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Thursday, March 18, 2010
Measuring the Bears' goal-line failures

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

The arrival of new offensive coordinator Mike Martz is expected to formalize Chicago's shift to a pass-first offense, at least based on Martz's history in St. Louis and Detroit. It makes sense for a number of reasons, including the Bears' historic failures when they tried to run the ball near the goal line last season.

We've previously noted that, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Bears tailback Matt Forte carried the ball 33 times in goal-to-go situations in 2009. He scored on only three of them, a ratio that ranked him No. 102 among all rushers who got at least one carry in that situation.

Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders provides further evidence of the Bears' inability to convert close-in runs last season. Forte had two touchdowns on 19 attempts inside the 5-yard line. Based on a formula designed to compare production to the league-wide standard, Forte finished lower than expectations for any running back in the last decade.

You'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire piece, but here is part of the Forte passage:
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte played behind one of the worst offensive lines in football -- and it showed in his work near the goal line. By our figures, Forte's two touchdowns on 19 attempts inside the 5 in 2009 were 5.7 touchdowns below his expected total. That's the worst figure of the decade.

The Bears have added tailback Chester Taylor and hired new offensive line coach Mike Tice to help improve that performance, but it might make sense for the Bears to focus on their passing presence near the goal line.