LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte sees the commitment to the handoff and can't help but come away impressed.
The only thing that would be better for him would be if he was talking about his own team instead of this week's opponent. The Bears will see a squad committed to the run when they host DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
"It's impressive to see," said Forte, who made it clear Monday he wants more carries.
Last week, he had just five for six yards, and the Bears (5-7) ran only eight times in a loss at Detroit that all but guaranteed they will miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
On Thursday night, they'll see a team that committed to the run by upgrading its offensive line in recent years and putting the ball in Murray's hands. He has played in all 12 games after missing time in each of his first three seasons, and the results so far are jaw-dropping. He leads the NFL in yards rushing (1,427) and attempts (288) and is a huge reason why the Cowboys are challenging the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East championship.
The Bears have been struggling all season in just about every phase, something they did not envision.
A team that ranked second in the NFL in scoring last season has taken a big step back in Year 2 under coach Marc Trestman, with the Bears failing to produce more than 28 points in a game.
Only three times this season has Forte attempted more than 19 rushes. In four games, he has finished with 13 or fewer. And the five carries against the Lions matched a career low he set against Arizona in 2009 and Kansas City in 2011.
Forte said the Bears can't afford a repeat this week.
"It's of the utmost importance, especially if we're playing outside, with the weather and stuff," Forte said. "You can't just sit back there and throw 50 passes a game and expect to win. Their front four were pinning their ears back. They didn't have anything to do but pass rush. They're not respecting the run and then if you play-fake, they're not going to take the play-fake because you haven't been running the ball."
The Bears were facing the league's stingiest run defense last week. Even so, Forte said that's no reason to completely abandon the run, and they need to stick with it to open up the passing game.
He and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said the game plan last week called for Chicago to go with some quick screens early on and then move to the run. But it didn't quite unfold the way the Bears envisioned.
Kromer would not say how many run plays the Bears called, only that there were "more than what showed on tape."
It didn't help that the Bears again fell into an early hole and trailed at halftime for the eighth time this season. They trailed the Detroit 24-14, and for the season, they've been outscored a whopping 223-117 over the first two quarters.
Even so, Kromer said the Bears still could have run the ball down 10 at halftime.
"And I think in the future, that will happen," he added.
Meanwhile, Trestman reiterated that the Bears need more balance. But the struggle to find it continues.
"As I look back, there's a lot of different things that go into that," he said. "The only thing I could say is we didn't run it enough. We would have liked to run it more. It didn't happen that way, and we've got to move forward to Dallas. We could have that discussion forever. We need to run the ball more than we did."
NOTES: DT Jeremiah Ratliff practiced on a limited basis after missing the Lions game because of a knee injury, while S Chris Conte sat out after injuring his eye against Detroit. TE Martellus Bennett (foot), WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and CB Tim Jennings (groin) were also among the limited participants.
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