Chicago at Minnesota; Game Preview

Breakdown preview of the Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings battle in week-two of the NFL season.

Chicago Bears (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 ET
SURFACE: AstroTurf
TV: ESPN, Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire
SERIES: 85th meeting. The Vikings lead the series 45-37-2, including 25-18 at home. The Vikings won the last meeting, at the Metrodome, but the Bears are 3-1 in the last four meetings. Eleven of the last 14 meetings have been decided by seven points or less.
2003 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 32nd (29th rush, 32nd pass); defense 29th (31st rush, 19th pass). Vikings: offense 9th (4th rush, 21st pass); defense 16th (6th rush, 22nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Kordell Stewart needs to move around more than he did in the opener, when he was a sitting duck behind a beat-up offensive line. Unless he gets help from the running game, the Vikings will come after Stewart relentlessly and he won't be able to test a Minnesota secondary expected to be minus SS Corey Chavous (knee). Chicago CBs R.W. McQuarters and Jerry Azumah will need help from the safeties in covering WR Randy Moss, and the Vikings need WR D'Wayne Bates to step up and provide a threat on the other side of the field. The Bears have to win the time of possession and turnover battles to keep this one close.
FAST FACTS: Twelve of the past 18 meetings have been decided by eight points or less. Bears: Stewart is 24-6 when he completes at least 60 percent of his passes. ... Vikings: Moss has seven touchdown receptions in 10 games against the Bears. ... The team has won 13 of its past 16 home openers.

PREDICTED SCORE: Vikings 35, Bears 24

   --OG Terrence Metcalf is back practicing full speed with his fractured finger heavily protected by a wrap around his hand, but he isn't being counted on to play this week.
   --WR David Terrell will get more playing time this week, but coach Dick Jauron didn't specify whether it would be at the expense of starter Dez White or because the Bears would use more three-WR sets.
   --QB Kordell Stewart called last week's performance (three interceptions, five sacks) the worst of his career. With two fill-ins at guard this week, Stewart may be asked to play a major role in the ground game, both with planned runs and scrambles.
   --OG Corbin Lacina has taken the majority of the snaps at right guard this week, but he has not been declared the starter for Sunday, although that is expected.
   --RB Anthony Thomas is expected to start again, but he will probably split time with Adrian Peterson. Both players are expected to get more carries than last week, when they had a total of 11 for 27 yards.

   -- SS Corey Chavous played on a sprained right knee against the Packers, and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He hasn't practiced this week. He tested the knee on the Metrodome's artificial surface Thursday and will try to practice today. If he practices, he will be upgraded to questionable. But it still will be a game-time decision.
   -- CB Ken Irvin played against the Packers while at about 80 percent recovered from his dislocated his right big toe. He will continue playing nickel back this week and probably will move into the starting lineup at Detroit next week.
   -- S Jack Brewer, the team's best special teams player, is still recovering from a bruised chest. His likely return has been moved up a week, meaning he could play in two weeks.
   -- RB Doug Chapman, who played a limited role against the Packers because of a high-ankle sprain, suffered a slight setback in practice Wednesday and didn't practice Thursday. He's still probable for the game. Moe Williams will start.
   -- RB Michael Bennett is on the regular-season physically unable to perform list after fracturing his foot during the offseason. He is out until November at the earliest. He saw a foot specialist Wednesday and hopes to be given the OK to resume jogging soon.
   -- CB Brian Williams, who had a 77-yard interception return, needs to play well this week to have any chance of holding off Ken Irvin at starting right cornerback.
   -- CB Ken Irvin, who provided tight coverage at Green Bay, should be 100 percent recovered from his dislocated right big toe by next week. It will be the first time he and LCB Denard Walker will both be 100 percent since the first play of the preseason.
   -- FB Charles Stackhouse has an uphill battle. The Vikings signed the former Giant on Tuesday more because they want to motivate rookie free agent fullback James Lynch. The Vikings aren't expecting much from Stackhouse, and said they might re-sign Lynch, possibly to the practice squad.
   -- FS Brian Russell will stay at free safety this week, while Willie Offord will replace the injured Corey Chavous at SS. Russell is a more natural strong safety, but the Vikings didn't want to practice Russell at strong safety all week and then have Chavous be able to play.
   -- P Eddie Johnson, who had two punts last week, both going only 37 yards, was sent a message Tuesday when the Vikings tried out P Travis Dorsch. Johnson's net punting was only 30.5 yards.

   Liberal doses of urgency and intensity were added to the Bears' menu this week in hopes of exorcising the season-opening flop in San Francisco.
   If the 49-7 loss to the 49ers has done nothing else, it seems to have grabbed the attention of players and coaches.
   "The past two practices have been as intense as any offensive practices we've had since we've been here," offensive coordinator John Shoop said. "Though, in nine years in the NFL, I'm not always sure that that translates into how you play on Sunday."
   A popular opinion is that not everyone played last week with the intensity required in the NFL. But this week the Bears practiced a lot harder than they usually do during the season.
   "It's a lot more physical out there," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We're keeping the pads on longer and there were more contact drills. Assignment-wise they've been better, I know that much. Guys aren't screwing up as much, and we're running the ball a lot better than we have all year."
   The Bears need that improved ground game to carry over to Sunday's game against the Vikings. Last week, the running game was ineffective early and then abandoned by halftime when the Bears trailed 33-7.
   "The team is embarrassed about the first game," coach Dick Jauron said. "They worked hard this week. They've worked hard in the past. But we've got to translate it to performance. That's the key. I still feel the same about this group of guys. They are hard working. They do want to win. We've just got to help them win as much as we can and then they've got to go out and perform on Sunday."

   Strong safety Corey Chavous is doing everything possible to get his sprained right knee ready in time for Sunday night's home opener against Chicago.
   Chavous was injured in the first quarter of the Packers game on Sunday, but returned and had one of his two interceptions while running and leaping on one good leg.
   The knee swelled overnight, and Chavous has been trying to get it back in shape ever since. He hasn't practiced, but he has taken extra treatment and worked on it at home long after the work day is over.
   Chavous has played on a sprained knee before, so he's not frightened or surprised by how it feels. He wants to play so badly, but the Vikings' medical staff needs to ignore his pleas.
   The Vikings can get by with Willie Offord at strong safety this week. They can't get by with Offord on the field for extended amounts of time next week when they travel to Detroit to play Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers.
   The Bears generated only 127 yards of offense in last week's 49-7 loss at San Francisco. Considering the Bears lost their second starting guard of the season, Chris Villarrial, in that game, there's no reason to think quarterback Kordell Stewart is going to improve on his atrocious opening act as a Bear.
   Considering Stewart completed only 14 of 34 passes for 95 yards, three interceptions, a fumble and five sacks, there's no reason for Chavous to be rushing back into the lineup too soon.

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