A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Minnesota Vikings.
1. Alignment, Assignment, Attitude
The Bears rank 32nd — that’s right, dead last — in the NFL in rushing defense. It’s been an awful performance all season but it looked as if it reached culmination last week against Benny and the Jets — er, um, Benny Cunningham and the St. Louis Rams. The Bears defense looked helpless, hapless, and confused. So, I’m going to bring out an old adage I learned back in the day: “Alignment, Assignment, Attitude.” It simply means: Line up correctly before each snap. Know your role on each play and do your job. And play with some passion and sense of urgency when executing it. It’s a silly alliteration that shouldn’t be used on the pro level, but these Bears defenders aren’t exactly playing like professionals, are they? If we thought Cunningham shredded the Bears, just wait until the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson breaks out into beast mode against them. They have to stay disciplined and gap sound.
2. Protect the football
This is really a key to beating any team any given week, but there is special significance to it this week. The Bears are on the road in a loud environment and because their defense is so bad, the offense can’t afford to be giving away scoring opportunities and allowing the Vikings’ anemic offense to do any more damage than they could or should. The Bears are plus-7 in turnover ratio, which is the 8th-best mark in the league, so they haven’t exactly been losing games this year because of that. Mostly, it’s just been a lack of defensive competence.
3. Get off the field quicker on defense; hold the ball longer on offense
It’s not an easy thing for a bad run defense to get off the field, but somewhere along the lines in Sunday’s game, the Bears need to find a way to shorten these long drives. They’re getting killed by having to stay on the field for long chunks of time and giving up drives of 80- or 90-plus yards. It starts with proper execution of first and second downs. If the Bears give up too many yards on those plays, it puts the opposing offense in short-yardage situations on third down, which are much easier to convert on the ground. If the Bears can make a few stops here or there and force the Vikings into third-and-long, they have a much better chance of getting off the field with Christian Ponder throwing ducks to a sub-par receiving group.
4. Continue spreading the wealth on offense and taking what defense gives them
I don’t have any complaints with the Bears offense. When the defense plays the way it is playing, how can you nitpick the offense? Could they be a little better in the red zone? Sure. But all three of their touchdowns last week against the Rams came inside the red zone. It’s when they have gotten down to the goal line and have struggled to punch the ball in using Michael Bush and their goal line package that I have gotten concerned. But aside from that, the Bears rank 8th in total offense and 4th in points per game. They execute long drives by completing short passes to their big targets: Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett. Those kinds of passes are difficult to defend with shorter defensive backs and slower linebackers. The Bears only can be their worst enemy with dropped passes — as we’ve seen from these guys on a few occasions this year. But as long as they’re spreading the ball around, using their plethora of weapons — including running back Matt Forte — they’ll continue to take advantage of what the defense is giving them and score points.