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Bears’ Catch-22: Matt Forte’s price going up after strong games

Through two games Matt Forte is playing like he’s worthy big money he wants. | KevC. Cox~ Getty Images

Through two games, Matt Forte is playing like he’s worthy of the big money he wants. | Kevin C. Cox~ Getty Images

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Updated: November 10, 2011 2:53PM

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has had better days than Sunday in New Orleans.

His first-round pick went out with a knee injury. With Olin Kreutz on the other sideline, his quarterback was sacked six times. And the only bright spot in a 30-13 loss to the Saints is going to cost him: Matt Forte’s price keeps going up.

You can’t blame Angelo for wanting to see more from Forte this season before signing him to a long-term contract extension. But even after two games, it’s pretty clear: When the Bears’ offense is good, Forte is good; when the Bears’ offense is bad, Forte is still good. What more do you need to see?

Not only is Forte second in the NFL among non-quarterbacks in total yards with 324 (117 rushing on 26 carries; 207 receiving on 15 catches), he has accounted for 52 percent of the Bears’ total yardage. That’s by far No. 1 in the NFL among non-quarterbacks. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is second at 41.9 percent. Only two others are even higher than 40 percent.

But it’s not only the numbers that make Forte’s case so overwhelming. It’s the way he’s getting them. He’s making people miss. He’s finding holes. He’s breaking tackles. He’s picking up yards after the catch. He’s gaining yards he wasn’t getting in previous years. And he’s good in protection.

Yeah, it’s early. But if this offense ever becomes all it’s cracked up to be, the Bears can win with Forte, and win big. He’s not worth as much as Peterson or Chris Johnson. But he’s closer to Michael Turner, Ray Rice and Darren McFadden than the Bears think. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. The Bears might want to find it sooner rather than later.

Packers in for a fall?

After two weeks, the Packers are 30th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 476 yards per game against the Saints and Panthers. And they just lost Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins for the season with a neck injury.

Last year, the Packers struggled on defense early — allowing an average of 397 yards to the Lions, Redskins, Dolphins and Vikings. But they filled in some holes and were strong at the end. In their last seven regular-season games after the bye, the Packers allowed an average of 290 yards a game.

The Packers might be just warming up. But they also might not have the depth they had last year to fill those holes. The Bears won’t miss defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who already has three sacks in two games with the Eagles. And linebacker Nick Barnett had 14 tackles for the Bills in their 38-35 victory over the Raiders. Another former Packer, linebacker Brady Poppinga, had two tackles for loss for the Rams against the Giants on Monday night.

Mark Anderson:
The Closer

Former Bears defensive end Mark Anderson hasn’t lost his touch. Anderson had 12 sacks for the Bears as a rookie in 2006, most of them in pass-rush situations, which helped convince the Bears he was an every-down player.

That didn’t work out, but Anderson has found a niche with the Patriots. With the Pats leading 35-21 in the final 1:30 on Sunday, Anderson sacked Philip Rivers and forced a fumble to clinch the victory.

It was Anderson’s second straight game with a sack. Last week, he sacked Chad Henne with 1:30 to go to help the Patriots close out a victory.

TD or not TD?

The NFL confirmed Tuesday that a miscommunication between the replay booth and the on-field officials prevented a review of Darren Sproles’ 12-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ loss to the Saints.

Replays indicated Sproles stepped out of bounds outside of the 1-yard line as he tiptoed along the sideline into the end zone after taking a short pass from Drew Brees.

An NFL spokesman confirmed that the replay official called for a review. But because of a communications breakdown, the play was not reviewed. ‘‘We are modifying the communication procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again,’’ NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello said.

Bits and pieces

Speaking of the Patriots, Maywood native Sergio Brown had one of their four takeaways with an interception of a Rivers pass in his first NFL start. It was Brown’s first interception since he was a senior at Proviso East. He had none at Notre Dame.

■ Lance Briggs had 15 tackles against the Saints upon review of the game film. Brian Urlacher, who had three tackles from the press-box statistics, had six after watching the tape.

■ Do the Bears miss Danieal Manning? Now with the Texans, Manning has returned three kickoffs this season — for 46, 34 and 43 yards. His 43-yard return led to a backbreaking touchdown in the Texans’ 23-13 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami.

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