Four Downs: Keys to beating the Vikings (12/20/10)

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

1. Improve the pass rush
The Bears failed to apply much pressure on Tom Brady last week and the Patriots quarterback made them pay. In fairness, Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the game and he shreds defenses if they blitz him, so they basically had to work with a four-man pass rush. Further complicating matters, the defense is one based on speed and operates better in ideal conditions and the snowy weather wasn’t good for footing. That’s not an excuse for the defense, but it is a reason they weren’t effective. This week the Bears will face a Vikings team that is not stable at quarterback. Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak ended last week and he’s hoping to be back for the Bears game, but it doesn’t look promising. Backup Tarvaris Jackson is battling turf toe and the Vikings have brought quarterbacks in this week for tryouts. Whoever is taking snaps under center for the Vikings needs to be pressured in order for the defense to get off the field. Otherwise, long drives and points are inevitable.

2. Start fast, finish strong
For two straight weeks the Bears have failed to get off to a good start. The Lions took early control of the game in Detroit and the Patriots jumped out to an insurmountable 33-0 halftime lead last week. The Bears don’t have a strong enough offense to be playing from behind. They need to get out to an early lead and force the other team to play catchup, because that’s when the defense can pin its ears back and get after the quarterback. The other thing the Bears can ill afford to do is to lose the game at the end due to a breakdown in concentration or increased mental mistakes. A full 60 minutes will get the job done and likely win the division.

3. Control the clock
With an unstable quarterback situation, the Vikings will rely even more on running back Adrian Peterson to carry their offense. Peterson has always had success against the Bears but didn’t fare too well in the first meeting between these teams this season. Peterson rushed for just 51 yards on 17 carries at Soldier Field as the Vikings eventually abandoned the run while trying to play catchup. The longer the Bears offense can stay on the field and chew up the clock, the less they have to worry about stopping the league’s best running back.

4. Take away the ball three times
It has always been a goal of the Lovie Smith defense to record three takeaways per game. Three is the magic number that should net the Bears a victory, assuming the offense doesn’t cough up the ball. The Bears have been lacking takeaways the past couple games and it’s by no coincidence that they haven’t looked very good. Last week against the Patriots, the Bears missed on a pair of chances to intercept Brady. Chris Harris couldn’t haul in a tipped pass in the end zone and Brian Urlacher failed to corral a pass that he jumped to deflect over the middle of the field. The Bears need to get back to what they’ve thrived on this season and all throughout the Smith regime.

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