Four Downs: Keys to beating the Vikings (09/15/13)

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

Assignments and fundamental football are the keys to preventing big runs from Adrian Peterson.
Assignments and fundamental football are the keys to preventing big runs from Adrian Peterson.

1. Assignment, fill gaps, wrap up

There’s an old expression that goes: “You can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him.” That adage fits perfectly with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Only, it’s not entirely true. There is a way to stop him, but it requires team execution and no breakdowns. Peterson’s first carry of the game last week — his first of the season — he broke for a 78 yard touchdown run. After reviewing the play, there was one obvious blown assignment and at least two missed tackles. That type of execution a defense can get away with against slower, less dynamic running backs in the league. Not against AP. But do you know how many rushing yards Peterson finished with on the day? 93. That means after that touchdown, he rushed 17 times for just 15 yards. About 0.9 yards per run. That’s the way Peterson has operated his entire career. He’s just like Barry Sanders in that regard. His rushes will go for 2 yards, 1 yard, no gain, 1 yard, -2 yards, no gain, and then he’ll break out a 50- or 60-yard dash that skews his statistics. The way to stop him is that the defense has to play sound, fundamental football, fill all the gaps, and make sure to wrap up with good form. One guy won’t always bring him down.

2. Continued improved protection of Jay Cutler

Last week against the Bengals, the Bears’ offensive line looked much improved from the past four years of the Cutler era in Chicago. There were still instances of Cutler having to move around the pocket and escape the oncoming rush. He also endured some hits after getting rid of the football. But by and large the line kept his jersey clean and he wasn’t sacked once all game. This week he’ll face a hungry Jared Allen who has a non-stop motor and the Bears will have to continue to keep the pressure off Cutler if the offense is to continue its progress and production under new head coach Marc Trestman’s offense.

3. More involvement for Matt Forte

One of the discouraging aspects from last week’s victory over the Bengals was the inability to effectively run the ball. Forte had just 50 yards on 19 carries for a 2.6 average. He was active in the passing game with four receptions for 41 yards, but he needs to have a bigger presence in the offense overall. Last week against the Lions, the Vikings allowed Reggie Bush to have a huge game. Bush rushed for 90 yards on 21 carries and also added four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Bush may be smaller and a little more shifty than Forte, but Forte is one of the league’s top receiving backs, too, and he can surely have a big impact against the Vikings as well.

4. Get off the field quicker on defense

Easier said than done, right? But the Bears cannot have what happened last week happen again versus the Vikings, when they were on the field for drives of 97 yards, 91 yards, and 80 yards, all of which ended in Bengals touchdowns. The methodical way the Bengals marched down the field against the Bears defense really wore them down, especially in the early September heat. The Bears can’t allow a succession of first downs that keep them on the field for too long.

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