center around Marc Trestman’s passing offense, with wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall plus tight end Martellus Bennett, fantasy footballers and Bears fans – and Cincinnati Bengals – should probably play very close attention to the occupants of the Bears’ backfield.
Very close indeed.
Over the past 10 seasons in which Trestman has coached NFL offenses and/or quarterbacks, lead running backs in those offenses has average 65.4 passes per season. Charlie Garner (91) in the 2002 Oakland Raiders Super Bowl offense is the back most pointed to, but few have not prospered under Trestman. Matt Forte is expected to be the next.
“We think Matt is a perfect fit for this offense because not only he is a good runner in the running game, he can catch the ball, he can pass protect, he can split out and play wide receiver,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “He gives you a lot of options.”
Forte has never caught more than the 63 in his rookie season (2008) under an offense directed by then-coordinator Ron Turner. He also scored a career-high four receiving touchdowns.
In 2012 his production dipped, in part because of the general offensive malaise and in part because so many of the plays went through Brandon Marshall. Forte is expecting a return to form.
“I think last year was basically the only time that [decline] happened,” Forte said. “Before that, I actually was running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield, had multiple catches. Last year was the only (reduction) in catches. Brandon had a lot of catches, and everybody else really didn’t have a whole lot.”
In the first three games this preseason, the ones in which starters like Forte and first-alternate Michael Bush played, the Bears scored seven offensive touchdowns. Six of those were by running backs – three by Bush, two by Forte, one by Michael Ford.
This all becomes potentially very relevant on Sunday with the Cincinnati defense among the NFL’s best against the pass, but just 12th in rushing yards per game and 11th in yards per carry allowed (4.1 ypc).
Forte average 4.4 yards per carry last season and both he and Bush scored five rushing touchdowns. The expectation is for a high-impact game from the running backs, not simply one complementing the wide receivers.
“Matt Forte has already each year had 1,000 or a couple yards under 1,000 yards rushing, he’s caught 50, probably averages 50 catches a year,” Kromer said. “So, watching him from afar and watching him up close, you’re more impressed when you see him up close but you sure are impressed from afar as well.”