Matt Forte caught 11 passes in the Bears’ win over the Minnesota Vikings, a career high. He is averaging 126 yards from scrimmage through two games.
Notably, Forte was not the primary receiver on nine of the 11 plays that sent Jay Cutler passes to him. That was against a Minnesota 4-3 with which the Bears are intimately familiar.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their true 3-4 scheme, Forte’s touches might in fact increase because of his safety margin.
“We have to take what they give us,” Forte said. “Sometimes if they want to play Cover-2 and have a safety over the top on Brandon (Marshall), we have to run draw plays and try to gash them that way or small check-downs, keep the chains moving.
“This week is a little different. They don’t really play the Cover-2 look like that and that’s where the running game is going to be real important, average at least four yards a carry, and when we get the one-on-one on the receivers, that they make a play on the ball.”
Forte’s importance is likely to be magnified against the Steelers and that 3-4 defensive scheme that relies on myriad blitz and coverage permutations. The result is pressure on Cutler to recognize situations different from what the Bears have seen so far this season (Cincinnati and Minnesota were 4-3 defenses) and perhaps checking down to a secure underneath option.
Over the past 18 games, Forte has caught 76.6 percent of the passes thrown to him. For comparison’s sake, Marshall’s catch rate is 62 percent. The big-play potential obviously is greater with passes to Marshall, but for an offense looking to move chains and control the ball, Forte is among the best in the NFL.
And he understands pass protections and blitz pickups, making him potentially Cutler’s new best friend.
“(Pittsburgh’s style) just changes the protection base and actually your run reads, too, and how to get a certain linebacker if we’re blocking zone schemes and then they start blitzing and everything changes,” Forte said. “So it just makes it more difficult that way. I would say most of the NFL runs 4-3 , so when you get a 3-4 team, you’ve got to study that 3-4 more than you do 4-3s.”