Matt Forte and making copies don't necessary go together, but the Bears running back appeared at the South Loop FedEx Office store today to promote the company's "Blitz for Tickets" ticket giveaway. It was somewhat strange seeing Forte at the same store I've made copies at for the last two years, but the lines leading out the store for the chance to meet the running back were no surprise at all. And while many have complained that after "paying the man" that Forte's production has taken a dip, I think the problem is that you have to play the man after you pay him.
When it comes to the limited role Forte had in last week's loss to the Vikings, Forte agreed with my assessment. When asked by another reporter how his production in last week's loss to the Vikings compared to Adrian Peterson's, he got straight to the point, saying "you can't do a lot with thirteen carries." The stats more than bear out this argument, as Forte's 13 carries for 85 yards put him at a better yards-per-carry mark than Peterson's 31 carries for 154 yards. It's true that Forte had his fair share of runs that went for little or no gain. Still, it's hard not to think that the team would do well to emphasize Forte's talents more even when playing from behind.
Despite his somewhat average numbers this season, Forte isn't making excuses. While many in Chicago wouldn't be surprised if Forte publicly complained about the offensive focus moving away from the run game, the running back had only positive things to say about his coaches. He said that the locker room is fully behind Lovie remaining the head coach, noting that the team "doesn't pay much attention" to media and fan grumblings about Smith.
The offensive line has been more than a little suspect in pass blocking, but Forte has no complaints about how they've done as run blockers. Forte said of the linesmen that "you like to see the same five, and it's been different [lately], but they're doing a good job." Forte's yards per carry number for the season - 4.3 - is slightly lower than the 4.9YPC he managed last season, but he refused to blame anyone but himself for the dip, coach or player.
While Forte subtly grumbled about his reduced role in last week's game, he is still highly driven to elevate his play in the final push for the playoffs. He acknowledged that the loss of Brian Urlacher will make things a bit harder for the Bears, saying "it's tough when you lose your defensive leader." Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the mood in the locker room remains positive and focused on the goal of reaching the playoffs. Noting that the Bears are still in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, Forte said that "We're still fighting."
I wouldn't be the WCG Xs-and-Os guy if I didn't close the interview with an attempt to get a preview of the Bears' game-plan for this Sunday, but Forte wasn't going to let me run a copy of his playbook on a nearby copy machine. Still, I had to ask what the the offense had to do to reverse the string of losses the team has suffered against the Packers. I have to think the team has a little something up its sleeves, because Forte's response was as to-the-point as possible. What does Forte think the offense has to do to beat the Pack? Two words: "Score points." Asked to elaborate, he gave a small nod to the problem turnovers played in the last couple of games, saying "That's what we need to do - score points. Then [we'll] let the defense do their work." Guess we'll have to wait until Sunday to see how Forte and the rest of the team go after their goal.
So, WCGers, what do you think? Matt Forte denies the somewhat common belief that injuries have hampered his season. Is he holding back on us, or is it simply a case of his role being diminished in the recent string of play-from-behind games? More importantly, can a heavy dose of Forte run the Bears into the playoffs? Unwilling to play the blame game, Forte stands ready to make up for his mid-season slide with a strong finish. With a block or two in front of him, he'll be able to convert his will into wins.
Many thanks to FedEx Office for hosting the event.