The Bears defense has gone to sleep this week with visions of Adrian Peterson in its collective head. That may not be its sole cause for concern, however.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been a disappointment in 2012. After a promising rookie year that effectively began with his relieving Donovan McNabb against the Bears, he has muddled along with a passer rating of 75 this season.
In his first six games he had none with a completion percentage lower than 60 and the Vikings were 4-2. In the last six he has had just one game with a completion rate above 55. The Vikings have gone 2-4.
Hes pretty much what you see, said new middle linebacker Nick Roach. Hes very athletic, he can throw the ball if he has time, and he doesnt seem to get rattled, which you would tend to maybe associate with young guys. Hes a good test.
The reason: For all of his inconsistencies, Ponder is 5-1 at home this season.
Visions of 28
But the Bears mission statement is always to make a team one-dimensional by taking away its running game. And nowhere has this appeared to prove more effective than against the Vikings.
Minnesota won four of the first five games in Adrian Petersons career against the Bears. In those, Peterson averaged 128 yards per game. The Vikings have lost the last six (two with Peterson missing due to injury) with the games best running back averaging 73 yards in the four he played, including the 108 he had in the 28-10 loss on Nov. 25.
The quirky part is that Peterson has rushed for no fewer than those 108 yards in each of the last six games and the Vikings won just two of those, against woefuls Arizona and Detroit.
He trampled the Green Bay Packers for 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last Sunday. The Vikings lost 23-14.
But in the mind of the Bears there is still a clear No. 1 target and way to neutralize that.
Gang-tackling, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Its gap security and knowing exactly what were doing and playing extremely hard and fast. That game he played last week at Green Bay was special. We know what we have in store for us. Were competing for a championship and we got to get him on the ground.
The Bears have been successful in their last six games against Minnesota. They also have had Brian Urlacher in all of those. Now they dont.
Roach has been very solid this season with an arrow pointing up at this point of the year. He had four tackles against San Francisco as well as a half-sack and quarterback pressure and pass breakup. He totaled seven stops against the Vikings and forced a fumble, and he followed that with five tackles against Seattle. Of his 16 tackles over the past three games, 11 have been solos.
But as WBBMWSCR Bears reporter Zach Zaidman noted, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has never handled a game through any other channel than Urlacher. This will be the first time he is communicating his defensive moves through someone other than Urlacher.
Communicating is the operative word here.
One popular notion in Roachs previous time at middle linebacker (2009, three games, 1-2) was that he simply was not loud enough. Two of those three games were outdoors.
This game is inside one of the acknowledged loudest venues in sports. Teammates are satisfied that Roach can and will be heard.
His voice has developed, said linebacker Lance Briggs, smiling. I dont know the right word but its matured. He sounds louder on the field.
Communication is not going to be a problem. Even if guys dont hear, weve been in the system long enough where we understand we should all understand by recognizing.
Roach was amused: Lance is a funny guy. I try to make a conscious effort to get the communications clear so the guys can hear it.