CSN Chicago Bears analyst Chris Boden gives his three keys to victory as the Bears travel to Minnesota tomorrow to take on the Vikings.
1. Less than 200
I won't pull out the old "stop the run." Duh. Let's work on something realistic here, based on the way the Bears' run defense has been (as Joel Quenneville might say) "trending." While it would be nice if Stephen Paea and Jeremiah Ratliff could be saviors, one is battling through an almost season-long injury and the other's returning from an injury that has forced him to miss more than a full season.
Unfortunately, the old light switch doesn't turn on that quickly. How about this: If the last-ranked run defense can limit (yes, limit) Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart to less than 200 yards combined, perhaps that's something they can work with. Let's not ignore that Gerhart has run for 158 yards on 15 carries the last two games. Put the Vikings in situations that force Christian Ponder (7 TD's, 9 INT's) to beat you. They didn't make Kellen Clemens do that last week. And then just hope keeping the Vikings below 200 (and that includes Ponder's scrambling ability, as well) doesn't involve four or five touchdowns on the ground.
2. Control the clock
...And in the process keep Peterson and company from gashing and crashing. Have Josh McCown work the short passing game to keep what's been a pretty quiet Vikings pass rush - compared to the Rams a week ago - to move the sticks and keep him upright. Then chuck it downfield when opportunity presents itself, now that two of Minnesota's starting defensive backs are sidelined (LCB Josh Robinson is replaced by rookie Xavier Rhodes, who's coming off a concussion, and promising center fielder Harrison Smith remains out.)
One caveat: Just don't control the clock by a four-minute inability to reach the end zone on first-and-goal.
3. Happy returns
We trust you're not returning your Black Friday haul this quickly, but we mean Devin Hester doing more damage than rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. Hester had his record-breaker called back last week. On the way there, he's returned three punts and one kickoff for scores in 14 career games vs. the Vikings.
In Week 2, he set a franchise record 249 return yards against what's generally a top-notch special teams unit under Mike Priefer, who interviewed for the job Marc Trestman currently has. But Priefer has his new Frankenstein in rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, who opened the Week 2 meeting in Chicago with a 105-yard return, has since added another, and leads the league in kickoff returns. Marcus Sherels has two career punt return touchdowns.