LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte considers re-commitment to the fundamentals coming out of the week off much more important than any fancy scheme the team can devise going into Monday night’s matchup with the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
The key, Forte said, is for the team to “not get ahead of ourselves.”
“It’s always important to get back to the basics of the offense, what you want to do, which is just like technique stuff, blocking and making sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, like saying, ‘Well, last game we ran the ball well and threw the ball well. We’re just going to come out and run and gun.’ We’ve got to get back to the basics and not try to call all these extravagant plays.”
Translated, the Bears want to return to fielding a dominant rushing attack. That’s not to say the ground game hadn’t been productive over the first five games. After all, the running game played a role in the Bears leading opponents in time of possession in four of the five games. The only time the club didn’t lead in time of possession, it lost to the Green Bay Packers as Forte -- who left the game with an ankle injury -- and Michael Bush came together for Chicago’s second-lowest rushing output (94 yards) of the season.
Coming off their best rushing game of the season (a 214-yard explosion during a 41-3 stomping of the Jacksonville Jaguars), the Bears return from the layoff hoping to resume production with Forte and Bush against a Detroit Lions team that ranks No. 12 at stopping the run (allowing 96.4 yards per game).
In watching film of Detroit during its overtime win over Philadelphia from last week, the Bears immediately noticed the Lions “got constant penetration,” against the Eagles, Forte said, “and that kills the run game.” The Lions achieve that penetration with a plethora of run blitzes, which the Bears hope to combat by working the play-action passing game.
Still, that won’t discourage the Bears from running. At the same time, play-action isn’t believable unless the opponent respects the run.
“You see the games that Matt Forte has had in the past,” said center Roberto Garza. “We know what he’s capable of and we know what Michael Bush is capable of as well. I’m not saying that we’re gonna rush for over 200 yards. I’m just saying that we’ve seen the types of runs that he can do on the field. We saw what Michael Bush can do. I think both guys are getting ready for some big games.”
Does that start Monday night? That’s an unknown at this point. Philadelphia experienced some success last week running directly at Detroit’s front seven, which is anchored by defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. That’s a tactic the Bears could employ, too.
Collectively, Forte and Bush have gained 38.4 percent of their 476 yards on the year after contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information. They’ve also made defenders miss on a combined 11 runs, according to Pro Football Focus.
“You don’t ever want to really run sideways a whole lot because everybody’s defense is fast,” said Forte, who produced his first 100-yard rushing game of the season in the win over the Jags. “When you’re running downhill, straight ahead, if you can come off the ball and push them off the ball a little, then you’re going to get that four, five, six yards per carry.”
After Bush scored three TDs in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears have punched in just two more scores with the rushing attack over the last four games.
Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said “we felt we would improve in the run game” in the win over the Jaguars because of the team’s focus in that area during the week of practice, but he knows that needs to continue as the Bears prepare for the Lions.
Forte and Tice both credited the offensive line’s role in the entire unit improving.
“We’re improving on third down, improving on running the football,” Tice said. “If you look at how (the offensive line is) coming along and how they’re playing together, they’re getting better at things each week. But we have a really good opponent coming up. So we have to hone up the things we’re not doing well. We have to get better at something every week.”