Bears-Vikings: The nuts and bolts

December, 20, 2010
12/20/10
12:51
PM ET

THREE KEYS FOR THE BEARS
Get out front: The best way to negate any potential impact from running back Adrian Peterson is to make the Vikings go into catch-up mode with the passing game. The Bears can do that by taking advantage of early possessions on offense to put points on the board. If Chicago can make it a two-score game early, it will be well on its way to the division title.

[+] EnlargeDevin Hester
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireNeutralizing Devin Hester in the return game is a key for Minnesota.

Narrow the gaps: Chicago's front four needs to maintain gap integrity, and not allow any wide-open lanes for Peterson to hit for big gains. By narrowing the gaps, the Bears' defensive line limits Peterson's options for potential cut backs, which helps the flowing linebackers tremendously.

Don't underestimate Webb's arm: If Brett Favre can't play, look for Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to scale back the playbook to calls rookie Joe Webb is comfortable with. That means Webb will operate out of shotgun and utilize plays that give him a pass/run option. When Webb is on the move, Chicago's safeties need to be cautious of the quarterback's big arm and the likelihood of him taking shots down the field to deep threats Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin.

THREE KEYS FOR THE VIKINGS
Take advantage of play action: There's a good chance the Bears will stack the line of scrimmage to shut down Peterson. So the Vikings need to take advantage of the matchups -- especially when the Bears go to a single-high safety look -- with play-action fakes to the running back, and throws down the seams.

Stuff the run: The Bears have shown a penchant for struggling when they can't attack with a balanced run-pass ratio. So by taking away the run, Minnesota can force the Bears to lean on the passing attack, which increases the chances for mistakes by quarterback Jay Cutler and his up-and-down protection.

Neutralize Chicago's advantage on special teams: The Vikings can do that by kicking away from Bears return man Devin Hester, who is one kick-return touchdown away from the NFL record. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has bombed punts of 50 yards or longer in 68 career games. He needs to make it 69, or at least kick it towards the sidelines, which are expected to be slippery.

MATCH-UP TO WATCH
LT Frank Omiyale Vs. DE Jared Allen
Allen sacked Cutler twice in the Nov. 14 meeting, and has posted at least one sack in each of his last six games. Potentially slick conditions aren't likely to slow down Allen, who has plenty of experience playing in the snow because of his five-year tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Omiyale is currently tied for second in the league in false-start penalties. Given what's at stake, the expected conditions, and his matchup against one of the league's best pass rushers, Omiyale (although he needs to limit the penalties) is likely to commit even more. The Bears can only hope none of them turn out to be drive killers.

BY THE NUMBERS
5: Wins and no losses for the Bears this season when they finish a game with a positive turnover margin. The problem is the Bears haven't snagged a turnover in two consecutive games.

4: Consecutive losses for the Bears since Oct. 3 when they've passed the ball more than they've run it.
36: Forced fumbles between Charles Tillman and Chris Harris. The Bears are the only team in the NFL to have two players among the top 7 since 2003 in forced fumbles among defensive backs.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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