Following Monday night’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Chicago Bears defense will try to redeem themselves against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears gave up 355 total yards, including 243 and two touchdowns to first-time starter Colin Kaepernick.
The defense looked off from the beginning and was never able to recover.
Sunday afternoon, the Bears head back home to face the a Vikings team who is a surprising 6-4 this season, led by running back Adrian Peterson.
Less than nine months after tearing both his ACL and MCL in his left knee, Peterson returned to the field for the Vikings. Many thought it would take him some time to strengthen his knee before taking on a heavy workload, but now heading into the 12th week of the season, he leads the NFL in rushing yards with 1,128. In his last four games, he is averaging nearly 158 yards per game.
His combination of speed, strength and agility makes him one of, if not the best running back in the game. Many were skeptical if he would still be able to cut the same way on his surgically repaired knee, but he has looked just as good as ever this season.
Apart from his first meeting against the Bears in his rookie season in which he rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns, Peterson has averaged 86 yards per game and only 45 per game in his last two.
Monday night should have taught the Bears the benefit of wrapping up, as they struggled to take down Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter all night. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher will have to move more fluidly to the runner on Sunday in comparison to Monday night if they have any chance at slowing down Peterson.
A questionable first-round pick of the Vikings in 2011, Christian Ponder has had his share of ups and downs this season. He has put up strong performances, such as his 24-of-32 for 331 yards and two-touchdown performance against the Lionsin Week 10 but has had notable poor performances like the ones against the Seahawks and the Cardinals(average 36.4 QB rating).The Bears will have to get pressure on Ponder, as he has a tendency to rush plays when under duress. He does have the ability to get out of the pocket and run, but he doesn’t have the ability to throw the ball downfield accurately and has benefited from the strong play of Percy Harvin.
Harvin has been, along with Peterson, a lightning rod for the Vikings offense. His status is still up in the air for Sunday following a sprained ankle in Week 10 (h/t ESPN), but the Bears will need to be prepared for him. He plays well in space, and the Vikings like to utilize his quickness with short screens, running slants and even running him out of the backfield.
It will be interesting to see who the Bears line up with him (likely Tim Jennings), and they will have to get better play from safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright.
Veterans Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson provide big targets downfield, but Ponder has simply struggled to get them the ball. Still, the Bears secondary will need to be cautious of their ability.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph came back alive in Week 10, hauling in seven catches for 64 yards and one touchdown following a three-game stretch in which he only caught two passes 17 yards. He is quick and sure-handed, and he has good size that can cause defenses fits.
The Bears struggled against 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, and expect Major Wright to get plenty of snaps lined up against Rudolph. He will have to use his speed to keep up with him, primarily in the red zone.
While the Vikings’ success running the ball largely hinges on the incredible abilities of Adrian Peterson, the offensive line has played tremendously in the running game this season. The left side is anchored by 2012 fourth overall pick Matt Kalil, and he has lived up to the hype. He has been great in pass protection and has shown to be a powerful run blocker, but he still has room for improvement.He’ll be likely facing Julius Peppers on Sunday and will have to go up against one of the best pass-rushers in the game. Peppers will have to be mindful, though, of Ponder’s ability to run outside of the pocket and will have to fight against rushing too deep.
Left guard Charlie Johnson and center John Sullivan are experienced veterans, and Johnson has made a seamless move from left tackle to left guard. The right side of the line is less known, with Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt, but both have played well and continue to make progress each week. The Bears struggled to get any pass rush on Monday night, and they may try and attack the less-talented right side of the line.
Matt Eurich is a contributor to Bearsbacker.com. Follow Bears Backer on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute news about the Bears. Also, check out Matt’s work on BleacherReport.com and follow him on Twitter @MattEurich.