The Bears have scored at least two passing touchdowns in eight of their 11 games this season and at least one in every game. Last season they scored two or more in just six games total.
The point is firepower, and that projects to be the tipping point Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Coaches have begun to go for fourth-down conversions because of the acknowledged need for points.
The Vikings are 32nd in scoring defense and 29th in pass yards allowed per game. They have allowed 24 passing touchdowns on the year, most in the NFL. Every one of the Bears’ primary skill-position players – running back Matt Forte, receivers Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and tight end Martellus Bennett – have score receiving touchdowns against the Vikings during their careers.
But the Bears do not need home runs from their receivers. They need singles and doubles with minimal risk and maximum time moving chains.
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The last two meetings between the teams have seen turnovers in the passing game effectively cost or nearly cost the Bears the games. For all of Adrian Peterson’s early rushing pyrotechnics last December in the Metrodome, interceptions of Jay Cutler produced one TD return and a second to the Chicago five-yard line.
In game two this year, a sack/strip was run in for a touchdown and a fourth-quarter interception was turned into a field goal.
The Vikings used a 2013 first-round draft choice on cornerback Xavier Rhodes, at 6-1 a good matchup for the Bears’ big receivers. But Rhodes is coming back from a concussion, was out of practice Wednesday, limited on Thursday and had only Friday’s lighter session for his only full practice of the week.
What to look for: Matchups. Like most teams on the Bears’ schedule, the Vikings do not have the talent in the secondary to match up with what the Bears can bring in the passing game. The Vikings are 25th in interception rate and the Bears have three players in the NFL top 15 at picking up first downs: Forte (No. 3), Marshall (T-8th) and Jeffery (T-15th). And 30 of Martellius Bennett’s 46 catches have converted first downs.
“Because of Brandon and Alshon and Martellus and the matchups that those guys create and obviously the run game, being able to get the ball to Matt,” quarterback Josh McCown said, “I wouldn’t think that they are adjusting to me necessarily as much as just the things that we’re doing in the passing game with our receivers and the ways that those guys are getting open and making plays. I think they are having to adjust to those guys.”