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Vikings Roundup 11/14: Stats Don't Bear Resemblance

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Pete Bercich turned on recent tape of the Bears, he saw team colors and logos similar to the ones he cheered for during his youth in ChicagoLand. 

That's where the recognizable attributes ended for a franchise long famed for stingy defense that has allowed more than 50 points to each of his past two opponents.

"It's the 'Anti-Super Bowl Shuffle,' " Bercich said. "Growing up it was '85, when they won everything, I was like 14 so that's the perfect age to have your squad win a Super Bowl, but the names, Gary Fencik, Wilber Marshall, Otis Wilson, Mike Singletary, (Dan) Hampton, (Richard) Dent, (William "Refrigerator") Perry, (Steve) McMichael, (Leslie) Frazier, and who am I missing? I can probably go through the offense, too, but yeah, things have changed."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who is also from the Chicago area grew up a Bears fan and admired Buddy Ryan, who was the coordinator of one of the most dominant defenses ever.

Zimmer said he was able to invite Ryan to Weber State, where Zimmer was a defensive coordinator from 1983-88, and draw from Ryan's expertise.

"Anytime you're around great coaches and guys that in a lot of ways reinvented the game back then, in 1985, I think you always try to take some of it, whether it's the mentality that he had," Zimmer said. "I was fortunate enough to sit in some of their defensive meetings. I had him come out when I was coaching at Weber State, I had him come out and do a clinic for us, sat down and had a couple of beers with him. I think you always try to learn from the guys that are really, really good."

The 1985 Bears allowed 198 points for the entire regular season, but this year's opponents went past that mark during the eighth game, and at 277 points allowed through nine games, the Bears are on pace to allow more than 490 points.

"They've had a few injuries, but I think a couple of the main issues are a lack of communication, mental errors, where they're trying to put themselves in a position or get themselves out of a bad position or bad defense and put themselves in a better one, and let's say nine people of the 11 get the check, so you don't have everybody on the same page, and that's when big plays happen, that's when you turn people loose," Bercich said. "You don't see that too often in the NFL that a receiver is just running free, and I think we saw it a couple of times against Green Bay.

"The other thing for them is a pass rush," Bercich continued. "They have zero in the way of a four-man pass rush. Nothing, so the two do not go well hand-in-hand when your backend is confused on coverages and not putting themselves in position to succeed and your front end isn't helping because they're not getting after the quarterback. (Aaron) Rodgers had some disgustingly long times in the pocket. It was unbelievable how long Rodgers could sit in the pocket and survey the field. In a nutshell, that's the problem they have in Chicago."

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

Turnovers have also amplified the troubles. Jay Cutler has thrown 10 interceptions, and the team has lost the ball on five of the 10 times he's fumbled it. The Bears are minus-5 in turnover ratio this season.

Vikings players and coaches have approached this week with the mindset that none of the stats will have a bearing on Sunday when Minnesota (4-5) visits Chicago (3-6) for a noon (CT) game that will be cross-flexed to be broadcast on CBS.

"We can't be blinded by the stats," rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "Chicago is a hungry defense and we know that it's going to be tough going there to win a football game. We're going to have to continue to battle throughout the course of the game. We know that each week we're going to get an opponent's best, and this week, that's what we're expecting from Chicago."

Bridgewater is 3-2 in five games as a starter, with all three victories resulting from come-from-behind efforts in the fourth quarter. Some have dubbed him "Two Minute Teddy" for his successes in the hurry up offense at the end of halves. Asked if he was developing a reputation for that, Bridgewater said he'd prefer to have games decided in the Vikings favor earlier on Sundays.

"I think so, but I don't want to be that guy, because that means we're in a dog fight each week," Bridgewater said. "I'd rather us being able to come out in the victory formation to end the game and not have to scramble around and put together a two-minute drill. Like I said, the coaches are preparing us for those situations, and we're ready to answer them."

OFFENSIVE THREATS: Although Cutler has been plagued by turnovers, his 66.4 completion percentage and 92.8 passer rating are career bests.

Four Bears players already have 40 or more catches this season, led by Matt Forte's 61 for 517 yards. TE Martellus Bennett has 49 catches for 562 yards, Alshon Jeffrey has 44 catches for 626 yards, and Brandon Marshall has 42 catches for 496 yards.

Forte also has 616 yards on 147 carries, for a total of 1,133 yards from scrimmage (third in the NFL this season).

"He's very effective on the ground and coming out of the backfield catching the ball," LB Jasper Brinkley said. "He has great hands and is one of those guys that's very shifty. He can make a lot of things happen."

DE Everson Griffen, who leads Minnesota with 9.0 sacks this season and has had at least 1.0 in five straight games, said stopping Forte will be at the forefront of the Vikings goals.

"He's a real good running back, so we've got to stop him," said Griffen, who has also done well against the run this season. "He's catching the ball well in the backfield. One of the biggest things is that teams are getting back there and hitting Jay Cutler, getting him frustrated a little bit, but our whole objective is to focus on the Minnesota Vikings and do our jobs and once we do that, the win will take care of itself."

The sizes of Bennett (6-foot-6, 265 pounds), Jeffrey (6-3, 216) and Marshall (6-4, 230) will be a challenge, but the Vikings have seen big receiving targets across the line of scrimmage this season like Atlanta's Julio Jones and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans.

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is 6-1, Josh Robinson is 5-10 and Captain Munnerlyn is 5-9.

Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards joked that Munnerlyn would have to jump higher, but then said coverage will be about leverage and technique.

Munnerlyn said the focus will be avoiding a box out by receivers and on dislodging the ball.

"When the ball is in the air, I've got to make sure they don't come down with it," Munnerlyn said. "I'm not saying I'm going to go up and try to intercept it, but I've got to make sure those guys don't come down with it. I'm going against some taller receivers, but at the same time, I like taller receivers because I know they can't run by me that much.

"It's definitely different technique," Munnerlyn added. "You've got to try to knock the ball out of their hands on the way down but at the same time, I can't worry about what those guys can jump. I'm sure I can't out-jump them. I've just got to worry about them not catching the ball."

COLD ENTERS, WIND CAN BE BIGGER FACTOR: The snow and cold temperatures that arrived at the start of the week forced Vikings practice indoors again Friday, but the team opened every door of the field house to plummet inside temperatures into the 30s as the temperature outside was 16 degrees Fahrenheit.

The accuweather.com forecast for Sunday in Chicago is a high of 32 degrees with SW winds of 15 mph and gusts up to 26 mph. The Vikings have encountered winds already this season in outdoor practices at Winter Park and at home games at TCF Bank Stadium.

Bridgewater and Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner said they don't believe that temperature in the first "cold weather" game of the season will be a factor. Turner said winds can cause QBs more problems, but he thinks Bridgewater is up to the challenge. 

"His ball cuts through the wind pretty good, I don't see the wind being a problem," Turner said. "When we've practiced out here he's thrown really well, particularly when the wind was at his back. It helps all of those guys, I haven't been around a guy that is great into a strong wind, I don't care how good they are. I think first of all, it starts with your mindset and I don't think there are a whole lot of things that are going to affect Teddy mentally. If you don't let it affect you mentally, you go out and compete with the situation and you adjust to it depending on how bad it is."

BACK IN ACTION: Kyle Rudolph fully participated for the second straight day, and Zimmer said "I would expect he'll play."

Click here for the full injury report on both teams.

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