The Chicago Bears are in the midst of a 3-game losing streak and heading in the wrong direction as the NFL regular season approaches its final stretch of games.
But that doesn’t have Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress fooled as he prepares his team for its 1st game of the season against the division rivals.
“For us, [a] divisional opponent is huge,” Childress said. “It’s a great rivalry. I don’t have any illusions about getting their best shot. Divisional teams are tough to beat. We play them twice (coming up); we’ve played everybody else twice. We’ll have our hands full.”
In an unusual scheduling circumstance, the Vikings have already finished their season series with both Green Bay and Detroit, while they haven’t played the Bears once. The result is 2 games against Chicago over the next month. They’ll play at Mall of America Field this Sunday and then on December 28 the teams will battle on ESPN’s Monday Night Football at Soldier Field.
Childress told reporters at Winter Park on Monday that he has a lot of respect for the way the Bears play defense and he also said that the Chicago offense has enough pieces to cause trouble for opposing defenses.
The Vikings have been riding the hot hand of QB Brett Favre for a good part of the season, and now the Purple will face the league’s 8th-ranked passing defense. On the other side of the ball, QB Jay Cutler’s favorite target is TE Greg Olsen, and the Vikings have had their share of difficulties defending tight ends (see: Davis, Vernon and Finley, Jermichael).
Add in this week’s odd schedule because of the Thanksgiving holiday and the Vikings will need to be at their best in order to hold serve at home and take one step closer to winning the NFC North.
“We need to make sure we’re about our business,” Childress said. “With the holiday in here, we just need to take care of our business and prepare the right way this week.”
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It’s funny how quickly we can get used to superstar production from a superstar player. Last season, RB Adrian Peterson toted the ball a franchise-record 363 times and won the NFL rushing title with 1,760 yards.
This year, we’ve seen fewer sensational single-game totals – Peterson has two 100-yard games through 11 weeks in 2009 and had 6 such performances through 11 weeks in 2008 – but I would actually argue that Peterson and the Vikings running game might be in better shape this year. Let me explain…
– #28 is still on pace for 1,600 yards. And he’s going to do that with fewer carries this year than he had last year. I like that. Perhaps it’ll keep him fresher as we get to the late stages of the season and into the playoffs.
– Peterson’s yardage totals are a bit lower in 2009, but he’s finding the end zone more, too. He had 10 rushing TDs last year and this year he already has 11 and is on pace for 18.
– The slight downturn in rushing yardage this season is a function, in my opinion, of the Vikings improved passing attack with Brett Favre under center. The Vikings are throwing it more this season and they’re having much more success in doing so. This is largely because opposing teams MUST respect the Vikings ground game first, and that allows a sharp QB such as Favre to take advantage of mismatches and opportunities.
– Speaking of the passing game, Peterson has improved. His blocking is getting better by all accounts and he’s on pace to record career highs in receptions and receiving yards. Peterson’s career high in receptions is 21 and he already has 25 this year. His career-high in receiving yards is 268 and he’s on pace for 344 this year.
– I realize the Vikings have the 2nd most negative rushes in 2009, not a good trend. And Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress addressed that fact in Monday’s press conference. But it’s also important to note that the Vikings are 2nd in rushes for 20+ yards and they do average 4.67 yards per rush on 1st down, 9th-best in the NFL.
With all of that said, there’s one more reason for optimism going forward with regard to the Vikings rushing offense – there are still 2 games to play against the Bears. No disrespect to Chicago’s 2009 defense – the Vikings obviously haven’t faced them yet – but Peterson loves playing Chicago.
#28 set a then-franchise record at Chicago on 10/14/07 when he rushed for 224 yards and tied a team mark with 3 rushing TDs. He also set a team record with 361 combined yards (224 rushing, 9 receiving, 128 kickoff returns) on the day. In total against Chicago, Peterson has 554 rushing yards and 8 TDs in 4 games.
Perhaps the only angle of concern I can find for Peterson going against the Bears has nothing to do with dominant defensive linemen or athletic LBs. It’s actually a pesky defensive back.
If you’ve watch the Bears over the past couple of seasons or even the last couple of times they’ve played on prime time TV, you’ve probably noticed CB Charles Tillman and his propensity to strip the football from ball carriers. Over the last 2+ seasons (2007-present), Tillman has 14 forced fumbles, a very high number. He has 6 this year already, with 4 coming over the past 2 weeks alone.
