Prime time for Bears to get running game in gear
In last 5 games, winless Bills have allowed 219.6 rushing yards per game
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...1/57249431.jpg Bears running back Matt Forte runs the ball against Washington. (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune / October 24, 2010
By Brad Biggs, Tribune reporter 9:17 p.m. CDT, November 1, 2010
If the Bears are ready to turn their commitment to the running game from lip service into an actual game plan, there might not be a better time.
The Bills are 0-7 for a number of reasons, none greater than the fact they cannot stop the run. Opponents are averaging 188.7 yards rushing per game, putting the Bills on pace to be the worst rushing defense in the NFL since the 1980 Saints, who surrendered 194.1 per game en route to a 1-15 season.
The Bills have been worse of late. Their last five opponents have averaged 219.6. The Chiefs rolled up 274 yards in an overtime victory Sunday over the Bills as Jamaal Charles had 177 on 22 carries.
Does all that add up to offensive coordinator Mike Martz taking the air out of his playbook?
"We do need to get (Matt Forte and Chester Taylor) involved more," coach Lovie Smith said after practice Monday. "The more times they touch the football, the more likely something good will happen."
Pinch yourself if you've heard that before.
The Bears have talked a good game about their running game and then they've abandoned it with the exception of the opener and the Week 5 win at Carolina. They rank 30th with 22.3 rushes per game. That's about the mark for Martz, who in his previous four seasons calling plays averaged between 19.0 and 24.8.
The off week the Bears just came out of was the opportunity to spend a few days self-scouting. Presumably, the Bears determined they've been out of rhythm while ignoring some of their more talented weapons in Forte and Taylor. After all, Martz has called 76 percent pass plays for quarterback Jay Cutler since Week 4.
"We've just got to go out and establish the run first and not give up on it," Forte said.
Saying it is one thing, doing it has been mission impossible. The Bears ran early against the Seahawks and quickly abandoned it. The lesson wasn't learned in time for the Redskins game the following week.
Successfully running the ball loosens up the defense, instills confidence in the offensive line, keeps Cutler out of dangerous situations and makes the play-action passing game work. Running the ball effectively keeps the chains moving and keeps the offense on the field. Time of possession has been a problem.
Forte got 24 touches in the season opener, when he caught seven passes for 151 yards and scored two touchdowns. Instantly, he was going to be the next Marshall Faulk. Now, he's averaging 16.6 touches per game.
"I expect to get the ball every game," Forte said. "You just have to do it. It's really up to the offensive coordinator on what he sees and what he wants to call. Through the course of the game, if he sees something that is working somewhere else, he may go that direction. It's pretty obvious that we have to run the ball a little more."
Obvious to Martz?
"Yeah," Forte said. "He's said that. We just have to go out there and do it."
He and Taylor pledge they're ready. Both said they've never felt this fresh midway through a season. Taylor has heard the Bears will commit to the run before.
"We've got to just wait and see," he said. "If the coaches say it's going to happen, all we can do is trust in their word."