A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Minnesota Vikings.
1. Run the football and control the tempo
The Bears have been doing a good job the past few weeks of staying dedicated to the run, and as a result of that, they’ve kept games in their control and have kept defenses honest. Jay Cutler has been sacked just once in the last two weeks since returning to the lineup, despite being under repeated waves of pressure. A big reason for that has been his escapability in the pocket, but it’s also a result of the Bears staying committed to the run. The Bears lost to the Seahawks last week because the defense gave up two consecutive long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, but before that, they were in control of the game the whole time.
2. Take Adrian Peterson out of the game plan
Two weeks ago when the Bears and Vikings met, the Bears managed to recover a Peterson fumble, take an early lead, and force Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder to try to beat them through the air. Peterson still managed to run for 108 yards, but it was a bloated statistic with little bearing on the game. When a team is behind by multiple scores late in a game, running the football — no matter how effectively it may be — eats up too much of the clock. With the Bears playing this one on the road, I expect things to be a bit tighter and they probably won’t build as big an early lead as last time. Add to the fact that Brian Urlacher will be missing from the defense and Peterson might have a huge game against the Bears. It’s up to them to try to limit the damage he may inflict.
3. Limit mistakes and turnovers
Turnovers have killed the Bears in games they have lost this season. I immediately think back to that Texans game at rainy Soldier Field. If not for turnovers and a Cutler concussion, the Bears legitimately could have won that game. Not only are turnovers becoming a problem but mistakes are as well. By now, everybody’s had their chance to vent about and relive the Earl Bennett dropped pass that would have resulted in a touchdown. Not to mention, the the Major Wright dropped interception that could have essentially ended the Seahawks game. These are almost as costly as turnovers because they have a huge effect on the momentum in the game and potential points. With the Bears seemingly limping to the finish line of the regular season while battling an array of injuries, they can’t afford to give away golden opportunities because they’re becoming fewer and far between.
4. Play a full 60 minutes
Such a simple key but a necessary one. You can control a game and be beating a team for the majority of it, but if you can’t close them out with three minutes and change left on the clock, you can and will get beat. That’s what happened to the Bears last week against the Seahawks and it could happen any given week from here on out. It also happened to the Lions on Sunday after holding a lead on the Colts until the waning seconds of the game when Andrew Luck pulled off a bit of brilliance on them. Maybe the Bears — as a reminder to play until the final buzzer — need to wear t-shirts under their uniforms on Sunday from the league’s “NFL Play 60″ campaign with children.