Four Downs: Keys to beating the Vikings (11/25/12)

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Fully recovered from his knee surgery, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is as good as ever.
Fully recovered from his knee surgery, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is as good as ever.

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

1. Contain Adrian Peterson

There’s no big secret to stopping the Vikings; it all starts with defending the run and trying to contain Adrian Peterson. A week after facing the NFL’s top rushing offense, the Bears will face Minnesota’s third-ranked rushing attack featuring Peterson, the league’s leading rusher. Peterson has 1,128 yards on the season and is averaging 112.8 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt. Many were wondering if Peterson would ever be the same player again after having knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL suffered in a game last December. Not only has he recovered sufficiently, but he’s looking as good as ever. He still has that same burst in the open field and the toughness to run over defenders. The Vikings will go as he goes.

2. Neutralize the pass rush

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen isn’t quite having the same success rushing the passer that he did a year ago in recording 22 sacks and nearly breaking the single-season record. But he does have seven on the season and is a matchup nightmare for a team like the Bears who have trouble blocking edge rushers. Opposite Allen is defensive end Brian Robison, who has 5.5 sacks. If the Bears can’t at least contain the pass rush to allow sufficient time for Jay Cutler — hopefully — to throw, it spells certain doom for the offense. The Bears allowed three sacks on three-step drops against the 49ers, which is ridiculous and unheard of.

3. Protect the football

For the third straight week, this remains a big key for the Bears. The team has turned over the ball six times in the last two weeks and has been too sloppy. A team can’t score if it doesn’t have the ball, and if the Bears are not recording enough takeaways on defense and are giving away the ball on offense, that’s a recipe for disaster. The Vikings are ranked 29th in the league with just five interceptions on the season, so the Bears can’t be presenting them with any gifts on Sunday.

4. Generate pressure on Christian Ponder

It seems after last week’s performance, the media was ready to enshrine 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Hall of Fame. When in reality, the defensive scheme the Bears run has to be executed flawlessly or else even the most average quarterback can put up big numbers by exposing and taking advantage of the holes the defensive gives him. Enter Christian Ponder, another young quarterback who does not keep defensive coordinators awake at night, but one who takes care of the football and is an efficient passer. Ponder has an 85.2 passer rating and has thrown just eight interceptions. He’s also been sacked 25 times, eighth-most in the NFL. If the Bears can keep him moving around in the pocket and having to make decisions on the fly, they’ll be in good shape.

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