The Vikings return to Mall of America Field this weekend to host the Chicago Bears in what will be the season finale for both clubs. The Vikings come into this matchup following a road win over the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve Day, while the Bears are coming off a 35-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Night.
Sunday will mark the 102nd meeting between the Vikings and Bears, two division rivals dating back to 1961. The Vikings hold the all-time series lead with a 52-47-2 advantage, including the first regular season win in team history via a 37-13 shocker at Met Stadium. But Chicago has dominated the series of late, winning the prior four meetings by a combined score of 142-67. The Bears will play at Mall of America Field on Sunday for the first time since 2009 because the 2010 matchup was played at TCF Bank Stadium following the collapse of the Metrodome roof.
A win on Sunday would give the Vikings their first win against the NFC North this season and it would give Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier his first win versus an NFC North opponent. The Bears, meanwhile, have a 7-8 record overall and a 2-3 record against the division this season.
The 2011 season has been an up-and-down campaign for Chicago, and unfortunately for them it will end on a bitter note because injuries have hit them hard and essentially knocked them out of playoff contention. Chicago began the season with just 2 wins in their first 5 games, but then ripped off 5 consecutive wins to move to 7-3 and remain in the thick of the playoff chase. But a hand injury to QB Jay Cutler at the end of Chicago’s Week 11 game against the Chargers began to derail the season, and then a knee injury to starting RB Matt Forte just 2 weeks later forced the season completely off the tracks. Since that 5-game winning streak and the injury to Cutler after the 5th win, the Bears have lost 5 straight games and will try to regroup in the offseason and make another run at it in 2012.
Offensively, it’s a bit deceiving to look at the numbers because of the injuries to Cutler and Forte, and because the team has moved on from backup QB Caleb Hanie and is now playing Josh McCown. A similar progression has occurred at RB, where Forte hasn’t played in the past 3 games, backup Marion Barber III is also dealing with injury, and Kahlil Bell is now shouldering most of the load. For what it’s worth, though, the Bears rank 16th in points per game (22.4), 20th in total offense (321.1 yards per game), 8th in rushing offense (128.2 rushing yards per game) and 24th in passing offense (192.9 passing yards per game).
The Bears are converting just 32.1% of their 3rd downs (27th), have allowed 27 sacks (6th most) and score TDs on 54.1% of their red zone possessions (12th).
Defensively, the Bears remain a solid group and are led by a standout pair of LBs in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who were both named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster this week. Chicago boasts the NFL’s 6th-best run defense, allowing just 97.5 rushing yards per game and 9 rushing TDs. Chicago has been leaky against the pass, though, as they’ve allowed 256.2 passing yards per game (28th) and 22 TD passes (16th). The Bears best two weapons against the pass are DE Julius Peppers and CB Charles Tillman. Peppers have 10.0 sacks on the season, and has also tallied 4 passes defensed and 3 forced fumbles. Tillman, who was also named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster along with Briggs and Urlacher, has 11 passes defensed, 2 INTs and a sack.
We’ll have much more on the Vikings-Bears season finale all week here on vikings.com, so stay tuned.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 23 Comments »