Despite a generally disappointing offensive performance, running back Matt Forte put up some impressive numbers and cracked some significant milestones against the Packers in the season finale. His strong play down the stretch could make Forte the key to the Bears' playoff success.
Forte surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier on his third carry Sunday, when he bolted up the middle for 25 yards, and he tacked on 21 more on the next play. He also had a game-high eight receptions for 60 yards, pushing him to 547 receiving yards for the season and joining a Bears club that only he and Walter Payton belong to: 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same season.
"You always look forward as a running back to getting over 1,000 yards," said Forte, who finished with 91 yards on 15 carries for a 6.1-yard average. "But when you can add 500 receiving and be mentioned among Walter Payton, that's different. I've been blessed to be healthy this whole year. The offensive line did a great job, and hopefully we keep it going."
While the passing game was a disappointment against the Packers, Forte provided hope that the ground game will be there when it's needed in the playoffs, when it figures to be even more crucial.
"It's especially important if you're playing at home when it's cold," said Forte, whose first NFL playoff game will be Jan. 16 at Soldier Field, where it's expected to be chilly. "Running the ball is key to this offense. Running and passing go hand in hand."
After rushing for 1,238 yards and averaging 3.9 yards per carry as a rookie in 2008, Forte slumped to 929 yards last year and a 3.6-yard average. But he enjoyed a bounce-back season this year with 1,069 yards and a career-best 4.4-yard average.
If not for a slow start, when the Bears ran the ball as a team fewer than 20 times in five of the first seven games, Forte might have put up even more impressive numbers.
"Yeah, there's no telling," he said. "If we would have ran it a little earlier, I might have 1,500, 1,600 yards. But you can't think about what-ifs right now."
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The Chicago Bears don't have a lot of experience in the playoffs on the offensive side of the…