Receiving skills separate Forte

LAKE FOREST – Former tight end Emery Moorehead played for eight seasons before he joined the Bears’ 200-reception club with his final catch for the team in 1988.

Bears running back Matt Forte is about to accomplish the feat in less than half the time.

Forte, who has 197 career receptions, is on track to become the Bears’ 17th player with 200 catches when he and his teammates visit the Detroit Lions on Monday night. He would join three other running backs – Walter Payton, Neal Anderson and Matt Suhey – on the list, which does not include any other players on the Bears’ current roster.

Based on Forte’s production this season, three receptions should be well within reach.

Forte has caught 26 passes in the Bears’ first four games, including five catches against the Atlanta Falcons, 10 catches against the New Orleans Saints, seven catches against the Green Bay Packers and four catches against the Carolina Panthers. Including the rushing game, he has touched the ball 20-plus times in three of those contests.

Add up all of the numbers, and it equals a big headache for Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

“Every player is different and every player you try to attack a little different way with the game plan,” Schwartz said. “The thing that makes it difficult with a player like Forte is you can’t just say, ‘Hey, look, take away the inside run or take away the outside run or take away the passing game,’ and he doesn’t have anything else.

“He’s not a one-trick pony. He’s a multidimensional player.”

If Schwartz needed a reminder about Forte’s abilities, he could have popped in a tape of last year’s regular season opener between the Bears and Lions. Late in the second quarter, Forte caught a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and darted down the open field for an 89-yard touchdown.

The highlight-reel play cut the Bears’ deficit to 14-10 at halftime and turned the momentum of the game, which ended with a five-point Bears win at Soldier Field.

“He might be the best screen pass runner in the NFL,” Schwartz said.

Forte said he worked hard to develop his skills as a receiver and open-field runner. Those skills will be on full display during a nationally televised game Monday night.

“If you get the ball in space, it’s just a matter of making somebody miss,” Forte said. “The linemen get out in front of you. They’re the ones doing the work, getting the blocks down. I’ve just got to read the blocks and take it from there.”

Bears bits: Bears coach Lovie Smith said his team was in “great shape” for Monday’s game with only two players ruled out: wide receiver Earl Bennett (chest) and right tackle Gabe Carimi (knee). … Five Bears players were listed as probable for the game: safety Chris Harris (hamstring), tight end Matt Spaeth (calf), offensive lineman Chris Spencer (hand), cornerback Charles Tillman (hip) and defensive end Corey Wootton (hand).