The Vikings knew when they saw the schedule come out back in April that they were going to have a difficult road ahead of them. With quality teams throughout the season and the first four weeks with three games away from the Metrodome (Detroit, Chicago and London), getting off to a fast start was a must for the Vikings.
The season-opening loss at Detroit was troubling because, of the three games, that was one many observers thought the Vikings had a good chance to win. Obviously, they didn't. With the team looking to avoid dropping to 0-2 – a record that represents just 13 percent of the season but is viewed as a death knell for teams looking to make the playoffs – they are heading into a personal house of horrors when they head to Soldier Field.
The Vikings haven't won in Chicago since 2007 and needed a 200-yard rushing game from Adrian Peterson to get that accomplished. As the Vikings head into Soldier Field Sunday, they're looking to erase the bad memories that are associated with that building – from when the team was riding high in 2009 or hitting bottom in 2011.
Jared Allen will be a big part of that effort and he's none too happy about the annual trip to Chicago that has yet to make a return flight to the Twin Cities with a "W." Allen is frustrated that the Vikings are in this position because they hurt themselves far too often defensively in Week 1 and can't afford a repeat performance in Chicago.
"We haven't won there since I've been here and it's becoming annoying," Allen said. "It's definitely a game we have to get. We feel like we did some things to shoot ourselves in the foot last week. We're coming in and playing a team that can definitely run the ball and is known for running the ball better than what Detroit does."
On paper, the Bears look to have a lot of similarities to the Lions. They have a strong-armed quarterback (Jay Cutler), a big physical receiver that demands attention (Brandon Marshall) and a versatile running back (Matt Forte). While new head coach Marc Trestman is bringing in a different style offense than Lovie Smith used in his tenure with the Bears, Allen is convinced that the primary basis of the offense will remain the same – a power running game.
"They're running a little more shotgun and they're doing some different type things in the run game," Allen said. "I think it's going to be a fun game to play. This is a downhill running team. Last week we were spread out and bouncing all over the place. They want to run the ball, get in short down-and-distance with first down and have success in the intermediate passing game and take some shots down the field. I think it's going to come down to controlling the line of scrimmage."
The defensive woes the Vikings struggled with built upon themselves, as players tried to make plays and got away from the bread-and-butter concept of the Tampa-2 defense. Having Kevin Williams back in the lineup will give them a boost, but the biggest key will be not trying to do too much and each defensive player protecting his section of the field.
"We've got Kevin coming back, which is going to be a help," Allen said. "His experience in there is invaluable. It's nothing major. Guys just have to do their responsibility. When you're trying to do too much, that's when you get gashed. You're going to make 99 percent of more plays in your gap than you are in somebody else's. It really comes down to fundamentals. That's what this game is about. Whoever has the better fundamentals on Sunday and whoever can execute better will win."
The Vikings haven't won in Chicago the last five years. It has become a trend. They have been beaten on big plays from the Bears offense, defense and special teams. It seems like it's always something. How do the Vikings change things around? There is no certain answer to that question, but the plan is to erase the memory of the last five losses and look at this season as a clean slate.
"If anybody can figure that one out, let me know," Allen said. "It's just tough I guess. I wish I had the Magic 8 ball and the answer. All we can do is focus on this year and get it done."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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