As the Chicago Bears get set to take on the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium, on Monday Night Football, it will be the 100th time the two teams have met during the regular season.
The Vikings, at 5-8, are mathematically out of playoff contention, and down to their third-string quarterback Joe Webb, who, presumably, will be starting the first game of his NFL career, on Monday Night Football no less. Webb's career stats, all come in a loss to the New York Giants where he was 2-of-5 passing for eight yards, including one carry for 16 yards. It will be the third time this season the Bears have faced a team's third-string QB.
The Bears, at 9-4, are hoping the Green Bay Packers will fall, on the road, to the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Starting QB Aaron Rodgers has officially been ruled out with a concussion, meaning backup QB Matt Flynn will get the start. The Patriots are 20-2 at home in December, and 6-0 in Foxborough this season. If the Patriots do defeat the Packers, as expected, the Bears will have control of their own destiny heading into Monday night. A win over the Vikings would crown the Bears NFC North Division Champions.
The overriding "key" to this game is, simply, don't screw it up. Play smart and conservative offense, and fundamental, hard-hitting, defense. Besides that, here are the Bears' five Keys to Victory on Monday night, counting down from five:
5. Limit offensive mistakes, and win the turnover battle.
The Bears can't give the Vikings a reason to play. What will do that? Momentum. If Jay Cutler makes poor decisions with the football, he just might give the Vikings a reason to show up. This is not a game that Jay Cutler has to win for the Bears; it's a game he can't lose for them.
4. Calm down, and don't commit penalties.
You never want to underestimate your opponent. But, in the same token, the Bears have to walk into TCF level-headed. Despite the Vikings' issues this season, they still have a very talented front seven. Frank Omiyale has to make certain he focuses on his fundamentals, and doesn't completely wet himself going up against Jared Allen. In their first meeting against the Vikings this season, the Bears gave up 11 penalties for 116 yards.
Two games in a row now, we've seen the Bears defense struggle to tackle. Whether it's a blown assignment, poor coverage, poor technique, or trying to force the fumble, the Bears need to cut out the nonsense and make the tackle. I'm looking at you, Tillman, Wright and Harris...
2. Stop Adrian Peterson.
Adrian Peterson will be the Vikings main offensive weapon against the Bears. While they did a nice job of containing him in their first meeting this season, the Bears have been trending downward with regard to stopping the run. In their last three games, the Bears have allowed a combined 363 rushing yards, or 121 yards per game. Prior to that, the Bears were only allowing 78 yards per game on the ground. That's a slippery slope to be on when your looking to face an Adrian Peterson who will get a lot of carries.
1. Run the football, and open up the play action pass.
The Vikings have been hot and cold when it comes to stopping the run. Last week against the Giants, they gave up a season-high 213 rushing yards. But, the Vikings will likely struggle to score frequently, and the Bears shouldn't have to play much catch-up. If they can run the ball early, and have some success, they can open up the play action pass and catch the Vikings off-guard.
Odds and Ends
The Vikings will wear their throwback uniforms against the Bears on Monday night, as they celebrate their franchise's 50th anniversary.
The game at TCF Bank Stadium will be the first outdoor NFL game in Minnesota in 29 years.
It's been five years since the Vikings won a December or January game in a northern climate.