Rookie running back Matt Forte has rushed for 1,188 yards this season, which is two yards fewer than rookie Steve Slaton.
Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith and rookie running back Matt Forte spoke to the Houston media on Christmas Eve via conference call.
*Head coach Lovie Smith *
(on if RB Matt Forte is a coach's dream because he isn't a man of many words) "Well, you know again, yes, you could say that. You don't want guys that do too much talking. You want the guys that put up on the football field and he (RB Matt Forte) does a lot of talking out there for sure."
(on if RB Matt Forte has surpassed his expectations with how good he's played) "Well, we liked him (RB Matt Forte) a lot as much as we liked any of the running backs coming out. I'll start with that, but you never predict a rookie having the type of season that Matt has had. We knew he could carry the ball. He had rushed for over 2,000 yards at Tulane. Everyone you talked to down there really liked him, but we didn't know how good of a receiver he was or how good a blocker he could be. He's been just a complete running back for us. It seems like each week he does something else that we shake our head on."
(on if running backs are supposed to be cocky and dance around) "Well, I guess some of them are, but most of them, I can still say most of them, aren't. But Chicago Bears, it's about the tailback here. It always has been. Of course, we have a long history. (RB) Gale Sayers is still in town. So those are big shoes Matt is trying to fill, not just on the football field but off of it too and he's gotten a great start at it."
(on what he thinks about RB Steve Slaton) "I'm going to say some of the same things. Liked him coming out of college. Knew he was a good player and had a lot of success in college, but again, you don't predict the type of season that Steve is playing, is having. Impressive just like Matt has been. If you look around the league there has been a lot of first-year running backs that have made an impact and not even the top ones that were drafted in the draft."
(on if he would rather be playing a team that is bound for the playoffs or is it dangerous to play a team that has nothing to lose) "I just assume every NFL team will play their best, period. We were out of the playoffs last year and we end up beating two teams: one that ended up going to the championship game and one that was fighting for a playoff spot then. So I think it's about character and guys want to play football, period. It doesn't matter whether you're getting paid to do it (or if) you're out of the playoffs. When you have a chance to compete, you're going to get the best and that's what we're expecting. The Texans are a good football team. You just look at the teams they've beaten this year and winning four of their last five games and just across the board a lot of All-Star type players."
(on what is the key to being able to force turnovers) "Well, I think you have to put an emphasis on it. You're constantly talking about it. You have to have an identity and guys after a while buy into that. This is what we're supposed to do. We get off of the bus, we say we get off of the bus running the football. I mean that's what we are. We have to play great defense, but the takeaway part of it is something we talk about and we practice every day over and over. We're constantly talking about it stripping the football out."
(on if he can get everything he needs to be done with this being a short week) "Yes, I think we can. Of course, we've done a lot of work before this week on the Texans. But this is what it is. You know the schedule in advance so you make preparations for that then. And this late in the football season, these are 'gut checks' is what they are. It's about character. You're not going to do a whole lot of hitting this time of the year. Guys know what's at stake and in this case it could be the last game of the season for both of us and I assume both teams will play that way. Doesn't matter how long you practice."
(on what it means that both head coaches will be from the state of Texas on Sunday) "Well, I don't think that's surprising. First off, I do, I take a lot of pride in being from Texas. I take a lot of pride being a product of Texas football that I played myself. I'm sure (head coach) Gary (Kubiak) would say the same thing. We're biased as far as the type of football that is played in the state. And to have a chance to come back bringing a professional team there, of course, is special for me. I know Gary feels that way. Every day he gets a chance to lead the Texans."
Bears RB Matt Forte
(on if he had any idea he would make this big of a contribution to the team this year) "Not to this extent. I had confidence in myself that I could contribute to the team in a good way, you know, on offense. But I never imagined this much."
(on if it's been a smooth transition to the NFL) "It's been smooth. People say I make it look easy, but it's not easy. You know, you have to work hard at it. So I've definitely been working hard, you know, the whole time since I came into rookie camp."
(on if he has watched RB Steve Slaton and what he thinks of him) "He's doing good. I knew he was an explosive runner. I saw him in college, so I knew he was going to do good in the league."
(on how much he weighs) "220."
(on if he was good out of the backfield at Tulane) "Yes, because the first three years we ran a spread-type offense. So I was used to coming out of the backfield and running routes."
(on what has been the toughest thing for him as a rookie) "Probably pass protection. Learning how to pick up blocks."
(on if he had a sense of history of the Bears' past running backs and how it makes him feel to be listed with them) "I feel good. I just hope to continue my career like those guys and make it to the Hall of Fame."
(on if he has met former Bears RB Gale Sayers and what they talked about) "Yes. I just talked to him. We really didn't talk much about football."
(on if he talked to Gale Sayers before or during the season) "That was before the season."
(on what he thinks Gale Sayers would say to him now that he's seen him play) "Congratulations and good job."
(on if he has gotten used to playing in the cold weather) "Yeah, it doesn't bother me too much."
(on what winning the game on Monday night against the Packers was like for him) "It was great to see our team come back and actually win that game from being down. So it felt good to do that."
(on what it means to hear his name among the frontrunners for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year) "It means a lot, especially for this class of rookies. We have a lot of talented players. Just to be voted rookie of the year out of all those players is a great accomplishment."
(on what his and the Bears' mindset is coming down to Houston knowing they still have a chance to win the division or a wild card spot) "It's just like a playoff game. We have to win or go home. So it's a must-win game."
(on if he compares himself to the other rookie running backs) "I don't compare myself to the other ones. I know a lot of them. So I always talk to them or either send them a text message and congratulate them on what they do."
(on what he talks about with the other rookie running backs around the league) "Just what they do every day and where they stay and what they do when they're not playing football. Stuff like that."
(on if he finds himself going through the same stuff the other rookie running backs are) "Somewhat different but a lot of the guys do the same things, like play video games and stuff."
(on where he sees the ceiling for his career and if he can be up there with Gale Sayers and Walter Payton) "I believe so if I continue to play well and get better each year and each game. You know, I think there is no limit."
(on what it means to him to have every game mean so much after not having successful seasons at Tulane) "Yeah, it's a different feeling. Actually playing for something, you know, we didn't go to a bowl game or anything in college but we're trying to get to the playoffs. So it feels good to play for that."