By JOE STEVENSON -
CHICAGO – Running back Matt Forte had nowhere to run last week against a stout Green Bay defensive front that manhandled the Bears’ offense.
It was one of the most frustrating games of Forte’s career as he carried nine times for 2 yards, an average of 8 inches each attempt.
Forte had almost anywhere to run that he wanted Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
The fourth-year back aided his cause for a more lucrative contract with his career-best 205 yards as the Bears defeated Carolina, 34-29, at Soldier Field.
“It reminded me of my senior year at Tulane, every weekend we were getting 200 yards,” said Forte, whose rookie contract expires after this season. “All the credit goes to the offensive line. The holes were huge. The offensive line wore the defense out.”
It was evident from the first series, when the Bears ran eight times and did not attempt a pass, that they really did “get off the bus running,” a term head coach Lovie Smith frequently used in past seasons, even when the Bears were not that proficient at it.
Forte’s 25 carries was more than the team total in the past two weeks combined.
His 205 yards were more than his total coming into Sunday’s game and put him in company with Walter Payton and Gale Sayers, the only runners in Bears’ history with 200-yard games.
“Matt did a great job of making us look good,” center Roberto Garza said. “He was able to showcase his skills and what he can do. We knew there was going to be an emphasis this week and we knew we had to go out there and block people. We were able to do that and create some movement and Matt made a lot of people miss today.”
Forte ripped off a 46-yard run on the Bears’ second play and continued to gouge the Panthers most of the game. The Bears flourished with their running game despite some personnel shifts in the line. Right guard Chris Spencer was injured in the first half and replaced by Lance Louis. In the second half, Spencer returned and Louis replaced Frank Omiyale at right tackle, but the Bears kept on pounding the run game.
“Once the offensive line takes care of the defensive line, I can get into the open field and make somebody miss,” Forte said. “There’s a lot of yards to get after the line of scrimmage. The holes were just there, wide open.”
Forte has a lot of fans in the Bears’ locker room hoping management might extend his contract before he can reach free agency.
“Matt is amazing. You’ve got to put some change in his pocket,” defensive back D.J. Moore said. “There’s pretty much nothing else to say about that.”