The status of Major Wright for Sunday’s game in Minnesota is in doubt after the strong safety suffered a hamstring pull in Friday’s practice. While Wright has been a sizeable disappointment this season, with multiple mistakes and missed tackles since the outset of the season, losing another starter is exactly what the defense does not need, particularly one with the willingness if not always the accuracy to hit in run support. No Bear has graded out lower in run defense than Wright, based on evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com.
Replacement Craig Steltz, on the other hand, has turned in positive grades over the past couple of seasons, and the Bears have seldom needed one more than now.
If Benny Cunningham can rush for 109 yards on the Bears, then Adrian Peterson…
“Yeah, he’s the best running back in the league, so he’s got the best combination of all things,” said safety Chris Conte. “Yeah, you have to fit your gap, get as many guys to the football as you can, gang tackle him, just do your job, really.”
Coaches put together a series of tape segments, not on what mistakes were being made, but rather on what happened when assignments were followed when Bears defenders were doing their jobs, really.
“I think there were 10-12 clips of everyone on defense, in the run game, doing exactly what they were supposed to do: and they were 1-, 2-, 3-yard gains,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “And so that’s encouraging. We’re looking to build off of those plays. And if you can get that type of execution in a game on a consistent basis, then you have a chance to stop people.”
The Vikings’ struggles at quarterback, with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, have resulted in the 25th-ranked passing offense in yards per game. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets have fewer than Minnesota’s 11 passing touchdowns on the season.
What to look for: The Bears’ defensive game plan is simple every week but especially this week: Make the opponent one-dimensional, in this case take away Adrian Peterson and force that one dimension to be a struggling pass offense.
But the Minnesota level of commitment to running the ball will force the Bears to commit an extra defensive back to stopping Peterson, setting up potential for play-action and big plays in the pass game.
“Whenever you struggle with the run game and you have to put a lot of people at the line of scrimmage to defend the run, it’ll make you susceptible to some plays down the field,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier. “Now, it’s a matter of do you have the guys in the secondary that can make those plays? But you have to do what you have to do to stop the run if you’re having trouble. They are putting more people at the line of scrimmage to help them in that way. It can make you vulnerable; it just depends on your guys in the secondary.”