With all of those forced fumbles to his credit since 2007, none of them have come against the Vikings. And if Peterson and Chester Taylor can continue that trend, I see them increasing the Vikings rushing trend this weekend and through the end of the 2009 season.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 4 Comments »
Both Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and QB Brett Favre will have their usual Wednesday press conferences today at Winter Park.
You can watch those press conferences live on vikings.com and no where else.
Childress’ press conference is schedule to begin 11:45 a.m. CT and Favre’s will begin shortly after Childress’ concludes.
Click here at the appropriate time to view.
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The Vikings and Bears will play against each other for the 97th time in their series history on Sunday at Mall of America Field, a place where the Vikings have won 14 of their last 20 games against Chicago and 11 of their last 13 overall. In an odd scheduling scenario, the Vikings will be playing Chicago for the 1st time this season after having already finished their season series with Detroit and Green Bay.
Sunday’s game represents an opportunity for the Vikings to move one step closer to securing a playoff bid and it also serves as an elimination game for the Bears. Minnesota comes in with a 9-1 record and an eye on improving playoff position, while the Bears enter with a disappointing 4-6 record and hopes of just staying alive.
The predominant storyline in this matchup all week will be the QB position, where Brett Favre is having an MVP-caliber season with the Vikings and Jay Cutler, acquired by the Bears from the Broncos via a blockbuster trade, is having a disappointing season under center in the Windy City.
When Cutler’s relationship with the Broncos soured, he was rumored to be traded to several destinations, Minnesota included. Ultimately, it was the Bears who were willing to trade away what Denver was requiring for Cutler’s services. The Vikings, meanwhile, continued on through their offseason and eventually landed Favre during the preseason. Cutler is struggling in Chicago and has thrown 18 INTs already; Favre has a 21-3 TD-INT ratio and has the Vikings on pace for their 2nd consecutive NFC North title.
But there are also other angles on this game; here are a few to consider:
– Vikings CB Antoine Winfield is poised to return from a foot injury he suffered in Week 6. His return will strengthen a Vikings defense that continues to improve against both the run and the pass. After holding the Seahawks to just 4 yards rushing last week, the Vikings defense now ranks 3rd against the run.
– Vikings WR Bernard Berrian enjoyed playing his former team last season and with Favre under center he has a chance to improve his already impressive numbers against Chicago. Drafted by the Bears in 2004, Berrian bolted Chicago during the 2008 offseason and signed a free agent contract in Minnesota. In 2 games against his former team last season, Berrian quickly reminded the Bears of why he commanded so much attention as a free agent. His line in those 2 games last year: 10 receptions for 203 yards and 2 TDs.
– A crucial matchup in this game will be the Vikings defensive line against the Bears offensive line. Chicago has had trouble protecting Cutler this season, which has led to offensive inefficiency and plenty of INTs. The Vikings, meanwhile, lead the league in sacks with 36 and are benefiting from not only a talented 4-some of starting linemen but also a deep rotation of reserves.
– Injuries have added up for the Bears. Middle LB Brian Urlacher was lost for the season in Week 1 to a wrist injury and fellow starting LB Pisa Tinoisamoa is also out with an injury. That leaves the talented Lance Briggs to man the LB corps.
– Along with the line of scrimmage, another area of big advantage for the Vikings in this week’s matchup is in the red zone. Offensively, Chicago is 27th in red zone TD efficiency (42.5%) while the Vikings score TDs 59.5% of the time they reach the red zone (7th in the NFL). Defensively, the Bears are 30th in red zone scoring while the Vikings rank 2nd. In the last 2 games the Bears have played in prime time, the broadcast team has hammered on the struggles Cutler has had with red zone passing/INTs. Chicago is tied for the 2nd-most red zone giveaways with 6, and 5 of those giveaways have been INTs.
– A QBs best friend is a good running game because it keeps the defense off-balance and it usually results in manageable 2nd and 3rd down situations. A great example of this relationship is the Vikings, where RB Adrian Peterson is 3rd in the NFL in rushing and that has allowed Favre to take advantage of mismatches in the passing game. The Bears have not enjoyed that advantage. Chicago ranks 28th in the NFL in rushing offense, in spite of the presence of the talented Matt Forte, and they are last in the NFL in 1st down rushing, averaging just 2.83 yards per carry. That has put Cutler in compromising situations, likely a factor in his high INT total.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield
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