Daniel House previews a critical divisional matchup as the Vikings take on the Chicago Bears. He digs deep into stats and history as he prepares you for Sunday's game.
Television: FOX (Channel 9 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Thom Brennaman Analyst: Brian Billick Sideline Reporter:Laura Okmin
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman/Ben Leber
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman - 6:00 p.m. CT
Ed Hochuli- 21 year NFL referee
The Vikings lead the all-time series over Chicago 54-49-2 in 104 total matchups. The Vikings are currently 21-28-2 when visiting the Bears. The Bears won 28-10 in the last contest between the teams at Soldier Field on 11/25/12. This will be the fifth regular season meeting between Minnesota and Chicago since Leslie Frazier became head coach of the Vikings. His record is 1-3 against the Bears, meaning with a win, Frazier would be victorious for the first time as a head coach at Solider Field.
The Primary Focus:
It all starts with fixing mistakes from last week's game versus Detroit. It will start up front for this team, especially from a pass blocking standpoint. Last week we witnessed an uninspired group of offensive lineman who allowed a flurry of pressure the entire game. Even though Christian Ponder wasn't stepping in the pocket or making the great decisions, they still need to provide adequate protection. With a larger sense of urgency maybe this will improve, but given the importance of this game, there is absolutely no choice. The Bears defensive line is known for its pass rush and the ability to create turnovers in the secondary. If protection falters, turnovers are created and the Vikings will lose the critical turnover battle. Finally, I hope the coaching staff makes adjustments to the game plan from last week. The team poorly utilized skill players such as Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and red zone target Kyle Rudolph. With zero adjustments for the second half of the Detroit game, the Vikings turned to Jerome Simpson and Adrian Peterson last Sunday. Given the additions to the offense and the work that has been done from a continuity standpoint, if the Vikings offense can't click this week, there is a major problem. Bill Musgrave needs to get creative and involve the athleticism of skill players, which will in turn provide Christian Ponder with more tools.
On the Defensive:
Two huge defensive keys will impact the outcome of tomorrow's game vs. Chicago. It begins with the linebackers who struggled in run support and coverage of running back Reggie Bush last week. They will witness a similar style with Bears running back Matt Forte, who will be utilized out of the backfield as a pass catcher. If the group can't help in run support or cover the screen passes and check-downs this week, the Vikings defense will be a huge liability. Furthermore, the Vikings defensive line needs to not just reach the quarterback, but finish the play. Last week I liked the pressure and hurries we applied to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but we couldn't finish the sack. The Bears offensive line is still a group in the learning stages, so pressure will need to be applied to Jay Cutler early and often on Sunday. Cutler has proven on multiple occasions that when he is allowed adequate time, he will execute. This explains that pressure must be applied which in turn will create turnovers, ultimately improving the Vikings chances to win the game.
Special Teams Primer:
Jeff Locke needs to prove he has moved forward from the season opener jitters in which he averaged just 34.8 yards on his punts. This is very concerning, especially since he was indoors and wasn't facing any weather obstacles. The forecast from Accuweather is calling for rain and blustery conditions just in time for kickoff tomorrow. The Vikings can't punt the ball and allow the Bears to maintain possession each drive at the 50-yard line like they did versus Detroit. This puts a huge strain on the defense and causes the group to remain on the field for extended periods of time. Locke is facing a critical test and he must convert, proving he can perform at an NFL level. Finally, Blair Walsh needs to remain consistent as a kicker this week. It will be rainy and wet with wind factoring into his kicking, which means he will face a challenge.
The Injury Report:
Name Position Injury Practice Status Game Status
Phil Loadholt T Knee Full Participation in Practice Probable
Josh Robinson CB Quadricep Full Participation in Practice Probable
Larry Dean LB Shoulder Full Participation in Practice Probable
Mistral Raymond S Shoulder Full Participation in Practice Probable
Erin Henderson LB Heel Full Participation in Practice Probable
Jamarca Sanford Unknown Full Participation in Practice Probable
John Sullivan C Knee Limited Participation in Practice Probable
Kevin Williams DT Knee Did Not Participate In Practice Probable
Julius Peppers DE Illness Limited Participation in Practice Probable
Charles Tillman CB Knee Full Participation in Practice Probable
The injuries for the Vikings are non-substantial and the positive addition to the report is Kevin Williams who was highlighted as probable. He is recovering from a knee injury and plays a pivotal role in interior run and pass support.
From the the Bears standpoint, two key players are on the injury report, but Charles Tillman fully participated and Julius Peppers has had a few days to recover from an illness. Both teams look to be healthy and ready for a vintage 'Northern Division Collision' tomorrow afternoon.
The Final Keys to Victory:
As I discussed, offensive line play, defensive line pressure, linebacker coverage, and special teams consistency will dictate the outcome of tomorrow's game in Chicago. To add, if the Vikings improve the game plan to utilize the skill players on the roster, it will improve the chances of an NFC North win. This team has talent and with more passion and a huge sense of urgency, this group shouldn't need any motivation to play well on Sunday.