EAGAN, Minn. — There are several rules of three in order to achieve success in the world.
When it comes to football, one could argue for a successful season, the rules are:
Start off strong.
Win the home games.
Win the division games.
The Minnesota Vikings have accomplished all three so far and are trying to maintain momentum after a 3-1 start to the season.
The Vikings have won their two home games, both against division opponents.
Minnesota will host Chicago (2-2) at noon (CT) Sunday in its final home division game of 2022.
Both of the Bears losses this season have been on the road.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said his team has appreciated the home-field advantage so far. He is expecting another raucous atmosphere.
"We were able to get another victory last week [against New Orleans], but we've put that behind us and understanding it's about going 1-0 this week as we've done every single time we've gone to U.S. Bank Stadium this year," O'Connell said. "It's been for a divisional game where we relied heavily on our home environment. And it's been unbelievable, 2-for-2 for us, kind of willing us to these victories, and I expect to have a great crowd. They've been phenomenal all year long."
Here's what Sam Thiel, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching for in Sunday's game:
Can the Vikings defense slow down Chicago's run game? | By Sam Thiel
The Chicago Bears are going old school.
In a league filled with elite quarterbacks, the passing game has continued to dominate and dictate the offensive direction of teams for years.
But so far this season, the Bears are committed to the run. So much so that Chicago is running the ball a league-leading 62.1 percent of the time.
The Bears rank third in the NFL in both rushing yards (709) and yards per game (177.3) and fourth in yards per carry at 5.2, helping a team that has completed 34 of 67 passes.
Chicago is led by the duo of Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery. Herbert has been the main contributor, ranking eighth in rushing yards (317), and he is tied for 22nd in attempts (52), and for fourth in touchdowns (three).
Meanwhile, Montgomery is 36th in yards (159) and 38th in attempts (35). Montgomery didn't practice on Wednesday and was a limited participant both Thursday and Friday. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
On the other side, the Vikings rank 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (131.0 per game) and 31st in rushing touchdowns given up per game (1.8).
Minnesota Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell acknowledged Thursday that it's going to be "a tough day" trying to slow down Chicago. He noted the Vikings defense has faced four completely different offensive schemes to start.
"You go to Aaron Rodgers, then you go to Philly, and that's a different operation. Then you go with Detroit — Detroit's just stacking up points. They're [scoring] 30-plus points a game. And they got, what, 24 [points] on us? And we felt terrible, you know what I mean? We felt terrible," Donatell said. "And then you go to last week where we're playing a team that was hurting a little bit, but you knew they were going to put something together and got the quarterback runs going and so forth. They played good team ball and made it a tight game. It's different every week, and this week's another different week."
Nose tackle Harrison Phillips said the Vikings said the run defense was "something we're excited to work on this week, because we have a great test in front of us.
"They run the ball very well," Phillips said. "It's always a fun feeling to get back out there and put our stamp of our standard on the field."
Hunt(er)ing for a sack | By Lindsey Young
The Vikings defense has put the pressure on quarterbacks through the first four games, but with the exception of Week 1 against the Packers, they haven't seemed to finish plays with sacks.
Minnesota has seen a number of quarterbacks extend plays with their legs or elude pressure at the last second, in time to get the pass off.
"One thing, just with our whole rush team, you saw them in the Green Bay game, you know, because we separated," Donatell said. "But we haven't separated. And when you're playing teams that have Wildcat running backs and quarterbacks and those kinds – it's harder to get off and get rushing and get a rhythm. That goes for our whole rush team."
Donatell did acknowledge that Danielle Hunter has been adjusting from playing defensive end in a 4-3 base defense to outside linebacker in a 3-4.
"There are some things that are [similar for] him, so it's not a total [adjustment]. It's really, when we're in our odd spacing against base people, where he's standing up," Donatell explained. "You'll see him maybe go down sometimes. But the biggest thing, he's not packed into that front, inside a tight end and a tackle. He doesn't have to do that. He'd probably be the first guy to say he likes this role better from the edge. But again, it's so early. You're not gonna find a harder worker, a higher character guy, a guy that cares more about the team.
"We're very glad to have him," Donatell said. "Let's make that clear."
Sunday provides Hunter, Za'Darius Smith and the Vikings other pass rushers (including D.J. Wonnum, who has recorded 6.0 of his 13.0 career sacks against Chicago) with a good opportunity to get into a rhythm.
Minnesota will face a Bears squad that ranks dead last in the NFL for sacks per pass attempt (23.9 percent). Quarterback Justin Fields has been sacked 16 times and attempted just 67 passes.
Range finders | By Craig Peters
There's quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes each week, including the Vikings estimating an opposing kicker's range.
Minnesota saw Wil Lutz kick a 60-yard field goal with 1:51 remaining and moved down the field to set up Greg Joseph for a 47-yarder with 24 seconds left.
The Vikings held their breath on Lutz's 61-yard attempt to try to tie the game.
Left upright, crossbar and breathe out.
Another yard closer, and it would have snuck through.
Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels works with Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell and Game Management Coordinator Ryan Cordell to identify the line they try to keep opponents from crossing each week. The line can be different, depending on the situation.
Daniels said there are "gotta have it," end of half or "routine of the game" lines.
"You just have to draw the line," Donatell said. "It depends how serious the situation is. And in that situation, Matt Daniels came to me and said this yard line, and bam, they got right to it. That's where it got a little dicey. We gotta do better on that; we can't let them get that close where that's a possible kick.
"You can't say enough about our team and what Kevin's done to tie these guys together," Donatell said. "To come through in these big moments, that's what it's all about. When you watch all these NFL games, what do we know about 'em? They're all close."
Daniels credited Vikings pro scout Imarjaye Albury for the pre-scout work he did on Lutz. Daniels gets info from the scouting department early in his week of prep but then makes sure to eyeball the opposing kicker during warm-ups.
"I get a good diagnosis the week before we play them on the yardage lines, and then my eyes kind of tell me and confirm that, once we're in the pregame and I'm kind of watching his routine, 'How is he hitting it?' Lutz in pregame was hitting 63 yards, 64 yards," Daniels said. "And quite frankly, he was more accurate from distance than he was from shorter field goals."
As for this week's kicker, Cairo Santos is 4-for-4 on field goals this season with three from 40-plus and a long of 50. His career long is 55, and he's 3-for-6 in his career on kicks from 50 to 59 and 0-for-1 when aiming from 60-plus yards.