Bears-Vikings preview: Bears ball
December 7, 2012, 3:59 pm
In the “Rollerdome” get ahead and stay there
Perhaps more so in this game than any other this season, if the Bears fall behind against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, more than just their quarterback could be in true jeopardy.
The reasons are compounded.
First, the overall: The Bears in general are not a team with the passing offense to play well from behind. They are 14-45 under coach Lovie Smith when trailing at halftime and a dismal 1-9 over the past two seasons, and just 2-10 when trailing after three quarters.
Jay Cutler has not played well from behind over his career. His 134.9 fourth-quarter passer rating is the NFL’s best, but has involved just three from-behind games all year (Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle) and he has fewer career fourth-quarter comeback wins than Eli Manning had last season alone.
Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for a 56-yard completion to set up a tying field goal at the end of regulation. But in two previous possessions, with chances to put the game away, the offense had first-and-10’s at the Seattle 48 and 44 and failed to get even a field goal try.
The issue this Sunday, however, is that the Bears are not against the Panthers or Seahawks in Soldier Field. They are in the Metrodome where they allowed seven sacks, 3.5 by defensive end Jared Allen, in a Week 17 win last year.
“Minnesota, a dome, it’s going to be loud,” Cutler said. “Jared Allen’s a little bit of a different player in that dome compared to Soldier Field. A lot to deal with, a good team, very similar to our defense. It’s going to be a challenge.”
It will be a particular challenge for the offensive line, which is playing its first road game with three starters changed from the last time the Bears saw the Vikings.
Left tackle J’Marcus Webb is still the spotlighted figure because of his assignment to neutralize Allen. That was accomplished in the first Minnesota game by scheme as well as personnel.
“We’re going to try to mix it up,” offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. “Different [Minnesota] defense at home on that field turf with that crowd noise, and we just have to make sure that we’re smart about the calls and how we’re helping J’Marcus out.”
Tice’s plan, as it was in the Bears’ 28-10 win two weeks ago, is to run at defensive ends Allen and Brian Robison as a means of slowing the pass rush. The Bears are 30th in sacks allowed per pass play but 10th in rush yards per game. The Vikings are 16th in sack percentage and Allen and Robison have a combined 14 on the season.
Minnesota had just one sack in the first game when the Bears averaged a very modest 2.9 yards per carry but ran 39 times vs. 32 pass plays.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently like we did last time; keep ourselves in manageable third downs,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “I think that’s the key to the game.”
Indeed, with Gabe Carimi and Edwin Williams at guard and Jonathan Scott at right tackle, the Bears have three players still learning each other. Carimi is a converted right tackle, Scott is the right tackle, and they work well together on combination blocks, a key in the run game.
A Marshall Plan?
Marshall caught tied his season high with 12 catches against the Vikings, for 92 yards. Notably perhaps, his average of 7.7 yards per reception was more than three yards less than his previous low. The Vikings were not going to let Marshall beat them deep and he had no catch longer than 17 yards. Only against Green Bay (14) and San Francisco (13) was he held to that short a “long.” Both of those games were Bears losses.
The Minnesota plan was not necessarily to let him make catches but to hit him very hard when he did.
“The thing that stood out the most to me when we played them two weeks ago was, as soon as you catch the ball, they are right on you,” Marshall said. “Those guys are rallying to the ball, they play together and they’ll hit you. You have to be tough out there, especially against that secondary because they’re an aggressive group and there’s not a lot of separation out there.
“It’s going to be another grinder I think.”
Tags: Jay Cutler
, brandon marshall
, Minnesota Vikings
, Matt Forte
, Chicago Bears
, Jared Allen