The Bears will need running back Matt Forte to have an impact game if there is a realistic chance of the Bears upsetting the Green Bay Packers. The reason has less to do with using a substitute quarterback – Josh McCown – than with the Packers being the Packers.
The deeper reality, however, is that there is pretty much no one on offense whom the Bears don’t need impact. If the Packers bunch as expected to take Forte away from McCown, the burden will fall increasingly on Martellus Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall – a group that sits directly opposite what is the weakness of the Green Bay defense.
The Packers rank No. 4 in allowing rush yards but only 20th yards through the air. They have allowed six rushing touchdowns vs. 12 passing, and opposing passers have averaged a rating of 96.1 against Green Bay, 26th in the NFL.
The biggest reason is that the Packers have intercepted just three passes, tied for worst in the league.
The difficulty for the Bears has been the ability of Green Bay to bracket Marshall in particular with a two-man coverage approach. The Packers held him to two catches in the 2012 Soldier Field game.
But with McCown starting in Lambeau Field last year, Marshall caught six passes, one of them for his only touchdown in four career games vs. the Packers.
The difference this year is that Jeffery is no longer a rookie coming off a knee injury and there is a Bennett, actually two.
“Last year, especially that second game they rolled to me a lot and left Alshon one-on-one,” Marshall said. “I don’t know if they’re going to give Alshon one-on-ones this year either. He’s leading our team in receiving yards. He’s been doing a lot of damage.
“If they decide to take Alshon and myself out of the game, you still have Martellus. If they take Martellus and myself out of the game, we have Alshon. They have to pick the guy they’re going to let beat ‘em and hopefully we step up to that challenge and get it done.”
What to watch for: Ball distribution. As Marshall notes, and as evidenced by the signing of Martellus Bennett, the offseason goal of building weaponry for the quarterback pointed to games just like this one. McCown has the mindset of a West Coast quarterback, getting the ball out of his hands fast. If the Bears force the Packers to defend four legitimate receiving threats – Bennett, Forte, Jeffery, Marshall – the quick-release offense gives the Bears a solid chance.