Four Downs: Keys to beating the Vikings

December 24th, 2009 - 7:00 am

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.

1. Keep the Vikings’ offense off the field
The Bears had the right formula last week to beat the Ravens, they just turned the ball over too often and suffered a second-half collapse. During their first few drives of the game, they ran more plays and had the ball in their possession longer than the Ravens did. The problem for the Bears’ offense is that Jay Cutler ended the first two drives with interceptions and the defense didn’t help out by letting the Ravens score quickly. The same game plan needs to be applied to this week’s game against the Vikings, only it needs to be executed better and the turnovers need to be eliminated (see Key #3). The Bears need to continue to utilize the short passing game — which worked well for them last week — and take small chunks of yardage where they can get them, rather than try to go for it all on one play. The Ravens have one of the top run defenses in the league and Matt Forte ran with as much effort and determination as we’ve seen from him all season. That needs to roll over into this week against yet another top run defense. Even if the Bears don’t gain many yards on the ground, they have to at least be willing to run to take time off the clock and keep the dangerous Vikings offense on the sideline, getting cold.

2. Bring extra pressure on Favre
We’ve known since early in the season that the front four just doesn’t put enough pressure on the quarterback. We’ve also seen that the Bears have blitzed a lot more this season, but for whatever reason, they still can’t get to the quarterback with any consistency. In the three games that the Vikings have lost this season, it was easy to see why. The Steelers, Cardinals, and Panthers all brought pressure and rattled Favre. A little more than one-third of Favre’s 31 sacks this season (11) have come in those three losses. Even more telling is that four of Favre’s career-low seven interceptions were thrown in those games. Sure, Adrian Peterson still has an explosive presence and the Bears have to account for him at all times when he’s on the field, but the Bears can make the game closer by getting after the old man behind center.

3. Win the turnover battle
As mentioned in Key 1, the Bears did everything right offensively in the first half of the Ravens game — comparatively — except protect the football. And when you turn over the ball, you don’t get points. Turnovers have been the death of the Bears this year as they currently sit with a minus-9 turnover ratio, fifth-worst in the league. Half of that can be attributed to Jay Cutler and the other half is the fault of the defense for not taking away the ball as much. It’s not a scientific formula, it’s common knowledge that those teams with a bigger negative turnover ratio are typically not any good. The only two teams with an above-.500 record that have negative turnover ratios are the Giants (minus-1) and Cardinals (minus-8). Losing the turnover battle to a bad team may not be as devastating, but losing it to a team as good as the Vikings gives the Bears little to no chance of winning.

4. Get extra help from the Fourth Phase and the weather conditions
It’s sad that one of the four keys to winning has nothing to do with the Bears’ players at all, but when in a lopsided game against a much better opponent, the Bears need all the help they can get. It’s going to be cold Monday night and the Bears are a bad football team, so I sure hope Bears fans haven’t sold their tickets online to Vikings fans. They need to be loud and proud — or as much as one can be in the midst of terrible season. If you’re going to the game and you’re not proud… fake it. Getting loud does motivate the Bears to play better and it can give them an edge. The more adverse weather conditions, the better off the Bears will be. Favre has shown to wear down in cold weather as he’s gotten older and we’ve seen his team collapse before. I’m sure everybody remembers the second-to-last game of the 2007 season. Favre’s Packers were 12-2 and entered Soldier Field against the 5-9 Bears (similar records, huh?). Favre later called the conditions during that game the worst he’s ever played in. The Bears trounced the Packers, 35-7. A proud moment during an otherwise disappointing season. Minnesota is a dome team with a lot of speedy guys and inclement weather will surely help the Bears.