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Vikings Stress Importance of Keeping Tabs on Khalil Mack

EAGAN, Minn. — The number one priority for the Vikings offense this week might be locating Bears No. 52, linebacker Khalil Mack, before each play.

Mack, who joined the Bears when he was traded by the Raiders just before the 2018 season, has wreaked havoc.

The fifth overall pick in 2014 has 7.0 sacks and an NFL-best four forced fumbles in just seven games. He also returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown in Week 1 at Green Bay.

The Bears move the edge rusher who has made three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams to either end of the line of scrimmage.

"That is the number one thing we need to see is, 'Where is he?' We are going to have ways to protect both sides," Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said. "I don't want to get too much into scheme before the game but I think our plan will be solid. I know our plan will be solid."

DeFilippo and running back Latavius Murray were with Oakland when the Raiders tabbed Mack.

"I know him up close and personal, how good he is and how good his skill set is," DeFilippo said. "We have our hands full."

Murray said he thinks Mack "can do it all" and is "as advertised."

"Seeing him in practice every day, how hard he works, the way he practices and obviously the way he plays … a dominant player and arguably the best defender in the league," Murray said. "I think just like any week, we'll have our work cut out handling him. They have a really good defense in general with other guys as well. It will be a really good matchup for us."

Murray said the Vikings "can't get too concerned with changing what we do."

"We have to take care of him, and we know that, but we don't want to get too caught up in doing too much to where we're not doing what we want to do," Murray said. "We have a game plan based on where he'll be, but for the most part, we'll have to defend the looks that they give us and kind of go from there."

Vikings tight ends coach Todd Downing, who was Oakland's quarterbacks coach (2015-16) and offensive coordinator (2017), also is quite familiar with Mack.

Kyle Rudolph said the Vikings are aware of "how talented" Mack is and the fact that he's joined a team that had a "very, very good defense" in 2017. Chicago ranked ninth in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed last season. The Bears enter Sunday's game ranked fourth in both categories.

"I don't think they got enough credit for how talented they were, being a top-10 defense last year and only winning five games," Rudolph said. "And then you add a Khalil Mack and a Roquan Smith to an already really good defense. We'll have our work cut out for us, but our guys up front are healthy and ready to go, and as tight ends, we'll do our jobs as well to help keep these rushers in check."

Rudolph reinforced the importance of knowing where Mack is because "he can wreck the game singlehandedly."

"If you're not accounting for him on every play and you don't know where he is on every play, you see the plays pop up as you watch the tape, whether it's an interception run back for a touchdown, strip sack, big sacks on third downs that end drives," Rudolph said. "He is a guy that you have to pay special attention to and know where he's at on every play."