Matt Forte, Bears shake off mistakes

PHILADELPHIA -- The conditions pointed to meltdown for the Chicago Bears.

Matt Forte put the ball on the turf for the second time Monday night and the Lincoln Financial Field crowd worked into frenzy as LeSean McCoy turned the miscue into more Philadelphia Eagles points.

McCoy’s 33-yard run put Philadelphia ahead by a touchdown in the third quarter, and Forte seethed from the sidelines when the team inserted backup Marion Barber for the ensuing possession.

Forte could think of only one thing -- “getting back on the field” -- he said. That resilience in the face of adversity seemed somewhat of a microcosm for entire team, which took a 10-point lead, lost it, then regained it to triumph 30-24 in what had been billed as a must-win game for the Eagles.

“We’ve got a lot of character on this team,” Forte said. “We were up 10-0, then to have them come back so fast, and then have them go ahead; it could’ve gotten overwhelming. But nobody got out of control on this team. Nobody got too out of whack. We came back, and the defense played awesome. We went out there, put points on the board and let the defense do their jobs.”

Forte suffered his first two fumbles of the season against the Eagles, which turned the mistakes into touchdowns. Forte hadn’t fumbled in 347 touches before Brian Rolle poked the ball out of the running back’s grasp on a dump-off pass from Jay Cutler in the second quarter and scooped it up for a 22-yard TD return.

Rolle’s TD helped to quickly erase the 10-0 lead the Bears had built, tying the score with 1:38 before intermission.

With Forte in the news recently for his contract situation with the team, the fumbles naturally drew criticism from Bears fans on Twitter, with some of them writing “#tagtheman” in mockery of the “paytheman” hash tag.

The running back, however, refused to make excuses.

“My job is to run and hold onto the ball,” Forte said. “When you’re in traffic keep two hands on the ball. It’s as easy as that. He made a good play [on the first fumble]. But stuff like that can’t happen. Any time you give them points it’s hard to win the game.”

Forte rushed for 62 yards in the first half on 12 carries, and finished the with a game-high 133 yards on 24 attempts, and 150 yards from scrimmage. At the halfway point of the season, Forte now has 805 yards rushing, which puts him on pace to hit the 1,600-yard mark.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said Forte’s second fumble wasn’t a factor in the team’s decision to insert Barber on the very next possession.

“Matt’s our guy,” Smith said. “He hasn’t fumbled an awful lot you know. But we wanted to get Marion Barber some reps also, and it was no more than that. We got Matt Forte back in there after that.”

Once the team reinserted Forte, the running back gained 43 more yards on nine attempts, including eight runs in the fourth quarter to help the team melt away the clock. The Bears punted with nine seconds left, giving the Eagles just one more play from scrimmage.

“Matt’s our work horse; we’re gonna continue to lean on him in the second half of the season [and] he knows that,” Cutler said. “I throw picks. It happens. You’ve got to let it roll off and keep rolling. That’s what he does. He’s a great player and he’s gonna continue to be our guy.”