Matt Forte or Marshall Faulk? You make the call

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Matt Forte or Marshall Faulk? You make the call

Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010
9:45 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Outrageous.

That is how offensive coordinator Mike Martz described running back Matt Forte Wednesday. Coming from Martz, who coached outrageous in St. Louis when he had Marshall Faulk, that is seriously high praise even from someone who is given to effusive compliments.

Matt is just outrageous the way hes playing, Martz said. Hes been fantastic. I knew he was really a good player but right now hes been pretty special.

And it may not be too long before the comparisons start between Forte and Faulk, a Hall of Fame running back who was one of the most accomplished all-around backs of his or any era.

With a game to play, Forte has totaled more rushing yards (3,145) than Faulk did in his first three seasons (2,947). He has 163 pass receptions vs. Faulks 164. Faulk was producing his numbers in Indianapolis and didn't become a Martz project until his sixth NFL season (1999), at which time his numbers jumped dramatically in an offense with a spectrum of Pro Bowl players in every position group.

Can he be as good as Marshall Faulk? reflected coach Lovie Smith, who was on the St. Louis staff during Faulks prime. Smith hedged but didnt dismiss that possibility in any way. Aww, I mean, thats a little early. I just think right now we wouldnt trade Matt Forte for many guys. Hes not on that all-Pro team, but what running back has played better football than him as of late?

Smith sees the Faulk-Forte similarities:

To Smith, Forte is a complete running back. He is an every down back. He can run with power. He can make tacklers miss in the open field. He is an effective receiver out of the backfield or split out. He is a strong pass protector.

Of course, Marshall Faulk is a Hall of Famer, Smith said. Of course, he did all that as well as anyone. Matt can do all those things also.

The matchups with him when he is moved outside as a receiver, as happened against the New York Jets and Forte responded with a 24-yard pass reception against a linebacker, you cant get the ball out there to him fast enough, Martz said. I think people when they watch him on film, know hes fast, but when you see him in person run, he has unusual speed and hes a big guy. I think that does surprise people, particularly when he comes out of the backfield. His kind of speed does shock some of those linebackers.
Classy

Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who was a bust in San Francisco, Washington and Chicago but now is going to the Pro Bowl as a Denver Bronco, trashed his former teams with a terse Fk you to those teams, and I mean that in a most professional way.

Lloyd never had more than 48 catches in a season while a 49er, refused to play as a Bear unless he was 100 percent and wound up with 26 catches, and hes criticizing teams for not getting the most out of his talent. Perfect. A man for the millennium.

Sick bay

Receiver Earl Bennett (ankle), center Olin Kreutz (rest) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) were held out of practice Wednesday but expected to be more than ready for Sunday in Green Bay.

The Packers were not nearly, looking every bit like the typical NFL team going into game 16. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf), guard Marshall Newhouse (back) and linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) were unable to practice at all and safety Atari Bigby (groin) and fullback Korey Hall (knee).

Green Bay Pro Bowlers Chad Clifton (tackle, knees), Nick Collins (safety, ribs) and Clay Matthews (linebacker, shin) were limited in practice, as were cornerback Sam Shields (knees) and center Scott Wells (back).

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.

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

That the Dallas Cowboys were able to put 447 yards, almost 200 of them running the football, and 31 points on the Bears was concerning in itself. The way much of it happened, however, was perhaps more concerning, even if not completely surprising.

And the issues were in more than one area.

The rushing yards, of which 140 were provided on 30 carries by rookie Ezekiel Elliott, were largely gained by simply pounding away on an undermanned Bears front seven. The Bears have allowed 10 runs of 10 yards or more; five of those came in Dallas.

The problem was an alarmingly simple one. Not scheme, not missed assignments.

“We were getting blocked and not getting off blocks well enough,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said on Wednesday. “But basically getting blocked most of the time, a guy or two every time was just getting blocked.”

The defense was without linchpin and nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) as well as inside linebacker and co-captain Danny Trevathan. In Trevathan’s spot, rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started and played on 18 of Dallas’ snaps (26 percent).

He did OK,” Fangio said. “Again, he was part of those guys that got blocked some. Had some good plays, some not so good. The first play of the game that popped out of there for 21 yards, he was at the point of attack on that one. It was OK, hope for better, expect better moving forward.”

The Bears use something of a hybrid form of gap control, not strictly two-gap with linemen responsible for gaps on either side of the blocker in front of them, and not strictly one-gap, with a tighter responsibility but with expectations that the defender get more penetration and disruption.

The system is what one lineman described as “gap-and-a-half,” playing their assigned gap but also with responsibility to help out with one other assigned gap. They are not head-up on offensive linemen, being slightly shaded toward a gap a’la one-gap schemes most of the time.

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The Bears generally were unable to control either their assigned or their secondary gaps.

The issues were not confined to the run defense. The Bears’ pass rush was virtually non-existent (zero sacks, one hit on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott) and yet it allowed Prescott to scramble free three times, converting first downs on all three.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough when they weren’t throwing it quick,” Fangio said, “and it was evident by the times [Prescott] scrambled. He scrambled three times for first downs and they hurt us.

“Our rush wasn’t good enough. There are a lot of passes that the rush won’t be a factor because it is coming out fast. But we have to get better coverage to make them hold the ball longer, too.”

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Bears have run hurry-up offense, Brian Hoyer style

Brian Hoyer spent Wednesday’s practice as the presumptive No. 1 quarterback, sources said, and with Jay Cutler limited due to his thumb injury, the Bears began prep for the Detroit Lions next Sunday in Soldier Field with Hoyer getting more used to the offense that he has only sparingly run since training camp.

Some of Hoyer’s teammates spent Wednesday’s practice getting a little more used to him.

A veteran of 27 NFL starts, Hoyer doesn’t do things the way Cutler does them. He doesn’t throw as hard. He doesn’t throw as far. And he runs a sort-of hurry-up offense compared to Cutler.

“Hoyer has a real good sense of urgency to him,” said left tackle Charles Leno Jr. “He’s more fast paced. He likes to quicken up things, whether it’s the cadence, the flow – he just has a real natural sense of urgency about himself.”

This involves more than just a feeling. The Bears ARE faster under Hoyer, based on one very unofficial measure, because game situations differ even though the Bears ultimately lost all three games.

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Based on snaps and time played, the Bears have run 2.2 plays per minute with Cutler. They have run 2.6 per minute, approaching 20 percent more, under “urgent” Hoyer.

The play rate, however, is not entirely on the quarterback. Like all teams, the Bears build tempos into their system, and defenses also dictate some of how the Bears elect to work.

Still, “Jay is more laid back, more relaxed, even-keeled,” Leno said, smiling. “But that’s just Hoyer, more sense of urgency."