Monday, November 7, 2011
Big-play backs highlight Bears-Eagles
By Ernest Tolden
When the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles meet tonight, much of the focus will be on sensational running backs Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy.
Both players are having great seasons, with each entering the weekend in the top five of the NFL in rushing yards per game and total offense.
Heading into the weekend, Forte led all players with 1,091 yards of total offense, and McCoy was fifth in the league with 892.
McCoy’s NFL-best 107.7 yards per game on the ground leads an Eagles’ rushing attack that’s first in the NFL averaging 179.9 yards and is running the ball 46 percent of the time (the highest rate since Andy Reid became head coach in 1999).
The Eagles haven’t finished a season with the league’s top rushing offense since 1990, when quarterback Randall Cunningham rushed for 942 yards. They also lead the league in total offense, something the team hasn’t done over an entire season since 1961.
Looking inside the numbers, Forte and McCoy are similar in their running styles.
Each is great at breaking tackles and gaining yards after first contact. Forte’s 289 rushing yards after initial contact is fifth-best in the NFL, while McCoy’s 258 yards rank eighth.
But regardless of the field position, both backs are capable of exploding for long runs. Each is in the top three of players with the most 20-yard rushes.
Forte has already matched his 2010 total of runs for at least 20 yards with a NFL-best nine, including his 32-yard TD run in the Bears last game against the Bucs in London. McCoy is right behind him with eight.
In short-yardage situations, McCoy has the edge. The Eagles running back has recorded five touchdowns in 19 attempts in goal-to-go situations, including his first-quarter 2-yard TD run against the Cowboys last Sunday night.
Forte has not scored a touchdown in six attempts in a goal-to-go situation as Bears backup running back Marion Barber is Chicago’s primary goal-line back.
However, their main difference has come catching the ball out of the backfield. While McCoy is a good receiver in the Eagles’ passing game, Forte poses a threat for Philly’s defense as the best-receiving running back in the NFL.
Forte’s 419 receiving yards lead all NFL running backs, and his 51 targets out of the backfield identifies him as Jay Cutler’s primary option in the Bears passing game. This season, Forte has accounted for 46.2 percent of the Bears offense, highest among all NFL players.
The Bears like to get Forte out in the open field to create running room, as 377 of Forte’s 419 receiving yards have come after the catch. Forte was on the receiving end for the Bears' longest pass play this season: a 56-yard TD catch on a screen pass in Week 1 against the Falcons.
For McCoy, 190 of his 308 receiving yards (62 percent) have come after catches.
Finally, here's why both backs could have big games. Five NFL teams are allowing at least five yards per rush this season. The Bears and Eagles are two of them.