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Bears’ Matt Forte is all for more touch football

Matt Forte gained 44 yards his first 4 carries including 13-yard TD run. He finished with 70

RUNNING BACKS: B - Matt Forte gained 44 yards on his first 4 carries, including a 13-yard TD run. He finished with 70 yards on 15 carries (4.7 avg). He also had five reception for 24 yards. Michael Bush had 3 carries for 5 yards.

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:53PM

Running back Matt Forte is on pace to finish with a career low in catches and receiving yards, and he’s projected to wind up just a few yards short of 1,000 rushing yards.

Among NFL running backs, Forte is 21st in total touches. He has 67 fewer than league leader Arian Foster of the Houston Texans.

Forte has 95 carries (20th), which is 56 fewer than the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson.

Against the Carolina Panthers — a team he’d averaged 154.3 rushing yards against in three previous games — Forte averaged 4.7 yards but was handed the ball just 15 times. Jay Cutler, who was having an off day, attempted 28 passes despite shaky pass protection (six sacks).

But Forte isn’t about to complain, given the team’s 6-1 start.

“I never question our play-calling. It’s about the flow of the game,” Forte said. “It’s easy to say it afterwards, ‘Yeah, I should have gotten 25 or 30 touches.’ But when we got down 19-7, we had to start throwing the ball.

“But if we start off early running, like we did, then we shouldn’t abandon the run game.”

Forte, though, understood what happened Sunday.

On the first series, Forte had two runs for 15 yards, including a nine-yarder on a first down. On the next play, Cutler was intercepted attempting a post pattern to a double-covered Brandon Marshall.

On the first carry of the second series, Forte had a 16-yard gain, followed by an 18-yard catch by Marshall. Then, two plays later, Forte sprinted 16 yards for a touchdown.

Thereafter, Forte didn’t get the ball as much, a combination of the Panthers building a lead, backup Michael Bush rotating into the game, turnovers and penalties and the Bears dialing up more pass plays.

But on Monday, Bears coach Lovie Smith said Forte should have gotten the ball more.

“I think when you have a special player like that, of course we need to get him the ball more, and we’ll try that,” Smith said. “But you can say that about a few of our players.”

At the current pace, Forte will finish this season with 41 catches for 306 yards. On average, Forte caught 55 passes for 496 yards in previous seasons. Forte twice led the team in receptions, and he was tied for the lead in another season.

But Forte doesn’t mind getting fewer passes thrown his way.

“The last four years, I‘ve been the main targeted receiver,” he said. “But now we’ve got Brandon and Earl [Bennett] and Devin [Hester] and Alshon [Jeffery], when he gets back.

“So it’s not like I have to be the number one guy we have to throw the ball to.”

Forte’s greater concern is the offense starting to get into a groove and not relying so much on the defense.

“We can’t continue the season like that. There are going to come games when the defense is going to count on us, and we’re going to have to put up more points than we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve got to take the burden off of them a little bit.”

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