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Then and Now: First Downs and Forte

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears is tackled and grabbed by the face mask by Marcus Trufant #23 of the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on October 17, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Forte; Marcus Trufant

    In their last match-up with the Seahawks, the Bears were terrible at converting third downs. In fact, they didn't convert a single one.

    That dearth started a two-game stretch where the Bears went 2-22 on third down conversions. Since then, the Bears have improved their third down efficiency consideribly.

    Looking back at that October game at Soldier Field, the Bears relied too much on the pass. They tried 39 passes compared with 14 rushing attempts. That put Jay Cutler in danger of being sacked -- which happened six times -- or throwing an incomplete pass. He was 17-39. On every third down in the game, the Bears either gave up a sack, threw an incomplete pass, or completed a pass that was still short of the first down. Not once was Matt Forte or Chester Taylor given the ball to run for the first down.

    Since then, the Bears have tried a more balanced attack. Forte, who was given just eight attempts in the loss to Seattle, has not had less than 13 touches, save the loss to New England. He's had more touches in the second half of the season, but less fumbles. He had three fumbles in 102 carries in games 1-8, but 133 carries for zero fumbles in the last eight games. He's also being given the ball more often in third down situations, taking pressure off of Cutler and the receivers.

    That powered the Bears to a 6-2 finish and an NFC North championship. We'll see on Sunday if it can power Chicago to a playoff win.