Four Downs: Keys to beating the Vikings (01/01/12)

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The Bears will have to keep Minnesota's run defense honest this week by taking some chances down the field.
The Bears will have to keep Minnesota's run defense honest this week by taking some chances down the field.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Minnesota Vikings.

1. Take chances in the passing game

Although Kahlil Bell rushed for 121 yards last week against the Packers and the Bears racked up 199 net rushing yards, Mike Martz can’t forget about the pass this week — although, who’d expect him to do that? The Vikings defense, traditionally a good run defense, is ranked 12th against the run but only 29th against the pass. While it’s probably a good idea to stay focused on running the football, the Bears should mix in some passes to keep the defense honest. Minnesota is susceptible to giving up the big play, having allowed 13 passes of over 40 yards, the second most in the league. They do rank fourth in the league with 43 sacks, led by defensive end Jared Allen’s league-leading 18.5, which means the Bears can’t call plays that have Josh McCown standing in the pocket while waiting for a slow-moving play to develop.

2. Stick to fundamentals on defense

The Bears led the Packers in some key areas including total yards, first down conversions, and time of possession, but they fell behind them in the area that matters most: points scored. This is because the Bears weren’t disciplined and allowed the Packers to score quickly on big plays. The defense kept the game close through the first half, but the floodgates opened in the third quarter when the coverage broke down and Jordy Nelson slipped behind the safeties for a 55-yard touchdown. After that score it seemed the Bears could not recover and the problems piled upon one another. Live to play another down is the mantra of a defense, which means they have to forget about early mistakes and make the play on the next down, but I can understand how that might be difficult for a team that is out of the playoff hunt and may be looking to start its offseason early.

3. Create pressure on the quarterback

Winning football games is difficult to do when your defense does not get pressure on the quarterback. This is the case for offenses with average quarterbacks let alone the best offense in the league led by the top quarterback in the game. The Bears defensive line failed to show up against the Packers and didn’t get one sack on Aaron Rodgers and that’s disappointing considering the Packers were dealing with a makeshift line due to injuries to their two starting offensive tackles. The Vikings have allowed 47 sacks this year, fourth-most in the NFL so the Bears will have their chances to get the quarterback this week.

4. Chew up clock and win time of possession

It didn’t work for them last week against a high-powered Packers offense, but winning the time of possession is more than half the battle toward winning a game. Against a less-explosive team like the Vikings, the Bears can do themselves a favor by effectively running the football, moving the chains, and taking large chunks of time off the clock. Minnesota will not be able to score as easily as Green Bay did and the fewer opportunities afforded them will mean less points they’re going to score. Without running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will not be able to run the ball well and will have to resort to gadgetry on offense which has never worked against a defense as athletic as the Bears have. If they fall behind early due to the Bears chewing up the clock, they’ll have to resort to drop-back passing which will fall right into the Bears’ hands.

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