In the Vikings' first meeting with the Bears this season, they compiled 202 rushing yards? What are the Vikings planning this Sunday in Chicago, and what the matchups to watch in this game of NFC North foes?
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
When these teams met in Week 2 at the Metrodome, Randy Moss
was coming off a huge game the week before at Green Bay. Not wanting to get beat deep by Moss, Chicago sat in a Cover 2 defense, which allowed the Vikings to pound away with 39 rushes for 202 yards in a 24-13 victory.
While offensive coordinator Scott Linehan
expects to face a different game plan the second time around, the Vikings will lean heavily on their running attack considering the game will be outside, on grass in Chicago in the middle of December.
Moss is again coming off of a huge game, having caught eight passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns of more than 40 yards. Chicago held him to four catches for 27 yards and no touchdowns in the first meeting.
If the Bears choose to take Moss away, they run the risk of being hammered on the ground again.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Safeties Brian Russell
and Corey Chavous
against QB Rex Grossman
. Grossman gets his first NFL start, and it comes against the NFL's top interception tandem. Chavous leads the NFL with eight interceptions. Russell is tied for second with seven. Grossman hasn't thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game.
Vikings front seven against RB Anthony Thomas. For Grossman to have a fighting chance, the Bears have to run the ball. That will keep the Vikings from attacking the passing game the way they did against Seattle. Thomas has only 743 yards rushing on the season, but his average (4.2) is decent. The Vikings are 31st in the NFL in opponents rushing average per play (5.0). This is a game in which MLB Greg Biekert can be effective. Chicago's line is a mess and Thomas isn't the kind of runner who is going to get outside. Biekert is good at stopping the run between the tackles, but too slow to stop outside runs.
WR Randy Moss against safeties Mike Brown and Mike Green. In the first meeting, Brown and Green stayed in Cover 2 and effectively took away the deep ball to Moss. But the Vikings ran 39 times for a season-high 202 yards. If Brown and Green cheat up to stop the run, they can expect Moss to blow past them and catch the long ball. Brown has only two interceptions. Green has one. Moss is first in receiving touchdowns and second in receiving yards (1,372) and receptions (90).
Vikings kickoff coverage against KR Jerry Azumah. The Vikings gave up a 59-yard kickoff return to start the second half against Seattle. The Seahawks converted it into a 39-yard touchdown drive. Now the Vikings face Azumah, who leads the NFL in kickoff returns (31.4-yard average) with two touchdowns, including one in last week's 34-21 loss at Green Bay.
Vikings P Eddie Johnson against PR R.W. McQuarters. Johnson, a rookie, has struggled this season. He ranks 13th in the NFC in gross punting (39.5) and 28th in the NFL in net punting (32.8). McQuarters ranks second in the NFC in punt returns (12.9-yard average) with one touchdown.
QB Daunte Culpepper against Chicago's pass rush. The Bears have only 14 sacks and are last in the NFL in sacks per pass play. Culpepper had his best protection of the season last week against Seattle. He responded with three of his best deep throws of the season. He had three touchdown passes over 40 yards, including a 45-yarder that he dropped perfectly over Randy Moss' right shoulder in the end zone against double coverage.
Vikings pass rush against Chicago's offensive line. The Vikings had three sacks against the Bears in the first meeting this season. One of those was by CB Brian Williams. Look for Williams to rush hard off the corner in some situations. Williams had his third sack of the season last week, setting a team season record for cornerbacks. Chicago's offensive line was without RG Chris Villarrial in the first meeting. Villarrial is questionable with a side injury this week. Also questionable with a shoulder injury is LT Mike Gandy.
INJURY IMPACT: RB Moe Williams, who is probable with a knee injury, should play against Chicago. He is one of the team's more valuable players, even in his reduced role since Michael Bennett returned. When it's third-and-long, Williams has a knack of finding the first down marker on dump-off passes.
TE Jim Kleinsasser, who is probable with a right biceps injury, should play. He's the Vikings' best blocking tight end, and a threat to catch the ball in the flats.
RB Michael Bennett, who is probable with a sprained right ankle, probably will be the most effected. Bennett's game is speed and quick cuts. He'll probably be slowed considerably because of his ankle, the grass field and the cold.
DL Billy Lyon, who is probable with a calf injury, has fallen out of the defensive line rotation. It's possible he would be inactive even if he were healthy.
CB Rushen Jones has a sprained ankle, but is listed as probable. Jones doesn't play on defense, but he has become one of the better tacklers on kickoffs. The Bears have the best kick return game in the NFL.
BEARS GAME PLAN
The Bears are 3-1 when they have a 100-yard rusher and 2-7 when they don't. Especially with rookie Rex Grossman making his first start at quarterback, and in light of last week's poor offensive output in which Anthony Thomas got just nine carries, the Bears will do all they can to establish the A-Train early and take pressure off Grossman.
The Bears have proved they can shut down Moss, as they did in the first meeting, but it came at the expense of getting trampled for 202 rushing yards. In that game they played 2 deep with seven in the box, and it will be interesting to see if they try the same tack. It might be worth a try, since last time, ineffective Bryan Knight was the strong-side linebacker. But he has since been replaced by rookie Lance Briggs, who has been outstanding and is a big hitter.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bears rookie QB Rex Grossman, who has never taken an NFL snap, vs. the Vikings' defense, which leads the NFL with 25 interceptions but is No. 28 in passing yards and average gain per pass allowed.
The Bears' secondary, and specifically rookie Charles Tillman, vs. Randy Moss. In the first meeting this season, Moss had just four catches for 27 yards.
INJURY IMPACT: Linebacker Brian Urlacher (ill), defensive tackle Keith Traylor (knee), safety Mike Green (groin), offensive tackle Mike Gandy (shoulder), tight end Dustin Lyman (spleen) and guard Corbin Lacina (knee) and all missed practice on Wednesday.
Lyman is out this week, while Gandy is questionable but said he expects to play. The others weren't listed on the injury report and should play.
Guard Chris Villarrial (torn oblique muscle) and quarterback Chris Chandler (shoulder) both practiced, although they're listed as questionable. Villarrial will probably try to play, as he did two games ago, but he was forced out on the opening series and missed last week's game. Chandler will be the No. 3 QB on Sunday.