Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011Posted: 12:05 p.m. Updated: 5:10 p.m.
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Deal or no deal?
Matt Forte has been the core of the Bears offense in the first two weeks of the season. That doesnt mean, however, that he is feeling appreciated.
Forte has thus far turned 2011 into a statement season, accounting for more than half of the team's combined offensive production against the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Yet the Bears have not yet locked up their feature back. Forte is left with one conclusion.
"Obviously somebody doesn't believe I'm an elite running back," Forte said.
Part of the reason may be that Forte has not flashed so much as a ball carrier as an all-around back. Forte stands just 17th in rushing after two weeks, with 117 total yards and an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
But Forte is No. 2 in the NFL with 324 yards, second only to Carolinas Steve Smiths 334 yards (perhaps no surprise given that Cam Newton has thrown for more than 400 yards in both of his NFL starts). And that should matter as far as Forte is concerned.
"I'd like to get paid off of the production," Forte said. "When you look at the production and what level that's on and you look at some of the guys who are producing and what they get paid, it's not that hard."
Heading into a Week 3 matchup with the rival Packers, Forte believes he just needs to stay the pace.
"I play like I know how to play every weekend, Forte said. That's all I can do."
The cost of the New Orleans Saints game will be felt for a while, particularly on an offense that now faces a defense that was No. 2 in the NFL last year in fewest points allowed.
As expected, wide receiver Earl Bennett (chest), tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) and safety Major Wright (head) did not practice Wednesday. Carimi, playing at an elite level according to line coach Mike Tice, will be out an extended period of time, and Bennetts return is unlikely this week, taking one of quarterback Jay Cutlers key receivers out of play as well.
Running back Marion Barber (calf), safety Chris Harris (hamstring), guard Lance Louis (guard) and wide receiver Roy Williams (groin) practiced on a limited basis.
The Green Bay Packers held linebacker Clay Matthews (quad) and safety Charles Woodson (foot) out of practice. Tackle Chad Clifton (knee), cornerback Davon House (ankle), defensive end Ryan Pickett (foot), linebacker Vic Sooto (back) and cornerback Tramon Williams (shoulder) practiced but were limited.
It takes a village
Former offensive coordinator John Shoop once famously said that it takes a village to run the football. He was right, but the reality is that it takes a football village to do just about anything on offense. One minor mistake equals an incomplete pass, sack or run being stuffed because of one missed block.
The Bears were missing both starting offensive linemen (tackle Gabe Carimi, guard Lance Louis) to the right of center last Sunday, which exponentially increases the chance for missteps, mistakes and misses. Indeed, the loss was felt in the running game as well as pass protection simply because Louis and Carimi are bigger, more physical players than replacements Chris Spencer and Frank Omiyale.
No member of the offense will admit to scaling anything back, if in fact anything does get cut out of a game plan or playbook at that point simply because the players capable of executing a particular play are not in place. And for public consumption, nothing is being trimmed going against the Green Bay Packers, either.
You know, we're going to do what we do, quarterback Jay Cutler said. Offensively, the guys, it's not like we're out there busting plays or forgetting stuff. We're just missing one little thing, offensively, like I said last year, this takes 11 guys and if we have one miscue the whole things going to go up in smoke.
No, I don't think we're going to dial anything back.
The Chicago Dangerfields?
Lack of respect has been a theme that has flowed through and around the Bears, whether being picked to finish in the NFC North below a Detroit team that hasnt won more than seven games in a season since 2000, or being an underdog, at home, as they are this week against the Packers.
The Bears thrive on it. Lovie Smith lets them, and the media, know about mistaken or perceived slights. But the key as the Bears see it is to take all with the same even-handedness, because respect is a fickle friend.
I dont know, said wide receiver Roy Williams. We were the greatest thing since sliced bread after Week 1. I said, we're going to hit some bumps in the road, and that'll be the true test of this football team, how we'll bounce back. There's no greater test than the Green Bay Packers, a 2-0 football team.
