Pay Matt Forte. That’s been the drumbeat from media and fans since August. With Forte having a career year, his Chicago teammates have started banging the drums, too.

Pay Matt Forte.


That’s been the drumbeat from media and fans since August.


With Forte having a career year, his Chicago teammates have started banging the drums, too. Lance Briggs called for Forte to get paid before last week’s game in London. After Forte ran for 145 yards, Brian Urlacher tried to cede his face-of-the-Bears status to Forte by calling the fourth-year running back the best player in the NFL.


Pay Matt Forte.


Jerry Angelo tried to. Chicago’s general manager made Forte a more-than-fair offer before the season began. Forte said no.


It doesn’t matter. He’ll eventually say yes. Even if Forte doesn’t want to. The Bears can put the franchise tag on the free-agent-to-be and pay him the average of the top five backs in the league (roughly $8 million for one year.


Still, fans are as outraged about Angelo’s inaction as they are about any of his bad draft picks or bad free-agent signings.


They want the Bears to pay Matt Forte.


Angelo will. Just not now, the way the fans, Forte and Forte’s teammates want.


Angelo has nothing to lose by waiting until late in the season. Forte already turned down $15 million guaranteed. If he gets hurt late in the year, Angelo will save money. If he stays healthy, Angelo will give Forte every penny the NFL’s third-leading rusher asked for in August.


If Forte ups his price after a great season, he’ll probably get it. The Bears are $24 million under the salary cap, so Angelo could write off any signing bonus under this year’s cap and save money for the future. At worst, there is the franchise tag option.


But Angelo won’t let Forte go. He can’t let him go. Forte has proven his worth in one of the more unlikely rushing seasons in team history.


The Bears have done nothing to improve their running game. Yes, they drafted right tackle Gabe Carimi with their No. 1 draft pick, but he’s been injured. They let center Olin Kreutz go. They benched Frank Omiyale. They’ve got a guard playing center for the first time (Roberto Garza) and a center playing guard (Tim Spencer). Another guard (Lance Louis) has replaced Omiyale at tackle. Left guard Chris Williams is a washed-out tackle of a No. 1 draft pick.


Forte’s only blocker playing at his usual position is left tackle J’Marcus Webb, and he’s a second-year, seventh-round draft pick.


Without Carimi, this is one of the most patchwork offensive lines in the history of a team known lately for patchwork lines. Yet Forte leads the NFL with 1,091 total yards, a pace that would put him 400 yards ahead of Walter Payton’s best season, and averaging 5.4 yards per carry, rivaling Payton’s best of 5.5.


Skeptics could say it’s a fluke; Forte averaged 40 yards rushing in Chicago’s first three games before increasing that to 138 his last four. He has three 100-yard games in the last month after having only seven in his first three seasons.


But it’s not a fluke. Forte hasn’t run for many touchdowns (an average of four the last 2 1/2 years) and got most of his yards in the past by bouncing outside and breaking a couple of long runs, the same formula that made the Bears think Thomas Jones was expendable. But Forte is stronger, leaner and more sculpted this season. He runs inside. He runs outside. He’s patient when he needs to be patient and hard-nosed when he needs to be hard-nosed. If he’s still not great in short-yardage situations, he doesn’t need to be any more now that the Bears have Marion Barber as a backup.


Matt Forte is nothing like any Bears runner before him, but he’s suddenly looking very much like Marshall Faulk was in Mike Martz’s offense in St. Louis. Faulk went from a 3.8-yard career average to 5.4 in his first three years with Martz as his offensive coordinator. Forte has gone from 3.8 in two years without Martz to 4.8 in 1 ½ years with Martz.


Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears are a perfect fit for each other in a Mike Martz offense. They need each other. And they know it.


Matt Forte will get paid. And he will remain a Chicago Bear.


Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.