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Matt Forte earns his keep

Chicago 9/9/12
The Bears Matt Forte avoids Colts Antonio Johnsfirst half their game Soldier Field September 9 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times

Chicago, 9/9/12 The Bears Matt Forte avoids the Colts Antonio Johnson in the first half of their game at Soldier Field September 9, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media

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Matt Forte still doesn’t seem happy.

Sure, he’s now got the $32-million contract that he spent the past year posturing for. Yes, he’s proven that an offseason story about him supposedly having a bad knee was more fiction than fact. And now he even has a new offensive coordinator in Mike Tice that still believes in three yards and a cloud of dust.

Some guys just can’t be pleased.

And maybe that’s not a bad thing.

After a slow start in the first few minutes of the opening quarter, the Bears running back finished his day with 80 yards on 16 carries, a rushing touchdown, and three catches for 40 yards. Not a bad debut to the 2012 season.

But it was more about what Forte didn’t get. Specifically, goal-line carries that resulted in Michael Bush putting two 1-yard touchdowns on his resume.

“It’s been happening my whole career here, so I don’t know,’’ Forte replied, when asked about not getting to be the closer on drives. “That’s the coordinator’s call.’’

The one that stood out was in the first quarter, when Forte had a 32-yard run to jump-start the drive, and five plays later a 15-yard run down to the Indianapolis 1-yard line. In came Bush, who earned the free-agent money he was given this offseason, by getting two chances to plunge in. It was pay dirt on attempt No. 2.

As far as the workload each back had in the 41-21 win, Forte had eight more total touches, with Bush getting 12 carries for 42 yards and no receptions.

When asked on Sunday if he should no longer care about his number of carries since he did get the contract extension, Forte replied, “I don’t pay attention to the [number of] carries, stuff like that. [Running backs coach Tim Spencer] let’s us go a couple of series, then he’ll put Mike in there for a little bit. Just to keep us fresh for the third and fourth quarter so when it comes down to the running game, running out the clock, we can be fresh for that.’’

Or frustrated by the time it reaches that point.

But maybe having the two backs compete for carries will better serve the Bears as the season goes on. In this case, competition really is a good thing. The days of a single back getting 30-35 carries a game are becoming extinct league-wide. Tice has even said on several occasions that he would like to see Bush and Forte each be 1,000-yard backs this season.

Plus, it isn’t like there is a huge gap in talent between Bush and Forte like there has been with other backs playing behind Forte. Chester Taylor and Marion Barber each had strengths, but not the all-around skills that Bush has. Forte even admitted to that.

“Mike can do it all, as well,’’ Forte said. “He can catch the ball on third downs, so there are no limitations when I come out of the game. It’s not like if I come out on third down, he can’t do the same thing.’’

That’s a popular opinion.

“It’s good to have a player like Michael, period, all over the field,’’ head coach Lovie Smith said. “That’s why we brought him in here.’’

It won’t be changing anytime soon, either. Whether Forte likes it or not.



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