Press Release from the Chicago Bears. Two Chicago Bears Wide Receivers at the pro bowl? Think Satan may well be skating to work tomorrow :) BEARS WR ALSHON JEFFERY NAMED...
Chicago Bears Game Preview: 2013 Regular Season Week 13 – at Minnesota Vikings – Sunday 1st December @ 12:00 CT / 18:00 GMT
If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to be sat in the passenger seat while the vehicle you are travelling in is careering out of control, you’ll get where I’m about to come from. If you haven’t, well, just bear with me and take my word for it. But that sensation of time dropping out of kilter and slowing as the cracks gradually work their way across the windshield, the sensation of helplessness as the car starts to buckle around you, well that’s the way it currently feels watching what remains of our defense get carved open week after week.
And none more so than in a 42-21 shocker at the hands of a team that finished the 2011 season with the joint worst record in the league, and last finished a season with a winning record way back in 2003, the St. Louis Rams. But then it’s also proof that if actually make enough of your high draft picks count, you should eventually be able to reap the benefits. Hope you are taking note, recent addition to the Twitterverse, Mr Angelo. And it wouldn’t hurt for Mr Emery to watch the example of Rams’ dangerous and young front seven, if we are going to learn the lessons of the past and rebuild for the future, whatever the rest of this season brings.
So while Bears GM Phil Emery’s reconstructed offense has done more than their fair share in helping the Bears to their six wins and second place in the NFC North, it’s the new blood and also depth deficient defense that has had a lot of the say in the loss count rising to five. But, draft positions aside, with Bears eyes still desperately twitching towards the ultimate prize before retirements and free agent departures take hold, that 6-5 record is still a much healthier place to be than the 2-8-1 record of the Minnesota Vikings, who after a rare tie with the Green Bay Packers are way back in last place in the division and entertain the Bears on Sunday.
So who is going to benefit from the win either in the short or the long terms? We’re going to try and figure it out as we head into the latest installment of the 2013 season of the Beardown Chicago Bears Game Previews.
Chicago Bears vs Minnesota Vikings Regular Season History
Thanks to their Week 2 win at Soldier Field in the opening game of the series, the Bears have reduced the Vikings’ overall lead in this series to 53-50-2.
This divisional rivalry dates back to 1961 and has been a streaky one for large stretches. The league founding Chicago Bears recovered from a 37-13 rude awakening in their first ever game at the upstart Minnesota Vikings, taking the rematch in Chicago by 52-35. Once they had found their winning ways against the Vikings, the Bears rolled to an 11-5 start in the series throughout the remainder of the swinging sixties. From there it wasn’t just the flared trousers and the bad haircuts that got ugly for Chicago in the 70′s, with the four time Superbowl bound Vikings taking 15 wins out of the next 20 match ups.
The Bears managed to get back to winning ways over the Vikings in the 80′s, but not as much so as you would have expected from a Chicago team that should have been a dynasty, with the Bears winning 10 of 19 during the decade. And then came the incredibly mixed bag for the Bears that was the Wannstedt heavy 90′s, with the Vikings taking 13 wins from 21 games.
In the first decade of the new millenium the series was split at ten a piece, but as we are already well into the second decade it’s the current stats that should have the most sway over this hard fought rivalry. The good news in this is that the Bears have now won seven of the last eight games with the Vikings including the nail-biter in Week 2. Also relevant is that the win in Chicago also extended the streak of home dominance between the two teams, with home field advantage contributing to only four home games being lost to the visitors over the last 23 games.
While the Vikings only win at the Bears during that time came in 2007, the Bears have taken three road wins in recent years, with those W’s coming in 2006, 2010 and 2011.
As for the most recent time these two teams met in Minnesota, last December, the home field advantage again kicked in as the Vikings held out for a 21-14 victory after surging out to an early 14-0 lead off the back of a franchise record 104 yards rushing in the first quarter alone for running back Adrian Peterson. The Bears defense thankfully improved to keep the game close but as a team they were ultimately undone by costly Jay Cutler interceptions, an injury to the Bears QB and by dropped passes. That’s enough of that one, as in a pretty shitty week for Bears fans and for Chicago sports in general lets try to look on the bright side, namely the close fought victory over the Vikings in Week 2.
