3TFO: Vikings @ Bears, Week 2
You have to go back to 2007 to find the last Minnesota Vikings win in Chicago, although they broke a six game losing streak last December when they beat the Bears 21-14 at home with Adrian Peterson running for 154 yards.
The 2013 Minnesota Vikings started the season like they finished the previous one with Peterson scoring a 78 yard touchdown on his first carry. Despite adding two more TDs to his stat sheet, the reigning MVP wasn’t at his best asif you take out the long run he gained 13 yards in 16 carries. That was in stark contrast to Reggie Bush who tore up the Vikings, who were missing Kevin Williams, on the ground and through the air as Minnesota started off with a loss. With Matt Forte to come that’s not ideal preparation.
Let’s take a look at the three key areas to focus on:
Bears Passing Offense vs. Vikings Secondary
Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler kicked off the season showing that they may have built something interesting on offense. It didn’t start to work properly until the second half, but it was enough to keep an eye on it going forward. Cutler completed 9-of-13 passes over 10 yards in the air and had the second highest grade of all quarterbacks last week as a result. His receivers also stood up to be counted with Brandon Marshall dominating every defender that covered him on his way to a +2.3 grade and 143.3 WR Rating. Meanwhile Alshon Jeffery graded positive too after catching 5-of-7 targets for 42 yards as the passing attack took a step forward on what we saw last year.
The Vikings play sides in the secondary so every cornerback will get a dose of each Bears receiver. Chris Cook manned the right side vs. Detroit, and rookie Xavier Rhodes the left , with Josh Robinson in the slot. Robinson allowed 2.11 Yards per Coverage Snap while when the ball was thrown into Cook’s coverage, Matt Stafford had a 130.4 NFL Rating. As you can read in our First-Rounders In Focus, Rhodes got flagged a couple of times (though once was on special teams) and allowed a critical first down. Besides the cornerbacks, Harrison Smith is the guy to follow after an impressive game in coverage vs. the Lions allowing just two catches in five targets for 8 yards. He’s looking even better than he did in his rookie year already.
Where’s The Pass Rush?
For a team that ended last season in the Top 10 in pass rushing overall grade it’s safe to say the team didn’t get off to the start they wanted last week. Andy Dalton was pressured on only three dropbacks on Sunday, though it should be noted only seven of his dropbacks saw him hold onto the ball longer than 2.5 seconds. Shea McClellin got the only sack in the 4th quarter and Stephen Paea got two QB hurries from the inside. That was it. Both starting defensive end failed to record any pressure. Julius Peppers finished 14th in Pass Rushing Productivity among 4-3 DEs with 9.4 last year and will be hoping that with a quarterback more prone to holding onto the ball (Ponder held onto it for 2.5 seconds or more on 44.1% of dropbacks), he’ll have more joy.
Peppers will be facing Matt Kalil who surrendered four hurries and one hit vs. the Lions earning the worst pass blocking grade of his young career. In the two games they played each other last season, Peppers recorded seven hurries against Kalil, so history says he should get off the mark. On the other side of the line, Phil Loadholt didn’t play much better grading -1.5 in pass blocking and 91.2 in Pass Blocking Efficiency – 46th among offensive tackles. Improving their pass rush should be a focus for the Bears as Christian Ponder dropped his completion percentage from 69.8% when no pressured to 40.6% when under pressure in 2012. This would allow them to stack the box to defend Peterson while also preventing Ponder from taking advantage of the numbers in the secondary.
Bears Pass Protection vs. Vikings Pass Rushers
After an impressive preseason, the rookie offensive guard Kyle Long held his ground against Geno Atkins despite allowing two pressures. The other starting rookie in the offensive line, Jordan Mills, played next to Long at right tackle. He didn’t allow any pressure and had the highest grade (+2.4) in pass blocking of any Bear. They’ll be facing Brian Robison and Everson Griffen on the outside and Kevin Williams, if he comes back from his injury, in the inside mostly. Robison had a great game against the Lions recording six hurries and one hit in 38 pass rushing snaps for a 14.6 PRP, 5th among 4-3 DEs.
On the left side of the line the situation was the opposite. It was the tackle, Jermon Bushrod, who allowed the pressure – one hit, three hurries – while the guard, Matt Slauson, kept his quarterback clean. It’s also Bushrod who has the most dangerous matchup of them: Jared Allen who is coming off a four quarterback disruption and +3.1 pass rushing performance. These two players faced each other two years ago, when Bushrod was in New Orleans and the Vikings player recorded one hit and five hurries. He’ll want to allow less than that if Cutler is to flourish.
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