The Bears and Vikings will meet for the 104th time Sunday at Soldier Field. The Bears have dominated the series recently. Before losing 21-14 at Minnesota last November, the Bears had won six straight against the Vikings. With Christian Ponder under center, the Vikings have been largely a one dimensional offense. The Vikings are 20th in passing and 12th in rushing after last week's opener. At a wet Soldier Field today, the running game will be emphasized greater. Here is a look at the five keys for Sunday's game.
Make Ponder Beat You.
Ponder finished 18-26 for 236 yards against Detroit in week one. His threw three interceptions though. Turnovers margin often is the difference between winning and losing and the Vikings were minus two in their loss to Detroit. Stacking the line against Adrian Peterson and not allowing him to hit the big play will be important for the Bears. Peterson went 78 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the season. He then had 15 yards on 17 carries the remainder of the game. The Bears allowed only 63 yards on the ground against Bengals. That ranks sixth after one week.
Jermon Bushrod vs. Jarod Allen
In four career games against Jarod Allen, Bushrod has allowed a sack against Allen. Allen had a sack last week against Detroit, but the Bears did not allow any against Cincinnati. In his nine seasons in the NFL, Allen has led the league in sacks twice and finished in the top ten eight times. Bushrod has one to the pro bowl the last two seasons protecting Drew Brees.
Have Balance on Offense
This could prove difficult in the rain. The Bears offense struggled early last week. They got it going in the second half. They came back from a 21-10 deficit to win 24-21. Their biggest drive of the game was their final one. The Bears went 42 yards in 11 plays in the final 6:36 to ice the game. Included was a 15 yards unnecessary roughness against Ray Maualuga to give the Bears their final first down to ice the game.
Jay Cutler went 21-33 for 242 yards two touchdowns and an interception. The Bears could only manage 81 yards on the ground. Matt Forte had 19 carries for 50 yards against Cincinnati. Fourteen of the rushing yards came on the last drive. Bush had all but one carry. Establishing the run early against Minnesota should help Cutler. The Lions average 4.8 yards per carry last week, good for sixth in the NFL.
Get a More Consistent Pass Rush
The Bears only managed one sack last week against Cincinnati. Shea McClellin benefitted from Stephen Paea collapsing the pocket. Minnesota's O-line allowed three against Detroit last week. Rushing Ponder and getting him to make mistakes will go a long way towards victory.
Getting off to a Good Start
Getting an early lead will force Minnesota to rely more on Ponder than they want to. Peterson is not a great receiver and it could take him out of the game. It will also allow the Bears to focus more on rushing the passer.
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