Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
As we discussed earlier this week, Chicago tailback Matt Forte made up for a lackluster statistical performance (90 yards on 26 carries) by scoring a pair of touchdowns in the Bears’ 30-6 victory over Cleveland. Over time, I think the Bears' running game would be considered much more effective if Forte can become a better red zone threat -- even if he’s never able to churn out big yardage numbers consistently.
Forte The Bears enter Sunday’s game against Arizona with the NFL’s 25th-ranked red zone offense. They’re scoring a touchdown on 44.4 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line (12 of 27). Frankly, a big part of that substandard number has been Forte’s inability to stick the ball into the end zone. (Or the offensive line’s inability to make holes for him there, depending on how you view the Bears’ rushing failures this year.)
ESPN Stats & Information developed a pretty interesting analysis of running backs’ success rate in “goal-to-go” situations. Even when you include last week’s performance, Forte has compiled the worst goal-to-go performance in the league among all running backs with at least two attempts in that situation.
Forte has two touchdowns on 19 rushes when the Bears were in a goal-to-go down. That translates into an NFL-worst ratio of 9.5 rushes per touchdown.
Again, I don’t blame Forte for all of the problems in the Bears’ running game. It’s been pretty well-documented of late that the left side of the Bears’ line, especially, has struggled this season. But no matter who is at fault, having an unreliable red zone running game puts too much pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler to convert the scoring opportunities. You’ve seen how it’s worked out so far.
With all that said, I’m very interested to see how Forte and the Bears perform Sunday against Arizona’s defense, which will enter the game ranked eighth against the run. As we enter the second half of the season, one that will include six games in the increasingly poor weather conditions at Soldier Field, the Bears won’t succeed with a one-dimensional approach near the goal line.