Halftime Adjustments: Stop the bleeding

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
1:46
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Down 14-0 to the Minnesota Vikings by virtue of a pair of Adrian Peterson 1-yard runs in the first quarter, the Chicago Bears rallied back in the second quarter with a 69-yard drive capped by Jay Cutler's 23-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery that made the score
14-7 at intermission.

Burdened with protection issues up front, Chicago faced going into the half down 14-0 in a thunderously loud Metrodome against a strong pass-rushing team while likely utilizing a one-dimensional pass-only attack.

Luckily the Bears avoided such a scenario with a seven-play scoring drive late in the second quarter.

Set to receive the ball to start the second half, the Bears could potentially tie the game on their opening possession and take control of this game, which is likely what coach Lovie Smith is in the locker room telling his guys at intermission.

Let's take a look at some possible halftime adjustments.

STOP THE BLEEDING




There's no way the Bears should allow a 51-yard gain on the first play of the game. But that's exactly what transpired when Peterson exploded up the home team's sideline on a run off tackle. Peterson gained a Vikings-record 104 yards in the first quarter with two touchdowns on
12 attempts. Yes, an average of 8.7 yards per attempt. So clearly, the Vikings have established the run.

It's up to the Bears now -- already a man down with defensive tackle Stephen Paea inactive because of a foot injury -- to do what's necessary to stop it.

If it takes nine in the box to minimize Peterson's impact on this game, the Bears need to do it and force the Vikings to win off the arm of Christian Ponder, who has shown accuracy issues on throws down the field. If the Bears continue to let Peterson run wild, they won't get enough possessions to rally.

Given the deficit, the Bears appear to have already fallen into somewhat of a passing mode, which isn't ideal given Chicago's struggles in protection, and Minnesota's ability to rush the passer with Jared Allen.

MORE BRANDON MARSHALL




Is that even possible? If it is, the Bears definitely need to try even more to get the balls into the hands of Marshall, who appears at this point to be the team's only legitimate threat on offense. Cutler threw the ball Marshall's way four times in the first quarter with the receiver coming up with only one grab. By the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, Marshall had caught two passes for 51 yards.

So the duo needs to crank up the production. That's the only way the Bears have a chance of getting back into this game.

The return of rookie Alshon Jeffery should alleviate some of the pressure on Marshall, but that can't be accomplished if Cutler doesn't look his way more. With 5:33 left to play in the first half, Cutler had looked Jeffery's way just once.

But when the team mounted a 69-yard drive late in the first half, Cutler threw Jeffery's way twice more, and eventually hit him for a 23-yard TD with 1:52 remaining. If Cutler finds Jeffery more, the Vikings will be forced to devote some coverage to him. Once that happens, things open back up for Marshall.

TAKE RISKS WITH LESS PROTECTION




Cutler finished the first quarter with a passer rating of 7 after completing 4 of 11 for 22 yards, and those numbers didn't improve much in the second quarter with him under pressure most of the time throwing to covered receivers. So even with added protection, the Bears haven't successfully held off the Minnesota pass rush with any consistency. Perhaps the Bears should release more targets into the routes, and ask Cutler to throw it away if he doesn't see anything come open immediately.

Less protection would get extra threats such as running back Matt Forte, who often stays in to block, into passing routes along with the tight ends, which haven't been much of a factor anyway when they are involved in the aerial attack.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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