Final Thoughts: Vikings vs. Bears

Posted Dec 1, 2013

In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It’s hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I’m sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs.  Bears preview content we provided on this week.

As we sit here just hours before today’s game, I thought I’d try to cover a few more bases and provide a few final thoughts on the Vikings game against the Bears today.

Peterson good to go, but Gerhart will still get work
Running back Adrian Peterson has been listed on the injury report in recent weeks with a groin. It’s probably no coincidence that Toby Gerhart, then, has had 15 carries over the past two games. Frazier was asked this week about Peterson’s status and Gerhart’s inclusion, and he indicated Gerhart may indeed continue to get looks given Peterson’s health.

The Peterson-Gerhart one-two punch has been good for the Vikings the past two weeks, particularly in Green Bay last week when the Vikings rushed for over 200 yards. I will submit, though, that it’s a good combo so long as Peterson continues to get 20 carries. Having Gerhart come in to pound a defense late in the game only works if that defense is tired, and the best way to tire an opposing defense is to make them tackle the MVP for most of the game.

Peterson closing in on 10K
Speaking of Peterson, keep in mind that he’s closing in on a career milestone. Entering today’s game against the Bears, Peterson is 154 yards shy of 10,000 career rushing yards. Getting to 150 is nothing new to Peterson, but it seems especially probable today given how well the Vikings ran the ball last week in Green Bay and given the fact that Chicago ranks last in the NFL against the run.

For his career, Peterson averages 107.3 rushing yards per game.

An idea to contain Matt Forte – or Martellus Bennett
In the Vikings-Bears Week 2 matchup, Bears running back Matt Forte was a problem for the Vikings defense. He had 20 carries for 88 yards and 10 receptions for 73 yards. You can be sure that “containing Forte” was a talking point for the Vikings in their meetings and in practice this week.

Perhaps one way for the Vikings to accomplish this tall task is to remain aggressive on defense. Last week against Green Bay, the Vikings brought pressure with linebackers frequently. A similar strategy this week against the Bears could force them to keep Forte in the backfield on passing downs to protect the quarterback. And, even if it doesn’t cause Chicago to keep Forte in the blocking scheme, it could cause them to keep tight end Martellus Bennett in instead, and that would be nearly as helpful considering Bennett was a killer in Week 2, as well – he had seven receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Will Bears kick away from Patterson?
Cordarrelle Patterson is the best kick returner in the NFL right now and he housed one from 105 yards earlier this season against the Bears. Given those facts, don’t be surprised if Chicago elects to kick away from Patterson today, similarly to how the Washington Redskins kept the ball out of Patterson’s hands several weeks ago. To do that, the Redskins used a series of squib and pooch kicks. The Vikings were ready, though, as they changed their personnel to put more athletic players on the field in the blocking formation. The result was good for the Vikings. They fielded each short kick cleanly, maintained possession and moved the ball forward. The result wasn’t ideal for Patterson, but it was good for the Vikings offense.

It will be interesting to see today if the Vikings change their personnel once again in anticipation of Chicago kicking away from Patterson. Against Washington, both Gerhart and Joe Webb were used as upmen in the return game.

Xavier Rhodes, Joe Webb likely to play
Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters on Friday afternoon and had mostly good news to report on the injury front. The only players on the injury report who will not play – cornerback Josh Robinson and tight end Kyle Rudolph – are two who were not expected to play. Everyone else on the report – nine players in total – is listed as probable, including Xavier Rhodes and Joe Webb. Both Rhodes and Webb were evaluated this week after suffering concussions in last week’s game at Green Bay.

The inclusion of Rhodes and Webb is good for the defense and offense, respectively, but it’s also good news for the Vikings special teams. Both players are regular contributors on special teams and with both players on the field it will prevent the Vikings from going deeper on their depth chart to replace starters.