A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Contain Adrian Peterson
At a quick glance, it seems as though Adrian Peterson has owned the Bears defense since entering the league in 2007. But after examining the statistics even further, the Bears have done a good job of containing Peterson for the majority of the games and instead have allowed him to break off a few big runs that have skewed the statistics. That’s basically how Peterson runs the football, though. Much like Barry Sanders did, Peterson picks up a lot of yards through a few carries. It’s important to stay disciplined when facing him because the Bears can take him out of the game by limiting him to short gains. Peterson has not yet fumbled this season — something he has done far more than any other running back the past few years — which could pave the way for the turnover-happy Bears to pry one away from him. It takes a special effort to stop a special player and that’s exactly what the Bears’ No. 3 run defense will need to do Sunday.
2. Rough up Brett Favre
The New Orleans Saints laid the foundation and the blueprint for how to defeat Brett Favre in last year’s NFC Championship game. That plan is to sack him as much as possible and if the sacks aren’t coming, at least rough him up simultaneously after the throw so that his tired, old body feels the effects later in the game. Defenses may not be able to knock the resilient 41-year-old out of games, but Favre is fighting a losing battle against Father Time. Sure, he still may be able to sling the football around, but his mobility has declined by the year and his consistency is becoming more erratic. If the Bears can register a few knockdowns early in the game, it could and should take its toll on Favre in crunch time — if their is a crunch time in this game.
3. Commit to the run game
The Bears had the winning formula against the Bills: commit to the run on offense, play stout defense, and play good special teams. Although the Bears couldn’t rack up huge gains on the ground, the fact that they stayed committed to the run game enabled them to run playaction effectively and kept the defense honest. It’s one thing for Mike Martz to alter his game plan for one week against the worst run defense in the league. It’ll be another thing if he does it in back-to-back weeks. If the Bears fail to make headway in the run game against Minnesota, will he fall back to a pass-first mentality? Or has Lovie Smith gotten into his head and emphasized the importance of sticking to the run?
4. Focus on protecting field position
Eliminating turnovers on their own end of the field, preventing long drives from the Vikings offense, and creating good special teams returns will help the Bears maintain field position. Against a team that possesses dangerous weapons on offense, the last thing the Bears can afford to do is give them a short field with which to work. With how much the Bears have struggled offensively to move the football, they can’t afford to be pinned deep in their own territory, either.