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Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears: Know Thy Enemy Edition

In the first 7 weeks of football the Arizona Cardinals defense allowed just 67.5 yards rushing per game, and in week 8 the Cards allowed 270 to the Carolina Panthers. This was just one of their major problems that happened last week, but was probably the biggest reason the lost, outside of the turnovers. This week the Cards face another team that is trying to get their running game going but cannot. The difference between last week and this week though, is that the Bears have given their running back enough carries to get it going while the Cardinals had to abandon the run because of being behind. Regardless of how bad the Bears running game has been this season, they will still try to duplicate what the Panthers did to the Cards last week with Matt Forte.

Matt Forte went to Tulane University, where he would play football all four years that he was there. While he did not have a stellar career while he was there, he was still a very good running back. In his freshmen and sophomore years he would start 9 of 22 games and would rush for 1279 combined yards and 8 touchdowns. That would be good enough for him to get his shot as a full time starter in his junior year. His year would be cut short of injuries though, playing in 9 of the 11 games they had, but during those games he would rush for 859 yards from 163 carries (5.3 yards per carry) and 8 touchdowns. Overall he had a pretty good junior season, and probably would have eclipsed the 1000 yard mark and double digit touchdowns if not for the injury. His senior season though, would be the one that gets him noticed around the country.

Forte's senior season was nothing but a monster season. His final season he would rush for 2,127 yards on 361 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and 23 touchdowns. He would be just the 11th player in NCAA Division I-Bowl subdivision history to rush for that much, while the last player to do this was former Cardinal J.J. Arrington in 2004 when he rushed for 2,018 yards for Cal. Forte would get the majority of the yards on five 200 yards or more rushing games, and two 300 yards or more rushing games. He would also have 282 receiving yards off of 32 catches (8.8 yards per catch). Because of that monster season, Forte would get an invite to the Senior Bowl where he could further show his talents to everyone that had not seen a whole lot of him before. In that game he would rush for 59 yards on 8 carries and record 4 catches for 38 yards. Those numbers would help him become the Senior Bowl MVP. This season effectively made Forte a a top running back for the 2008 NFL Draft.

Forte would be drafted in the second round, 13th overall, by the Chicago Bears to help create a nice 1-2 punch with the struggling Cedric Benson. Forte though, would be left with a job that was his to lose since Benson decided to have legal troubles and would end up getting cut that year. Forte would make sure he never lost his job after getting his shot as the full time starter. In his rookie season Forte would rush for over 1238 yards on 316 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and 8 touchdowns. He would also have 63 catches that went for 477 yards (7.6 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns. This would be good enough to warrant rookie of the year award talk, although that would end up going to the Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan.

The 2009 season has been a different story for Forte. He has struggled quite a bit this year just rushing for 408 yards off of 118 carries (3.5 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. He has also caught just 24 passes for 185 yards (7.7 yards per catch) and no touchdowns. Most of these yards came against awful teams too(121 against the Detroit Lions and 90 against the Cleveland Browns and all touchdowns coming in those two games, 40 of the receiving yards came from those games too). His production has gone down, which could be protection, could be the sophomore slump, or it could be something else. One thing is for certain, he has struggled this season against good defense, one that the Cards are very capable of being.

For the Cardinals their strength on defense has been stopping the run this year. They did have a setback last week going from the number one defense to the number nine ranked defense, but they have shown against good running backs (Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, etc). They will have to get back to what they do best this week and stop Forte from running over them. Key player to watch on the Cardinal defense: Adrian Wilson. Wilson struggled mightily last week against Carolina, with lots of missed assignments that led to a big run for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Thoughts?