The Vikings should be able to pressure the Bears without the threat of quarterback Josh McCown burning them with deep balls. McCown, the Bears' third quarterback of the season, threw a dink-and-dunk game at the Packers in Sunday night's loss.
The key will be stopping Khalil Bell, who has proven to be a legitimate threat at running back since stepping in for the injured Matt Forte and Marion Barber. Bell is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 62 attempts. He's also a threat to catch the ball. If the Vikings can contain him, McCown could be in danger behind an offensive line that's leaky in pass protection and not very strong in the running game.
Offensively, the Vikings know exactly what the Bears do on defense. It's the same thing the Vikings do. A vanilla Tampa 2-based scheme. Like the Vikings, the Bears don't have enough pieces to play the scheme as well as it's designed to be played. Even though they're without the injured Adrian Peterson (knee), the Vikings will still try to run the ball with powerful backup Toby Gerhart. The Bears' defensive line, outside of right end Julius Peppers, isn't as sturdy as it used to be. The safeties also are weak, but the Vikings don't have the deep threat to push the ball down the field consistently. So they'll have to try and run the ball, stop the run and pressure McCown into making some mistakes.
The Bears ran the ball 42 times last week, but they faced little resistance against the Packers' defense. The Vikings' run defense is much more stout, but the Bears still know they must run first before they can expect No. 3 quarterback McCown to throw effectively. But McCown provided reason for hope last week, showing nice touch and an excellent pocket presence, which enabled him to escape unsacked and allowed him to pick up positive yardage when pressured. Even without Matt Forte, who is on injured reserve and possibly without Marion Barber (calf), the Bears are confident putting the running game in the hands of Bell, who rushed for 121 yards last week.
Defensively, the Bears' job will be much easier with Peterson out. Even with Peterson in the lineup in Week 6, the Bears were able to control the Vikings' ground game. But the Bears' pass rush has been inconsistent, and it was shredded by Aaron Rodgers last week.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings LDE Brian Robison, who has a career-high seven sacks, vs. Bears RT Lance Louis, who has given up seven sacks this season. Obviously, all eyes and a lot of the Bears' attention will be on RDE Jared Allen, who has a career-high 18.5 sacks. But Robison also can rush the passer, and Louis is the Bears' worst pass-blocking lineman. In the first meeting back on Oct. 16, Louis got help from backs and tight ends as Robison was held without a sack. Being at the Metrodome will help the Vikings' pass rush. In last week's win at Washington, Robison had a sack, strip and fumble recovery on one play.
Vikings SS Jamarca Sanford and FS Mistral Raymond, who have three of the team's seven interceptions this season, vs. Bears QB Josh McCown, Chicago's third starting quarterback of the season and a familiar no-name QB to Vikings fans. The Vikings' 2003 season ended with McCown knocking them out of the playoffs as time expired in the season finale at Arizona. McCown, who was with the Cardinals at the time, threw up a pass on fourth-and-25 from the Vikings' 28-yard line. Nathan Poole came down with it just out of bounds, but officials ruled that he was forced out of bounds by defensive backs Denard Walker and Brian Russell. The play was reviewed to make sure Poole maintained possession, which he did. The Vikings had been in first place the entire season, but were knocked out of the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Cardinals finished 4-12. The Vikings joined the 1978 Redskins as the only teams to start a season 6-0 and miss the playoffs. In his first start since 2007 with the Raiders, McCown completed 19 of 28 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Sunday night's 35-21 loss to the Packers.
Vikings-Bears game plan
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