If the Bucs want to stop the Bears offense, they must stop Matt Forte. The Bears have 1967 yards from scrimmage right now. Matt Forte is responsible for a staggering 908 of them - nearly 50% of all their offensive yardage. That's ridiculous. It's also reminiscent of another player in a Mike Martz offense, one who was inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year: Marshall Faulk. Note the similar initials, Martz must like those MFers.
Bad puns aside, there is a template for stopping a Mike Martz running back like Marshall Faulk and Matt Forte. It was most famously used by Bill Belichick in the 2002 Super Bowl. Belichick's New England Patriots were big underdogs to the Greatest Show on Turf that night - a game that was played in a dome, on turf. The ideal environment for the St. Louis Rams. Yet somehow, the Patriots won.
How? By focusing on Marshall Faulk.
This was described very well by Ron Jaworski, Greg Cosell and David Plaut in the book The Games That Changed The Game, a book I can recommend to anyone interested in the history of the NFL. Let me quote it:
Whenever Marshall lined up in the offset position - either alongside or slightly angled from Warner - he was going to be hit. The patriots were willing to sacrifice putting heat on Warner to neutralize Faulk.
They attacked Marshall Faulk in the passing game, by disrupting his release. This is not something you see a lot in the NFL, but it's something the Bucs have to emulate. The Bucs have really struggled to pick up running backs out of the backfield over the past years, which was evident early in the year as well. While they managed to contain Darren Sproles, I don't know if that was simply a coincidence.
What helps the Bucs is that the Bears' passing game lacks real skill at any position other than running back. They have some talent with Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox, they have some speed with Devin Hester and they have some shiftiness with Dane Sanzenbacher. But none of them right now are good players. And for seemingly the first time this year, the Bucs don't face a team with a good pass-catching tight end.
Overall, this passing offense is a good matchup for the Bucs' defense. But the key to that passing game is Matt Forte, and they have to find a way to stop him.