Bears find reasons for optimism vs. Vikings

The last time the Vikings and Bears played it was total domination by Minnesota. This, time, however, there are reasons Chicago's players believe they can win.

An upset victory over the 11-3 Vikings on national TV Monday night would salvage some respect for a 5-9 Bears team and help avenge one of the more embarrassing losses in a season full of them. It might even save a few jobs.

"Defensively we obviously had a pretty poor showing last time we played them," middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "They had a lot of yards and pretty much moved the ball at will."

The Vikings' domination was nearly complete in the 36-10 blowout on Nov. 29. They had one-sided advantages in total yards, 537-169; time of possession, 40:55-19:05; first downs, 31-8; and offensive plays, 83-38.

It got worse as the game progressed. In the second half, the Bears were outgained 225-2. That's not the kind of humiliation the Bears want to revisit with everyone watching.

"It's Monday night, it's a national audience," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Obviously we're not in the position we would have liked to be when we looked at the schedule at the beginning of the year. Five-and-9 is not where we want to be."

It takes some looking, but there are signs that point to a better showing for the Bears this time around. All three of the Vikings' losses have come on the road, where they have a 4-3 record, including just 2-2 in games played outdoors.

"I definitely think it'll be a little bit of a different story just because it's on our turf, and they have to come outside of the dome and their surface and everything that that brings to their offense," Hillenmeyer said. "But they're still a physical team. I imagine we'll probably see as much or more of A.P. than we did last time."

Last time the Bears focused on containing Adrian Peterson, and they limited him to 85 yards on 25 carries. But Favre destroyed them, completing 32 of 48 passes for 392 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 112.5.

That was Favre's fourth straight game with a passer rating over 110, but he's had three straight mediocre outings since then, with passer ratings in the 70s, and a total of three touchdowns and four interceptions.

And it's hard to forget Favre's last winter outing in Soldier Field, a 35-7 Bears victory over the Packers on Dec. 23, 2007. He was horrid, completing 17 of 32 passes for 153 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 40.2 passer rating, while looking like an old man who couldn't wait to get the game over and get out of the cold.

He hasn't had a game that poor since.

"The last time was as convincingly as we've ever beaten (him), so that would be great to repeat that," Hillenmeyer said. "Hopefully we can get (Favre) moving his feet a little bit, early. As great as he's been all year, and he's continued to play at a really high level, he hasn't been as good lately, so hopefully we'll see that."

The Vikings have lost two of three games since defeating the Bears, falling 30-17 in Arizona to the Cardinals and beating the Bengals 30-10 at home leading up to the Panthers loss.

"They handled us handily the first time out," coach Lovie Smith said. "I know things haven't been going as smooth as they were earlier for them. It's an opportunity for us. Getting a win right now would be big for us."

SERIES HISTORY: 97th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead 52-42-2. They've won four of the past five meetings, including a 36-10 rout at the Metrodome four weeks ago, on Nov. 29. The Vikings held a lopsided edge in time of possession, 40:55-19:05; total yards, 537-169; and first downs, 31-8.

  • LT Chris Williams (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but is expected to start on Monday night.

  • LB Lance Briggs (back) sat out Wednesday's practice but will play Monday night.

  • DE Mark Anderson, who has had another disappointing season with just 1.5 sacks, will see more playing time with Adewale Ogunleye out for the remainder of the season with a fractured left fibula.

  • WR Devin Hester is expected to play Monday night after returning to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. He has missed the past two games with a strained calf.

  • DL Israel Idonije, who is listed as the backup at the three-technique tackle, will also see playing time at left end with DLE Adewale Ogunleye (fractured fibula) out for the season.

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