As I said in my "Three Keys" post earlier today, the running game was going to deserve its own post, and it does. I don't think the Bears need to run a lot - whatever is needed to win the game, even if it involves passing a lot, it should be done and pass/run balance be damned - but there's no denying that ten-to-twelve run plays just doesn't get anything done, and definitely not ten-to-twelve running plays that get as much yardage as my average golf swing. Hint. It's bad.
That being said, I can see this week's game against the Panthers being one where the run game helps out drastically. Follow me past the jump and let's do some number diving.
First off, let's look at a set of numbers you all should be VERY familiar with.
6/16, 32 yards, 4 INT
Any ideas? That's Todd Collins' stat line in Week 5 last season against the Panthers. It was with that quarterback that Matt Forte and Chester Taylor put together these stat lines:
Forte: 22 carries, 166 yards, 2 TD; 2 receptions, 22 yards
Taylor: 18 carries, 43 yards; 2 receptions, 11 yards
Under absolutely zero threat of a pass game, Forte put together a 7.545 YPC game across 22 carries. Also keep in mind that was with last year's line that still gave up 3 sacks on 22 called pass plays and had probably as many open holes for Forte to run through.
But that was last year, you say, and I agree - can't look at last year's defensive statistics forever. That's where this year comes in. In the three games so far this year, the Panthers gave up 99 yards, 124 and 128. Let's take a look at those running backs...
Chris "Beanie" Wells: 18 carries, 90 yards, TD; 4 receptions, 12 yards
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 3 carries, 10 yards; 1 reception, 2 yards
James Starks: 9 carries, 85 yards; 3 receptions, 30 yards
Ryan Grant: 6 carries, 25 yards; 3 receptions, 14 yards
John Kuhn: 1 carry, 1 yard, TD; 1 reception, 7 yards
Maurice Jones-Drew: 24 carries, 122 yards; 3 receptions, 45 yards
Deji Karim: 5 carries, 4 yards; 2 receptions, 19 yards
And if you cut that down to the three primary backs - Beanie, Starks and MJD - you combine them for 51 carries for 297 yards and 10 receptions for 87 yards. That's 5.82 yards per rush and 8.7 yards per reception. You can include Ryan Grant in there and that goes to 57 carries for 323 yards and 13 receptions for 101 yards - 5.7 yards per rush and 7.77 yards per reception. Now what does that have to do with the Bears' running backs? Well, even after having a bad couple weeks with regards to running the ball, Forte's still at a 3.4 yards per carry, which should increase on the year, and so far he's averaging 13.0 yards per reception. And Barber, as a straight-ahead power runner, should be able to find running room in this defense, if he can find the form that made him a force in his earlier Dallas career.
We know Forte can make an impact in the passing game, but this could be a game where Forte and Barber make an impact on the ground too. What do you guys think - is this the game where the Bears get off the bus running?