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Notebook: Vikings Defense Wants to Set Early Tone vs. Bears, Howard

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Back when the Vikings and Bears met on *Monday Night Football *on Halloween, it didn't take long for Chicago to set the tone.

Bears running back Jordan Howard ripped off a 69-yard run on Chicago's third play from scrimmage, leading to a field goal to give the Bears an early lead they wouldn't give up.

The Vikings couldn't wrap up Howard on more than one occasion on the play, which remains the longest play given up by Minnesota this season.

"That was one play that we didn't tackle well enough," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "We kind of let him get a long run … he's had a good year.

"He's a very good, young running back," Smith added. "Stopping the run is always (our) No. 1 (priority)."

The Vikings rank 15th in the league by giving up 101.9 yards per game. They'll face a stern test in Howard, a rookie who has 229 attempts for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns.

Howard has asserted himself as the starter after splitting carries earlier this season.

"He's an outstanding young man," said Bears Head Coach John Fox. "Sometimes guys get in this league, especially as rookies, and they have success and sometimes it can get to them. 

"He's been the same guy … real consistent and has worked hard every day," Fox added.

Howard, a fifth-round pick in April's draft, also has 298 receiving yards, giving him more than 1,400 total yards this season.

"He's good," said linebacker Eric Kendricks, who leads the Vikings with 113 total tackles (according to the coaches' tally). "Physical, big back, he always runs forward. It's a good challenge for me."

Minnesota allowed 158 rushing yards in the 20-10 loss to Chicago, the second-most rushing yards the Vikings have given up this season.

They know they're the ones who need to set the tone early this time around.

"We need to stop the run and get off (the field) on third down," Kendricks said. "That's our goal, and if we do that, we'll be alright."

A heavy heart

The NFL lost a respected figure Tuesday night as longtime special teams coach Bruce DeHaven passed away after a battle with prostate cancer.

DeHaven entered the league in 1987 and spent his first 13 seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He also coached in San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle and Carolina.

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was with the Panthers in 2013 when DeHaven joined the team as an assistant special teams coach.

Munnerlyn posted a photo of DeHaven to his Instagram account Wednesday morning to honor the longtime coach.

"He'd been battling (cancer) for a while, and to see him pass away is definitely sad," Munnerlyn said. "It definitely hurt."

Munnerlyn said it is tough to find someone who didn't respect DeHaven, who passed away at 68.

"He was a great guy on and off the field," Munnerlyn said. "Always smiling, always motivating guys to go out there and play their best.

"He'd come into the locker room and check on you and ask how your family was doing," Munnerlyn added. "He cared about you as a person."

Johnson plans to be ready for spring drills

Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson was placed on Injured Reserve last week after suffering a hamstring injury against Indianapolis.

Although Johnson won't play again this season, he said Wednesday that he will be ready to go for spring drills.

"Definitely," Johnson said. "It's a five or six-week injury."

Johnson had 26 total tackles with six tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks in 14 games. The six-year veteran said it hurts to miss Minnesota's final two games of the season.

"I got my guys out there, and we've been out there pounding all year, for me not to be there to hold up my role in the game and go out there and perform, it's kind of disappointing," Johnson said. "But it's coming along. It's a torn hamstring, so it takes time to heal." 

Injury reports

The first injury report of the final week is in and includes nine Vikings and 11 Bears.

For the Vikings: Alex Boone (low back), Stefon Diggs (hip), Adrian Peterson (knee/groin) and Laquon Treadwell (ankle) did not participate. Charles Johnson (knee), Joe Berger (elbow), Harrison Smith (ankle), Zach Line (concussion) and Brandon Fusco (concussion) were limited.

For the Bears: DB Deon Bush (ankle), LB Leonard Floyd (concussion), LB Pernell McPhee (shoulder), DB Tracy Porter (knee/shoulder) and LB Willie Young (knee) did not participate. TE Daniel Brown (shoulder), DB Bryce Callahan (hamstring/knee), QB David Fales (right thumb), G Eric Kush (concussion), DB Cre'Von LeBlanc (knee) and Bobby Massie (toe) were limited.

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