The Bears head to the Metrodome (I refuse to call it anything else) to rematch with the Minnesota Vikings. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Bears prevailed at Soldied Field, but the Hump-dome is a whole different animal. The Bears offensive line will be put to the test with the noisy environment and Adrian Peterson seems just a touch faster on the artificial turf.
The Bears have won 6 straight games over the Vikings. Can they make it seven to keep themselves in contention for the NFC North crown? Can they essentially end the Vikings’ postseason hopes? To handle our 5 Questions, we reached out to our go to Vikings guy Dan Zinski, editor of The Viking Age. Here are my questions and Dan’s answers.
1. There’s been quite a bit of buzz around Chicago about the Bears exacting some revenge against Jared Allen after his block ended Lance Louis’ season. What do you think about the hit, was it illegal? Has Allen talked about any concerns the Bears will come after him?
I guess according to the rules it was technically an illegal hit because he launched himself. I tend to file most of that stuff under “that’s just football” but I also get that they’re trying to protect players more these days or at least they claim. There just seems to be some inconsistency in that. Defensive players get cut off at the legs all the time and no one says boo. Just judging by the various comments from players on both teams I would be surprised if there’s any revenge taken against Allen. He says he doesn’t expect anything. Everyone seems to agree it was maybe a questionable hit but it wasn’t a malicious hit.
2. Speaking of Allen, assuming he doesn’t get his legs taken out in the first quarter, can we expect a better performance from him in the dome, where the Bears offensive line will have a harder time hearing the snap count?
I think Allen did okay the first game. I think the Vikings’ big problem is their defensive tackles. Those guys don’t get enough push. The Bears sort of went to the short drops and dink-and-dunk throws to protect Cutler and that makes it hard for the edge rushers to get there. You need the inside guys to get those quick pressures and blow up plays and it didn’t happen. Kevin Williams is just not the same player he was three years ago. I’d say he and the other defensive tackles are more key to this whole thing. Allen and Brian Robison have brought it fairly consistently all year even if the sack numbers don’t bear it out. Also, Jared has been playing with a torn labrum most of the year and that may be affecting him at times.
3. Many feel like Leslie Frazier did the Bears a big favor in the game a couple of weeks ago by taking the ball out of Adrian Peterson’s hands and putting it in Christian Ponder’s. Any chance he makes that same mistake or can the Urlacher-less Bears expect a steady dose of Peterson?
I think the Vikes may have outsmarted themselves a little in the first game. They came out early trying to throw, I guess thinking they could catch the Bears off-balance, or maybe hoping to get a big play and give Christian Ponder some confidence. That resulted in a sack on the first play of the game and that pretty much set the tone. And then the Bears got up on the scoreboard and the Vikes had to pass more than they wanted. They committed to the run against the Packers more early and you saw the result. 210 yards for Peterson and the Vikes had a lead until Ponder started throwing picks all over the place. I have to believe, with Percy Harvin now out for the season, the Vikes will have to put even more on Peterson. So yes, Peterson will get the ball a ton.
4. Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler seem to be locked in lately. Can the Vikings find a way to slow down Marshall?
It seemed like Marshall used his strength and positioning very well in the first game. I don’t know what the Vikes can really do differently. They don’t have Chris Cook. They’re trying to cover a great receiver with A.J. Jefferson and Josh Robinson. I’d expect the Bears will come with the same gameplan as last time, with more of the short passing game and Marshall just outfighting the defenders. I don’t know what the Vikes can do better except get to Cutler more. If Cutler has time, he’ll find Marshall, and Marshall won’t have too much trouble beating whoever is trying to lock him up. Maybe the Vikes should get some HGH monster cornerbacks like Seattle has. Did I just say that?
5. What’s your prediction for the game, including a final score?
I’m going to pick the Vikes by a score of 24-17. I actually believe Ponder will rebound in this game and play okay. And Peterson will have another huge game. And Cutler won’t light it up. Why do I think this? I may have inhaled some fumes. Seriously though, the Vikes are 5-1 at home with a win against San Fran. So they can get it done against anyone at home if they minimize mistakes and play solid defense. They will rebound and pick off a somewhat banged up Bears team.
Thanks to Dan for playing along with us. Be sure to head over to The Viking Age to see my answers to Dan’s questions.