Matt Forte: Bears RB Could Be Key in NFC Championship Game

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIJanuary 18, 2011

The Chicago Bears are 13-2 when Matt Forte scores a rushing touchdown.
The Chicago Bears are 13-2 when Matt Forte scores a rushing touchdown.Harry How/Getty Images

This weekend's NFC title game squares off the NFL's oldest rivalry, as the Chicago Bears host the red hot Green Bay Packers, who are coming off road wins against the NFC's No. 1 and No. 3 seeds.

All week long, the media hoopla has surrounded the Green Bay Packers, who enter Sunday's game as heavy favorites. Aaron Rodgers is unstoppable, the Packers defense unbreakable, nobody has a chance, certainly not Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears, right?

The teams split the season series, with each team winning at home, although some, if not most, could argue that the second meeting was meaningless to the Chicago Bears, who had already clinched the No. 2 seed going into the final game of the regular season.

Sunday's game will spotlight the quarterback position as a red hot Aaron Rodgers takes on the gun-slinging, yet erratic Jay Cutler, and yet, the end result may not be in the hands of the quarterback, but rather in the hands of one of the most underrated running backs in the league, Matt Forte.

Forte, a second-round pick from Tulane, has made the kind of impact most often ignored in favor of the fantasy football darlings like Aaron Rodgers.

Forte, who hasn't missed a game since being drafted, has averaged nearly 1,500 yards a year combined offense from the line of scrimmage (rushing and receiving) to go along with 25 total touchdowns.

Over that time, the Chicago Bears have combined for an overall record of 27-21, yet the most interesting stat of them all, is that when Matt Forte scores a touchdown, the Bears are 15-5

Even more interesting is that the Bears are 13-2 when Matt Forte rushes in for a touchdown. Let me repeat that, the Chicago Bears have won 13 of 15 games where Matt Forte scores a rushing touchdown.

This is the kind of stat that you don't take lightly, but rather, as the Chicago Bears, you want to enforce it. The Dallas Cowboys during their magic run in the 1990s were 61-9 from 1990-1996 when running back Emmitt Smith got 20 or more carries.

The Dallas Cowboys, the fans, the media and even the opposing teams knew this, yet the Bears, with pass happy Mike Martz often forget about Forte during the season. Nine times during the season, Forte failed to carry the football more than 15 times, and during that span Chicago was only 5-4.

No, Matt Forte isn't Emmitt Smith, although both wore No. 22, but like Emmitt was to Dallas, Forte is the key to the Chicago Bears offense.