John Crist: Since ESPN has a bad habit of going out of its way to create stories instead of simply covering them, apparently there is a rift developing between Brett Favre and Brad Childress. Is it about Childress wanting to pull Favre last week? Does this have something to do with audibles? Do tell.
Tim Yotter: The general ideas behind the stories is that the Childress wasn't happy with Favre audibling from running plays to passing plays in the fourth quarter of a few games where the Vikings had a late lead. Childress reportedly considered pulling Favre after those incidents and was talked out of it. However, Childress denied that Favre's audibles were an issue during his weekly segment on Sirius NFL Radio Tuesday.
"That couldn't be further from the truth. He's been a great, great team player here," Childress said. "His communication has been great, with Bev (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell), with myself, with our offensive staff. You don't play this game for 18, 19 years and not have different ideas seeing different fronts. I always say it's a pretty good free flow of information. You know what? He's taught us some things, and we've taught him some things about how we've been successful here."
On Monday, Childress admitted to considering replacing Favre on Sunday after Favre told the media about it. This time, it wasn't a specific audible. Childress said it was because Favre was getting hit too much against the Panthers. Childress already pulled left tackle Bryant McKinnie from the game, but the bigger issue was getting help on blocking Julius Peppers. Favre addresses the media Wednesday and – oh, look – ESPN has the Monday night game. I'm sure we'll have plenty of questions surrounding the issue.
JC: Some Bears fans want Jason McKie gone and a real lead blocker clearing the way for Matt Forte. I say that fullback is a dead position in today's NFL and not on the field much anymore. Since the Vikings have a strong running game, how much of that has to do with their fullback, Naufahu Tahi?
TY: According to the fan vote, it must have a lot to do with Tahi since he leads the NFL in Pro Bowl voting at the position. The Vikings like Tahi, but Adrian Peterson has admitted in the past that he would rather be in a single-back set. Considering the congestion the Vikings' zone-blocking scheme creates, I believe Tahi is just another body in the way between Peterson and positive yardage. The Vikings tried to use Tahi more last year as a receiving/checkdown option out of the backfield, but he isn't nifty enough to avoid tackles.
The fullback is probably more of a staple in the West Coast system, but I tend to agree that there isn't much value placed on fullbacks anymore.
JC: I have to say that I have been very impressed with Percy Harvin this season. Despite being just a hybrid runner-receiver without a true position while at Florida, he's turned into a dangerous option out of the slot. Is this the kind of role the Bears should have carved out for Devin Hester all along?
TY: More than likely. Harvin has the body of a scat back, the speed of a deep receiver and the moves of something in between. It's his elusiveness that makes him so dangerous. He doesn't usually cut hard one way or another. It's more of a lean and slight divergence that allows him to maintain much of his speed and keep going if he slips past a would-be tackler. He has a chance to set the single-season franchise record for rushing yards by a receiver, but he's been used much more as a receiver than runner. I believe he would have been used more in Wildcat situations if Favre wasn't here because they haven't needed that change of pace as much. Lately, Harvin's migraine headaches have been a major issue, so it will be interesting to see if he becomes heavily involved again before the playoffs.
You are right that his flexibility makes him so valuable. He was leading the league in kickoff-return average for much of the year, was in the top five for third-down receivers and could be used out of the backfield as well. I think if the Bears would be able to establish a true No. 1 receiver (which Sidney Rice has become) outside of Hester that he would be more effective in the slot and taking reverses.
JC: Jared Allen had another huge day against the Bears in the first meeting, racking up two sacks and an interception. It took a groin injury for it to happen, but Orlando Pace has finally been cast aside in favor of Chris Williams at left tackle. Any advice for Williams before he faces Allen on Monday?
TY: Use a lifeline, phone a friend and make sure you stay close to that friend. Allen has been held in check decently when teams scheme to neutralize him with help from a tight end, a guard or a running back. If teams constantly double him, the Vikings haven't answered as often as they should with pressure from other areas. On occasion, Ray Edwards has exploited a matchup on the other side, but they need Kevin Williams to start pressuring consistently from the inside as well.
JC: Before 2009 began, I thought the Vikings would win the division and both the Bears and Packers would challenge for wild cards. I believe it was Meatloaf who used to sing "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." From a rival's perspective, where do the Bears need to begin their reconstruction for 2010?
TY: On the lines. I don't see that offensive line as very effective (witness Forte's drop in production). The Bears have the 29th rushing offense and 25th rushing defense. That's not what I think of when I envision successful Bears teams of the past. Williams has to be the future instead of Pace, but they need to start building a younger, better line. Olin Kreutz might be able to last another season, but after a dozen years can his body take much more pounding in the middle of the trenches?
Defensively, it appears that Tommie Harris might never be the same player he was a few years ago, when he was consistently a focus of protection schemes. When your leading sacker (Adewale Ogunleye) is 32 years old and has only 6.5 sacks, it has to limit the effectiveness of the pass defense. That's similar to the situation the Vikings were in before acquiring Allen, but they had much more flexibility in pressuring the quarterback once they found that true pass-rushing presence.
Jay Cutler could still turn it around and I believe Forte can still be an effective back, but neither of those things will happen if the Bears don't address their issues on the offensive line, and the same applies to the defensive line.
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