The Green Bay Packers showed that in Week 2, but as this Bears team was looking much improved after that loss, everyone assumed that the outcome of that Packers game no longer applied.
The Vikings won't have an easier time because the game is in Chicago, and the Bears are apt to be very grouchy after embarrassing themselves on Monday; they will come to prove that they are every bit as good as they looked before the San Francisco 49ers took a hammer to them.
However, the game is within the Vikings' grasp. If they want to be taken seriously, much less make the playoffs, this is the type of game they have to win. Like the win over the 49ers in Week 3, this is a statement game nobody expects them to win outside of Minnesota.
It's go-big-or-go-home time.
When the Vikings Are on Offense
The tenor of this game will be set by Adrian Peterson, as is virtually always the case. There's a reason I believe he should be leading candidate for the MVP, and it's because this entire offense is his.
As AP goes, so goes the offense. People get wrapped up in stats when it comes to running backs, but Peterson's value is reflecting in much more than his yards. He sets the tone, tires out the defense and generally says to both teams "this is how it's going to go down."
I'd advocate the exact same plan I put out there for the Niners before their matchup with Chicago—run into the teeth of the front seven.
This Bears defense will be looking to reestablish itself with physical and tough play. Peterson has shown that even against tough defenses he can get yards and, really, you're more looking to bloody the front seven's noses as much as make first downs and touchdowns.
It's also vital for him to hammer the defense to keep them from going full-out assault at Christian Ponder. We know that Ponder struggles when hurried and flushed out of the pocket repeatedly, and the Bears will try to make that happen because then they can generate some turnovers.
Stealing some more from my Niners' game plan, I would also say that the Vikings need to start off the contest with a short, quick passing game.
While Peterson is running the ball, Ponder should be hitting Kyle Rudolph or Jarius Wright (assuming Percy Harvin isn't playing) on screens, short outs and slants.
Simple reads, quick drops and quick decisions—get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. You know the Bears are coming for Ponder, so negate that pass rush with quick pass plays.
I'd love to see the Vikings come out no-huddle, though that may be too much to ask of Ponder to start a game.
Keep the defense on its heels and unable to just flatten Ponder. You can stretch the field a little bit later in the game, but first you want to make sure Ponder gets into a rhythm. So keep the defense off him with quick strikes.
Later in the game, go deep, but always come back to the first two points—short passes and lots of Adrian Peterson.
When the Vikings Are on Defense
Will Jay Cutler play? It depends on whom you listen to. Lovie Smith seems to feel he could, while some members of the press are less sure. We'll know, but not until Sunday morning in all likelihood.
As far as the Bears are concerned, Cutler playing is the best-case scenario so that's what the Vikings need to play for. Really, if Jason Campbell is in, the game narrows to "get in his face" and "watch out for Matt Forte."
For Cutler, you still want to press him—and with that offensive line, the Vikings can and should do so. Send Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson and Jared Allen off the edge and attack the tackles.
The Bears just benched Gabe Carimi, but while he gave up three sacks last week, so did J'Marcus Webb. The guy replacing Carimi—Jonathan Scott—isn't that much better either, so intense pressure on the sides will bear fruit.
If the Bears shift some fullback or tight end to help, then it's up to the middle of the defensive front to get after the quarterback.
There is damage to be done here, and the Vikings have the tools to do it.
And if Cutler isn't playing? Well picture all of the above but without Cutler. Grim ain't it?
Brandon Marshall will be a big issue and the corners—Antoine Winfield and A.J. Jefferson—will have to be on point to make sure his size and skill don't overwhelm them. Luckily for the Vikings, the offense took a hit when Alshon Jeffery went down.
While he was still raw, Jeffery brought an upside the rest of the receivers don't. Devin Hester has continued to underwhelm on a week-to-week basis, and while Earl Bennett has proven himself reliable and solid, he doesn't have a high ceiling and isn't a guy who can really draw coverage away from Marshall.
So it's largely a matter of stopping Marshall or at least containing his impact which, with some help from the safeties over the top, should be manageable.
Matt Forte is the last piece to focus on. The Bears like to run up the middle, so it's up to guys like Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion and Jasper Brinkley to clog up Forte's runs. Of course, you have to also watch for him on receptions out of the backfield.
Forte is going to challenge this defense in a big way. The defense has struggled against the run, though they have the ability to play hard. Forte will be especially important to this offense if Campbell plays but should see plenty of work either way, so the defense has to step up.
I firmly believe the Vikings can win this game, though I don't have them as the pick. They have to come hard and physical but are walking into a tough venue against a team which will be fired up to avenge their pride.
It's going to be a hard fight, and the Vikings have to play harder and more physical than they have played in some time.
It can be done though.
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