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Matt Forte, Bears thrilled with coaches' commitment to running game

Bears running back Matt Forte dives into the end zone for a touchdown over Packers linebacker Nate Palmer on Sunday at Soldier Field. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

A couple of familiar bugaboos derailed the Bears’ offense again Sunday — Jay Cutler’s killer interception and two key failures in the red zone. But even in defeat, Matt Forte saw a big difference from the offense the Bears ran under Marc Trestman last year.“Just the mentality of the offense — don’t even blink,” Forte said after the Bears’ 31-23 loss to the Packers on Sunday in the season opener at Soldier Field. “Once we had the turnover and they scored [in the fourth quarter for a 31-16 lead], nobody blinked. We were like, ‘We’re going to down there and score again and [recover] an onsides kick.“We went down and scored, but unfortunately we didn’t get the onsides kick. But the mentality of the offense, which I was proud of, is nobody had that stupid look on their face like before when something would happen — kind of saying that the game is lost already when there’s time left. I was glad we didn’t have that and kept fighting.”Though the outcome was the same, the Bears’ offense was buoyed by the realization that they’re no longer playing the game backwards with an offense that plays to their weaknesses instead of their strengths. Cutler made the key error, but Forte and the running game was the star of the show. Even with Kyle Long playing right tackle for the first time in his career and newcomer Vladimir Ducasse starting at right guard for the first time as a Bear, Forte rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead a rushing attack that totaled 189 yards on 33 carries (5.7 yards per carry).And Forte wasn’t the only one who barely minced words when it came to comparing this year from last year.“I’m really proud of this team — we fought ’til the very end.,” guard Matt Slauson said. “Had this been the past, we would have packed it in when the Packers scored the last [touchdown]. But that that jus goes to show the mentality that this staff is instilling in us.”It’s not that Forte never ran the ball under Trestman. In fact, Forte had 23 carries for 122 yards against the Packers at Soldier Field last season. It’s the emphasis, attitude and commitment that makes the difference. Last year Forte had 26 and 23 carries in back-to-back victories over the Vikings and Buccaneers — then an astonishing five carries in a loss to the Lions.This offense is convinced this coaching staff won’t let that happen. “That’s what they told us we were going to do — and I’m just glad we did it,” Long said when asked about the run-heavy approach. “It feels good to call runs an have confidence in the guys up front to make the blocks.”Or as Slauson put it, it’s nice “to have a coordinator that actually trusts us to run, because in my mind we have the best back in the game,” Slauson said.Forte had 16 carries at halftime (for 105 yards and a touchdown) — one fewer than he had in last year’s opening-day overtime loss to the Bills. Cutler threw 49 passes. A new day, indeed.“That’s what we should have been doing the last couple of years,” Slauson said. “Nothing’s changed. We still have Matt. Our line is almost the same. But this is what we’ve wanted. We want to put the ball in Matt’s hands because he is the biggest beast I’ve ever played with. That’s what we’re working for and now we have the correct staff for it.”There’s a long way to go, of course. But Forte is confident in the staying power of the run-oriented offense.“It felt like that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Forte said. “This offense [is designed] to have the run be effective to open up the passing game. The offensive line did a great job. I can’t take credit for the running game. And having Kyle at right tackle for the first game, against Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, he did a great job. Our line — it starts up front. They did a great job for us.”The Trestman offense showed promise in 2013 when the Bears were eighth in the NFL in total offense. But Cutler’s limitations, injuries and predicability exposed its flaws quickly. The Bears dropped to 21st in total offense last year.Unless you’ve got everything in place, it’s best to start by playing football.“In the running game, it’s like a boxing match,” Long said. “You get body blows, body blows, body blows and it opens up some of the shots up top. So as a football team you want to be able to run the ball. You can’t have a lot of success unless you run the ball.”