How bad is Soldier Field?
It’s been a nightmare for the Vikings over the last decade, losing 10 of 11 games in the unfriendly confines. But what makes it different?
For rookie offensive tackle Matt Kalil, today will be the first of what is expected to be many trips to the venerable stadium along Lake Michigan in Chicago. While he will take a moment during pregame warmups to take in his surroundings – just as he will next week when he makes his first trip to Lambeau Field, he is just as focused on the sorry condition of the local turf as he is its rich history.
“Soldier Field is a historic place in the history of the NFL, but I’ve heard the field is horrible,” Kalil said. “You’re playing against a defense that all these star players that I’ve seen throughout my whole career – Julius Peppers, (Brian) Urlacher, (Lance) Briggs. It’s going to be pretty cool going against them.”
Chad Greenway’s enduring memory of Soldier Field is quiet plane rides back to Minnesota after losing at Soldier Field. The Vikings went into their bye week on an up note, but veterans like Greenway are cautioning their young teammates that winning in Chicago isn’t easy and a loss can erase all the goodwill over the last two weeks.
“We’ve just played one game to get back to sort of where we wanted to be,” Greenway said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but a win on the road would be huge. The type of environment over there at Soldier Field, you try to explain to these young guys that it’s just a tough place to win, a tough place to play, and they play their best football at home. It’s much like us being at the dome. You’ve got to go into their place, play a great football team and take their home crowd out of it.”
So how will the Vikings do it? By playing what Greenway calls a “clean game.” Get your job done on offense, defense and special teams and you can’t lose – even at a place that has seen the Vikings-Bears rivalry take on the look of a rivalry between a hammer and a nail.
“It’s the toughest place we probably have to play,” Greenway said. “We haven’t had very good luck over there, but we haven’t had much luck on the road in division games. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but every year is a new year and we’ve got to go in there, create some turnovers at play some clean football.”
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 20th-ranked offense (3rd rushing, 30th passing) and the 13th-ranked defense (14th rushing, 16th passing).
The Bears have the 30th-ranked offense (10th rushing, 31st passing) and the fifth-ranked defense (8th rushing, 11th passing).
The Vikings are averaging 341 yards a game on offense (190 passing, 151 rushing). The Bears are averaging 299 yards a game (176 passing, 123 rushing).
Defensively, Chicago is allowing 312 yards a game (217 passing, 95 rushing). Minnesota is allowing 341 yards a game (229 passing, 112 rushing).
Chicago is tied for second in giveaway/takeaway ratio at plus-12 (30 takeaways, 18 giveways). The Vikings are 23rd at minus-4 (12 takeaways, 16 giveaways).
No team has more takeaways than the 30 Chicago has posted through 10 games.
The Vikings are 17th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 17 of 33 possessions (51.5 percent). The Bears are 25th at 46.4 percent (28 possessions, 13 touchdowns).
The Vikings defense is 22nd is red zone defense, allowing 20 touchdowns in 35 possessions (57.1 percent). Chicago is tied for fourth at 40.7 percent (11 touchdowns in 27 possessions).
The Bears lead the league in lowest scoring percentage in the red zone at 74.1 percent. Opponents have come away scoreless in seven of 27 red zone possessions.
Neither the Vikings nor Bears are at the league average in third-down conversions on offense. The league-wide average on third down is converting 38.1 percent. Chicago ranks 18th at 36.6 percent (49 of 134). The Vikings rank 25th at 33.9 percent (43 of 127).
Defensively, Chicago ranks second in third-down defense, allowing conversions on just 41 of 129 attempts (31.8 percent). The Vikings are tied for 24th at 41.1 percent (58 conversions on 141 attempts).
The league’s average starting position on offense is the 22.1-yard line. The Vikings and Bears are Nos. 1 and 2 in that category. Chicago leads with an average starting position of the 26.2-yard line. The Vikings are second with an average start at the 25.6-yard line.
Defensively, Chicago is also No. 1 in average opponent starting position – the 19.6-yard line. The Vikings are 11th with the average opponent starting position at the 21.5-yard line.
Both Christian Ponder and Jay Cutler have one 300-yard passing game. The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers. The Bears have allowed three.
Brandon Marshall has posted five 100-yard receiving games – all of the Bears’ total. Injured Percy Harvin has all three of the Vikings’ 100-yard receiving games.
The Vikings have allowed three 100-yard receivers. Chicago has allowed four.
Adrian Peterson has five 100-yard rushing games, including three of the top 11 individual rushing days in the NFL this season. Matt Forte has both of the Bears’ 100-yard rushing games.
Chicago has allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season. The Vikings have allowed four.
Ponder is tied for 19th in pass attempts (316), tied for 15th in completions (206), 10th in completion percentage (65.2 percent), 25th in yards (2,027), tied for 17th in touchdown passes (12), tied for 13th in interceptions (8) and 19th in passer rating (85.2).
Cutler is 28th in pass attempts (255), 30th in completions (151), 27th in yards (1,814), tied for 17th in touchdowns (12), tied for 20th in interceptions (10) and 24th in passer rating (80.4).
While Cutler is near the bottom in just about every passing category, in the fourth quarter he’s on fire. His passer rating of 135.0 in the fourth quarter is best in the league – thanks in no small part to 11 of his 12 TD passes coming in the fourth quarter. Ponder is 15th in the league with a fourth-quarter passer rating of 88.9.
On third down, Ponder ranks 27th in passer rating at just 69.6. Cutler is 11th with a passer rating of 89.0.
Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 1,128 rushing yards. Forte is 16th with 641 yards.
Peterson is averaging 5.6 yards a carry, second only among those with 100 or more carries than C.J. Spiller (6.6 yards).
Marshall is fourth in receptions with 69. Harvin is tied for eighth with 62.
Marshall is fifth in receiving yards with 925. Harvin is 19th with 677.
Marshall is tied for first in third-down receptions with 22 – tying with Colts veteran Reggie Wayne. Harvin is tied for 15th with 15.
Marshall is tied for fourth in scoring among non-kickers with 48 points (eight touchdowns). Peterson is tied for 10th with 44 points (six TDs and a 2-point conversion).
Blair Walsh is fourth in scoring among kickers with 90 points. Robbie Gould is tied for 10th with 81 points.
Walsh in third in touchbacks with 41. Gould is sixth with 31.
Peterson is second in total yards from scrimmage with 1,281 (1,128 rushing, 155 receiving). He trails only Tampa Bay rookie RB Doug Martin, who has 1,319 yards from scrimmage. Marshall is 18th with 925 yards (all receiving).
Harvin is second in kickoff return average at 35.9 yards per return. Devin Hester is 17th at 25.5 yards, with a long return of 38 yards.
Hester is 17th in punt return average at 8.0 yards. Of 31 potential returns, he has called just six fair catches.
Marcus Sherels is 12th with a punt return average of 9.3 yards. Of 37 potential returns, he has called 17 fair catches, which leads the league.
Sherels had a punt return for a 77-yard touchdown against Detroit. In his other 35 punts, he has called 17 fair catches and returned the other 18 for 108 yards – an average of six yards per return.
Chicago’s Tim Jennings leads the league with eight interceptions. No other player has more than five.
As a team, the Vikings have five interceptions.
Jared Allen is tied for 13th with seven sacks. Julius Peppers leads Chicago with six, which ties him for 22nd in the league.
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.