CHICAGO – Matt Forte lined up 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and studied the defensive formation of the New York Giants.
On this play – first-and-10 early in the second quarter – the Giants did not key specifically on Forte. They relied on their traditional “4-3” alignment with four defensive linemen and three linebackers, plus a safety pinching in to account for lead fullback Tony Fiammetta.
Forte angled right, sprinted three steps forward and accepted the handoff from Jay Cutler. Teammates Roberto Garza and Kyle Long sealed off their blocks, and Forte took advantage. He sprinted 4 yards before slamming into Giants linebacker Jon Beason, then spun to his left to pick up an extra 3 yards with Beason clinging to his waist to try to drag him down.
If only every run play could look as efficient as that 7-yard gain.
“We’re going to get it eventually,” Long said after the Bears’ narrow win. “We’re all coming together as an offense, and I think you guys can see that. There’s progress made weekly.”
Pretty soon, the Bears will need to pick up the pace.
Take away a 15-yard run by Alshon Jeffery and three improvised scrambles by Cutler, and the Bears’ running game mostly sputtered in Week 6 at Soldier Field. Forte and backup running back Michael Bush teamed up for 25 carries for 75 yards against the winless Giants, who entered the game with the NFL’s 27th-ranked rushing defense.
Yes, the Bears won, and therefore it was hard to blame Forte for feeling upbeat afterward. Besides, he said, the Giants made a point to focus on stopping the Bears’ running game, which allowed Cutler to pick up first downs consistently via the passing attack.
“They played ‘Bear Front’ a lot, which is when they shift the linebackers down and move the defensive linemen in,” Forte said. “It’s hard to run against that front. Give them credit. They’ve got a lot of good defensive linemen.”
As individuals, perhaps.
As a team? No-and-six.
The Bears have managed to post a 4-2 record despite an inconsistent run game led by Forte, who has yet to post a 100-yard game this season. Maybe Marc Trestman’s crew can get away with another subpar ground game next week against the Washington Redskins, but as the weather turns harsh on the lakefront in the weeks ahead, quality runs will be essential.
By then, Cutler said, the Bears’ offense will be better.
“I don’t think anybody in the league is where they want to be offensively and defensively at this point – too early in the year,” Cutler said. “You want to be playing your best football in November and December and make your run then.”
If not, good luck.
“We’ve got a versatile offense where we’re not just one-dimensional,” Forte said. “We can run the ball and throw the ball as well.
“I’m involved in the passing game. I had a couple catches out there [Thursday] as well. If the running game is struggling, we can throw the ball through the air.”
And hope the right person catches it.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.