Bernstein: Can Forte Carry Bears With Cutler Out?

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Matt Forte is a very good NFL running back. He has multiple strengths, minimal weaknesses, practices hard and stays healthy.

And it was great to see the Bears again not need him to do much, in another convincing win.

But now Jay Cutler could miss the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, missing 6-8 weeks, according to initial reports. Forte will be called upon to shoulder the load, as Caleb Hanie takes over at the most important single position in team sports.

Good teams don’t want a running back to appear indispensible – they want them to appear interchangeable. When he was accounting for a disproportionate percentage of yards – as he was earlier this year — something wasn’t working.

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Now, it’s an emergency. He’s as indispensible as they get.

As well as he was playing earlier, it was as much a function of unreliable pass blocking and inferior receiver play as it was Forte’s own skills. He was taking the ball and running with it, largely because nobody wanted to risk throwing it. It was hand it to him, flip it to him, or get sacked.

The offense had seemed to have unlocked something, lately, energizing the downfield passing game with a moving pocket, quicker-hitting routes, and Cutler’s remarkable athleticism buying time for deeper pattern combinations.

It helps when the defense and special teams score points on their own, too, and at the very least continue to provide shorter fields. It will have to be a true three-phase effort from the Bears, now, verifying the rhetoric of a sport proud to refer to itself as the only real, team game. Take the ball away so the opponent can’t have it, return kicks and punts far enough that it takes them too many plays to score.

There is a hard question that must be asked, considering what Forte admitted to the Sun Times: “To continue to give me the touches I’ve had since my rookie year but not award me a long-term contract send the message that you’re OK grinding me into a pulp.”

Simply, is he hitting a mid-season physical lull? The equivalent of a starting pitcher’s “dead-arm period,” whatever that means? Could be, even with the off-week in the books.

Better not be, now.

The last two games have not seen his earlier elusiveness, or speed hitting the hole. Marion Barber seems to be the primary goal-line option.

I had hoped for two things — that Forte, at age 25, is in the prime of his prime, and fully capable of again providing workhorse production as a runner, receiver and blocker.

And that the Bears had evolved beyond needing that from him to succeed.

Going forward, there may be no choice.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Can Forte Carry Bears With Cutler Out?
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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  • Cameltoe Rancher

    Perhaps Mike Mullingham and Brian Muttley (wheezing snicker) will shout that at me tomorrow morning?

    PS- could somebody run over Bob on the Southside with a bus? I’d sure appreciate it.

  • Muttley oin the AM Show

    Wheeeezing snicker, WHeeezing snicker!

  • jason

    we know you either hate Forte or something…. reading your columns or listenining to your show or following your tweets, it’s evident. But oh well weather you like it or not he’s going to be a bear for a long time. Bear down! hater.

    • Spoon

      The amount of herp-a-derp contained in this tripe is staggering…

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        I think Jason must just be learning English…

  • JeffG

    Dan your passive agressive stance on Matt Forte us like a spurned high school girl who was not invited to the big dance. If he does well you say “he should that is he job” if he has a average game your “see I told you he not anything special” .

    What you fail to consider is that fact teams sees Forta as the offensive cynosure deserving of defensive game planning priority. The quality of his effort allows the rest of the offense to materialize.

    As difficult as it is for you to understand, It not about the money, it is about fairness, it is about acknowledge the worth of the man who simple being on the field increases the opportunity for the whole team to succeed. Pay the man.

    • Satan

      I agree with your thoughts on Forte, and I appreciate that you helped me learn a new word today after I had to look up the definition of cynosure…

      However, the Bears are making a sound move in their handling of Forte’s contract negotiations and until it affects the on-field product, I don’t care about fairness.

      • JeffG

        So you advocating Forte to take a dive or hold out, but I suspect if he did you would be first to say what a spoiled athlete . While your screen name suggest being the Sultan of Sin things like character does not matter to you but there are people in the world where such concepts still do.

    • Spoon

      Since when are NFL player contracts about ‘fairness’?

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        It’s staggering how quickly people are willing to spend other peoples’ money.

      • JeffG

        In any business deal there is risk and reward, finding that ground where both parties finding a symmetry where both parties share those antagonistic pressures why maintaing a unmitigated relationship allows “fairness” to be achieved. As a result both parties performs better be it business, battle or football to think anything else is simply naive.

  • Denver Deadite

    @#$% @#$% @#$% @#$% @#$%!

    And the only thing that’s going to happen now is 8 and 9 man fronts. Forte isn’t going to get squat the rest of the way.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      You are 100% right that it is 8/9 in the box the rest of the season.

      • SPAULDING!

        Unless, Devon Hester starts playing like a running back, or they run the Orton playbook,
        It’s head-in-the oven time! Oh, I’ll take it out for the turkey, but I can’t see any time soon for taking it out.
        The ‘hawks have a tendency to put on the skates, and then go on strike. Seriously, they couldn’t have been any worse if they had taped occupy Edmunton signs to their sticks.
        And, the less we talk about the Cubs and the Sox, the better humanity will be.
        I got to see three (maybe) four plays the entire Bears game, and had no reason to suspect anything happened.

  • Schmutzie

    Angelo’s getting calls from Adisa Bakari in the morning. Not saying 22 is going to go all Briggs about it, but if his workload is about to increase from 44% of the offense (!!!) that’s gotta be a concern for Forte…long-term. He’s not the type to tank it with a phantom hamstring injury or whatever, but it’s going to be on his mind.

    (Dan Bernstein, passive-aggressive? I’ve always considered you to be regular aggressive.)

