Bears defensive backs were three of the team’s leading tacklers in the win over Cincinnati. That was in large measure due to the fact that the Bengals completed 26 passes and ran their backs just 19 times.
It falls to the secondary in the Minnesota game to help create third-down situations in particular when using Adrian Peterson is not an option or at least less of one than he clearly is on third-and-shorts.
The Vikings showed a commitment to big plays against Detroit, with three receivers posting catches of 20 yards or longer. Minnesota had six plays of 20-plus yards, and only one of them involved Peterson.
“They’ve done a good job creating some big plays,” said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “I know that’s something they’ve been working on, and they connected on some big plays down the field. They were trying to loosen up the defense to give Adrian some room to run. They’ve done a nice job with that.”
The “nice job” involved wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who caught passes of 47 and 44 yards and finished with 140 receiving yards on seven catches.
A problem for the defense is that Peterson represents nothing less than the most credible play-action decoy in the NFL, forcing the entire defense to be clear that No. 28 doesn’t have the ball before going after Simpson, wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
“(Ponder) is a young guy, they live off of play action, their running game is what gets them going and we really just have to be prepared for him on the move,” said safety Chris Conte. “He’s really good outside the pocket, so ‘boots’ and play action really is the big thing against them.”
The Matchup: CB Charles Tillman vs. WR Jerome Simpson
Tillman has routinely drawn opponents’ No. 1 receivers in one-on-one duels featuring “man” coverage. Both Simpson and Jennings are 6-foot receivers (Simpson is 6-foot-2), and the job of Tillman and the rest of the secondary will be to minimize big plays while the front seven in particular is focused heavily on Peterson.