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Presser Points: Vikings Working on Plan to Offset Mack & Hicks

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings preparations for facing the Bears defense is similar to most teams.

Minnesota must develop and implement a plan for minimizing the damage wrought by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Mack is able to crash from the edge and has a penchant for causing fumbles (three forced already this season). Hicks, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 352 pounds, maximizes his tremendous strength with his technique, allowing him to drive interior linemen.

"He's obviously a great player. He plays with violence, he plays with explosion," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's got long arms and is able to get to the spot on the quarterback where he can cause [strip sacks]. He's a violent player, so those things are all really good attributes if you're a pass rusher."

Mack has played against Minnesota three times. The first was when he was in his second year with the Raiders in 2015. The edge rusher recorded a sack, but the Vikings prevailed in Oakland.

Mack joined Chicago right before the 2018 season via a trade and helped the Bears defense reach another level.

The fifth-overall pick of 2014 ended Minnesota's second possession of the game by forcing a fumble by Dalvin Cook and recovering it at the Chicago 15 to deny the Vikings an opportunity to take the lead or tie the game at three in the first quarter.

He also stole momentum on a drive in the third quarter, sacking Kirk Cousins a play after Minnesota had converted a fourth-and-1 to force a field goal.

Hicks has played seven games against the Vikings, including six since arriving in Chicago in 2016. He made his presence known on the third snap of last year's contest at Soldier Field, stuffing a run for a loss of 1 on a third-and-1 to force a quick punt.

"He's a power player, gets under your pads and drives," Zimmer said. "He's got great lower-body strength and is able to do that. For him, he's a terrific push-the-pocket guy that can get off the block at the top of the rush and then get to the quarterback."

Former Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio was hired to be Denver's head coach this offseason, and Chicago Head Coach Matt Nagy brought in Chuck Pagano, who has experience as a coordinator and head coach.

Zimmer said the Bears are "a little more aggressive this year than they have been in the past" and are implementing "a few more pressures on early downs."

"It's really the same every week; you've got to get the point of attack blocked, and then you've got to hope that you create some seams to cut the ball back," Zimmer said. "But if you don't do a good job at the point of attack, then you're struggling the rest of the play."

Here are four other topics that Zimmer discussed Wednesday:

1. The trouble with Chicago

Aside from the combination of Mack, Hicks, other skilled defenders and Pagano's system, Soldier Field has been quite a tough place for the Vikings to win, even in seasons when Minnesota has been favored like in 2009.

The Vikings have three wins along the southwest shore of Lake Michigan since 2001, recording wins in 2007, 2015 and 2017.

Zimmer, who was hired in 2014, was asked why it has been such a tough place for the Vikings to emerge victoriously.

"I don't know. That's what everybody told me when I got here; then we won some games," Zimmer said. "I guess if you turn the ball over and you create penalties and you do dumb things, it's a pretty hard place to play."

The Bears went 7-1 at home in 2018, losing only to New England on Oct. 21. This year, however, they fell 10-3 in their only home game, a loss against the Packers that opened the 2019 slate.

2. Kline update

Veteran guard Josh Kline suffered a concussion in Sunday's game against Oakland.

He did not practice on Wednesday, and his status for this week is unknown.

Kline joined Minnesota this offseason as a free agent and ranks second among all active NFL guards with 49 consecutive starts (Giants guard Kevin Zeitler has started 75 consecutive games).

If Kline is unable to play, the Vikings could turn to Dakota Dozier, who replaced Kline Sunday and started in place of left guard Pat Elflein in Week 2.

Dozier was another veteran free agent who signed with Minnesota this offseason after playing for the Jets under offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison in 2018.

"He's done pretty well. I think he's come in there and battled," Zimmer said. "Like I said, I guess Monday, those guys all battled really hard last week, and I think that part of it, he's fit right in. He's got good athleticism. He understands the system."

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.

3. Containing Trubisky

The mobility of Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky can challenge teams on scrambles or by stretching out defenses to create throwing windows.

Trubisky completed 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 116.5. He rushed just once for a gain of 2 and has five rushes for 21 yards (4.2 yards per carry) so far this season, a clip that is well under his totals of 68 for 421 yards (6.2 average) in 2018.

"He played good Monday night," Zimmer said. "He's very talented. He runs the football well. I think he sees things really well."

4. Outlook for Beebe

Receiver/return specialist was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday when Minnesota brought back Marcus Sherels and Laquon Treadwell.

Sherels and Treadwell practiced on Wednesday, feeling right at home.

Zimmer was asked if Beebe could possibly recover in time to be a player designated to return from Injured Reserve and said, "Yeah, he should be."

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