The Minnesota Vikings' game plan against the Detroit Lions was to control the game by being able to run the ball and put pressure on Matthew Stafford in order to limit the Detroit offense—they failed on both fronts.
Heading into the Week 2 matchup with the Bears in Chicago, the game plan pretty much should be the same—with the exception of being able to actually execute the plan. After allowing Detroit running back Reggie Bush to accumulate 191 total yards, the Vikings defense will have to face Matt Forte.
Since joining the league in 2008, Forte has averaged 1,530 rushing and receiving yards per season. Compare that to 985 rushing and receiving yards Bush has averaged since 2006. No doubt the Bears are pouring over last week's game against the Lions and putting together a game plan with plenty of screen passes to Forte, and another Bush, the Bears' Michael Bush.
Defensively they will also have to try to slow down Brandon Marshall, another one of the NFC North's best wide receivers. Last week against the Bengals, Marshall caught eight balls for 104 yards and a touchdown.
In the two games against the Vikings last season, he caught 22 passes for 252 yards, but the Vikings were able to limit him to only one touchdown.
The biggest key for the Vikings to slow down Marshall and the Bears offense will be to put pressure on quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler is prone to making some bad decisions when under pressure. In his four seasons in Chicago he has averaged 20 touchdown passes while throwing 16 interceptions per season.
The following play shows what kind of risky throws Cutler will make when under pressure.
Early in the game at Soldier Field last season, the Bears line up with Cutler in the shotgun with five receivers on a 3rd-and-13. The orange circle identifies Forte, lined up in the right slot. The purple arrow identifies Everson Griffen who is a part of the Vikings nickel package on passing downs.
Only rushing four, the Vikings drop back into a deep coverage leaving two Bears receivers as targets underneath for Cutler.
As Griffen applies pressure, Cutler steps up and is spun around, but Griffen is unable to complete the sack.
It appears that Cutler is trying to throw away the ball to avoid the sack. He throws a jump ball toward the right sideline, much like the ball Ponder threw in the Detroit game last week that wound up being intercepted.
This pass is caught by Forte, but only for a four-yard gain as Josh Robinson makes the tackle. The result is a Chicago punt. If the Vikings can put enough pressure on Cutler, it could result in a few more bad decisions and some possible interceptions.
If Cutler has any time in the pocket, he will pick apart the Vikings secondary.
On offense, the plan will be to give Peterson the ball, a lot, especially with how Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder played against the Lions.
Over his career, Peterson has averaged 108.5 yards per game against the Bears with 15 touchdowns in 10 games.
The Vikings will need to utilize all of their weapons against the Bears. One of those is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Last season he led the team with nine touchdown receptions, many of them on plays similar to the following.
Facing a 3rd-and-1, the Vikings line up with a double tight end on the left side of the line with fullback Jerome Felton lined up in front of Peterson.
As the play develops, Rudolph blocks defensive end Julius Peppers to seal the edge as the play appears to be designed to go to the right, away from Peppers.
After faking the handoff to Peterson, Ponder rolls to his left with a wide open Rudolph in from of him. While this play works, I don't like how often offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has Ponder throwing back across his body.
This play results in a 13-yard gain to the Bears' two-yard line. On the next play, the Vikings run the same play to the right side with Ponder throwing a touchdown to Rudolph.
If the Vikings are to win in Chicago, not only will they have to put pressure on Cutler and get Peterson and the running game going, they will have to overcome a trend of losing 12 of the last 14 games at Soldier Field.