Bears-Packers Part II: RB Matchup favors Bears

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Bears-Packers Part II: RB Matchup favors Bears

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
Posted: 4:54 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

In the second installment of a special three-part series, CSNChicago.com is the No. 1 factor favoring the Bears.

General manager Jerry Angelo always has identified quarterback, running back and a pass-rushing defensive lineman as the true franchise positions in football. The quarterback position, even with Jay Cutler playing as well as he has over the second half of this season and through Sundays win over Seattle, rates as the No. 1 advantage area favoring the Packers.

READ: Why do Packers hold QB advantage?

But what about the second franchise position in Angelos trilogy?

Running back: Forte over Starks

The philosophical course correction undergone mid-season by the Chicago offense proved to be a case of NFL addition by subtraction. The Bears not only made sure they saw less of Cutler passing; they made sure they saw more of Matt Forte.

After just two 100-yard rushing games as a team in the first seven, the Bears had eight games of 100 or more yards over the final nine. Not coincidentally, seven of those nine were wins.

The prime beneficiary, besides an offensive line that was struggling in pass protection and turned more toward run blocking, was Forte. The tailback had exactly two games with 100 or more yards of total offense in the first seven; he had five in the final nine plus the Minnesota game with 98.

Forte finished the season with eight games in which he accumulated 100 yards of offense. The Bears were 7-1 in those games.

WATCH: How to beat Green Bay

Fortes rushing average ticked up to a career-best 4.5 per carry and his 51 receptions accounted for an additional 547 yards to go with his 1,069 on the ground.

In five games this season Forte led or tied for team-high in pass receptions.

He just does such a great job with the football, making cuts, making catches, making people miss, said right guard Roberto Garza. Matt is a great back, maybe the best all-around back in the league. He works hard and you want to work hard for a guy like Matt.

Life after Grant?

The Packers lost Ryan Grant to an ankle injury the first week and he hasnt played all season. Of course, that didnt mean he couldnt weigh in with a Tweet on Monday that Packers fans could comfortably start making their reservations for Dallas on that first weekend in February.

Grant will be along for the ride but the Packers will be expecting a bit more from James Starks, the 2010 sixth-round draft choice who broke out for 123 rushing yards against Philadelphia.

Starks, who opened the season on the PUP list and didnt play in the first 11 games of the season, had a pedestrian 20 rushing yards against the Bears in Green Bays season-ending win to reach the playoffs. He managed all of 66 yards in 25 carries against the Atlanta Falcons.

Starks has really given them a boost with their running game, coach Lovie Smith said, without elaboration.

The Packers had just one 100-yard rushing performance by a back during the regular season, when Brandon Jackson gained 115 yards in a mid-season loss to the Washington Redskins.

Even with Starks performance, Green Bay is averaging 3.7 yards per carry through two playoff games. The Packers have as many rushing fumbles (2) as touchdowns.
Conclusion:

Forte and Starks are about the same size: 6-2, 218 pounds. That is where the similarities end. Forte has emerged as one of the top all-around backs in the NFC as both a runner and receiver, with the capability of forcing defenses to devote resources to stopping him instead of assaulting Cutler.

Advantage: Chicago

Next: CSNChicago.com breaks down the defenses of Green Bay and Chicago, two of the NFLs best, and whether the Packers or Bears hold an edge in this crucial game-decider...

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Did Brandon Marshall disrespect Jay Cutler with Hall of Fame shade?

Brandon Marshall is no stranger to keeping it real.

The outspoken All-Pro receiver never minces his words and that continued over the weekend when he showed off his signed jersey collection.

Marshall took to Instagram and showed off "Santa" hanging all of the jerseys he's swapped with other NFL players:

Santa doing work.. . #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

The list includes a host of current and future Hall of Fame players: Champ Bailey, Cris Carter, John Lynch, Darrelle Revis, Lance Briggs, Adam Vinatieri, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Joe Thomas.

When almost all the framed jerseys were hung, Marshall took his followers through:

@nfl #jerseychallenge

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshall) on

Marshall compliments each player before, calling them "Hall of Famers" before getting to Jay Cutler at the end and going "Hall of..." multiple times.