  • Jason S


    Leave the Chicago Bear stories for ESPN! Which is now the only station I listen to from 1 to 6. You and Terry have Penn St to talk about every second for the next 2 years.

    • Spoon

      Yes, ESPN, who were just stating that everyone should hashtag #InCalebWeTrust for the rest of the season… clearly better than discussing the biggest sports story of the year for a week…

      • Marky Maypo

        Please Jason, go back to your boo-yah network and leave the fans with BRAINS here to discuss the world of sports intelligently.

  • Satan

    Has Forte hit the wall, as Bernstein seems to think? I guess it’s possible, but as the old cliche goes, “At this point in the season, nobody’s 100%.”

    What I do know is Forte certainly didn’t seem to lack “his earlier elusiveness” on that sick 4th quarter run for a first down to help salt the game away. Also, he had 6 or 7 totes that were stuffed cuz it was late in the game and San Diego was forced to sell out against the run.

    The true test will be to see how he fares next week in Oakland. They’re not run-proof, but that’s a physical d-line and a team that’ll no doubt be focusing the entire gameplan around shutting down Forte.

  • Jakers

    They still have a good shot to make the playoffs even with Hanie. They need to get prob 3 more wins since they own the tiebreaker with nearly every other wildcard competing team besides Dallas. With the Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders, Seahawks, and Vikings still on the schedule the 3 wins doesn’t look impossible, but let’s not kid ourselves it will be tough and even if Cutler does come back for the playoffs is he anywhere near 100% after surgery on a broken thumb.

    This is all really a moot point anyway because even with Cutler healthy, barring an an injury to Aaron Rodgers the Bears were not going to beat the Packers on the road in the playoffs anyway. Here comes the tough part as a Bears fan, but the truth as an objectionable football fan. (Maybe I’m setting up the jinx here, but after watching the Giants lose at home to an Eagles team with Vince Young at QB, the Lions clearly not as good as their early 5-0 start indicated, and the Patriots, Chargers, Steelers, and Ravens all clearly overrated in the preseason, I’ve just come to the realization that unless Rodgers gets hurt the Packers are going to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl and be the first team ever to go 19-0.

  • Bears win fifth-straight, Cutler possibly done for the year | Eye on Chi

    […] Berstein asks can Matt Forte carry the load with Cutler out. Adam Hodge wrote about how the timing of Cutler's injury couldn't have been worse as things were […]

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    We’re also seeing meatballs whine about the lack of a “solid” backup.

    Of those teams with backups playing right now, who has “viable experienced replacements”?
    Houston with Matt Leinart?
    Philadelphia with Vince Young?
    Kansas City with Tyler Palko?
    Arizona with John Skelton?
    Indianapolis with Curtis Painter?

    Is Hanie really worse than any of those? No.

    Oakland had one because they traded the farm to get one.
    Denver has one completely by accident.

    Fact is, just about all NFL teams are in a world of hurt if their #1 guy goes down. Most teams that have even a “passable” replacement only have one because there was a QB controversy in training camp between mediocre bodies, such as in Seattle and Washington.

    Looking around the league, the names are pretty unsexy… I mean, Billy Volek, Matt Flynn, and Charlie Batch are among the most experienced and accomplished in the league. Yuck.

    When compared with other backups, Hanie isn’t that bad.

    • Denver Deadite

      The Bears could trade for Neckbeard. ;)

      And I love getting the “You’re posting too quickly” message when I haven’t posted all day. CBS = suck

    • Spoon

      He may not be ‘that bad’, but I’m about sick of hearing how well Hanie did in the NFC Championship game last year from ‘experts’. He moved the ball ok for a few mins vs a prevent defense, threw a TD and two picks as a nightcap.

      I’m hoping he can step in and at least get us 3-3 vs a pretty weak schedule, but…. ugh..

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        Spoon- That’s essentially what I’m hoping for. Against the remainder of the schedule, it’s plausible.

        The Bears have a virtual two-game lead on the Falcons due to H2H, a one-game lead on the Cowboys, and the Lions still have road games at New Orleans and Oakland, and have Green Bay twice.

        It’s like in ‘The Program’ when Joe Kane went down. Alvin Mack: “Defense gonna have to pitch shutouts now”


    I think with Jay Cutler sidelined for the rest of the regular season, Matt Forte becomes more of the focal point of the Bears’ offense as the team becomes more of a run first team with Caleb Hanie quarterbacking the team starting Sunday in Oakland. That game’s no easy task, even before news of Cutler’s broken thumb became a reality.

    Still, given where the Bears are at right now, and the fact there aren’t exactly tough opponents besides Sunday’s roadie in Oakland and the Christmas Day game in Green Bay on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”, I still have confidence that Hanie, Forte and the Bears can right the ship and get the Bears one of the two Wildcards in a wide-open NFC.

  • Puddin Head

    Mr. Hanie will be fine except for this first week going to Oakland where he and the Bears will be handed their lunch…they will both regroup after that and win three in a row……..just sayin

  • Puddin Head

    if Hub was kidnapped by aliens would anyone other than his family care i for one would not…but after a coupla days they would bring him back

  • pallestine kevin

    Caleb Hanie is going to carry the Bears if they are to keep winnig matt will be used like he always is i dont see martz changing guys are not giving the kid Caleb Hanie enough credit hes showed in an nfc championship under the worst of conditions h can lead a team just give him the damn ball and quit whining about Jay.Jay will be back for the playoffs or next year it sucks but thats the situation

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