Vikings-Bears game plan

Will the Bears' defensive strength force the Vikings to go away from their offensive forte? Actually, it's the same story on the flip side as well. Get the view from both camps, as well as some matchups to watch.

VIKINGS

The Vikings prefer to run the ball but this is one game where they must consider using the passing game early and often. The Bears are 12th in the NFL in total defense but are giving up 236.3 passing yards per game to rank 27th in the NFL. Chicago is fifth against the run, surrendering only 74.3 yards on the ground.

Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte has had a few big strikes in recent weeks but the desired consistency from the aerial attack has to be established. This would be as good a time as any to work on that aspect, especially when you consider the Bears' secondary has all sorts of issues.

Cornerbacks Charles Tillman (shoulder) and Nathan Vasher (wrist) are among those battling injuries. This could certainly be good news for wide receiver Bernard Berrian as he makes his return to Chicago after leaving during the offseason to sign a big free-agent deal with the Vikings.

Defensively, the Vikings will be facing a team that is 12th in the NFL in passing and 13th in rushing. By all accounts, Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is much improved and should be able to test the Vikings secondary.

The Vikings run defense remains one of the best in the NFL, but as always the concern is how the pass defense will hold up. The fact that the Vikings have some uncertainty at middle linebacker could be a factor.

David Herron, who has taken over for the injured E.J. Henderson, had to leave last Sunday's game against the Lions because of various ailments and has been ruled out of this game. There is a chance that Dontarrious Thomas could start in the middle only six days after signing with the Vikings. The Bears are certain to try to attack this area.

BEARS

The Bears would love to run the ball but almost nobody does so with much success against the Vikings. It's becoming easier each week for the Bears to depend more on throwing the ball as Kyle Orton continues to improve, and it wouldn't be a surprise for them to put it up sooner and more frequently than usual.

Defensively the Bears remember what Adrian Peterson did to them last year at Soldier Field, rushing for 224 yards and three touchdowns, so they'll focus on him, but they won't disregard the pass, as they did last week, when they got burned by Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. Bears LDE Adewale Ogunleye - Cook had a nightmare game last Sunday against the Lions' Jared DeVries. Now he faces Ogunleye, who only has 1.5 sacks this season but had nine sacks last season. He will present Cook with quite a challenge as he tries to rebound. Look for the Vikings to try to get Cook some help, possibly from a running back or tight end Jim Kleinsasser. Kleinsasser is considered a top-notch blocker and could prove to be vital in helping Cook get back his confidence.

Vikings WR Bernard Berrian vs. Bears secondary - Berrian already is excited to return to Chicago, and the fact the Bears' secondary is all banged up probably makes him that much more eager for Sunday to arrive. Starting LC Charles Tillman (shoulder), starting RC Nathan Vasher (wrist) and backup RC Trumaine McBride (shoulder) are all functioning at less than 100 percent. Vasher hasn't played in the past two games. Corey Graham and Marcus Hamilton will be the Bears only corners who are 100 percent. Berrian very well could put up a third-consecutive 100-yard receiving effort.

Vikings P Chris Kluwe vs. Bears PR Devin Hester: Kluwe got in hot water two weeks ago for punting the ball to Saints return man Reggie Bush and not putting it out of bounds as he had been instructed. Bush, who already had a punt return for a touchdown when he received his orders, had another significant return and then took another ball back for a score. Coach Brad Childress was furious with Kluwe after the game. Kluwe made it clear he expects to be told to punt out of bounds rather than put the ball in Hester's hands on Sunday. Hester has returned punts for touchdowns against the Vikings in Chicago the past two seasons, and even though he hasn't been nearly as effective on punt returns this season, Minnesota might not want to take any chances. The problem is that if Kluwe is told to get the ball out of bounds there is a chance a few punts could wind up being short and give Chicago excellent field position.

Bears rookie RB Matt Forte vs. Vikings DTs Pat Williams and Kevin Williams - The Vikings have allowed an average of 60.6 rushing yards in their last five games. Only two backs - the Packers' Ryan Grant and the Rams' Steven Jackson in 2006 - have rushed for 100 yards against the Vikings in the last 38 games. Forte is fifth in the NFL with 459 rushing yards, but he hasn't averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry since the season opener.


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