Last Time Out
For the second straight week the Bears earned victory with a (very) late comeback, with tight end Martellus Bennett hauling in a 16 yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler in the corner of the endzone with just ten seconds left on the clock, with the game winning drive improbably coming after the two previous drives ended with turnovers.
While the Bears managed to start the season 3-0 under their debuting head coach, Marc Trestman, it wasn’t as if they started the season with error free football. Those two late turnovers were part of four overall, including a pick on first and goal at the one yard line and a Cutler sack and fumble that was returned 61 yards for a touchdown. But early in the season Bears didn’t have to overcome the penalties that are currently plaguing what remains of the team, with 23 committed in the last two weeks alone.
The game itself started explosively, with the Vikings first round receiver and kick returner Cordarelle Patterson bringing the opening kick off back 105 yards for the first points of the game. Bears veteran kick returner Devin Hester didn’t want to go down to the rookie without a fight, returning the subsequent kick off 76 yards and putting his offense in a position to tie the game. The rest of the kick off returns proved to be just as memorable for Hester, with the former Pro Bowler recording a franchise single game record 249 yards, beating his own marker of the 225 he notched against the St. Louis Rams in 2006.
After a one yard touchdown pass from QB Jay Cutler to TE Martellus Bennett, some tough defense, a 38 yard reverse by WR Alshon Jeffery, and a 34 yard scoring pass to WR Brandon Marshall later and the Bears were ahead 14-7. It took Cutler six quarters into the season before he was sacked for the first time, but when Vikings DE Jared Allen laid his hands on the Bears QB the ball was popped loose and returned 61 yards for a score by fellow Vikes end Brian Robison. After an 80 yard kick return by Hester quickly put the Bears back in a position to retake the lead, that’s when the costly mistakes continued to manifest themselves for both teams, this time a tipped Cutler pass at the goal line resulting in a interception in the endzone.
But luckily for Trestman’s Bears, their defense wasn’t in the mood to be outdone, with Tim Jennings contributing a Christian Ponder pick six on the next drive. And since the Bears first four possessions of the second half ended with two punts, a pick and a fumble, it was a good job that the defense was still in the mood, making three stands against the Vikings in the redzone, forcing them to settle for field goals each time, and putting Cutler in a position to make his late heroics.
While Cutler still isn’t healthy enough to try for the sweep over the Vikings, we’ve got to hope that those Bears players that are able to take the field on defense are ready to regain some pride against an unstoppable force in RB Adrian Peterson, a player that has already reached the 100 yard mark (26-100) once this season against the Bears.
Bears who were Vikings
We’re saving the big one for later, so moving on this short list ends with Bears cornerback Zach Bowman, who found his way to Minnesota in the 2012 offseason before coming back into the fold at Halas Hall after being waived by the Vikings to make room for A.J. Jefferson.
After working his way off the practice squad in his 2008 rookie season after injuries to three Bears corners, Bowman elevated his play to a level where he started over Nathan Vasher from Week 2 of 2009, ascending further when former coach Lovie Smith annointed him as the starting left corner for 2010, the primary cover guy, over Charles Tillman.
In the last preview between these teams, we ended with the statement that Bowman’s last foray into being a starting corner for the Bears wasn’t to last for long, as mistakes started the road to where he was back in week 3, a player fighting for playing time as a backup. Well thanks to the hideous luck the Bears defense have had with injuries, including losing corners Charles Tillman and Kelvin Hayden for the season, Bowman now has an extended shot at making a better impression than he did first time around as a starter. Whether that impression will result in an extended stay in Chicago, or if it will act as a large chunk of his resume in free agency, remains to be seen.
