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.

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

John Fox, Bears coaches balancing workload with injury risk as training camp convenes

Bears players and coaches have been preparing for 2016 intermittently for the past several months. That said, the 2016 “season” effectively begins on Thursday with the Bears holding their first practice of training camp, one that will be open to the public even though players will work the first two days without pads.

From now until early next year, the Bears will have no more than one day off at a time, save the off-week leading up to no game on Nov. 6, and other than perhaps a bonus day off here and there, such as after the Thursday, Oct. 20 night game at Green Bay, after which coach John Fox may grant his team a couple added days off, depending on the performance in Green Bay.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Pads come on for the first time since last Jan. 3 against the Detroit Lions as of Saturday’s practice. Thus begins the ongoing balancing act for coaches to maximize the amount of productive time within the parameters allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, all in the context of heat and conditions of contact.

“You’ve got to get your team ready for battle and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got guys ready to go to battle with,” Fox said. “So it’s a fine line, getting ready for football.”

The Bears already have had offseason injuries to guard Ted Larsen and wide receiver Marquess Wilson, in addition to a strained hamstring for rookie running back Jordan Howard and veterans like Pernell McPhee (knee) coming off surgery.

“It’s a combative game and injuries are part of it,” Fox said. “You’ve got to have some good fortune, and some good practice habits. That way you’re getting better and more physical, yet not to the point where you’re losing guys. Obviously with the reduction of our offseason and the things we used to do as coaches, I don’t think doing less of that is the right idea.”

[RELATED: Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips]

Training camp this year includes one of the shortest off-site stretches ever, with 10 sessions at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais and one at Soldier Field on Sat. Aug. 6.

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Wednesday, July 27: Report day

Thursday, July 28: 9:35 a.m. practice (no pads)

Friday, July 29: 11:15 a.m. practice (no pads)

Saturday, July 30: 9:35 a.m. practice

Sunday, July 31: 11:15 a.m. practice

AUGUST

Day, Date, Practice Time (CT)

Monday, Aug. 1: 9:35 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 2: Off day

Wednesday, Aug. 3: 11:15 a.m. practice

Thursday, Aug. 4: 9:35 a.m. practice

Friday, Aug. 5: 11:15 a.m. practice

Saturday, Aug. 6: 12:30 p.m. Meijer Chicago Bears Family Fest (Soldier Field)

Sunday, Aug.7: Off day

Monday, Aug. 8: 11:15 a.m. practice

Tuesday, Aug. 9: 9:35 a.m. practice/final open practice

Wednesday, Aug. 10: Off day

Preseason Schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 11: Bears vs. Denver Broncos, 7 p.m.

Thursday,  Aug. 18: Bears at New England Patriots, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Bears vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 12 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 1: Bears at Cleveland Browns, 7 p.m.

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

Going to Bears Training Camp ’16 in Bourbonnais? Remember these four tips

After covering some 25 Bears training camps spanning both Bourbonnais and Platteville, this CSNChicago.com reporter has gleaned some tips for getting the most out of the fan experience:

Appreciate the effort:

A lot of the young men you’ll be watching are living playing to realize a dream they’ve had since they were as young as some of the youngest fans. They are competing for jobs every day, every snap, and even going against teammates, the effort expended is worthy of the utmost respect. A guarantee: You WILL see something spectacular, whether from a star or some young hopeful who will leave it all and then some on that practice field. Enjoy the moment.

Be polite:

If you want autographs from players, your chances improve with a little courtesy. “Hey, Cutler…” and waving a pen and program at the Bears quarterback does not play nearly as well as “Jay, Jay…” or, if you’re a young fan and really want to stand out, “Mr. Cutler, Mr. Cutler…” Players don’t always get to hear a lot of “polite.” It doesn’t guarantee a signing, but understand that there’s no way players can sign every request and still have fully functioning limbs. And if a player doesn’t stop to sign, it’s not a snub. Most players sign every other day, so this just might be their off day for signing.

Plus, if it’s post-practice, remember that these players have just gone through at least two hours of beyond-max-effort work, wearing equipment that is anything but air-conditioned and weighs as much as a small child, and getting off their feet is a necessary survival skill.

[SHOP: Buy a Jay Cutler jersey here]

Go early:

The folks at Olivet Nazarene University do a truly amazing job of crowd and traffic control, but depending on the size of the crush, particularly on peak days, you may miss some field time getting into the parking lots if you’re getting there close to the start of practice. For another thing, players are typically on the field well ahead of the scheduled start times for practice, so you’ll be seeing players working and getting loosened up if you’re there early.

Understand the cadence and order:

Practices are not continuous scrimmaging and hitting. For one thing, that’s physically not possible, or smart. The Bears have individual sessions, then depending on the day, may come together for a “live” run scrimmage without receivers, followed by a less intense session, maybe some special teams, before or after very live pass-protection and receiver-DB head-to-heads, a break, then finishing with 11-on-11 “team” sessions.

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

Should the Bears bring Devin Hester back to Chicago?

The Atlanta Falcons released kick return specialist Devin Hester on Tuesday after just two seasons with the team. 

The former Bear and four-time Pro Bowl selection, who's best known for being one of the NFL's most dangerous return men, is now in the market for a new NFL job. 

So that begs the question, should the Bears entertain the idea of bringing Hester back to Chicago in 2016?

Hester, 33, has an NFL-record 20 touchdown returns over his 10 year career. However, he only had one return touchdown during his two years in Atlanta, and collected just two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. 

It's safe to say the Bears aren't interested in Hester as a receiver, and who knows how much gas he has left in the tank, but he has certainly made an impact during his time in the Windy City.