Bears Were Who Vikings Thought They Were

In the days leading up to the Vikings-Bears matchup at Soldier Field, several players, coaches, and even ex-players offered their take on what Chicago might do and how Minnesota had to respond. The results were mixed.

In the days leading up to the Vikings-Bears matchup at Soldier Field, several players, coaches, and even ex-players offered their take on what Chicago might do and how Minnesota had to respond. The results were mixed.

As former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green became famous for saying about the Chicago Bears, "The Bears are who we thought they were."

Nearly every area of pregrame analysis played a critical role in the Vikings' 34-31 win over the Bears at Soldier Field. At times, the Vikings were able to stop what they believed was coming. At other times, the Bears enjoyed success by playing to their strengths.

It seems players, coaches and even former players had it all pegged in the week leading up to the game and it was just a matter of how well the players would execute.

Let's take them one at a time.

  • Former Vikings punter Greg Coleman told Viking Update that he wouldn't punt the ball to captivating return man Devin Hetser, period, citing Coleman's own experiences two decades earlier with Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.

    "With Billy, I made sure that if he caught the ball, he was going to be out of bounds – 37 or 40 yards net out of bounds, versus the longer kicks and then giving him the opportunity to take one to the house on you," Coleman said. "Bud (Grant) would always say, ‘Give me the 40 yards out of bounds and I'll take it.'"

    The Vikings didn't heed that advice, at least early, and on his second put return of the day, Hester went 89 yards for the first touchdown of the afternoon. By the end of the contest, the Vikings were kicking the ball out of bounds and giving Hester no shot on punt returns.

    They eventually started squibbing the ball on kickoffs as well, as Rashied Davis and Chicago's Adrian Peterson each had a return under those circumstances. In the fourth quarter alone, the Bears started on their own 42- and 46-yard lines after two kickoffs, and their own 47-yard line after a punt – extremely gratuitous field position, despite Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell saying last week that he thought the penalty of receiving the ball on the 40-yard line was too severe to simply kick off out of bounds.

    As it turned out, the Bears got better results than that on two of their six kickoff returns.

  • Despite most teams spreading out the Vikings defense with three and four receivers and having success with that tactic, the Minnesota defenders firmly believed that Chicago would try to run the ball often.

    "I think they are still trying to establish the run. I think they are more comfortable now that they know who the running back is," said linebacker Ben Leber, referring to the Bears allowing Thomas Jones to leave via free agency and make Cedric Benson the centerpiece of their ground attack. "Last year, I think they kind of flip-flopped a lot. They are comfortable now that they have the primary guy and they're going to try to run it."

    Early on, that looked to be a successful approach for the Bears, as Benson rushed nine times for 46 yards (5.1-yard average) in the first half. However, he finished the game with 18 rushes for 67 yards (3.7-yard average), and his longest run of the game was 12 yards.

    As the Bears fell behind 31-17 in the second half, they were forced to turn to their passing game, and a couple of big gains helped boost those statistics. While quarterback Brian Griese threw for 132 yards in the first half, he ended the game with 381 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

    As a team, the Bears averaged 3.5 yards on 24 rushes. The Vikings, thanks to Adrian Peterson's gaudy 11.2-yard average, ended the game with a 7.2-yard rushing average on 43 carries. Chester Taylor actually ended the game with two more rushes (22) than Peterson (20).

  • The tight ends for Chicago were believed to be a big focus of its offense, and the Bears did end up with some big gains against the Vikings linebackers by using Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark.

    Neither of the tight ends scored a touchdown, but they combined for eight catches for 111 yards, with each of them averaging more than 12 yards per catch thanks to two lengthy gains. Olsen had a 31-yarder in which he got behind Chad Greenway and Clark had a 32-yard reception.

    Ben Leber was hoping Chicago's reliance on the tight ends and running game would get him more involved in the game and it did – in several areas. He finished the game with three tackles, but he added one sack, one interception, one quarterback hurry and one pass defensed.

    "Much like Kansas City, I expect they are going to try to establish the run and that for me personally is going to be beneficial to get me on the field," Leber said last week.

    The Vikings believed they knew the Bears well, and they were able to limit Cedric Benson and keep Chicago's tight ends out of the end zone. However, they failed in doing the same with Hester, the one player they had a chance to limit by punting it out of bounds every time – not just after they were roundly scorched by him.

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