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With Jay Cutler out, figure on seeing more of Matt Forte

A If only Bears could have utilized Matt Forte like this all season. Forte rushed for 103 yards 1-yard

RUNNING BACKS: A If only the Bears could have utilized Matt Forte like this all season. Forte rushed for 103 yards and a 1-yard TD on 24 carries and also had 2 catches for 21 yards.

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:51AM

Since bursting through a hole for a 50-yard touchdown run to spark an upset victory against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in his NFL debut in 2008, Matt Forte has had a knack for making a difference when the Bears really need him.

The Bears have plenty of weapons to ease quarterback Josh McCown’s
introduction to the starting job in place of injured Jay Cutler, and Forte could figure as prominently as any of them.

It was Forte who took over the first time the Bears started a game without Cutler after trading for him in 2009. With Todd Collins starting against the Panthers in 2010, Forte rushed for 166 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns to lead the Bears to a 23-6 victory. Forte gained 14 yards on his second carry, scored on an 18-yard run on his third carry and scored on a 68-yard run on his fourth carry to make Collins’ four-interception day a footnote.

Running the ball should be more difficult when Cutler is out, but Forte often — though not always — finds a way. Against the Redskins last Sunday, Forte gained nine yards on four carries while Cutler was in the game. After Cutler was hurt, Forte helped keep the Bears in it with a 50-yard touchdown run. It was his third run of 50 yards or more this season, following a 55-yarder against the Steelers and a 53-yarder for a touchdown against the Lions.

Forte is only the second NFL running back in the last four seasons to have three runs of 50 or more yards in the first half of the season. He’s the first Bears running back to do it since Walter Payton in 1977, and his eight career runs of 50 or more yards trail only Gale Sayers’ nine and Payton’s 11 on the team’s all-time list.

Forte is sixth in the NFL in rushing (533 yards on 116 carries, six touchdowns). He also has 35 receptions for 262 yards. If the Bears are going to find a way to survive the latest injury to Cutler, Forte is likely to be in the middle of it.

Mark Potash

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