Was that Marshall throwing shade at his former quarterback in both Denver and Chicago? If it was an innocent mistake or whatever, there's no way Marshall would've posted the Instagram video, right?

Marshall and Cutler were good friends from the beginning of their careers with the Broncos. So much so that the Bears traded a pair of third round draft picks in March 2012 to allow the two to continue their bromance by the lake:

But Marshall and Cutler have had a contentious relationship since.

Last summer, Marshall responded to a Tweet saying "of course" he misses Cutler. Last August, Marshall hopped on ESPN's First Take and said he thought Cutler could win the MVP Award in the 2016 NFL season.

At the same time, Marshall talked about his relationship with Cutler and said he was the only person on the Bears with the "huevos" to hold the enigmatic quarterback accountable. Marshall also said he was "sad" he didn't talk to Cutler much in the year leading up to August 2016.

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

No doubt, there are doubts about the makeup of this 2017 Bears wide receiver corps. But as the departed Alshon Jeffery created doubts, health-wise, the past two years about whether he could stay on the field to prove himself worthy of a big payday (which he didn’t even get from the Eagles), Ryan Pace brought in a handful of replacements who’ve flashed in this league before. But recent history’s shown each of them has something to prove as well.

From Rueben Randle to fellow former Giant Victor Cruz. From former first rounders Kendall Wright to Kevin White, taking a third swing at making it though an entire NFL season.

Then there’s Markus Wheaton, the only free agent signee at the position this season to receive a two-year deal ($11 million total, with $6 million guaranteed). Like the rest of the group, though, he’s at a career crossroads. Following seasons with 53 and 44 catches in Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015 (with a 17-yard average in the latter), the quick-twitch former Steeler was limited to three games a year ago before eventually undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in January.

“Everyone’s new, so we don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he said of the group at the team’s recent minicamp in Lake Forest. “In Pittsburgh you kind of have a clue `cause they’ve done it for so long. Everybody’s new, everybody’s trying to find their niche, so we’ll see how it goes. Anything’s possible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for opportunity. A lot of guys that are hungry and have something to prove. Anything’s possible. Anyone can come out on top. The ultimate goal is to win games and I’m sure the coaches will put us in position to do that.”

The former third-round pick out of Oregon State (where he’s the Beavers’ all-time career leader in receptions, one ahead of Brandin Cooks) played all three receiver positions in Pittsburgh at various times, and while he seems most natural in the slot, is working to make himself as versatile as possible here. But that comes with some risk as a quarterback room that’s also gone through its share of turnover tries to get on the same page with all the targets. But Wheaton is more than confident the results will come from within this group.

“I think we definitely are underrated," Wheaton said. "We’ve come in and worked to get to where we wanna be. We will get there, and it’ll show up on the field.”

The incumbents in the room include Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Cam Meredith, and, of course, White. Wheaton can see the potential in the ex-seventh overall draft pick.

“I couldn’t imagine all the stuff he’s been through, all the pressure that’s been put on him," Wheaton said. "But he’s a down-to-earth guy who works extremely hard, so I think he’s gonna get his. He’s a big-time playmaker, so I’m excited to see him play.

“They welcomed me with open arms. Everybody’s down to earth, been easy to talk to so when I have questions, I’ve been getting answers, so it’s been real easy for me.”

That surgically-repaired shoulder was cleared for full participation just in time for minicamp two weeks ago. And Wheaton won’t allow himself to become hesitant physically as he aims to conquer what hesitation he could have within the offense, working with quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

“I really don’t think there’s time for that. When you’re ready to go, you just go,” Wheaton told us. “You come in, you work, you rehab. And for me personally I had to rehab a lot to get back to where I wanted to be. There’s a level I want to be at. I’ve been just working to get there, so there’s no time for that.”

That last statement comes even if some observers hesitate to call Wheaton and these wideouts “underrated.” They’ll start attempting to prove that when the Bears report to Bourbonnais exactly one month from Monday.