The Vikings kicked off their stretch of three NFC North games in a row on the wrong foot last Sunday, dropping a 14-7 decision at U.S. Bank Stadium to the Detroit Lions and, maybe more importantly, losing Dalvin Cook for the season due to a knee injury. Tonight, they will look to even up their division record at 1-1 by doing something that hasn't been easy for the team, and that's picking up a win at Soldier Field as they take on the Bears on "Monday Night Football."
The loss of the dynamic and explosive Cook can't be overstated, as anyone who watched his first four NFL would admit, but a good start in helping the offense replace is production would be getting starting QB Sam Bradford back in the fold. Bradford, who of course injured his knee during the Week One win over the Saints and has missed the last three games, practiced each day last week in limited fashion and is listed as questionable on the injury report. We'll find out at roughly 6 PM whether he's officially going to start when the team formally issues its inactive players announcement.
Whether it's Bradford or Case Keenum again at quarterback, it's imperative that the Vikings find a way to continue to run the ball in Cook's absence. As Head Coach Mike Zimmer noted this week, the thing the team may lose the most with Cook is his big-play ability, but whether it's Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon or the newly signed Stevan Ridley, the team cannot afford to have to bail on the running game early in games.
A decent part of Cook's success this year could be attributed to the much-improved play of the team's offensive line. Riley Reiff has anchored the left side and earned praise from Zimmer this week, and it'll be key for that group to provide lanes for the backs to keep the offense out of bad situations.
Running the ball isn't usually an issue for the Bears, and particularly against the Vikings. Last year at Soldier Field during a 20-10 Bears win, Jordan Howard ran for 153 yards. He followed that up by going for 135 yards during Chicago's Week 17 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium. This year he's joined in the backfield by the dynamic Tarik Cohen, a rookie back who's averaging six yards per carry and has 24 receptions on the year. The Vikings will have to tackle better on defense than they did last week against the Lions if they hope to hold those two in check.
The biggest story nationally with this game will be the debut of Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky, who was the second overall pick in April's draft and impressed throughout the preseason. However, the Bears gave big money to ex-Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon earlier in the offseason, so Glennon played the first four weeks, winning just once. So, after the Week 3 loss to the Packers on a Thursday night, the Bears turned things over to Trubisky, who had ten days to get ready for his first NFL start.
One thing working against Trubisky is the lack of offensive weapons outside of Howard and Cohen. Alshon Jeffery, a long-time thorn in the Vikings' side, thankfully moved on to Philadelphia, so that combined with some early season injures has left the team's group of wide receivers pretty thin. Hopefully the Vikings secondary and blanket those targets and give the team's group of pass-rushers, who posted five sacks in last week's game, ample time to get after Trubisky.
Stay with vikings.com and the Vikings App for full gameday coverage, including live postgame press conferences from Soldier Field.