So if we win this one, then we're back to the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Last season it took until the off week after the seventh game and a meeting among coaches to clarify some sort of identity for the Bears offense. Coming into training camp and preseason, much was made of how much further along the Bears would be this year, their second under coordinator Mike Martz.
Now, it sounds like the Bears dont really know who they are, and may need nearly as long again this year to figure it out.
I don't think anyone really in the league can pinpoint where they're at, unless you've got a real veteran team, and have been in the same system for a long time, Cutler said.
It's going to take five or six games to see what we have, to see what we're good at, and what we can go out there and execute well.
If some problems, like injuries, shuffling and poor play on the offensive line are not fixed before the fifth or sixth game, the rest of the games may not matter very much.
Cutler pointed out that the Bears were just 1-1 and there's a lot of football remaining.
But, if this continues, then obviously we're going to have a problem and we're going to have to adjust it, Cutler said. But we're looking forward to this next game and those guys are going to bounce back as will I.
Hate the Packers? Hate the Bears? Not these Bears or Packers
If you are looking for people who hate the Green Bay Packers, dont start with the Chicago Bears locker room.
I dont hate em, nose tackle Anthony Adams said, then added with a slight smile, just dont like them very much.
Its kind of like playing the neighborhood bully. Were the neighborhood bully for them just like theyre the neighborhood bully for us.
One of the central figures on the other side feels the same.
Its more something between the fans, said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has had a texting relationship with Cutler and enjoys seeing the Lance Briggses, Julius Pepperses and Brian Urlachers in the offseason.
I dont think theres a lot of hatred. But theres a lot of competitive guys who really want to win.
Player movement between teams can affect so-called rivalries but venom can still exist. Rogers cited Baltimore-Pittsburgh and even the Vikings and Lions in the NFC North.
I think maybe theres not as much respect as when the Bears and Packers play each other," he said.
Indeed, it may have been hearsay to the zealots, but during training camp this year, Urlacher said exactly what a lot of teammates feel about the Packers collectively and Rodgers personally: This is not a rivalry against the hated Green Bay Packers.
I have a lot of respect for them. A lot, Urlacher told CSNChicago.com. I honestly dont hate the Packers. I want to beat them every time we play them. But theyre a good organization, just like the Bears.
If youre a player coming out of college and the Packers are interested in you, youre excited about that. Theyre great fans, great players, they want to win, they do things the right way. I have nothing but respect for them, their coaches, fans, players. I grew up watching the Packers playing the Cowboys, Favre, Antonio Freeman, all those guys. And how can you hate Aaron Rodgers? Good dude, plays hard, plays the game.
That said, the Bears indeed hate the feeling the Packers left in Soldier Field eight months ago. And watching film this week on the Packers meant being forced to watch a horror film in which they were the foils, the supporting actors.
They lifted the George Halas Trophy in Soldier Field, Adams said, slowly shaking his head. It stings, man, it really stings.
We were a couple plays away from playing in the Super Bowl so of course that hurts. Just watching the film was disheartening. It still hurts a little bit.
Defending the offense
Bears GM Jerry Angelo went on the offensive during training camp when he challenged talent detractors to tell him exactly what players the Bears should have pursued in free agency that they didnt. He didnt get a lot of suggestions.
Now, with his quarterback and offensive line under assault in the wake of six sacks in New Orleans, Angelo went back on the offense when asked about the perception that more could have been done to address the offensive line.
We did everything you could possibly do to that position, Angelo told the teams website ChicagoBears.com on Wednesday. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears. We drafted a player in the first round. We brought in a player with a lot of experience who is still in his prime. We developed young players who are going into their second and third years, including another high draft choice in Chris Williams. We like our eight linemen...
Everything that happened on Sunday wasnt all because of poor offensive line play. It was a collective failure... So lets not beat up on the offensive line.
Angelo didnt mention offensive coordinator Mike Martz by name but added his voice to the chorus calling for a better game-call than 52 pass plays and 11 runs.
Balance is the key to good offense; thats no secret, Angelo said. When defenses know what youre going or cant do, that gives them a decided advantage.
-- CSN's Jake Flannigan contributed to this story.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.