EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are headed to Soldier Field for Monday Night Football this week.
A win at Chicago would mark Minnesota's third straight victory, all against NFC North rivals, and improve the Vikings to 4-5 on the season.
The Vikings under Head Coach Mike Zimmer are 6-6 against the Bears, with just two of those wins coming on the road. Minnesota seemingly has had a tough time in outings at Soldier Field, but this trip will feature a fan-less stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zimmer knows the team will have its hands full, though, regardless of whether or not the stands are empty.
"I wasn't here for all of the struggles, I guess," he said, "[but] I think the biggest struggle is they're really good. Their guys are really good. They've got good players and they're coached well. That will be the biggest struggle for us, playing against a really good football team."
Zimmer opened his session with Twin Cities media members by detailing the problems the Bears present.
"[They're a] well-coached, really good football team, outstanding defense. Give you a lot of problems offensively with the things that they do and their personnel," Zimmer said. "Allen Robinson is a terrific player, [Nick] Foles is playing really well and the two tight ends — [Cole] Kmet and [Jimmy] Graham — give you issues.
"The backs (led by David Montgomery with carries by Cordarrelle Patterson) are hard runners, and Cordarrelle is a great special teams player," he added. "We're going to have to play really well on Monday night to win."
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his media session:
1. Confidence in the offense
While Zimmer acknowledges the challenge that Chicago presents, he also feels good heading into the prime-time matchup with the way Minnesota's offense has been playing.
Over the past two games, the Vikings have racked up 811 yards from scrimmage, with 448 of those occurring on the ground. Against the Lions last week, Kirk Cousins recorded a passer rating of 141.7, his best with the Vikings.
"I have a lot of confidence in our offense. I think Kirk has been playing really well the past couple weeks," Zimmer said. "We've got skilled receivers, tight ends, and then our offensive line, I think, is getting better and better.
"I just know our offense feels very confident about what their capabilities are," he added. "It'll be a good test for them this week, though, with the Bears, because they're really good."
2. Irv keeps defenses guessing
The Vikings have an offensive weapon in tight end Irv Smith, Jr., who caught two touchdown passes against the Lions on Sunday.
So far this season, Smith has 13 catches for 159 yards, averaging 12.2 yards per catch compared to the 8.6 he averaged as a rookie in 2019.
Zimmer was asked about the versatility Smith brings to the table as both an asset in the blocking game and a downfield target.
"[Defenses] have to figure out, 'Are you going to play nickel when he comes in the game? Are you going to play base?' [We think about] 'What kind of matchups can you get? Can you go out there against the corner and win?' All of those things add to the versatility of your offense, I guess would be the best way to say it," Zimmer explained.
3. A dangerous Chicago front
There's no denying the stout nature of Chicago's front seven, which has caused Minnesota trouble in recent meetings.
The Bears run a 3-4 defense anchored up front by Akiem Hicks and Mario Edwards, Jr., and their linebacker corps is no laughing matter.
In addition to Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn on the outsides, Chicago also has inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, which can spell trouble for opposing running backs.
"They both can run; they're both very instinctive," Zimmer said of Smith and Trevathan. "Smith is probably having his best year. He's a physical, sideline-to-sideline guy. Trevathan is very instinctive, and then you add [safety] Eddie Jackson behind him. They've got really good players at all three levels.
"There are probably, I would say, five Pro Bowlers on that defense, I'm guessing," Zimmer added.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
4. Status of Dantzler and Hill
Vikings rookie corner Cameron Dantzler left the game at Green Bay with a scary-looking injury and ended up being sidelined for the Detroit contest with a concussion.
Is there a possibility of Dantzler being available for Monday night?
"I don't know. We'll see this week," Zimmer said.
He also was asked about cornerback Holton Hill, who was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Zimmer provided a similar status report.
"I don't know," he said. "It's been going on a lot longer than we anticipated, so we'll just kind of have to see."