The math seems simple enough: Get the ball in Matt Forte’s hands, win a football game.
The Bears are 8-3 this season when Forte has a combined run-pass 20 or more touches, 5-0 when at least 20 of those touches are running plays. Forte has generated 100 yards of offense for five straight games, including rushing for 100 or more for the past three.
Forte has converted more first downs (85) than anyone other than Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (98), including seven against the Cleveland Browns. No. 3 on the list is the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy (82). Brandon Marshall is 10th with 64.
“Ah man, Forte’s excellent,” McCoy said. “I’m a big fan of Forte already even before this year. Staying at the Pro Bowl with him, he’s a nice guy. Even when he was going through his contract situation, I was rooting for him because I felt like he deserved it because of his production. It’s so hard to get a guy that who can run, catch, block in this league. I’m a big fan of Matt. He’s in my top five of the best running backs in this league. “
The problem Sunday is that what the Philadelphia Eagles do best on defense is limit the run. Their 3.8 average allowed per carry is sixth in the NFL.
But the Bears are 4-1 in games against top-10 run defenses, with wins over Cincinnati (No. 5), the New York Giants (No. 4), Baltimore (No. 5) and Cleveland (No. 3), losing to St. Louis. In all of the wins Forte had at least 18 carries, with a season-high 24 in Cleveland; at St. Louis he carried just 16 times.
The lesson was driven home against the Browns. The Bears have a physical offensive line and can break a team down. Forte and Michael Bush had 48 rushing yards on 13 carries in the first half at Cleveland; they had 123 on 14 carries in the second.
“Although we had 7 tackles for losses, we stayed steady with the run game and kept Matt and Michael working,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We knew we would find some runs along the way…. We had seven ‘explosive’ runs and against a run defense like the Browns. That’s a pretty successful day.”
What to look for: The Bears have been able to crack defenses with persistence in the run game. Bush has gotten 11 carries over the last three games, averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and Forte has averaged 4.6 yards per carry or more in seven of his last eight games.
And the Eagles are not a dominant front physically: Their three down-linemen average 306 pounds, plus rush linebacker Connor Barwin at 264.
“[Cracking the defense] is always our mindset,” said left tackle Jermon Bushrod. “Whenever you get your game plan as an offensive linemen, you’re checking out the runs. You’re checking out the pass, how the flow of the game’s going to go. Especially when you get in there and you can fight to wear them down as much as possible.
“And when you have a lead in the fourth, that’s when we get to come together. And try to put defenses in a difficult position. And as a linemen, man, that feels good when we’re up by a score and we have the ability to run the ball, try to milk the clock, wear the defense down. That’s what we live for.”