OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears in action against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on November 27, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Forte
The sound of Bears fans' breaking hearts almost drowned out another sound in the first quarter of Sunday's game. That would be an endless "ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching" coming from Matt Forte's injured right knee.
Before the season, Forte argued he deserved a new contract. He considered a hold-out. And ultimately, he reported for duty. He was better than we've ever seen. In the early season, he was the Bears offense. And as the passing game improved, Forte proved he could add a lethal strike from anywhere on the field.
He did all this while playing for pocket change.
Now, he's likely done for the year.
Just as all the Cutler doubters disappeared when the QB went down, any question of Forte's worth will be erased in his absence. Marion Barber's a nice running back, but he's not the game-changer Forte is.
Also, this injury is not that bad. It's a sprained ligament. He'll be back ripping up the field next year.
While Forte takes his sweet time to recover, the Bears will likely plummet out of the playoff picture. And Forte would be justified not rushing back to try to save a team helmed by Caleb Hanie. Honestly, what's the best-case scenario for this season? A first round exit from the playoffs?
If the Bears don't want to pay Forte, there will be dozens of teams that would this offseason. As you watch Marion Barber rush for two and three yard chunks in the next four games, consider watching that for 16 games next season.
This season showed that Forte can be an elite running back. And unlike the Eagles' DeSean Jackson, Forte didn't hold out, he didn't mope and he didn't play soft all year to avoid injury. Forte threw himself out there 100 percent.
For the Bears to compete for a championship, they need Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and an as-yet-not-acquired elite receiver or two. The Bears must break out the wallet to make this happen, or get ready for endless winters filled with what you're about to see.