Who saw Matt Forte coming? Who knew he’d be this good, so soon? None of the questions that marked Forte’s meteoric rise matter now, only the numbers. And those numbers cement Forte’s rookie season as overwhelmingly successful.
In fact, he was so successful that he surpassed Gale Sayers on the Chicago Bears rookie total yards list with two games left on the schedule. Forte gained 1,476 total yards, eclipsing Sayers’ Bears rookie record of 1,374 total yards, which he established in a 14-game schedule in 1965. Forte rushed for 1108 yards, and caught 59 balls for 431 yards receiving.
As a rookie, he helped anchor a Bears’ offense that was expected to land at the bottom of the NFL’s chain movers, its tumultuous locker room had much to do with those perception. As did a laughable off-season quarterback controversy and an overpaid running back who couldn’t stay out of legal trouble. No one outside of Chicago had a glimmer of hope for the Chicago Bears season — Forte changed that.
He improved with every game, and displayed his play-making ability in his first showing of the NFL season when he rushed for 132 yards against the Indianapolis Colts in a 29-13 win. He followed that performance up with 92 yards in a 17-20 loss at Carolina and 89 yards rushing in a close 24-27 loss to Tampa, averaging 101 yards in his first three games as a pro.
While his teammates didn’t fully show up in the two loses, Forte had arrived. From there on he was a constant threat to make the big play, forever showing up in crucial moments. The ascension of Kyle Orton as a formidable big-league quarterback only enhanced Forte’s looks, as teams put less defenders in the box, opening holes for the rookie.
In seasons past, the Bears have left fans with a sour taste in their mouth. The end of every season leaves onlookers wondering “what if?” At 8-6, with a short chance of making the playoffs if they win out against Green Bay and Houston, this year may be different. If so, it’ll be thanks to one hell of a rookie running back who has performed well beyond his years for the entirety of the 2008 NFL season.