Chicago Bears’ running attack needs a boost, too

Jay Taft

LAKE FOREST — So far this season, nothing has worked particularly well when it comes to the Chicago Bears’ offense.

Quarterback Jay Cutler has the second-worst passer rating in the league at 58.6, and he’s been sacked 11 times, tied for fourth most. His 214 yards per game through the air is 25th.

The run game hasn’t been a whole lot better, even though the squad has chewed up a total of 311 yards, 13th-best in the league. Because with a 3.5 yard-per-carry average, 25th in the league, they can’t expect to lean on that part of their game much these days, either.

“I think our whole team needs a boost right now, certainly our whole offense,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s all about that committment to the run game, and making it work. We’ll get there.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice agreed: “We can’t get better in everything in one day,” Tice said. “We sure could use it, though.”

The running back-trio of Matt Forte (23 carries for 111 yards with one touchdown), Michael Bush (44-151 with 3 TDs) and Kahlil Bell (10-20) have combined to do an adequate job through three weeks. Forte’s sprained ankle forced him to leave the Week 2 loss to Green Bay, and he sat out the entire game last week.

But Bush and Bell carried the load during Chicago’s 23-6 win over the Rams. And although they would all like to chew up bigger chunks of yardage each carry, they know what the bottom line is heading into Monday’s game at Dallas.

“The numbers could be ugly, but if we’re winning — we are 2-1 — I can’t complain about it,” Bush said. “That’s what I care about.”

Chicago has brought in at least four running backs — including Steve Slaton and Jacob Hester — for workouts in the past two weeks since Forte sprained his ankle. The last one, former Packer Ryan Grant, chose to sign with the Redskins while in Chicago for his workout earlier this week.

But the Bears feel good about who they’ve got, and they don’t seem to be too distracted by the latest injury worries.

“I don’t think anyone concerns themselves with who we bring in, who we work out. We’ve got other things to worry about,” Cutler said. “So, the guys we have in that locker room are the guys we’re going to go with.”

Especially when Forte is on his game.

“Just stepping on the field he helps us out. You have to pay attention to him whether it’s in the running game or the passing game,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “Matt’s running around pretty good, he feels good, he’ll definitely help us out a lot.”

And even if Forte is limited, the Bears have a viable backup to go to. Bush stepped in and ran hard in place of Forte last week.

“They don’t skip a beat from a running back standpoint,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a big guy, strong guy, and he’s awfully talented. There’s a commitment they have to running the football, and he’s a guy that can hand it to.”

But no matter who is getting the ball, it’s becoming clear that the Bears feel the need to get the run game going. Bush feels it.

“I think Matt will be up this week,” Bush said. “But I’m still learning and making sure I’m ready in case he’s not. Whatever it may be, I’m always ready.”

They all need to be. Forte expects to be, and he feels it, too.

“The defense has been playing lights out,” Forte addded Thursday, “so we need to put a lot of points on the board so they can at least rest a little bit and continue to play good.”

Jay Taft: 815-987-1384;; @jaytaft