Matt Forte’s game keeps appreciating
By Mark Potash firstname.lastname@example.org
Bears running back Matt Forte leaps over Buccaneers defensive back Tanard Jackson. | David J. Phillip~AP
LONDON — Everything is worth less in the United States than it is here. Except Matt Forte.
The Bears running back continues to increase his value with each game this season. After Forte rushed for 145 yards on 25 carries and added 38 yards on two receptions to spark the Bears’ 24-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, it’s probably going to cost the Bears a lot more of those devalued U.S. dollars to keep him.
Pound-for-pound — and dollar-for-dollar — Forte might be the best running back in football right now. His 183 total yards give him 1,091 for the season — 672 rushing and 419 receiving. He’s the first running back in the NFL to eclipse 1,000 total yards in seven games since 2004, when the Chiefs’ Priest Holmes and the Giants’ Tiki Barber did it.
‘‘He’s the man,’’ wide receiver Roy Williams said. ‘‘I’ve said it from Week 1, he’s the most valuable player on this team.’’
Linebacker Brian Urlacher took it a step further.
‘‘I think he’s the best player in the NFL right now,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘You look at everything he’s done this year, it’s just amazing. He’s done everything.’’
His timing is impeccable. The Bears’ failure to come to terms on a new contract and let Forte play out the final year of his contract for $600,000 this season keeps looking like a move that’s going to cost the Bears more in the long run. But he’s growing weary of that angle.
‘‘I’m motivated every year,’’ Forte said. ‘‘I’m not worried about being motivated for whatever reason. It’s not like I’ve come out and played the game because I’m mad or anything like that. I come out there to succeed for my teammates and myself.’’
Forte played a key role in almost everything the Bears did right Sunday. But none was more impressive than a 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that Adrian Peterson — or any NFL back, for that matter — would have been proud of. Running right on second-and-one he cut to his left at the 18-yard line to thwart one defender, then deked out another at the 10 to reach the end zone and give the Bears a 6-0 lead.
He also had runs of 22, 15 and 13 yards. And when things got tight in the fourth quarter when the Buccaneers cut the Bears’ lead to 21-18 with 7:17 to play, Forte took a swing pass from Jay Cutler and used a downfield block from wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for a 36-yard gain to the Buccaneers’ 4-yard line. That set up a Robbie Gould field goal that forced the Bucs to need a touchdown to win.
‘‘Just a great job by the offensive line and being patient as a runner,’’ Forte said when asked about his overall success.
‘‘Matt did a great job, as he’s done all year,’’ Cutler said, ‘‘and we have to find ways to give him the ball because he’s such a dynamic player and doing so many things for us.’’
Guard Chris Spencer, tight end Matt Spaeth and Williams had key blocks on Forte’s touchdown run. But one difference this season is that Forte can do more on his own, which he did against the Buccaneers.
‘‘Matt is doing a great job of making people miss and making us look good,’’ center Roberto Garza said. ‘‘Today we had a rough day. We made a lot of mistakes out there, and he picked it up.
‘‘It wasn’t a pretty game for the offensive line, but we fought through. You’ve got to win those games sometimes when you’re battling out there, and he’s doing a great job of making plays and making this offense work.’’