Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas – It was a subtle move with an effective result.
On a first-and-10 from his own 36, Matt Forte stutter-stepped through the line, waited for a hole to emerge, and exploded through.
Fourteen yards later he was dragged down from behind.
Not bad for a “game-time’’ decision.
“Just stepping on the field he helps us out,’’ Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said of Forte. “You have to pay attention to him whether it’s in the running game or the passing game.’’
The only attention paid to Forte since Week 2 in Green Bay had to do with his sprained right ankle. Specifically, when and if he would play heading into the nationally-televised game against the Cowboys after Forte missed the St. Louis game last weekend.
Head coach Lovie Smith labeled the running back a “game-time decision,’’ but even his teammates were expecting to see Forte out there, with backup Michael Bush insisting after the Rams win that Forte would play Week 4.
Play and start he did, taking the first handoff of the game eight yards. But all those good feelings the Bears’ offense was having in seeing No. 22 out there came to a quick end, as Forte limped off the field after just the one carry, was greeted on the sideline by trainers and went right to the training table as they began to work on the right ankle once again.
The ankle was re-taped, tested on the sideline, and Forte was back in the game by the second quarter, sparking the Bears first score of the night, as he had 33 of the 69 yards in a drive that culminated in a Robbie Gould 43-yard field goal.
He finished the first half with 42 yards on seven carries, and was more of a decoy in the second half. He finished the game with 52 yards.
“This was definitely a good win, we needed to win on the road, and on a Monday night game, so we were definitely a little more amped up,’’ tackle Gabe Carimi said. “Then you add Matt Forte to the mix. I mean he’s a dynamic player and it’s always a good thing when the ball is in his hands.’’
Since training camp, the Bears had been preaching that the running game was key to the offense having success, but besides a solid showing in the opener against the Colts, it’s been more talk than action.
Enough so that Smith even addressed his concerns with the running game – or lack thereof – this past week.
“I think our entire team needs a boost right now and we need to improve in a lot of areas,’’ Smith said. “It’s a commitment to the run as much as anything. Some days the yards per carry won’t be up there but if you stay committed to the run it can do some other things for you. But we need to improve in our running game.’’
In other words, they needed their $32-million running back healthy and on the field, even if it wasn’t at 100 percent. And not just to do what he’s paid most to do – carry the ball.
“Such an explosive player,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice said of Forte. “But what is forgotten is I think that pass protection. He’s an excellent pass protector, and does so many things well.’’