Charles Tillman and the gang managed to corral the one-man wrecking crew known as A.J. Green before things got too far out of hand, and the offense showed some promising signs as they dug out of a late double-digit deficit to start the Trestman Era on the right foot.
But this week’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings doesn’t just feature a one-man wrecking crew, it features a deity cleverly disguised as a human who snacks on Bears defensive play calls as if they were Jolly Ranchers.
Week 2: September 15th vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings won 10 games last season and snuck their way into the playoffs on the coattails of the Bears collapse. If they want any chance of returning, they’d likely need to avoid an 0-2 start with both losses coming at the hands of division opponents.
Well, sorry Vikings fans, but my crystal ball says that isn’t in the cards.
Let’s get some obvious things out of the way first. It’s a fact of life at this point that Adrian Peterson puts up gaudy numbers when he faces the Bears.
I’m not sure if the navy blue and orange color scheme just pisses him off, or if the smell of polish sausages grilling outside of Soldier Field gets him extra revved up, or what. But when Bears week comes on the schedule, AP is hunting for the kill.
In 10 career games against the Bears, Peterson has racked up 1085 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s gained an average of five yards every single time he’s taken a handoff against them. And 637 of those yards and eight of those touchdowns have come at Soldier Field.
I’m not advocating the “sit back and let it happen” approach, but you’d be foolish not to expect AP to have a huge day despite all the extra attention the Bears are going to be giving him.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has stressed the importance of ganging up on Peterson all week. He’s going to bust a lot of tackles, and the only way to combat that is by sending seven or eight guys to the box on most downs and throwing body after body in his direction.
They dealt with a similar situation with A.J. Green last week: he’s going to get his, just limit the damage when possible and dominate in the other areas.
The Detroit Lions showed this was a plausible approach last week. Peterson took his first touch all the way to the house for a 78 yard touchdown, but managed to gain only 15 yards the rest of the way. The Lions clamped down on the run and forced quarterback Christian Ponder to throw three interceptions by sending a constant pass rush at him.
That’s the exact formula the Bears are trying to follow this week. They’re going to send bodies at Peterson, not get discouraged when he breaks off two or three of those patented rushes that resemble a scene from the Matrix, and keep Christian Ponder running for his life in the meantime.
Only one sack of Andy Dalton last week against an injury-depleted offensive line had people dismissing the Bears pass rush as ineffective. The fact that Julius Peppers didn’t register a single tackle on the stat sheet even had people wondering if he’s on the downswing of his career.
Newsflash: anyone can have an ‘off’ week. But I actually think all this doubt about Peppers is a good thing. It’ll give him even more incentive to go out and have a huge game to shut his critics up.
I’m no fan of Christian Ponder to begin with as I think he’s already reached his ceiling and will never be more than a ‘game manager’ at the NFL level. We’re going to see his shoddy decision making exposed once again if the Bears pass rush can execute like the Lions did last week, and our good friend Charles Tillman will be the likely beneficiary of that.
On the flip side, the Bears offensive line managed to keep Jay Cutler’s jersey spotless last week. I don’t think that was a fluke.
Jared Allen will pose a big test for Jermon Bushrod on Cutler’s blind side, but it’s not as if he didn’t keep Bengals stud defensive end Michael Johnson at bay all last week.
The line will keep Cutler on his feet the majority of this contest as well, and he’s starting to show signs of improved decision making skills with time in the pocket. He’ll still try to force a ball or two to Brandon Marshall in double coverage, but that’s just Jay being Jay.
You give me an upright Cutler versus the Vikings secondary, and I’m taking Cutler eight days a week. This Minnesota unit ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in yards allowed last season and didn’t show much improvement last week when they let Matt Stafford and Reggie Bush carve them up for nearly 500 yards of offense.
I don’t even think the Bears will try to set up the passing game off the run, though Matt Forte will do enough out of the backfield to keep the Vikes on their heels. I have a feeling Cutler will be coming out guns blazing.
Cutler is going to end up throwing the ball so many times that an interception is inevitable, but as long as he can limit the mistakes the Bears will be fine. The Bears are now 33-8 when Cutler throws one of fewer interceptions, while they’re 2-14 when he throws two or more.
It goes without saying that this team goes the way Cutler goes. Cutty will be going great if he can stay on his feet, and the team will be right there with him.
I have a hunch this will also be a breakout game for Alshon Jeffery. Just like AP, Brandon Marshall will get his, but I’m looking for Jeffery to be the prime benefactor if when Jay gets pass-happy this Sunday.
This entire game can be explained with alliteration: Peterson prances predictably, Ponder plays pathetically, Peppers pressures Ponder, Peanut produces picks, and passing plays prominently.
All of those p’s should equal another W for the Bears, and I’m going with a final of 35-17.
Pretty plausible prediction? Alright, I’ll stop with the alliteration, but let me hear your opinion in the comment section.