EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As successful as the Detroit Lions were at throwing screens to Reggie Bush in their 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday -- and as ably as the Chicago Bears can approximate that approach with Matt Forte -- it'd be surprising not to see the Bears try to neutralize the Vikings pass rush with a series of short throws on Sunday.
But whether the Bears can turn that into as volatile a weapon as the Lions did remains to be seen.
Forte caught 29 of his 44 passes last year on throws that were released within 2.5 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which means he saw plenty of designed passes or dump-offs to neutralize a pass rush. He's not the explosive threat Bush is, though, and the Vikings will have had a week to fix what went wrong against the Lions, when Bush posted 101 receiving yards -- with 77 coming on his screen pass that went for a touchdown.
"They had a decent play dialed up, but we had some free bodies that took some poor angles to the football and that’s important," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "We always talk about hustling to the football, but you want to hustle and run smart with good angles. That’s one thing we can improve on is the angles that we take to the football because there are some free hitters on that play."
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford connected on 15 of the 20 passes he threw within 2.5 seconds, posting 210 yards on those throws. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wasn't nearly as dynamic with his early throws last week -- he went 11-for-16 for 68 yards when he got rid of the ball within 2.5 seconds last week -- but if the Vikings can't tackle Forte any more effectively than they did Bush, the Bears could find more success this week.
They certainly won't be the last team to try it, especially if the Vikings have as much trouble tackling as they did last week. The heart of Minnesota's defense is its pass rush, but the Vikings won't have a chance to showcase it if they don't tackle better on short passes.
"[The Bears] do a lot of max protection, a lot of play-action stuff," defensive end Jared Allen said. "I swear it's the same every week. You have to be good on first and second down. If you're good on first and second down, you will have opportunities to get to the quarterback."