Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

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Moon: Forte giving away the game plan?

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 10:25 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Matt Forte came as close to giving away a game plan this week as any player in the Lovie Smith tenure. And that would ostensibly be a good thing.

Going into Sundays game against Atlanta, Forte sent a message to the Falcons:

I expect to be how we were during the middle of the season last year when we started running the ball and be a balanced attack, the Bears franchise running back said. Both the pass and the run help each other out, so I think that well be balanced.

That message ideally is picked up by the Falcons, particularly sack threats and ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards, and has an effect similar to what the Bears achieved over the 7-2 run through the key portion of their schedule.

We did some good things at the end of the year, coach Lovie Smith said. We made progress I saw improvement throughout the year. And Ive seen that right now.
O-line help

The best help that coordinator Mike Martz can give young tackles Gabe Carimi and JMarcus Webb is to let them come off the ball and apply some muscle to Abraham and Edwards. Webb has a 70-pound advantage on Abraham. Carimi has 48 pounds on Edwards.

Whats perhaps been forgotten is that Lance Louis struggled early but never lost his starting job at right guard. Chris Williams ability to handle left guard faded as a topic of conversation, one of the nicest things that can happen to an offensive lineman.

Theyve made terrific progress in the last three weeks, particularly in the last two weeks, so Im anxious to see them play, Martz said. Well find out where we are with that. But Im excited about what theyve done so far. I think theyve got a chance to be a pretty good group.

Barber concerns

A factor in the improved performance by Forte, however, was Martzs willingness to have the ball handed to Chester Taylor 112 times and thrown to him another 20. Taylor was generally ineffective, which is why he is an Arizona Cardinal now rather than a Bear.

It is no coincidence, though, that Fortes career-best for yards per carry (4.5) was achieved when his workload was the lightest (237 carrries) of his career.

But the addition of Marion Barber from Dallas was made with the intention of not just lightening Fortes load; that could have been accomplished again with Taylor.

Barber has never averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry in his career (2010) or carried fewer than 113 times (also last year), one more than Taylor.

The calf injury Barber suffered against Tennessee in the preseason has had him out of practice ever since and he is not expected to play against the Falcons. Without his type of running, the ability of the offense to pound the Atlanta defense is reduced.

Hes such a violent runner, Martz said. Hes a guy that he can certainly jump-cut and do all of those things, but hell take a defender on, too, and break tackles that way. So hes kind of a complete back in that way. Hes a real tough, inside runner, but hes got the skills to get outside and hes an excellent receiver. Hes a guy that will excel, too, in short yards. We need to have him healthy. We really do.

Beyond Barber

What is different in the offense this year is that the presence of backup power to the backup power.

Kahlil Bell was inactive all 16 games last season as coaches were forced to have Garrett Wolfe on special teams. The trouble was, Wolfe was too small to suit Martz and was only used on four runs, all in the second Minnesota game.

Bell is 219 pounds, virtually identical with Barber and Forte.

Matts more comfortable with the scheme, and the offensive line and the way theyre opening holes, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Last year, Forte started a little slow, just like we all did, because everyone was getting comfortable with veering and we were trying to figure it out.

You add a Marion Barber a downhill guy, a short-yardage goal-line guy, packs a little more of a punch we got a good group back there.

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 In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Bears In-Foe: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?

Coming off two long fourth quarter drives by the Titans the week before that cost them their home opener, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers kept Detroit's defense in the dumps Sunday, shredding the Lions for 31 first-half points.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been tasked with replacing the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Stephen Tulloch over the last couple of years, and having to Band-Aid the unit from key injuries. One was game-changing linebacker DeAndre Levy, who played just 17 snaps all of 2015 after signing a $20 million extension. Austin, who's had nine head coaching interviews the past two off-seasons, had to be welcoming Levy back with open arms. Then he suffered a quad injury in the Titans game, sat out versus the Packers, and his status will be one to watch this week.

Then there's Ziggy Ansah, the fifth overall pick from 2013 who's only in his sixth year of even playing football.  His 14.5 sacks last season gave him 30 in 46 career games and made him the new centerpiece of the defense. But the Ghana native sustained a high ankle sprain in that same game against the Titans and is not expected to be ready for Sunday's noon date on the lakefront.

Who could possibly pick up some of that pass rush slack? Ladies and gentlemen, meet Kerry Hyder.

Who?

The undrafted free agent spent 2014 on the Jets' practice squad, then moved to the Lions last year. He almost seemed destined to spend another year on The Squad before he finished the preseason strong. The door opened, and the 6-foot-2, 270-pound end has four sacks so far. Tackle Haloti Ngata, who is 32 years old, struggled with injuries after coming over to help replace Suh, but finished strong, and has started well. Second-round pick A'Shaun Robinson rotates in after the Alabama product was passed over by the Bears.