Vikings who were Bears
There are two key former Bears on the Vikings coaching staff who were key parts of the great teams of the 80′s, head coach Leslie Frazier and his assistant and linebackers coach, Mike Singletary. So much could be written but unfortunately there is an even bigger and more topical talking point.
So to sum up former Bears, and new Vikings, offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb in 140 characters or less, first round size but undrafted effort.
Or, to put it another way now that Webb is no longer a reason for Jay Cutler getting smeared all over the turf, tie your own frickin laces.
So how did the Vikings premier pass rusher, Jared Allen, fare against the Bears offensive line now that Webb is no longer on it? Well after a few career games at the expense of Cutler’s health, the Pro Bowl defensive end was held to a single sack by Bears tackles Jermon Bushrod and rookie Jordan Mills. Here’s hoping for more of the same on Sunday.
Almost understandably for long standing division rivals, there are a ton of connections between the two rosters and coaching staffs, but for this one we will touch on just a few of the playing connections to look out for during the course of the game.
First off, franchise tagged Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton attended Texas with Vikings DE Brian Robison, while rookie 2nd round pick and MLB of the future Jon Bostic was on the same Florida Gators defense as the future of the Minnesota interior, 1st round rookie DT Sharrif Floyd. Still on the Bears linebacking crew, Bostic’s fellow rookie, Khaseem Greene, was on the Rutgers D with Vikings DE George Johnson, while Bears 2012 first round DE Shea McClellin was a Boise State defensive teammate of Vikings defensive tackle Chase Baker for four seasons from 2008-2011.
Bears/Vikings Plotlines & Keys to the Game
For the last few weeks we’ve opened with the injury report, but regardless of who is able to take the field on defense for the Bears, and after they were torched by a rookie fifth rounder (Zac Stacy) and an undrafted rookie (Benny Cunningham) for 196 yards, and a further 65 yards on a single rush by WR Tavon Austin in the rout at the Rams, this one will all come down to how much damage former league MVP Adrian Peterson will be allowed to do.
Maybe that’s unfair to Mel Tucker’s Bears defense to assume that they are about to get steamrollered by the former MVP, but what the hell, as the stats don’t make for comfortable reading. The Bears run defense has coughed up a furball in recent weeks, and for the season overall. There are a whole host of hideous stats to back up the theory, including that the Bears rank last overall in rushing defense after dropping behind Tuckers former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars (whose defense are now coached by Lovie Smith’s former #2 and linebackers coach, Bob Babich), but don’t take our word for it. Listen to the talking heads at the Tribune let rip….
Last week we looked at the prospects of the Bears offensive line against the hot, young Rams defensive line. This week we are going to turn the tables slightly, and look at the colder, older quarter of the Bears defensive line as he has another, and possibly his last in navy and orange, crack at the Vikings franchise left tackle, Matt Kalil. Heading into week 2 we wondered if Bears DE Julius Peppers could have improved production against a 2012 fourth overall pick that had schooled the veteran in holding him to just one tackle and no sacks when they played each other in a 28-10 Bears victory at Soldier Field. Well in the matchup earlier in the season, Peppers was held to just one tackle. No tackles for loss, no QB hits and certainly no sacks. So that’s a clean sweep to the young Minnesota left tackle.
In fact the only QB hit in the game for the Bears came from DE Corey Wootton, with fellow end Shea McClellin recording just one assist on the stat sheet. While Wootton is one of the few Bears defensive linemen still drawing positive reviews and ratings, also acknowledging his work inside covering the void left by injuries to Melton, Collins and Paea, McClellin has quickly moved from zero, to hero, and back to zero again.
After struggling to make any impact in the sack or QB hit column for most of the season, he memorably chose the 27-20 victory in Green Bay to light up the stat sheet, recording five tackles, two tackles for loss, three QB hits and three sacks as well as an incapacitating shoulder injury to the previously bullet proof Packers franchise QB, Aaron Rodgers. After a crushing hamstring injury to bring the hot streak to a premature end, the 2012 first round pick returned to a key role in the debacle in St. Louis, with several experts pointing out that the Rams spent the game keying on him in the running game, forcing the second year player out of position on misdirection plays, and losing gap contain, and generally bulldozing him out of the way in the more direct running plays.
