In what has become a recurring theme for the Chicago Bears, everybody from Marc Trestman to Aaron Kromer is talking about running the football to provide "balance" to the team’s offense, but at this point, it’s hard to imagine the mantra as anything but lip service.
After all, this is the team that abandoned the run immediately against teams like the Green Bay Packers, and despite the (almost) indisputable fact that Matt Forte is the team’s best player, they all too often take the ball out of his hands and limit him to screen passes and the occasional draw play on third and long.
Against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, the Bears will get the chance to prove that they’re willing to put the football where their collective mouths are. The Cowboys come into the game as one of the better defenses in the NFL, but they were run all over last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Marc Sanchez utilized his receivers well, with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper playing key roles, but the big blows came when LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles would get their hands on the football, as they combined for 191 all-purpose yards in the blowout victory.
If the Bears want to have similar success against Dallas, then Forte is going to have to be involved in all facets of the game. Yes, screen passes will have to be part of that equation, as they are in any Trestman game plan, but Forte will also have to run the ball off tackle. The Cowboys had a tough time keeping contain on McCoy around the edges of the formation, and Forte has the kind of evasiveness and speed to make life similarly painful for “America’s Team.”
All it will take to exploit that vulnerability is a willingness on the part of the Bears to run the football. There is reason for concern to that effect, as Chicago only ran the ball eight times against the Detroit Lions, but if there is a week where the run game should be part of the overall plan, this is it. The Cowboys’ offense is going to make some hay against a beat-up Bears defense, and so keeping the ball on offense will be a big key to success for Chicago. That means running the ball, and that means that Trestman has to finally follow through on his threats to use Forte more.