By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings get another crack at the Chicago Bears Sunday at Mall of America Field. Just two weeks ago, the Vikings were embarrassed with a 28-10 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.
Adrian Peterson had his lowest rushing output since Week 6, fumbled once and couldn’t handle a handoff exchange with quarterback Christian Ponder.
“We learned a lot from that first ball game,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “We understand that the turnovers are critical, being able to control that and not turn the football over. We’ve seen that time and time again for us this season, when we’ve fallen short, it’s usually because of the fact that we finished minus in the turnovers.”
The Bears enter the contest with an 8-4 record, which is tied for first place in the NFC North. Chicago got off to a strong start winning seven of its first eight, but has dropped three of its last four. The Bears are 1-4 against teams currently in the playoffs, including a Week 1 win over the surging Indianapolis Colts, and 7-0 against non-playoff teams.
Bears on Offense
The Bears are a rhythm offense that works best when quarterback Jay Cutler is connecting on short, quick passes.
The best matchup is Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams vs. Bears Roberto Garza. They both are the anchors of their respective lines. Garza is a solid interior blocker for the Bears and Williams has been an interior force for the Vikings.
The matchup the Vikings need to take advantage of is its defensive ends vs. the Bears’ offensive tackles. J’Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott are playing well. Jared Allen and Brian Robison were completely shutdown in the first meeting. The Vikings need them to have a big game Sunday.
The worst matchup for the Vikings is any cornerback vs. Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall went off for his second 12 catch game of the season in Week 12 against the Vikings. The only cornerback on the Vikings roster that can physically matchup with Marshall is A.J. Jefferson. However, last week he was picked apart by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Bears on Defense
The Bears have an aging, yet still surprisingly productive, defense that runs a simple Tampa-2 scheme. It is not complex and relies heavily on forcing turnovers.
The best matchup is Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph vs. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Rudolph is emerging as Ponder’s best target. Briggs is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league.
The matchup the Vikings need to exploit is running back Adrian Peterson vs. Bears linebackers Nick Roach and Black Costanzo. The Bears will be without their best run stopping linebacker. Costanzo is replacing. Roach and Costanzo have done a good job, but what they are is a pair that Peterson can have success against.
The worst matchup for the Vikings is right guard Brandon Fusco vs. Bears’ defensive tackles Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. Fusco has been the weakest link on the Vikings’ offensive line this season. Melton is a very good interior pass rusher. Paea is a thick nose tackle.
Bears Players to Watch
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall: The Bears acquired the big receiver to balance its offense. He is Cutler’s favorite target and is on pace to crush his career-high catch, receiving yards and touchdown totals.
Linebacker Lance Briggs: The 10-year veteran is on pace to finish with his third lowest tackle total in a season. However, he is making it hard for opposing wide receivers and tight ends to catch the ball underneath.
The Vikings know what they have to do to defeat the Bears Sunday. The Bears have a winning record on the road at 3-2, but the Vikings have a 5-1 record at home. Minnesota has already faced the Bears without wide receiver Percy Harvin. This time, they know that they will not have the former first round draft pick the rest of the season. The team is as close to being in a must-win situation as possible if the Vikings are going to get back into or stay in the playoff chase.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.