Tightening up on the tight ends?

Last time the Vikings played the Bears, Greg Olsen had a big day. What did the Vikings learn from that? See what some of the players had to say about that topic this week.

The Vikings' defensive game plan always starts with stopping the run – always. This week, however, the linebackers will have another concentration after Bears tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for nine catches in the October matchup between these two teams.

The two tight ends combined for nine catches for 133 yards, 43 percent of Chicago's receptions and 47 percent of the passing yards.

"Obviously they've done a good job getting separation from us at times and making some good catches and some runs after catching the ball," said linebacker Ben Leber. "Definitely it's going to be an emphasis for us to shut them down, along with the run game. We're definitely cognizant of their abilities."

Olsen was the main culprit in the Bears' 48-41 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field. He was the team's leading receiver in that game with six catches, but Leber said that some of those catches were the result of the Vikings defense trying to disguise their coverages too much and getting caught out of position.

"I think it was more or less just them finding the holes. There were some man-to-man situations where we were disguising and we were putting ourselves in a bad position. That's not going to happen again this game and we have to be more on when we're in man-to-man situations instead of kind of showing in different spots and being out of position," Leber said. "They did a good job of catching us when we were bluffing around."

Vikings coach Brad Childress said that the Bears offense actually starts with their offensive line – not their quarterback, running back or even the tight ends. However, Childress said the Bears are able to create matchup problems with their tight ends, and Olsen specifically by lining him out wide, similar to what the Vikings have started to do with Visanthe Shiancoe in his second year in the Childress system.

"Those guys are always looking for matchups. Those guys can hold their own out there with a corner as well. You saw both of those guys (Olsen and Clark) make plays, Olsen making a bunch of plays," Childress said. "You look at the formation group. They might as well have four wide receivers in the game, even though they have to ability to play by the tackle and run block. They can still take their game further away. They also play them in the backfield as a fullback, so sometimes it's matchups and sometimes it's good plays, good schemes.

"… Tight end is a term that they use, but I think a guy like (Antonio) Gates has kind of raised the bar a little bit. There are no ground rules that say he has to play next to the tackle. They certainly move their guys in and out, back and forth, sometimes on the same play."

Leber said it isn't unusual the way the Bears move Olsen around. At least it's becoming more commonplace in the NFL these days with more athletic tight ends.

"That's the way the league is going right now, finding a tall, athletic tight end that you can use in the run game and also split him out in the passing game," he said. "Obviously, they are hoping to get mismatches. They're thinking that their guy is more athletic than the linebacker. It presents some challenges. We definitely have to know where 82 (Olsen) is."

However, the Vikings would also prefer to let the tight ends and others catch the ball underneath the coverage and come up and tackle rather than letting a wide receiver escape deep downfield. In the last meeting against the Bears, wide receiver Marty Booker had a 51-yard touchdown reception, but that was more a case of poor angles and bad tackling after a short reception. This time, the Vikings seem as concerned about Devin Hester as any of the wide receivers.

"It's like basketball. Would you rather give up the three or the two (-point basket). You'd give up a two any day," Leber said. "You've got a deep threat in Hester to get down the field and you don't want to give up the bomb. That's a big momentum swing. If they catch some underneath routes for 10 or 12 yards, as long as they don't run very far after the catch and we make some good tackles, then we'll be fine with playing another down."

Even if that underneath receiver is Greg Olsen.

"Greg Olsen is great athlete," said cornerback Marcus McCauley. "Their ability to run with the tight (end) causes problems. That's why you draft a guy like that. They don't come along every once in a while, a guy like that."


Cornerback Marcus McCauley got his first start of the season last week against Jacksonville when Cedric Griffin was late to a team meeting on Saturday. It was a rare chance for McCauley to get some quality playing time this season.

"It was fun to finally contribute in a win. Just doing your job goes a long way," he said. "It's amazing how much people recognize me just going out full speed and just putting in the effort every play. People notice things like that."

McCauley had been inactive for six games this year and had played sparingly on defense with starters Antoine Winfield and Griffin and backups Benny Sapp and Charles Gordon playing ahead him.

McCauley said he didn't get much feedback from the coaching staff after the win, but Childress indicated Friday that McCauley was inactive for a number of games earlier this week because he was still getting his timing and strength back after a leg injury in training camp before the Kansas City scrimmage.

"I pretty much just take every rep for what it is and make the most out of it," said McCauley, the Vikings' third-round draft pick in 2007. "In this league, every play is valuable and can go a long ways. I just pretty much try to take advantage of every snap I get in a game, regardless of where it's at."


  • DE Jared Allen (shoulder) and S Madieu Williams (shoulder) are probable. OL Artis Hicks (elbow), TE Garrett Mills (ankle), LB David Herron (shoulder) and LB Vinny Ciurciu (hand) are questionable. DT Letroy Guion (ankle) is doubtful. All except for Guion had limited participation in Friday's practice. Guion did not practice.

  • CB Nathan Vasher (hand) is out for the Bears. WR Marty Booker (knee), TE Desmond Clark (knee) and FB Jason McKie quadriceps) are questionable. S Mike Brown (calf) and LB Jamar Williams (groin) are probable.

  • The Vikings are sold out for Sunday night's game, but earlier this week there were still approximately 6,000 tickets remaining for the Atlanta game on Dec. 21 and 5,000 remaining for New York Giants regular-season finale on Dec. 26.

  • Playoff ticket pricing will be announced early next week in the event the Vikings make the playoffs.

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