[MORE BEARS IN-FOE: From Megatron to MegaMarv?]

Levy's injury left the Lions with only four linebackers at Lambeau after one promotion from the practice squad. Speedy, physical Tahir Whitehead took over for the now-departed Tulloch in the middle and earned his way into the starting lineup the last couple of years. Austin has given the other starting spot to Kyle Van Noy in a last-ditch attempt to prove spending a second-round pick on him in 2014 wasn't a mistake.

The secondary includes a stud corner and safety. Darius Slay (2013 second round) has turned into their shutdown guy and signed a four-year, $48 million extension in July. Nevin Lawson is just 5-9 but plays physical and fast opposite Slay - and was called for a 66-yard (!) pass interference penalty Sunday. Free safety Glover Quin's interception has the defense's lone takeaway this season and is one of the game's best. The team invested a fourth-round pick on heavy-hitting Miles Kinnebrew, and injury-prone Rafael Bush in free agency. But former Illini Tavon Wilson was signed away from the Patriots and held down the strong side before departing Sunday's loss with a neck injury.

Special teams

The Lions' coverage teams are top ten in both punts and kickoffs. The loss of Ameer Abdullah to his foot injury will affect the return game firepower, with backup wideout Andre Roberts filling in. Kicker Matt Prater is 5-for-6 on field goals thus far after being fifth in accuracy last year, including a 59-yarder versus the Bears at Soldier Field in last year's season finale.

Bears In-Foe: From Megatron to MegaMarv?

Bears In-Foe: From Megatron to MegaMarv?

Jim Bob Cooter. An interesting name. Some interesting stuff in his past, too. But since he took over the Lions offense about midway through last season, Matthew Stafford's been as good as ever, and it's carried over so far into this season. Even after his Megatarget - Calvin Johnson - decided to retire after last season.  But one aspect remains a concern after a recent injury.

Detroit is top-five in points, total yards and passing yards per game. They've jumped from last in the NFL last season to 15th in rushing, but after second-year back Ameer Abdullah averaged 5.6 yards per carry into their Week Two matchup, he tore a foot ligament and could be out for the season. With that, they managed just a 2.2-yard average Sunday in Green Bay, falling behind 31-3 before walking out of Lambeau a 34-27 loser to drop to 1-2.

Theo Riddick is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield (16 catches, 130 yards) after 80 receptions for nearly 700 yards a year ago, but he's still averaging just 3.3 per carry after 3.1 in 2015. Enter seventh-round rookie Dwayne Washington, who had a couple of touchdown runs in the preseason (one for 58 yards), along with a 96-yard kickoff return TD. He carried 10 times for 38 yards against the Packers.

[MORE BEARS IN-FOE: Can this offense expose two key Lions injuries?]

Stafford finished last season with 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions. That ratio is 7-to-2 this year. Through three weeks, he's second in passing yards, fourth in yards-per-attempt, and sixth in completion percentage. And wouldn't you know? His main target is the guy they brought in to replace Calvin Johnson: Marvin Jones. Many thought he wouldn't come close to comparing.

So far, the former Bengal has been targeted 29 times, with 18 catches for a league-high 408 yards. Six of those receptions and 205 of those yards came Sunday against Green Bay. Soon-to-be-36-year-old Anquan Boldin was a late signing despite still being physically imposing, and the 12th-leading receiver in league history. He's caught a pair of touchdowns among his 11 receptions for 105 yards. For the past two years (189 catches), Golden Tate was to Johnson what Randall Cobb is to Jordy Nelson in Green Bay when both are healthy. The Golden Domer has 13 grabs for 94 yards. And 2014 first-round tight end Eric Ebron has tested Motown's patience with knee, quad, and hand injuries his first two seasons. He's caught 14 passes thus far after 47 a year ago.

Stafford has a five-year non-injury starting streak after some health issues his first couple of seasons. That's amazing with the way he's been knocked around (44 sacks a year ago). He's hit the turf eight times the first three weeks. They've gone to great lengths in recent drafts to fix that, spending high picks trying to shore up protection and get a ground game going to complement their aerial assault. That continued this spring under new GM Bob Quinn, who came over from New England and kept coach Jim Caldwell in place. Tackle Taylor Decker out of Ohio State was chosen 16th as 2012 top pick Riley Reiff has underachieved heading into his contract year. Last year's number-one pick, guard Laken Tomlinson out of Lane Tech High School, has yet to live up to his selection. 2013 third-rounder Larry Warford compared to Kyle Long in the same draft class, but has struggled with injuries. And for the second time in three years, the Lions drafted a center in the third round (Graham Glasgow from Michigan via Marmion Military Academy in 2016; Travis Swanson in 2014).