Matt Forte: First-Half Report Card for Chicago Bears RB

Brett LyonsContributor IIIOctober 31, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 2:   Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers at the Soldier Field on October 2, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bears defeated the Panthers 34 to 29.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

To say Matt Forte is a large component to the outcome of the 2011 season for the Chicago Bears would be a severe understatement. 

Forte means more to his team than perhaps most running backs in the league. That statement could also be true for most skill positions.

Consider just how much of the offense runs through Forte for Chicago.

The most underpaid (and nationally undervalued) offensive player in the NFL right now also has the most rushing yards (672), receiving yards (419), receptions (38), and is tied for the most touchdowns scored (three) on the squad.

He is also responsible for 43.6 percent of Chicago’s total offense.

Through the first seven weeks of the season (excluding Week 8 because of Chicago’s bye week), Forte was the first player to accumulate 1,000 yards from scrimmage since Tiki Barber and Priest Holmes both accomplished that feat in 2004.

Pro Bowler? Undoubtedly. Team MVP? Without question.

Looking from the outside in, how much do these numbers and this success really come back to Forte’s performance and how much of it is circumstantial because he gets so many offensive opportunities?

Forte has provided the Bears offensive with a missing ingredient the team has needed for years—a home-run threat in the backfield.

Most of Forte’s yards come on giant plays (screens, draws and pitches). While the argument could be made that his numbers are skewed because of the big plays, the fact he provides explosiveness is huge.

Keep in mind as well that between Weeks 2 and 3 of the Bears schedule, Chicago called passing plays on 80 percent of its offensive downs. If it could have committed to the running game, imagine how many potential yards could be racked up for Forte.

So, how has the most valuable member of the organization performed this season thus far? One word: outstanding.

Of course, nobody is perfect. This does stand true for No. 22 as well.

Forte seems to struggle running downhill in-between the tackles at times. He’s always looking to hit that giant gain, which sometimes leads to him choosing the wrong gap to hit or following a bad block when something else is more promising.

If he can manage to make better choices at the line of scrimmage, he will be a flawless running back. No other part of his game needs fixing.

His role in the passing offense speaks for itself. How he blocks in the backfield has improved, leading to more time in the pocket for quarterback Jay Cutler. Finally, his outside speed is tremendous. Once Forte has a defender in a foot race to the sideline, it’s almost a sure bet he will turn the corner and burn the opposition.

For a first-half grade, nothing short of an A is acceptable for Forte. He is the bread and butter of this team and an all-around fantastic talent.

Should Chicago wish to contend in a division that features offensive juggernauts like Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson, scoring is a must. For the Bears, that all depends squarely on the shoulders of Forte.

Brett Lyons is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials.

Follow Brett Lyons on Twitter @BrettLyons670.