Asking Mike Martz how Matt Forte compares to Marshall Faulk seemed kind of silly in August. And while Forte still is not Marshall Faulk -- not even close, really -- through seven games he's playing at a Faulk-like pace. That's not a fluke sample, either.
After seven games, Forte leads the NFL in total yards among non-quarterbacks with 1,091 -- 672 rushing yards on 124 carries (5.4 yards per carry) with two touchdowns; and 419 yards on 38 receptions (11.0 per catch), with one touchdown. He leads the NFL in rushes of 20 yards or more with nine.
So at this moment, comparisons to Faulk aren't unreasonable. He's having that kind of season.
''Well, they're different guys, but they certainly do the same kinds of things,'' Martz said. ''The intelligence there -- the football IQ is off the charts with Matt. You can tell him in the classroom and he has it. He is not one of those guys who you have to go up to and walk through it or anything like that.
And furthermore ....
''There are just so many things you can do with him,'' Martz said. ''His speed is really unusual. Getting him in the perimeter is a priority. He's become a terrific inside runner. There really isn't anything he can't do very well or understand, which makes him pretty darn good.''
Forte is third in the NFL in rushing yards behind the Vikings' Adrian Peterson (712 yards, 4.9 per carry, eight touchdowns) and the Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew (677, 4.6, 2 TDs). The Bills' Fred Jackson (601 yards, 5.7 per carry in six games) also is ahead of Forte in yards per game (100.2).
Is there a better all-around running back in the league?
''Not even close,'' Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''What he can do [on] first, second and third down in the passing game and the running game, inside and outside - if we lose him, we've got a lot of issues.''
Here's how crazy of a season it's been for Forte. Four weeks after he had nine carries for two yards against the Packers, not only is he being compared to Marshall Faulk, but wear-and-tear is a legitimate issue. Forte has had 105 touches the past four weeks -- 89 carries and 16 pass receptions.
He now has 977 carries in his NFL career, including the playoffs. In a year where the Titans' Chris Johnson seems to have lost it as he crossed the 1,000-carry barrier this season -- and after he signed a monster contract -- the issue, believe it or not might quickly go from not using Forte enough to using him too much.
And while that might be the media and fans never being happy and always needing something to fret about, it's not unfounded. Martz said Wednesday that he does not even think about overusing Forte in the course of a game. But running backs coach Tim Spencer does. ''That's why we alternate [Marion Barber] in there,'' Martz said. ''And it's a really nice 1-2 punch.''
Despite the numbers, the Bears aren't overusing Forte. At 6-2, he's a big guy for a running back. He's not an inside runner who takes a pounding. And most of all, he has vision and a knack for angling his body to avoid big hits. Anything can happen on one play. But if anything, Matt Forte needs more work, not less.