The Minnesota Vikings are heading into the Bears den Sunday, looking to do what Vikings past haven’t been able to do – fly back to Minnesota a winner. Just as they exorcised the demon of going up against long odds of Vikings teams taking out a division opponent on the road, they’re looking for lightning to strike twice and allow them to head into Chicago and leave with a win.
With a victory, at 5-2, the Vikings will be getting the attention of the rest of the football world. These are the 10 points of emphasis that will make Monday either a day a euphoria in Minnesota or a recurring Halloween slasher nightmare that just won’t go away.
Reverse the Curse – Usually it takes chatter from the North Side of Chicago to get the discussion of curses involved. In his rookie season, Adrian Peterson set a Vikings franchise single-game rushing record with 224 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Chicago. A game like that should have resulted in a 20-point win at a minimum. It took a 55-yard bomb from Ryan Longwell that skinned the goal post for a 34-31 win. Why is that important? It’s the only game since the new millennium started in 2001 (look it up and impress your friends on our message boards) that the Vikings have won in Illinois against the Bears. Gamblers will tell you that’s more than a trend. Ending it will be a big step if the Vikings can get the job done.
It Always Comes In Threes – There is always something to be said about halftime adjustments, making the changes necessary to clean up the mistakes that were made in the first half and taking advantage of exposed weaknesses that were discovered in the first half. The Vikings have done a great job of that, outscoring opponents 33-10 in the third quarter. The Bears have been outscored 41-12 in the third quarter of their games. That could be a tipping point in Sunday’s game.
Third Time Isn’t a Charm – Why are the Bears being outscored by 10 points a game? Their defense can’t get the opposing offense off the field. The Bears are 29th in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 46 percent of opponent third downs. On the 54 percent in which they were successful? All five of their opponents’ fourth-down attempts have been converted. The Vikings need to take advantage of that defensive generosity.
Get the Point – If the Bears are going to beat the Vikings, it had best be a low-scoring game. Even coming off a 34-point outburst in their overtime loss to the Lions, the Bears haven’t scored more than 23 points in any of their other five games. The Vikings haven’t allowed more than 23 points in any of their six games. Sounds like 24 is the deal-breaker if the Vikings offense can hit that benchmark.
Let Him Throw, Let Him Throw, Let Him Throw – In six games, opposing quarterbacks have sliced and diced the Bears – throwing 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions and a passer rating of 108.6. To put that in perspective, the only quarterbacks with a higher passer rating than what the Bears routinely allow are Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. Between the four of them, their teams have lost twice all season.
Under Pressure – The Vikings defense has been ratcheting up the heat on opposing quarterbacks, including a season-high seven sacks last week against Detroit. The Bears have had their share of struggles, but haven’t allowed more than three sacks in any game and two or less in six games. Can the Vikings reverse that trend? They had better.
That’s Our Forte – No team centralizes power in one running back as much as the Bears do with Matt Forte. He has rushed 126 times for 507 yards. He has never carried fewer than 15 times in any game and is averaging 21 carries a game for 84 yards. Nobody else on the roster has more than 15 carries and the other running backs with carries this season – Jacquizz Rodgers and Jeremy Langford – have combined to rush 29 times for 75 yards (a 2.6-yard average). Forte represents 81 percent of the rushes among the Bears’ running backs and 87 percent of their yards. Perhaps never in the last decade has one player so dominated a team’s run game.
Keep Teddy Clean – In three games at the friendly confines of TCF Bank Stadium, Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked just three times. He leaves the field with very little in the way of remnants from The Bank turf. In his three road games? His uniform has required a second washing because he’s been sacked 16 times. If the Bears continue that trend, Bridgewater may need the ice tub Monday … again.
Yo, Adrian – The Vikings have become accustomed to Peterson providing big plays. Over the last two games, the Chiefs and Lions made it a point to now allow him to beat them. In those games, he has rushed 45 times for 158 yards. Of those, two carries – one in each game – accounted for 98 yards. The other 53 carries have added up to 60 yards, an average of 1.1 yards a carry. He’s banged up and defenses have found the best way to limit him is to attack him. Peterson has rarely faced an onslaught like he has endured the last two weeks. He doesn’t believe in going down without a fight. It’s taking a toll.
The Good News Is – In his last four games against the Bears, Peterson has taken ownership of the Chicago defense. He has rushed 110 times for 575 yards and two touchdowns. He has rushed for 100 yards or more in all four of them and has had 26 or more carries in each of the last three, and more than 30 carries in two of the last three. Vikings fans can only hope his absence from practice the last couple of days is resting him for a heavy workday Sunday.