Matt Forte is ready for Bears’ new ‘smash-mouth’ style

SHARE Matt Forte is ready for Bears’ new ‘smash-mouth’ style
SHARE Matt Forte is ready for Bears’ new ‘smash-mouth’ style

BOURBONNAIS — As former coach Lovie Smith so famously put it years ago, the Bears are back to getting off the bus running.

Matt Forte’s five carries and quarterback Jay Cutler’s 48 pass attempts — which happened in the Bears’ 34-17 loss against the Detroit Lions last season under coach Marc Trestman — are gone.

Long gone.

“Anybody who has watched film from last year or anybody who is a smart coach knows that we can’t, especially being in Chicago, just throw the ball every down,” Forte said. “We have to be balanced.”

The Bears have promised to be that under coach John Fox and coordinator Adam Gase, and Forte stands to benefit immensely in a contract year.

Forte said he hasn’t had any discussions about a new contract with the Bears, but he knows the offense that Gase is building could mean big things for him.

“The run game is looking nice,” Forte said.

But it’s the identity that Fox and Gase are forging for the offense that really stands out, Forte said. It’s different than what came to be under Trestman, whose own calls for balance never amounted to such during games. The Raiders were the only team that ran less often.

In Trestman’s offense, short passes substituted for runs, which led to Forte’s record-setting 102 catches last season. But that won’t happen again, not in Gase’s up-tempo offense.

“I just don’t see [that many catches] happening based off that we are obviously going to run the ball a lot more than what we did last year,” Forte said. “Last year, for I don’t know whatever reason, coach Trestman was just calling a lot of pass plays.”

Bears players have said that an actual trust and belief in the run game exists under Fox and Gase — no matter who is on the offensive line.

There is a new mindset for the run game, which Forte said will include “a lot of different variety of runs whether it’s zone plays, draw plays, outside [or] inside.” Several players have described the Bears’ approach as “smash-mouth,” saying it will fit their personnel better, especially with guards Kyle Long and Matt Slauson.

“When you run the ball, it’s more like an attack feeling,” Forte said. “They like smash-mouth football, where you can bloody somebody’s nose and run and hit people.

“And then as a running back, you can get rhythm and kind of wear on defenses and wear them down, where that pass rush will be a lot less harder in the fourth quarter.”

Of course, that will help Cutler, who is fully on board for the calls for balance.

When it comes to terminology and routes used, Forte said the passing game under Gase is “a total different thing” than what Trestman coached.

“I don’t think in this offense they’re trying to go deep so much every time,” Forte said. “It’s more like, ‘Take what the defense is going to give you,’ and take advantage of that part. That trust goes into the running game, too.

“In Trestman’s [offense], we were kind of like hoping for plays to happen, and this one is like, we’re going to attack, and we expect stuff to happen.

“It’s like somebody who plays hoping to not make a mistake and somebody who doesn’t care if they make a mistake, but they make it at 100 miles per hour. You’d rather play that way — aggressively.”

All of it suits Forte just fine. His 3.9 yards per carry average last year was his lowest since 2009. Gase is finding ways to improve that. The goal is more explosive plays.

“The key to doing that is to get Matt in space,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “Create match-ups. Get him one-on-one against a linebacker or a safety that we feel he’s a better athlete against. That’s what you do when you have a person like that, just get him out in the open space where there’s a mismatch situation.”

Gase and Co. still are learning how much the 29-year-old running back can handle.

“It’s just finding out how much can we put on his plate,” Drayton said. “Matt’s a very sharp, intelligent person and football player. We just want to keep him going 100 mph when he’s out there.

“So it’s a matter of how much can we load on Matt’s plate where he can still play at that speed, that Pro Bowl speed. Gase has a great feel for that right now as we go deeper into this.”

As Forte gets deeper in this, he’s learning that this Bears regime might be a good fit.

“Of course, I would definitely like it, to always be here,” Forte said. “A lot of things have to shake out, whether they want me to be here or not.

“But going into a season, I always feel like I’m going to be able to produce at the high level I’ve always been able to.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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