Production slows down with Bears wideouts

The Vikings acquired Bernard Berrian as a priority free agent this offseason. That has left the Bears with a wide receiver corps that hurting at the core of late.

Bears wide receivers have had a problem recently with shrinkage - not in size, but in production.

Not once in the past three games - two of them losses - have the Bears' wide receivers combined for more than 70 yards. They also have not scored a touchdown in three straight games.

In each of the six previous games - four of them wins - the Bears got at least one touchdown from a wide receiver, and the group combined for over 100 yards each week, averaging 145 yards per game.

"We need to play better in the passing game. Especially in the second half (last week), we didn't play all that well," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We just have to come back and have a great week of practice and we'll get back on track."

The 6-5 Bears hope that happens Sunday night at the Metrodome where they meet the 6-5 Vikings with first place in the NFC North at stake.

But Rashied Davis has exactly one catch in each of the past three games. Marty Booker hasn't caught a pass since Oct. 19. Devin Hester has 10 receptions in the past three weeks but for just 118 yards. Brandon Lloyd has three catches for 20 yards in the two weeks since he returned from a sprained knee.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner was asked if opponents have focused on taking the wide receivers out of the equation lately or if the Bears had made an effort to spread the ball around.

"Probably a combination of both," Turner said. "The way Green Bay plays and played us, they basically had press coverage on them with safeties over the top, so we knew we were going to have to go to our tight ends and backs more than we had been. We never really got in sync, we didn't get first downs and get going. So part of it's what they did, and part of it's our execution.

"Last week it was more our execution. We hit some things, but we missed some opportunities that we had to make some plays. So we've got to clean some things up and play better."

Orton thinks the problem can be solved with more attention to detail.

"I can't really point at one thing, just lack of execution," he said. "It's shown all year that when we execute and do the right things and do our job, we score points, and we have to get back to it."

And in a hurry, since almost nobody runs well on the Vikings. Minnesota's stout front four is anchored by twin terrors Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who are the main reasons the Vikings are No. 2 in rushing defense in the NFL. But opponents have been successful throwing against the Vikings, who are No. 22 in passing yards allowed and No. 25 in interceptions but No. 6 in sack percentage.

Orton threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the 48-41 victory over the Vikings at Soldier Field with a passer rating of 114.5, the second highest of his career. Orton isn't expecting another offensive shootout, but he wouldn't hate it.

"I don't see it going that way," he said, "but if it does, we'll be ready to go and hopefully we can score a lot of points."

To do so they'll need to throw the ball effectively. The Vikings have held eight of 11 opponents to less than 80 yards on the ground, including the Bears, who struggled for just 53 yards on 22 attempts in the first meeting.

Conversely, four of the Vikings' past five opponents have thrown for more than 250 yards, including the Bears in their 48-41 victory, when wide receivers caught 8 passes for 125 yards, including Booker's 51-yard TD. Tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for 9 catches and 133 yards in that game. But that was five weeks ago.

"The precision hasn't been there the last couple of weeks," Turner said. "We've got to get that back."

SERIES HISTORY: 95th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead 50-42-2. Bears won first meeting this season 48-41 on Oct. 19 at Soldier Field. The Bears allowed 439 yards but intercepted Gus Frerotte four times.

BY THE NUMBERS: 700 — The Bears' next victory will make them the first NFL franchise to reach that milestone.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I go out there and stand around." — QB Kyle Orton, on his role in the Bears' version of the Wildcat formation, which they ran for the first time last week against the Rams.


  • RB Matt Forte leads the NFL with 270 touches and is third in the league with 1,245 yards from scrimmage.

  • CB Corey Graham will start in place of injured Nate Vasher on the right side. Graham has already started four games and is sixth on the Bears with 51 tackles.

  • P Brad Maynard is tied for the NFL lead with 23 punts inside the 20-yard line and leads the league with 21 forced fair catches.

  • LB Lance Briggs is tied with the Vikings' Ben Leber for the NFL lead among linebackers with five takeaways. Briggs has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

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