How the Bears and Vikings match up
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org | @MarkPotash September 14, 2013 2:16AM
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) sacks Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)
RICK MORRISSEY: Bears, 21-13
RICK TELANDER: Bears, 28-20
DAN McGRATH: Bears, 30-21
HUB ARKUSH: Bears, 30-20
ADAM L. JAHNS: Bears, 27-17
MARK POTASH: Bears, 31-17
PATRICK FINLEY: Bears, 24-16
VIKINGS AT BEARS
Time: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field
Line: Bears by 5 1⁄2 • Total: 42
TV: Fox-32 (Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick)
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
The Bears are looking for significant improvement in their run game after Matt Forte (19-50) and Michael Bush (6-15) averaged 2.6 yards per carry vs. the Bengals. With four new starters on the offensive line, the second game figures to be better than the first. The Vikings allowed 112 rushing yards (4.6 ypc) to Lions running backs last week, with power back Joique Bell (6-25, 2 TDs) complementing Reggie Bush (21-90). The Vikings expect to get six-time Pro Bowl DT Kevin Williams back from injury. That will help, but the Bears usually run well against the Vikings.
IN THE AIR
If the Bears can keep Vikings DE Jared Allen off Jay Cutler’s back, they have a chance to expand their passing game against a Vikings defense that ranked 23rd in the NFL against the pass in 2012 and allowed 357 yards, with no sacks, to the Lions last week. The Bears also have a chance to show off Matt Forte’s versatility against a team that allowed 168 receiving yards to Bush and Bell last week. Or they can strike deep if the Vikings shore up that flaw. The Vikings batted four balls at the line of scrimmage last week. Brandon Marshall had 22 receptions for 252 yards in 2 games vs. the Vikings last year.
In 2 games against the Vikings last year, RB Matt Forte averaged 4.7 yards per carry (27-127) but only 4.8 yards per reception (8-38). He’s expected to be more productive in the passing game Sunday. Vikings DE Jared Allen, who has 13 sacks in 10 games vs. the Bears, can affect the game in a lot of ways. He had 1 tackle for loss, 2 hurries and 2 batted passes last week.
WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
It starts and ends with Adrian Peterson, who was the only RB to carry the ball against the Lions last week. Peterson had a 78-yard TD run on his first carry of the season but was held to 15 yards on 17 carries after that. The Bears contained BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week (14-25), but that was BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The defensive line is always the key vs. Peterson — getting a hand on him at the line goes a long way to avoiding disaster. Bears DT Stephen Paea played well against the Bengals, but Pro Bowler Henry Melton was ineffective in his first game since suffering a concussion in the preseason opener.
IN THE AIR
Vikings QB Christian Ponder’s 3 games against the Bears are among the 7 lowest-rated games of his career — 8.3 in 2011 and 53.8 and 58.2 in 2012, with a 52.9 completion rate, 1 TD and 3 INTs. The Vikes signed WR Greg Jennings, who had 4 games with 97 yards or more vs. the Bears with the Packers. Jennings had 3 catches for 33 yards last week. Jerome Simpson had 7 catches for 140 yards. The Bears had 0 sacks and 2 hurries vs. the Bengals last week. But the Vikings’ pass blocking was 29th in the NFL last week, according to ProFootballFocus.com. LT Ryan Kalil was subpar vs. Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah.
This game features two of the best field-goal kickers in the NFL. The Bears’ Robbie Gould kicked a franchise-record 58-yard FG vs. the Bengals. He’s hit his last 11 from 50-plus yards. The Vikings’ Blair Walsh kicked a 52-yarder vs. the Lions last week and is 11-for-11 from 50-plus yards in his two-year career. Walsh was 36-for-39 (.921) overall last year. It’s the punt game that could give the Bears an edge. Adam Podlesh had 3 kicks downed inside the 12 last week. Vikings rookie Jeff Locke averaged 34.8 net yards in his NFL debut, with 1 of 5 punts inside the 20. He’s a fifth-round draft pick, so it likely was a case of first-game jitters.
Though the Bears figure to expand their offense as the season goes on, there’s no telling where they’re headed on defense after an uneven performance against the Bengals. A weak pass rush, with Julius Peppers and Henry Melton ineffective, made Pro Bowl cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings vulnerable — at least against A.J. Green. And even though the run defense was stout against the Bengals’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson presents an entirely different challenge. Three takeaways saved the Bears against the Bengals. Even in Lovie Smith’s defense, you can’t count on that every week.