LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- You're not likely to ever see more 2’s in one sentence on this blog again, so brace yourselves, folks.
Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte wears No. 22, has 222 carries this season, and needs 22 yards in the season finale at Green Bay to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the first time since his rookie season.
So if somehow the Bears clinch the No. 2 seed for the NFC playoffs on Tuesday night with a Philadelphia Eagles loss against the Minnesota Vikings, Forte won’t be among those looking for a breather, should coach Lovie Smith decide to rest the starters for the postseason.
“I want to play because I’ve got 20-something yards to get 1,000,” Forte said. “I want to get that. But I think the guys would want to play just because it’s against the Packers. It’s a benchmark, you know? It’s kind of every running back’s benchmark to get over 1,000 yards. It’s a goal of mine.”
Forte rushed for 1,238 yards as a rookie in 2008, and followed up that impressive season with an injury-riddled 2009 campaign in which he rushed for 929 yards. Forte already surpassed his career high (477 yards in 2008) in receiving yardage, and ranks third on the team with 43 receptions for 487 yards.
Against the Jets, Forte rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 56 yards to become the first Bears running back since 2004 to gain more than 100 yards on the ground, and finish with 50 yards or more receiving. Thomas Jones last accomplished the feat for the Bears on Sept. 26, 2004 against the Minnesota Vikings.
“Running-game wise, you have to run the ball this time of year,” Smith said. “Matt Forte was outstanding [against the Jets] like he’s been lately, it seems.”
Forte averaged 102.5 yards rushing over the past two weeks, and has rushed for 92 yards or more in a game five times.
Forte said the team’s offensive linemen would share in his accomplishment. Because offensive linemen receive such little publicity, it’s somewhat of an achievement for them to pave the way for a 1,000-yard rusher.
“It would mean a lot [to them], probably just as much as it means for me to get 1,000 yards,” Forte said. “Just to hit that benchmark for those guys, too, because everybody wants to either run for 1,000 or block for a 1,000-plus yard rusher. It’s very important for me to get that, especially for those guys.”