When the Chicago Bears finish their game at Minnesota against the Vikings, more than simply the 2014 season will be over.
Several accomplished players will be let go. Maybe the coaching staff, too.
Might as well try to go out with a strong showing, no matter how meaningless the outcome.
“Everybody wants to do it the right way,” said Bears coach Marc Trestman, whose second season with the Bears has been a rough one.
Quarterback Jay Cutler’s status is in question, too. After all the problems and injuries on defense, the internal dysfunction and the persistence of turnovers by Cutler, he’ll be back under center perhaps one last time, after a one-game benching.
“The guys that have been in the huddle all year long … those are the guys that I’ll play for this week,” Cutler said.
Lose this one, and the Vikings will drop into a 6-10 tie with the Bears and be the last-place team in the NFC North for the fourth time in the last five years. With coach Mike Zimmer overseeing modest progress in his first season and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater displaying some potential as a rookie, the Vikings aren’t expected to experience as much turnover. This has still been a disappointing year, though.
“We definitely do not want to end this season being winless in the division. We want to have a good taste going into the offseason,” defensive end Brian Robison said.
Here are some key nuggets to know about the game:
AIR BEARS: One of the best games the Bears played in 2014 was on Nov. 16, a 21-13 victory over the Vikings at Soldier Field. Cutler connected 11 times with Alshon Jeffery for 135 yards and a touchdown, seven times with Brandon Marshall for 90 yards and two scores. Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson’s size disadvantage was exploited often by the Bears and their bigger receivers, and Zimmer was critical afterward of his lack of aggression at the line of scrimmage.
“Since that game ended, I’ve been looking forward to it,” Robinson said. “So I’m excited.”
This time, Marshall is injured and won’t play, but Jeffery is a handful by himself. He hauled in 12 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns at Minnesota in 2013.
LAST TIME: When the Vikings beat the Bears last year, their ninth win in the last 12 meetings in Minnesota, Adrian Peterson rushed for 211 yards. Peterson played in only three more games in purple, and now the six-time Pro Bowl pick’s future with the team is in doubt due to his suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The Vikings turned to Jerick McKinnon, whose rookie year ended early because of a back injury, and Matt Asiata, one of 23 players in the league with 10 or more touchdowns. Ben Tate was claimed off waivers from Cleveland, but he was cut this week after a month and a mere 13 carries.
“We just figured we saw what we needed to see,” Zimmer said.
YEAR ONE: The first of two seasons for the Vikings outside at the University of Minnesota came with minimal weather trouble. The forecast for Sunday of a dry afternoon with a temperature in the low 20s is typical, and the average kickoff-time temperature for the first seven games was 48 degrees, with one below freezing (12 degrees on Nov. 30). The Vikings are 4-3 at home in 2014.
MINNESOTA HOMECOMINGS: Trestman played in college for Minnesota a few blocks from where the current stadium sits. Bears backup safety Brock Vereen played for the Gophers, too, just last year. This will also be DE Jared Allen’s his first time playing in Minnesota since he joined the Bears following six seasons with the Vikings.
Allen has only 5½ sacks, the fewest in his 11-year NFL career, after signing for as much as $32 million over four seasons. He averaged more than 14 sacks over the previous seven years, but he’s not ready to concede anything, even though he’ll turn 33 before next season.
“I didn’t come here for a one-and-done shot. I know I’ve still got a lot of football left in me,” Allen said, adding: “I’ve got enough people around me who’d tell me, ‘Dude, you’re terrible. Hang it up.’”
FROZEN MEMORY: The first time the Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium was on Dec. 20, 2010, after a snowstorm toppled the Metrodome roof. That was also Brett Favre’s final game, which ended for him with a concussion from a second-quarter sack by Bears defensive end Corey Wootton, who now plays for the Vikings. Allen was on the home side that night.
“It was really, really cold. I remember all games, but those are the ones … you talk about later in life,” Allen said.
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