Is it panic time in Chicago? Maybe, but it's still not DEFCON-5. Jay Cutler is out for an extended period of time, but even before he got hurt the writing was on the wall: The Bears need to get Matt Forte involved more.
Going into the game against Washington, Forte only averaged 16.6 rushes per game. Even in the game against the Redskins Forte had only 16 rushing attempts, with the majority of that coming after Cutler's exit.
Forte has 35 catches on the season, but they are very unproductive. Forte has yet to have a receiving touchdown and has only had over 50 receiving yards in a game once this year.
It can be argued Forte is the best dual threat back in the league. Compare him to his divisional counterpart Reggie Bush. Bush is averaging about the same amount of rushes, but he is more productive in the passing game.
Bush has 27 catches in one less game, but his yards per reception is significantly better than Forte's. Bush comes in at 13.5 while Forte is at 7.8.
Forte doesn't need more touches, he just needs to be used more efficiently.
In order to use Forte more efficiently in the passing game, the Bears need to dust off Michael Bush. He has only 24 rushes on the season. Reggie Bush's backup, Joique Bell, has 58 rushing attempts on the season.
With Cutler out, the Bears need to go to more two-back sets. Use Michael Bush in the backfield and move Forte around. He needs to be out in space on a linebacker or safety.
Forte will become an instant matchup issue for teams. Cover him with a linebacker or safety and it opens things up in the middle for Michael Bush in the running game.
Want to pass the ball? Forte on the edge takes one more guy away from Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Earl Bennett.
Forte is a more durable back than Reggie Bush. He can withstand a handful more rushes per game. It actually will balance out when the Bears stop having him run routes where he gets short yards after the catch and is forced to absorb a big hit.
Getting Matt Forte more involved in offense over the next couple of weeks is a fine line Marc Trestman can and will need to walk. Trestman has a reputation for being a brilliant offensive mind. Certainly he can find a way to use Forte smarter and not harder.
If the Bears want to stay in the hunt with Cutler out, they will need Trestman to figure it out.