If there is such a thing as letting your tape do your talking, the Minnesota Vikings have earned the respect of the Chicago Bears, especially in the ways they have been able to give a false perspective of where they’re going to be bringing the pressure.
Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several plays where safety Harrison Smith waits until the ball is ready to be snapped and suddenly races 20 yards back to his deep position. That has merely been one of many cases of disguise, subterfuge, confusion and disinformation coming from the Vikings defense.
It’s clear that the Bears are concerned about what they’ve seen on tape because the Vikings aren’t nearly as predictable as they were under previous coaching administrations.
Chicago offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week that the Vikings are showing false looks to give quarterbacks the wrong impression of what he’s going to be seeing.
“They do a great job of disguising who is coming,” Gase said. “That’s why Coach Zimmer has had the success he’s had over his career. He makes it tough on offenses. He always has. You saw last week what it did to Detroit. It’s been that way for a long time and you just have to do a good job of giving the quarterback options and making sure we do a good job in our protections of knowing who to block and working our system.”
Cutler feels much the same in the way of concern of what the Vikings are showing in pre-snap presentation. What may look like a safety blitz from the left turns out to be a linebacker blitz from the right. In such an instance, quarterbacks can switch out of the original call under the belief that pressure is coming from the side to which the play is called when in reality it’s coming from the other side.
Cutler said his primary focus and concern centers on blitzes as much or more than the pass rush from the front four. In the Zimmer defense, everyone is in play to come on the pass rusher, including linebackers, corners and safeties, depending on the down-and-distance situation.
“They show you a lot of different fronts,” Cutler said. “It’s something they take a lot of pride in. They’re extremely good at it. With the linebackers, they’re very coordinated with who they bring, who they don’t bring. They get the safeties involved, the nickel involved. They have talent up front, too.”
Like Gase, Bears head coach John Fox is no stranger to Zimmer and his defensive schemes. Until last year, both were in the AFC – Fox with the Broncos and Zimmer with the Bengals.
Asked about the Vikings’ multiple fronts, Fox knew what he was seeing on tape against the Lions. During Chicago’s bye week last week, he saw the Vikings make the same Detroit offense that put up 37 points on his defense look anemic against Minnesota in the same location – Ford Field.
He saw a pass-rush scheme that he had seen in previous years from the Bengals and he knew there was one suspect of interest involved.
“They did a superb job,” Fox said. “I can tell Mike’s fingerprints are on a lot of the things they’re doing.”
Heading into Sunday’s game, as is the case in most games, the focus is more on the offensive production than anything else – blame fantasy football for that. But as the Bears have made it clear, the Vikings defense would appear to be more of a concern than their offense. They know that points are going to be a premium and defense, not offense, will likely rule the day tomorrow.