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The Skinny Post: Vikings Focused On Getting Back On Winning Track

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have a chance to get the bitter taste of their first loss of the season out of their mouths in the national spotlight.

Minnesota will play on Monday Night Football for the second time this season as the Vikings head to Chicago for an NFC North showdown at 7:30 p.m. (CT).

The Vikings fell to 5-1 with Sunday's 21-10 loss to Philadelphia in which they turned the ball over four times, gave up six sacks and struggled offensively in the red zone.

Minnesota has won three straight over Chicago, the Vikings longest win streak against the Bears since winning three consecutive games from November 1999 to October 2000.

The Bears have lost three straight for the second time this season and are 1-6. 

On the airwaves: The game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN. Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters will be on the call. The game also will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3-FM and across the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network by the team of Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Greg Coleman and Ben Leber. There is also a national radio broadcast by Westwood One Sports with Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner and Hub Arkush calling the game.

Three things to watch:

Protecting SamCraig Peters

The injury hits kept coming on the offensive side of the ball for the Vikings in the first few weeks of the season.

First it was Teddy Bridgewater in practice less than two weeks before the season opener, then it was Adrian Peterson and Matt Kalil suffering injuries against the Packers in Week 2. Kalil's bookend, Andre Smith, was also placed on injured reserve after Week 4.

The Texans tallied two sacks and were credited with eight hits of Sam Bradford, but the quarterback won his fourth straight start, continuing to deliver accurate passes in the face of pressure. Last week in Philadelphia, however, blitzes and other pressures got to Bradford and led to two lost fumbles during sacks, as well as Bradford's first interception as a Viking.

Minnesota opted to start T.J. Clemmings at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles at right tackle, but then inserted newly signed veteran free agent Jake Long at left tackle and slid Clemmings to right tackle several times.

The Vikings have made it clear that 12 hits (press box tally) by the Eagles on Bradford is not acceptable going forward. Monday will be another road game and is the first opportunity for the Vikings to show improvement in pass protection. Bradford said there are **multiple causes and fixes**.

Which Jay Cutler will show up?Eric Smith

Name a statistical category and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler likely tops the list in Chicago. Cutler is the Bears all-time leader in passer rating, completions, attempts, yards, completion percentage, touchdowns and 300-yard passing games.

Cutler has fared well against the Vikings during his career. He's 8-5 against Minnesota, with all but one of those starts coming with the Bears.

But Cutler can also turn the ball over at times. He's thrown double-digit interceptions in eight of his 11 seasons and twice led the league in picked off passes. The quarterback hasn't played since injuring his thumb in Week 2 but was cleared to play this week.

"He can read the coverages well. He can get the ball down the field," Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said of Cutler. "He can make all of the throws.

"So, he's always a tough opponent when we play him, especially up there," he added. "From that aspect of it, we're going to have to do a good job with the leverage and the coverage."

Cutler will likely benefit from the return of running back Jeremy Langford, who hasn't played since Week 3 with an ankle injury. Langford has 31 carries for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.

Next man upLindsey Young

A number of dinged-up Vikings have been included in the injury report this week with either limited or no practice participation. While some players remain questionable, the situation suggests that at least a couple of backup players will be called on against the Bears on Monday Night Football.

Minnesota is no stranger to injury hurdles this season, however, and Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff have emphasized the "next man up" mentality to the team since day one.

Kick and punt returners Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels are questionable for Monday's game. If either or both is unable to go in the game, Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said he has confidence in the reserves.

"Like anything else, like any other position, [it's] the next man up," Priefer told Twin Cities media members Friday. "We've got other guys that are trained to be the returners […] And I'm going to expect them to do just as good as Marcus and Cordarrelle. I think we're pretty good. Across the board, we do have some talented guys that are backing them up."

The Vikings have a deep roster, and it will be interesting to see how players step up to the challenge if their number is called Monday.

View images of the key contributors for Chicago Bears on offense, defense and special teams this season.

Substantial Stats

Chicago ranks next-to-last in the league with an average allowance of 17.9 yards per punt return. The Vikings rank third in the NFL in punt return average (15.3) and are 13th on punt coverage, giving up 7.9 yards per return.

— The Vikings defense ranks first in the NFL by allowing just 279.5 yards per game and is the only team holding opponents to under 280 yards per game. Arizona (289.6) and Denver (291.6) are next. Minnesota is also tied for first in the NFL by giving up just 14 points per game.

— Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has made seven consecutive field goals against the Bears. Walsh is 15 of 18 on field goals in his career against Chicago, including a pair of game-winning field goals (one in overtime in 2013 and one last season as time expired).

— The Vikings have played the Bears six times at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football. Minnesota is 4-2 in such games, although it lost the most recent contest in overtime in 2009.


"I know how this football team reacts to adversity and the way that they have done things. I anticipate that we will come out and play a lot better this week." — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on bouncing back from Sunday's loss.

Worth a watch

The Vikings got into the Halloween spirit with the most recent edition of ’96 Questions,' as defensive end Brian Robison asked which teammate has the highest-pitched scream.

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