EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brian Robison broke through a circle of reporters Wednesday to reach Everson Griffen.
Robison distracted his fellow defensive end by holding a drawing of a "Flat Stanley" wearing purple and gold with a No. 96 written on him. The drawing, Robison said, will be sent to a child in North Carolina.
Moments later, Griffen returned the favor on his teammate, moving his way across the locker room, but causing a humorous disruption from behind the wall of cameras and notepads.
The friendly rapport was the kind that comes with winning two games in a row and returning rested from a bye week. A major reason for consecutive victories is the way Vikings defenders have been flattening out opposing quarterbacks.
Minnesota (4-5) has recorded 20 of its 30 sacks in its past four games and will look to continue that hot streak when it visits Chicago (3-6) at noon (CT) Sunday in a game that will be cross-flexed to be televised on CBS.
Griffen has accounted for 7.0 of those 20 sacks to set a new career high of 9.0 (tied for fifth in the NFL) and earn mentions of his name as a candidate for the Pro Bowl (vote for him here). While those totals account for most of the spree, Griffen said it's a function of working collectively.
"We've been working together as a whole on the defensive line," Griffen said. "The best pass rushing teams work together. They feel where each other is, and we know how to work off each other. We've been listening to our coaches, keeping our rush plan and using what we do at practice to apply it to the field."
Bears QB Jay Cutler has been sacked 23 times this season, and backup Jimmy Clausen has been dropped once in limited action. Cutler has thrown for 2,365 yards and 18 touchdowns, but also suffered 10 interceptions and lost the ball five of the 10 times he's fumbled it this season.
Robison said the best way to affect Cutler's play is cause frequent disruptions and knockdowns.
"We've got to hit him. The bottom line when you look, when he gets frustrated, it's because he's getting hit, so that's really what we have to do," Robison said. "Our rush and coverage has to work together, but we've got to get around his feet and when we have the opportunity, hit him a little bit. If he has all day to sit back there and pick out his receivers, he's pretty dang good, so we've got to make sure that doesn't happen."
FAMILIAR FACE: Robison and Griffen said they'll look forward to seeing Bears DE Jared Allen, who is in his first season in Chicago after recording 85.5 sacks during his six seasons in Minnesota.
"Yeah, you know, I've talked to 'Cowboy,' you know, that's my dog," Griffen said. "He's always going to be my dog. I talked to him last week. He shot me a text, I was down in Arizona, and he told me a good restaurant to go to, The Mission, and we conversate. He was a mentor to me while he was here and taught me a lot of things. I love the guy. He's not just a great player, but is a great person, too."
Added Robison: "It will be great to see the guy. It's going to be fun to watch each other as we go in this game, see him in a different uniform in person. It will be different."
Allen told Minnesota media Wednesday that he's also looking forward to seeing former teammates. Griffen, a backup on the depth chart his first four seasons, credited Allen with helping him learn what to do when he went from an understudy to a leading man.
View images from the Wednesday, November 12 practice at Winter Park.
"Just how to rush the passer, what he sees, how to use his hands because he was a technician with his hands, and just how to be patient," Griffen said. "He knew I wanted to play a lot and just said, 'Your time will come,' and when I got my time, I just wanted to help this team win."
Allen said Griffen is physically "one of the most gifted people I've ever seen."
"I always told him once he got the mental side of it down, that he could be an All-Pro," Allen said. "The patience of playing with me and behind me, I always try to give people tips, but I don't know that I had any bearing on what he's doing. I'm not trying to say that at all. I just told him to keep studying.
"When I watch film, I watch him process games," Allen continued. "He's doing well against the run. He's not just rushing the passer. He's converting well. I always knew he was very capable and it's good to see him start to come together for him because he is an explosive player. Him and B-Rob both, I've watched B-Rob, too. I just enjoy watching the people I've played with and have experiences with have success."
The success that Allen became accustomed to hasn't been part of this season so far for the Bears. He has 1.5 sacks on the season and dropped about 15 pounds to 239 because of pneumonia that cost him Chicago's first game against Green Bay. Allen said he played against Carolina at 242 and is back to 252.
BEARS ON TEDDY: The Vikings have been able to work to collectively improve sack prevention for rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater in recent weeks. After allowing 8.0 sacks against Detroit, Minnesota has allowed 8.0 combined in the past three games combined. Bridgewater is 3-2 as a starter, with all three victories requiring him to lead the Vikings back from a fourth-quarter deficit.
"You can see he's got a head on his shoulders, he's taking the coaching and he's understanding the system," Allen said. "He's comfortable in the system and the offense, so it's one of those things, we need to force them to be one-dimensional. If we can force them to spread the field and throw the ball and dictate to him, he's still a young quarterback and we have to try to put the ball in his hands. He is composed, but you still want to force him to make throws he's not comfortable with."
Chicago Head Coach Marc Trestman, whose ties to Minnesota include graduating from Saint Louis Park High School in 1974, playing QB at the University of Minnesota, spending two training camps as a player and having two stints as an assistant coach with the Vikings, said he was just honing in on Bridgewater's play on tape Wednesday but he had been impressed by the QB's poise while scouting common opponents.
"He seems like he's going to be a very accurate passer as he moves forward," Trestman said. "I think he's being very well coached and we see him as a highly competitive guy, and I think the Vikings are lucky to have him. I think he's going to be very good for them as he continues to grow."
PARTICIPATION: For Minnesota: Chase Ford (foot) participated fully, and Kyle Rudolph (groin/abdomen) was limited Wednesday.
For Chicago: TE Martellus Bennett (ribs), G/T Eben Britton (illness), CB Tim Jennings (CB), WR Brandon Marshall (ankle), T Jordan Mills (ribs), WR Josh Morgan (shoulder) and DE Cornelius Washington (illness) did not participate. LB Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) was limited.