COMMENTARY | Much has been made about the Chicago Bears' inability to stop the run at all this season. Entering week 16 in a pivotal matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears remain dead last in yards allowed per game in the NFL.
Their inability to stop the run has cost them several games already this season, and this week could be no different if the Eagles are able to control the clock with their league-best ground attack.
Led by LeSean McCoy, two weeks removed from setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in a game (217), the Eagles average 152.9 rushing yards/game, something that is aided by the up-tempo offense head coach Chip Kelly loves.
The Bears, who should welcome back Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs to the lineup, will certainly have their hands full with McCoy, who leads the NFL in yards/game (95.9) and yards/carry (5.0). But the same can be said for the Eagles when they are on defense, as the Bears tote one of the league's best runners of their own in Matt Forte.
Often considered one of the best dual-threat running backs in the game, Forte's versatility allows head coach and play-caller Marc Trestman to get creative in the many schemes he uses on offense.
Forte is enjoying his best season as a pro and is on pace to top 2,000 total yards this season for the first time in his career. He appears very comfortable in Trestman's offense, one that often features Forte getting the ball in a variety of ways other than a hand off from the quarterback.
Trestman appears to have taken Forte's game to another level and, with that, ahead of LeSean McCoy in the rankings of top running backs around the league.
Here are a few reasons why Forte ranks ahead of McCoy as an all-around running back:
What Forte lacks in game-breaking speed, he makes up for in consistency. McCoy has had five games this season in which he hasn't topped 100 all-purpose yards; Forte has three such games. Trestman's ability to find creative ways to get Forte the ball (tosses, screens, swing patterns out of the backfield) allows him the opportunity to be a steady producer for the Bears as well.
It's comforting for the other players on the Bears offense knowing they have a security blanket who can help them in so many different ways. Forte's first down % (meaning the percentage of times he touches the ball that turn into a first down) is slightly higher than McCoy's as well (25.2% to 23%) meaning that Forte is more adept at helping his team keep drives alive than McCoy.
In the 5+ seasons that Forte has played, he has missed a combined total of six games, four of which came in the 2011 season following a knee sprain. Other than that, however, Forte has had no major injuries in his career whatsoever. McCoy, on the other hand, has only had one season in his career in which he has played in all 16 games, and that was his rookie season in 2009 in which he wasn't the full time starter until late in the season.
In the five seasons (2009-2013) that both running backs have been in the league, Forte has had more touches in four of the five seasons. The lone exception, 2011, was the year Forte was forced to miss four games. This season, Forte is slightly ahead of McCoy in total touches (324 to 314).
A crucial but often overlooked aspect of running back's true importance to a team, Forte is widely regarded as one of the most adept backs at picking up blitzes in the league. He recently earned high praise from Jon Gruden for his improved abilities in this area as well as his overall versatility as a running back.
At 6'2, 218 lbs., Forte is a much safer bet to be successful at this than the 5'11, 208 lb. McCoy who appears smaller than he is listed. Forte's ability to succeed in this area is a big reason why Trestman has no problem leaving him on the field in crucial passing downs even with the 245 lb. Michael Bush on the sidelines.
Billy Grayson is a Yahoo contributor from Chicago and diehard Chicago sports follower. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
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- LeSean McCoy
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