The Chicago Bears’ season has been over for two weeks now, and over that time there have been plenty of changes made at Halas Hall.
With new people coming into the organization to begin cleaning up the mess left by the previous regime, we thought it would be appropriate to do our own version of what people like G.M. Ryan Pace will be doing over the next few weeks: evaluating the performances of the 2014 Bears.
We’ll continue that look today at the running back position, and we’ll get started with veteran back Matt Forte.
In a pass-happy offense, it’s difficult for a running back to put up big numbers on the ground, but Forte still put up some respectable numbers anyway. He rushed for over 1000 yards for the third consecutive season, and even though his yards per attempt was down to 3.9 yards this season (his lowest number since the 2009 season, his second year in the league), he still was able to make an impact as he scored six times on the ground.
Where Forte really made an impact was through the air. In fact, he set a new NFL record for most receptions by a running back, with 102 catches for 808 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Marc Trestman always said that screen passes to Forte were essentially runs with a pass component, and judging by those numbers, that’s clearly what he had in mind.
Best Game of Season:
Forte had plenty of good games this season, but arguably his biggest contribution came when hopes were running highest for the team in Week 6. Playing against the Atlanta Falcons, Forte had 17 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and he also was a lethal weapon through the air as he hauled in 10 catches for 77 yards in the 27-13 victory.
Obviously the Bears’ season quickly went downhill after that as they lost eight of their final 10 games, but at that moment in time, it appeared that the team had really started to figure things out, and Forte’s contributions both with the run and the pass made it appear that the team was finally finding a semblance of balance between the two areas of the offensive gameplan.
Biggest Takeaway from 2014:
If one is looking at the performance of Forte during the 2014 season, there are several different ways to evaluate what he did. You can look at raw numbers, which suggest that he’s still one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL. You can look at the way he focused on kicking more runs to the outside of the field and say that the Bears will need a bigger, stronger change-of-pace running back if they’re going to have a successful running game.
The biggest takeaway from the season however was the fact that Forte never quit, even when times were at their toughest. Just about everyone on the Bears’ offense struggled at times, and there were games where the Bears looked like a defeated team on the field. Forte never shared in that attitude, and even though perseverance is a word that gets thrown around way too often in sports, he definitely showed that he’s willing to keep working even when the game is totally out of control.
That says something about the kind of professional that he is, and the Bears could stand to learn from his example.
Outlook for 2015:
As we alluded to in the previous section, the Bears might have to consider getting a running back who can take some of the pressure off of Forte, and also give them another element to their run game. Forte is a guy who is great at catching screen passes and getting around the edge of the line, but if he has to fight for a couple of yards up the gut, he’s probably not going to get it.
Successful offenses are able to provide the 1-2 punch of running styles that the Bears seemed to lack in 2014, and bringing in a guy who can give Forte a break every now and then and soften up opposing defenses would be a smart move.
Forte isn’t getting any younger. His body won’t keep up with the punishment being inflicted upon it. Getting another back would help Forte remain as effective as possible, and considering how well he played in 2014, any effort to help him out will help the offense as a whole.