The Vikings have faced three offenses in a row that decided to use the New England blueprint to try to beat them – throw the ball until it hurts. But, against Chicago, the Vikings expect a more balanced attack from their opponent.
The Chicago Bears
rushed the ball 21 times in their first meeting of the season against the Vikings, while Rex Grossman
attempted 41 passes. That formula was good enough to give Chicago a come-from-behind 19-16 victory in Week 3.
But if recent games serve as any indication, the Bears might not even run the ball that much Sunday when the teams meet at Soldier Field. Since the Vikings' loss to New England on Oct. 30, opponents have proven that the best way to attack the Vikings is through the air.
This was the case again Sunday as Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart
passed for 405 yards and threw the ball 51 times in a loss to Minnesota. The Cardinals tied an NFL record by attempting only six rushes, including a scramble by Leinart.
"I know Lovie, from his perspective, he would like to be able to run the football," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "But he knows you can't run it all the time and you have to be able to move it through the air as well. They're typically a more balanced football team. Do I expect to see any empty sets or Grossman in the shotgun? Yeah. I'd be lying to myself if I didn't."
The Bears are 14th in the NFL in rushing offense and 15th in passing offense. Grossman has struggled of late and with a running attack that includes Thomas Jones
(945 yards), keeping it on the ground might be an attractive option.
The Vikings, however, are No. 1 against the run in the NFL and, get this, 31st (second to last) against the pass. Childress was asked about his concern but pointed to the fact the Vikings defense only gave up one touchdown to the Cardinals.
"People aren't going to try to run it as much as normally would happen, when you are a good run defense," he said. "(Arizona) obviously decided five times — five run attempts — that they had a different plan on moving the football. And they are set up that way. They have a nice corps of wide receivers and they are comfortable with their one-back offense and their quarterback back in the shotgun.
"They just weren't going to hammer their head against the wall. I guess the bottom line is always points. The guys are stiffening up fairly well in the red zone. You hate the fact that they move it back and forth in between the red areas but you're moving to try to create a better pass rush and give them some trouble as well."
Quarterback Brad Johnson, who had six interceptions and one touchdown pass during the Vikings' four-game losing streak, had his best game of the season in Sunday's victory against Arizona. Johnson, though, doesn't feel he has played that poorly. "I think that I have been pretty much the same guy all season truthfully," Johnson said. "I haven't been rewarded. I was able to make a couple plays on my feet today."
Receiver Marcus Robinson had his best game of the season Sunday, catching seven passes for 82 yards with a touchdown. Robinson admitted this was the type of chance he has been hoping to get. "Absolutely," he said. "Once you get an opportunity at the ball — Brad (Johnson) gets in the rhythm and starts making plays like that. It's a great time to be a part of it. We just took advantage of certain things they were giving us and Brad did a good job of getting us the ball."
Running back Chester Taylor came out of the Arizona victory with 999 yards rushing, but the fact he didn't get to 1,000 wasn't an issue for him. "I heard I came up a yard short from getting that," he said. "As long as we got the win, that is all that matters."
DE Ray Edwards suffered a strained biceps against Arizona Sunday but coach Brad Childress said the rookie, "appears to be OK."
WR Marcus Robinson had X-rays on an ankle contusion he suffered Sunday but they proved to be negative.
FS Dwight Smith suffered a sprained AC shoulder joint but was able to continue playing and is expected to be fine.
RB Chester Taylor had 27 carries Sunday, bringing his season total to 248, explaining why coach Brad Childress said his workhorse back is suffering from "overall soreness."
TE Jermaine Wiggins came out of the Arizona victory with a slight MCL sprain in his knee. He received treatment Monday for the injury and it's unclear what his status will be for Sunday's game at Chicago.
RG Artis Hicks continues to receive treatment on the left ankle sprain that forced him to miss Sunday's game. Jason Whittle replaced Hicks in the game.
RT Marcus Johnson also is getting treatment for the left ankle sprain that forced Mike Rosenthal and Ryan Cook to play in Johnson's place Sunday.