Vikings vs. Bears: 5 Storylines To Watch

Posted Nov 26, 2013

The Vikings and Chicago Bears will prepare this week to renew their twice-annual rivalry on Sunday in what will be the 106th meeting between the clubs in series history and the final matchup in Mall of America Field.

Chicago enters the game coming off a loss in St. Louis and with a 6-5 record, while the Vikings come in off a 26-26 tie at Green Bay a week ago. The Vikings last home game was nearly a month ago when they out-scored the Washington Redskins 34-27 on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.

Let’s take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Bears prepare to battle…


Backup Josh McCown will start for Bears
For a second consecutive week, the Vikings will face a backup quarterback in a game against a division rival. This week, though, the caliber of performance expected from the opposition’s backup should be much different. Scott Tolzien was making just his second career start last week against the Vikings and he was eventually pulled from the game in favor of third-string (and likely new backup) Matt Flynn. Bears backup Josh McCown has been playing much better in place of the man above him on the depth chart – Jay Cutler. In fact, you can argue McCown has actually out-played Cutler this season. He has a superior passer rating (100.8 to 88.4) and he’s taken care of the ball with just one interception and seven touchdowns in five games played and on 148 passing attempts.


Vikings punishing rushing game faces League’s worst run defense
The Bears have been hit hard by injuries on defense, with both starting defensive tackles, linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman all unavailable for this game. As a result of those injuries and spotty play by other starters and reserves, the Bears rank last in the NFL against the run. They are allowing 145.2 rushing yards per game, 4.9 yards per carry and they’ve surrendered 14 rushing touchdowns. The news doesn’t get any better for Chicago this week because they are going against a Vikings team that rushed for 232 yards last week in Green Bay. Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, had 146 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and a suddenly red-hot Toby Gerhart, who has 158 rushing yards on 15 carries the past two weeks, had 91 yards on eight carries. On top of that, the Vikings offensive line seems to have found a rhythm the past two weeks and Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton is playing at a high level, too.

Youth movement on Vikings defense?
The Vikings received key contributions from several young defenders on defense last week in Green Bay. Audie Cole made his first career regular season start at linebacker, filling in for an unavailable Erin Henderson, and recorded 18 tackles and 1.0 sack on the afternoon. He also delivered a crushing hit to Flynn in overtime that helped force a punt. Xavier Rhodes had his best game as a pro, playing well in man coverage and recording four pass breakups (PBUs). And Robert Blanton also played well in extended action, lining up over slot receiver Jordy Nelson frequently in the second half and playing well while doing so.

Will the Vikings continue to get this type of contribution from young players?


Can the Vikings contain Brandon Marshall?
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall likes playing the Vikings. In five career games against the Purple, Marshall’s teams are 4-1 and in those games he’s averaging 8.6 catches and 110.0 yards per game. He also has three touchdowns and three 100-yard receiving games against the Vikings, which includes a seven-catch, 113-yard and one-touchdown day against the Vikings in Week 2. The Vikings must devise their defensive game plan with one of two strategies in mind: 1) find a way to contain Marshall, or 2) let Marshall get his but do enough to hold down the Bears other explosive weapons.

Major matchup: Vikings DE Jared Allen vs. Bears LT Jermon Bushrod
The Bears have had offensive line issues in recent seasons, but they took a huge step in addressing those issues this past offseason via the free agency and the draft. The signature move was signing two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod to protect the quarterback’s blindside, and the genesis of the idea to sign Bushrod away from the New Orleans Saints may have been the fact Chicago has seen Jared Allen twice a season since 2008. In 11 career games against the Bears, Allen has 14.0 sacks, seven tackles for loss, three forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Needless to say, the Allen-Bushrod matchup is a monumental one in this game and it’s one any football fan should look forward to seeing.