If the Bears are to stand a chance in this one then at least two of those three are are going to have to crack the Kalil code in order to get their hands on Ponder or Peterson before too much damage is done. McClellin has already pulled it off once this season in the frozen north, how about second time lucky?
But, staying with the Bears front seven and also dipping into the injury report, if Peppers, Wootton and McClellin are going to have more success in this one, then they are going to need more help than they’ve been getting from the men in the middle at tackle, and they are going to need to play with confidence in the linebackers behind them, a belief and comfort that they are going to be able to pick up the pieces if a pass rush move doesn’t come off.
Well help might be at hand. Looking at the most recent injury reports for the Bears, defensive tackles Stephen Paea (turf toe) and Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) have both been participating in practice. And not just any participation, today’s (Friday’s) report has them listed as FULL participation. So the prospect of replacing or at least reducing the reps of undrafted free agent tackles Landon Cohen (NT) and Christian Tupou (DT) with third year nose Paea and former four time Pro Bowler Ratliff could not only spark the ends into life, it could breathe new life into the struggles of what remains of the linebacking corps, rookies Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene, plus the one remaining veteran with a starting pedigree, James Anderson. Like McClellin, the three of them often bit hard on the misdirection of the Rams, and also frequently found themselves in a poor position to make the play, or blocked out of it, when the runners broke through the defensive line.
Finally on the health of the defense, there is an extra cloud to what passes as a silver lining. And this week it’s in the form of strong safety Major Wright hurting his hamstring in practice and being declared as questionable. But for the last several weeks some people have been wondering what either of the Bears struggling starting safeties had to do to get benched in favor of either Craig Steltz or Anthony Walters. Well this week they could be about to find out that they were right all along, or maybe the grass isn’t greener after all and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and secondary coach Jon Hoke were onto something by keeping both Conte and Wright in, despite their struggles.
Last week we discussed Matt Forte’s quest for just 66 more rushing yards to overtake Neal Anderson (6,166) for second most in franchise history, plus wondering if Josh McCown could stay turnover free in the hope that the Bears could stay in the playoff hunt.
Well 77 rushing yards on a respectable 4.8 yards per carry later and Forte has now deservedly moved into second place for rushing behind the great Walter Payton, and after two late turnovers after the game was already lost (forced fumble and a pick), McCown’s impressive streak without coughing the ball up is over, albeit after setting the franchise record for completions in a single game (36 from 47 attempts for 352 yards and 2 TDs)
It’s a fresh start for the starters in the Bears backfield, with new streaks or milestones to chase. But someone else that could do with a fresh start, or at least a do-over, is head coach Marc Trestman as he returns to his former home of Minneapolis, and the place that he got his first breaks as a player and a coach in the NFL. After starting out his Bears coaching life as a media darling after a 3-0 start including masterminding two late comebacks, plus some ballsy calls on fourth downs, the media driven second guessing that plagued his predecessor Lovie Smith has crept in after some similar clutch calls or attempts at game management didn’t come off with anywhere near as much success.
Not helping the first year head coach is his unwavering public support of his beleaguered defensive coordinator and his charges, hardly ever going to be popular in a town or fanbase addicted to tough and efficient defense, but what must not be lost in all this is, despite some struggles in the redzone and particularly close to the redzone (just watch the tape of backup RB Michael Bush’s attempts to punch it in from the one against the Rams, plus the three scores that were wiped out by penalties), Trestman knows how to move the defense and the ball around, create favorable match ups in coverage, and rack up the yardage even with a franchise passer out and a journeyman in his place.
It’s too early to be throwing the coach to the wolves, especially as his team still has a winning record despite the myriad of injuries and bad luck, and since his defense is still very much a rebuilding process in progress. And if he’s going to rediscover his magic touch and get the media back onside, where better to do it than in the place he called home. Now that would make for a great story line.
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