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Five Things We Learned: Bears-Vikings

11/14/2010

CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Bears' impressive 27-13 win over the Vikings.

1. The Bears need to continue mixing in the run: Here is a perfect example of why the Bears should keep handing the ball off to Matt Forte and Chester Taylor: Jay Cutler was 7 for 7 on play-action passes with a quarterback rating of 143.2, according to ESPN Stats and Information. It's amazing how much more an offense can accomplish when the threat of the run is present. Forte and Taylor actually had more carries this week than against Buffalo (32 combined attempts), and because of that balance, the Bears easily won the time of possession battle (34:39-25:21) and converted 58 percent of their third down chances. Although Cutler tossed two interceptions -- including one terrible pick in the end zone -- the offense helped out the defense for the second consecutive week. A change from weeks prior to the victory in Toronto.

2. The defense eliminated Adrian Peterson: Without Sidney Rice or Bernard Berrian, Minnesota's options on offense were limited. The Bears decided to remove Peterson from the equation by placing a minimum seven defenders in the box on 11 of Peterson's 17 rushing attempts. On those runs in question, Peterson averaged a paltry 1.4 yards per carry, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He found modest success the few times the Bears kept only six in the box, but for the most part, Peterson was a non-factor in the game. Percy Harvin turned out to be the only consistent threat for Minnesota, but after he left the game with an injury, it was over.

3. The offensive line keeps improving: The Bears big men up front should be commended for their performance versus the Vikings. The line gave Cutler time to throw, surrendered only two sacks, and helped the Bears rush for 130 yards, while also quieting the Minnesota defensive line of Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, Kevin and Pat Willliams. Frank Omiyale continues to solidify the left tackle position, J'Marcus Webb keeps getting better on the right side, and Olin Kreutz (who committed a few penalties) is the glue that holds the group together. This offensive line will never be confused with one of the NFL's elite, but if they continue to play at this level, the Bears are going to win a lot of games. Isn't that the ultimate goal?

4. Special teams throws a curveball: Love the move by Dave Toub and Lovie Smith to use Devin Hester on kickoff returns. The plan during the week called for Hester and Danieal Manning to split the return duties, but it worked out that Hester got two of the three opportunities, and he made the most of them. It was obvious the Vikings were caught off guard by the move, which is one of the reasons the Bears decided to use Hester in that capacity for the first time this season. Kudos also goes to Rashied Davis, who fielded a short kickoff in the second quarter and returned it 32 yards. That heads-up play by Davis gave the Bears great field position, and led to a Cutler to Greg Olsen touchdown play near the end of the first half.

5. The Vikings are done: Wow. It's now a two-team race in the NFC North between the Bears and Packers. The only drama left in Minneapolis centers around when the head coach is going to be fired. Those calling for Smith's job are probably out of the luck, because the Bears have positioned themselves perfectly to make the postseason for the first time since 2006. At 6-3 (including a 3-0 mark in the division), the Bears likely only have to win three, maybe four of their last seven games to reach the playoffs. The schedule certainly isn't easy with Philadelphia, New England, New York and Green Bay still left on the calendar, but this victory against Minnesota dramatically increases the Bears' margin for error in the second half of the season. This team is still flawed, but who isn't flawed in the NFL? Bottom line: The Bears are in great shape after nine games.