Strange things happen when you play the Chicago Bears. They are a team like few others. When one thinks of playing the Bears, they envision a game with score in the order of 16-13 or 12-9 in overtime.
But scores like that only occur when the Bears defense isn't a significant portion of the Bears offense. The Bears defense collectively should win the Offensive MVP at the postseason awards banquet in which nine different varieties of cooked sausage are on the menu.
Chicago has scored seven rushing touchdowns this season. Seven more have come from defensive players returning the ball into the end zone after intercepting passes. One more has come from a special teamer running the ball five yards into end zone after a blocked punt. Unconventional touchdowns are a trademark of the Bears.
In 10 games, the Bears have set up the potential for turnovers 40 times – they have 19 interceptions and 21 forced fumbles, recovering 11 of them. On average, teams go into a game with Chicago expecting three turnovers. Under that number, things are good. Over it, not so much. To date, 13 players have scored touchdowns for the Bears – seven on offense, six on defense/special teams.
While the Vikings try not to make too much out of it, the penchant for Chicago's defense to create turnovers is beyond question. Heading up that list is Charles Tillman – better known as "Peanut" in NFL circles.
If you play offense in the NFL, you have a Peanut allergy. As Percy Harvin explained, Tillman's uncanny ability to rip a football loose from a receiver has him in a one-man spotlight with Vikings offensive players, whether they are the player carrying the ball or those who may have to jump on it when Tillman invariably puts the pig on the turf.
"Since I've been here, every time we game-planned for them, we circle Peanut on our board," Harvin said. "He's been a big stripper. I don't think anything has changed. They've been causing turnovers for some years now. I don't think you change anything or think about it too much, because that's when you do turn it over."
What many find so maddening about the Bears is that they don't disguise much. They are the defensive equivalent to the Nebraska offense from the 1930s until now. They will surrender yardage, but they get you to fight in their own style, where one big mistake can be the M-80 that blows up in your hand before you throw it.
"I've seen teams run the ball on them, I've seen teams make plays on them," offensive tackle Matt Kalil said. "But the one thing they do is make plays. They take away the ball and they capitalize on those opportunities. The biggest focus for us is not getting those turnovers and protecting the ball. They're a great defense with a lot of veterans on that team. As simple as their scheme is, they're still really good at what they do, so it's all about protecting the ball on our end."
The Bears defense, when it's on its game, is like few others. They've done the same thing for years. If the Vikings are like the other 10 teams the Bears have played this year, they will put the ball in the hands of the defense three times. If they do it less than that, they have a good chance of winning Sunday. If they match or exceed those numbers, forget about it. That's how they roll in Chicago. Worry about Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler if you must, but the best offense in Chicago is its defense and special teams – make no mistake about it.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.