Wednesday, September 12, 2012
One more time: Matt Forte and the goal line
By Kevin Seifert
For months, the NFC North's surest fantasy football bet was that the Chicago Bears would use tailback Michael Bush instead of Matt Forte in goal-line situations. Sure enough, Bush scored a pair of one-yard touchdowns in last Sunday's 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Forte, meanwhile, did not get a goal-to-go carry in the game.
A minor stir developed when Forte offered this neutral response to what was a completely expected development: "It's happened my whole career here so I don't know. That's the coordinator's call."
We've hit this issue a number of times over the years, but allow me to hammer it home one more time in case there is any confusion. There is an excellent and fact-based explanation for why Bush is -- and should be -- the Bears' goal-line back. As the charts show, Bush quite simply has been much more successful in those situations over his career.
I checked with Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information for some context on their career numbers. Here's what we can say: Since Forte's career began in 2008, he has gotten more goal-to-go opportunities than all but three NFL running backs. His nine career touchdowns over that stretch is the fewest among all backs with at least 50 such carries, as is his ratio of one touchdown for every 9.6 goal-to-go carries.
(The Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner leads the NFL over that span with 40 goal-to-go touchdowns.)
That tells us Forte has gotten plenty of opportunities to produce on the goal line and hasn't produced the way other comparable backs have. It's a relatively minor pock on an otherwise sterling résumé, nothing more or less, and probably wouldn't be an issue at all were it not for the fantasy implications.
I don't get the sense that Forte is exactly enraged about the situation, and it wouldn't be justified if he were. He still got 16 carries against the Colts, including one from the 6-yard line that he converted into a touchdown in the third quarter. He also caught three passes for 40 yards and got more than twice as many snaps (56) as Bush (25), according to Pro Football Focus.
Whether you're a fantasy owner or a Bears fan or both, that breakdown should be completely acceptable and understandable on all levels. Forte should be the primary back and Bush should have priority on the goal line.