Vikings evaluate Cutler vs. Campbell

The Vikings aren't sure which Bears QB they will face, but there is a discernible difference in their performances this year. We look at their performances so far and get input from Leslie Frazier and Jared Allen.

Jay Cutler says he is unsure if he will be able to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (6-4).

The Chicago Bears (7-3) quarterback suffered a concussion Nov. 11 and on Tuesday told ESPN radio in Chicago he still has some "hoops to jump through" before he can play.

Cutler wasn't able to play Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers and it resulted in Jason Campbell taking a beating on his way to throwing for only 107 yards while tossing one touchdown, two interceptions and taking six sacks.

It was Campbell's most extensive action of the season, but the week before, when Cutler suffered the concussion, Campbell played close to the same amount, throwing only three fewer passes – 19 of them – but still only earning 94 passing yards against another tough defense from the Houston Texans.

However, despite Campbell's struggles and uncertainty surrounding Cutler for Sunday's game in Chicago, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said they would prepare for the scheme of the team, not the player under center.

"You don't prepare for people, I don't think. You prepare for schemes," Allen said. "Their plays aren't typically going to change. If you get Cutler you get more of the offense, as far as the book being open. But it's not like Campbell is a typical backup quarterback. The guy has had success. So Campbell has had a good run, he's had success in this league as a starter, he's athletic, he can make every throw and he can beat you with his legs. It doesn't really matter."

The statistics would say otherwise. While Campbell has 17 games with a passer rating of 100 or more, the last two games are the only two with the Bears that he has thrown more than one pass, and he has averaged 100.5 yards in those two. Cutler, on the other hand, has averaged 201 yards passing per game.

And Cutler has had success against the Vikings. He is 5-1 against Minnesota with a 100.8 rating (his teams are 26-0 when he has a rating of 100 or higher, including the playoffs).

Campbell has been only slightly better at avoiding sacks, only because he didn't take any against Houston, allowing him to average three sacks per game in those he threw more than one pass. The Bears as a whole are averaging 3.4 per game and Cutler had taken 28 sacks in the eight games this year before he left with a concussion.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Chicago's quarterback situation makes a significant difference in how his team might prepare.

"It definitely makes a difference for a lot of reasons. You are trying to look at the tape that you have for that particular team. The quarterback position is so, so important it changes sometimes the play-caller's mindset as to how they run the offense," Frazier said. "So we'll get a feel for Jason Campbell and how the Bears will construct a game plan for him versus when Jay Cutler's in there. But how that helps us going forward is hard to say, but we won't know probably for a while who is going to be the starter, I would imagine."

Frazier is right about that. The Bears likely will keep Minnesota's coaches guessing as long as possible.

While Cutler said Tuesday he was feeling "as normal as can be," he still has to pass the NFL-mandated tests administered by an independent neurologist before he can resume playing.

The Vikings have had several players miss games this year because of concussions – linebacker Erin Henderson and tight end John Carlson are two of them that have missed more than one game because of concussions.

But no matter who is under center for the Bears, Allen insists stopping the running game – not the passing game – will be the first objective for the Vikings.

"Whoever it is, we have to straighten out the run (defense). I mean, we can't allow what has happened in years past to happen again," Allen said.

What that's entailed is the Bears building a first-half lead and not needing as strong of a passing performance to hang onto that lead. In their first meeting last year, Cutler had his best day of the season against the Vikings, passing for 267 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and taking only one sack. In the final meeting between the two teams, Cutler was on injured reserve and Josh McCown threw for 160 yards, one touchdown, one interception and took seven sacks.

This year, former Vikings coach Mike Tice is Chicago's offensive coordinator instead of Mike Martz, but Allen said there isn't a "glaring difference" in the Bears' offensive approach. The run game is pretty much the same while the passing game has some differences, Allen said.

But whether it's Cutler or Campbell the Vikings face, they will at least have the advantage of coming off the bye and having a short Monday practice while the Bears had a Monday night game.

"It was important that we got back in and did some work before we come back on Wednesday to begin in earnest preparing for Chicago," Frazier said Monday. "So we wanted to take advantage of this extra day. That's one of the benefits of having a bye."

And then there is this: The last time the Vikings won in Chicago, in 2007, they were also coming off their bye. Back then, however, the quarterback they were facing was Brian Griese.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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