Bears realize running game more important in
Bears realize running game more important in playoffs
1 thing that would help against Seahawks' porous run defense would be Taylor's return to form
Even after watching the Seahawks surrender 36 points in beating the Saints Saturday, Bears running back Chester Taylor came away more impressed with them and their defense than he was during the regular season.
"They're a lot better than when we played them in Week 6,'' Taylor said. " And they have speed on that defense. We just have to go out and … just punch them in the mouth.''
Running the ball down their throat would suffice.
If there was ever a time for Taylor to regain his swagger, it would be now as the Bears prepare for Sunday's divisional playoff game at Soldier Field. The ninth-year veteran has been the missing element in a running attack that thrived the second half of the season thanks to Matt Forte's heavy lifting.
Forte finished with 1,069 rushing yards and averaged a solid 4.5 yards per carry on 237 attempts. Taylor managed just 267 yards on 112 carries for a career-low 2.4-yard average.
Forte has yet to play in a postseason game, but he understands how valuable his contribution could be to the Bears' playoff success.
"The running game is always important, especially at this time of year,'' Forte said. "You have to get two guys going and wear down defenses. It's only going to help you to get that established.''
And the numbers prove it.
Not only did all four wild-card weekend winners outrush their opponents, but all four — the Ravens, Jets, Packers and Seahawks — rushed for 138 yards or more, with three of those teams averaging better than 4.0. The Ravens, with a 3.6 average, were the only ones who held a comfortable enough lead to milk the clock.
The Jets rushed for 169 yards behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, and the tandem's 35 combined attempts helped keep Peyton Manning off the field.
The Seahawks benefited from Marshawn Lynch's jaw-dropping 67-yard touchdown run.
The Bears, with a much-improved offensive line clearing holes, might want follow the same model.
"What we have to do it run the ball and control the clock; keep (Matt) Hasselbeck off the field,'' Forte said. "We have to give our defense a rest, and then wear the Seahawks' defense down.''
Such wasn't the case when the teams met in October. The Bears were much more pass-oriented then as Jay Cutler attempted 39 passes coming off a concussion. Forte and Taylor combined for a just 42 yards on just 12 carries in the 23-20 loss.
"No, we didn't run it,'' Forte recalled, "but we've gotten better at that throughout the season, so I'm not worried what we did the last game. It will be a different game.''
It has to be, for the Bears' sake.
When coach Lovie Smith demanded during the off week that his team needed to come off the bus running, he knew what he was talking about. The Bears went 2-4 in games they failed to rush for 100 yards and they were 1-5 in games in which they attempted 10 or more passes than runs.
Before the regular-season finale at Green Bay, the Bears were touted as the fourth-most balanced offensive team in the league the second half of the season. Then they spoiled the fun with 39 pass attempts and just 18 handoffs in a 10-3 loss to the Packers.
Forte still managed 91 yards on 15 carries in that defeat, and he carries the momentum of averaging 5.8 yards per attempt over his last three games. But Taylor, the team's designated short-yardage runner, has to be more productive, especially against a Seattle team that ranked 21st in the league against the run.
"I don't know if I have to do anything differently,'' said Taylor, who has played in four career playoff games. "I just have to make a play whenever I get the ball. That's it.''