The long stride, sudden cuts and all-purpose capabilities of Chicago Bears star running back Matt Forte haven't escaped the Ravens' attention.

Heading into Sunday's game at Soldier Field, trying to bottle up Forte ranks high on the Ravens' defensive agenda.

"Big focus," Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You always want to game-plan for your opponents' best players, and he’s one of them. We’ve got our hands full this week, just like we have our hands full every week. But this is a different kind of back. This back, he can run and catch, as you said, and he’s definitely our main focus.”

Forte ranks seventh in the NFL with 691 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He's on pace to finish the season with 1,228 rushing yards and already has 44 receptions for 332 yards.

The Ravens rank 10th against the run, allowing 102.6 rushing yards per game.

At 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, Forte represents a blend of power, speed and moves akin to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.

"He is that kind of a runner," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "He is a big, tall guy who can slash, put his foot in the ground, get vertical in a hurry, run through guys.

"Every time he gets tackled, if you watch him, he is falling forward. He has that kind of a body type, an excellent, excellent receiver out of the backfield. This guy ranks very high statistically in the league, I know, in total yardage, whether it’s run or pass. He is a big-time threat.”

Two games ago against the Green Bay Packers, Forte rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown while catching five passes for 54 yards.

Forte was shut down by the Detroit Lions last week, though, stonewalled on 17 carries for just 33 rushing yards for an average of 1.9 per carry and held to 16 yards on four receptions.

The former Tulane star has 6,018 career rushing yards and 33 touchdown runs. He's caught 311 passes for 2,657 yards and nine touchdowns.

In order to corral Forte, the Ravens will have to maintain discipline upfront and outside linebackers Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervill need to set the edge.

“Tackling is going to be critically important," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It might be the most important thing on defense to give us a chance to win this game. Once Matt Forte gets out there and gets going, he can turn a six, seven, eight-yard gain into a 50-yard gain in a heartbeat.

"As a matter of fact, they are the No. 1, big-play running offense in football right now, and that’s largely due to his ability once he gets in space. And they do everything they can to get him in space."

awilson@baltsun.com
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