Tale of the tape: Matt Forte vs. LeSean McCoy
By Mark Potash firstname.lastname@example.org November 2, 2011 10:30PM
Bears running back Matt Forte. | M. Spencer Green~AP
Updated: December 4, 2011 11:16AM
Bears running back Matt Forte is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (96.0, 672 total) and first among running backs in yards from scrimmage (1,091). He’s on a pace for 1,536 rushing yards — which would be the most by a Bear since Walter Payton in 1985 (1,551) — and a franchise-record 2,494 yards from scrimmage.
He’s been called the MVP of the team, the best running back in the NFL, even the best player in the NFL, by teammate Brian Urlacher after the victory over the Buccaneers in London.
But Forte might not be the best running back on the field Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Or the most underrated or underpaid running back, either.
The Eagles’ LeSean McCoy has some pretty fair credentials of his own. He leads the NFL with 107.7 rushing yards per game, 5.6 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns.
He’s coming off a career-best performance against the Cowboys on Sunday. Facing the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in the league (69.7 yards per game), McCoy had 30 carries for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 34-7 rout. He added 15 yards on two receptions for an even 200 yards from scrimmage. He gained 76 yards on his first six carries in the first quarter — that’s more than the Cowboys allowed, on average, in an entire game.
Forte has faced three teams currently in the top 10 in rushing defense in the NFL this season — the Vikings (No. 5), Falcons (No. 7) and Packers (No. 10). McCoy has faced three of the top seven — the 49ers (No. 1), Cowboys (No. 4) and Falcons (No. 7).
So it’ll be an interesting matchup Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field — Forte vs. an Eagles defense ranked 29th in the NFL in rush yards per carry (5.0); McCoy vs. a Bears defense that ranks 28th (5.2). Here’s how it shapes up:
EX-BEAR OF THE WEEK: Brandon Lloyd
Three months since the start of training camp, Jay Cutler is just now getting a feel for Roy Williams. But Brandon Lloyd already seems to have a connection with A.J. Feeley less than two weeks after joining the St. Louis Rams — and Feeley isn’t even the Rams’ regular starting quarterback.
Lloyd, acquired from the Denver Broncos on Oct. 17 for a conditional sixth-round pick, caught six passes for 53 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in St. Louis. His eight-yard touchdown catch with 17 seconds left in the first half gave the Rams a 17-0 lead. His diving catch for a 16-yard gain on third-and-five with 4:10 to play helped clinch the victory.
Lloyd, who played for the Bears in 2008, had six receptions for 74 yards against the Cowboys last week. In two games with the Rams, he has 12 receptions for 127 yards — one catch less than Williams (13-190, 1 TD) has in six games with the Bears.
SECOND-HALF STAT TO WATCH: Forced fumbles
Forced fumbles are an unofficial measurement of how hard the Bears’ defense is playing. The Bears usually get most of their fumbles when they’re swarming to the ball and gang-tackling. That’s been a hallmark of their defense under Lovie Smith. The Bears have been in the top five in the NFL in fumble recoveries in four of the previous five seasons — No. 1 in 2009 (15) and 2006 (20).
But that’s been a missing element for the most part this season. The Bears, who forced 37 fumbles last season (second-most in the NFL behind the Giants’ 42) and recovered 15 (fifth-most in the NFL), have forced just eight fumbles in the first seven games and recovered four — none in the past four games. Even cornerback Charles Tillman, who has 27 career forced fumbles, hasn’t had one in the past five games after getting one each against the Falcons and Saints.
In fact, since Week 4 of last season, the Bears have recovered just 11 fumbles in their last 21 games. They had recovered 74 in the previous 70 games from 2006-10.