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Week 2 Preview: Vikings at Chicago Bears
Thankfully for the Vikings, the limited number of games in the regular season schedule doesn't allow for teams to dwell on the past too much, either positively or negatively. That's a great thing in this particular instance, because the Vikings came out of the gate and stumbled in nearly every facet of the game last week against the Lions. It's a whole new week, however, and now they need to put that all behind them and prepare to deal with the Bears in a place that hasn't been too kind to them as of late. The Vikings have lost 11 of their last 12 games at Soldier Field and haven't actually won there since 2007. They've lost their last three in the venue by an average of 20.3 points.
Christian Ponder vs. Himself
In those last 12 games against the Bears, the Vikings have surrendered the ball a grand total of 31 times. In case you're not particularly good at math, that's an average of nearly three per game. Of course all of them haven't been interceptions, but taking care of the football is going to be key in this game and a good deal of that responsibility always falls on the quarterback. Last week, Ponder started the season with 3 interceptions. If you really wanted to, you could argue that two of them weren't entirely his fault, with one bouncing off the hands of Jerome Simpson and the other probably not going where he wanted it after his arm was hit mid-throw. But you could also argue that he should have thrown another one after he stared down Jarius Wright, with Bill Bentley jumped the route and dropping what would have been an easy pick-6. Last year Ponder didn't throw his first interception until game 5, so it's safe to say this probably wasn't the start he was looking for. Unfortunately for Ponder, it doesn't get any easier this week as he goes against a formidable Bears secondary that is significantly better than Detroit's. Leading that charge is Charles "Peanut" Tillman, who intercepted two of Andy Dalton's passes last week. Ponder can't afford to dig the Vikings and himself into a hole with mistakes, so we'll be curious to see how he handles it.
Offensive Line Play
As many mistakes as Christian Ponder made last week, it's worth mentioning that his offensive line didn't do him many favors. He was frequently flushed out of the pocket and was sacked three times. He was hurried several more, and didn't get a lot of time to feel out really any of his passes. Detroit's defensive line is better than what the Vikings will see in Chicago, but the Bears also have 8-time Pro Bowl selection Julius Peppers on their side. Matt Kalil, who had his fair share of struggles against the Lions will be lining up opposite Peppers multiple times in this game and will need to play much better. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the offensive line inadequacies didn't end with pass protection. After Adrian Peterson's first carry for 78 yards and a touchdown, they had a really hard time opening holes for him the rest of the game. In fact, he only rushed for 15 yards on his other 17 carries. If the Vikings want to have any chance of winning today's game, they're going to have to put together a much more consistent rushing attack. We'll be keeping an eye on whether the O-line can bounce back from a rough first game.
Vikings Defense vs. Jay Cutler
Even though the Vikings managed to pretty much bottle up Calvin Johnson last week(4 catches for 37 yards), Matthew Stafford completed 24 OTHER passes for 320 yards. 9 of those passes went to running backs coming out of the back field. The Vikings defense seemed awfully perplexed by the bevy of screen passes they saw from the Lions, and it's probably a good bet that the Bears will try their hand at one or two of them as well. Even if the Vikings can manage to stop allowing running backs to kill them in the passing game, they'll also have to deal with All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall is always a threat to catch the ball, and the Vikings had plenty of trouble with him last year on third downs. Either Chris Cook or Xavier Rhodes will have to kick up their game in order to keep Marshall in check and if they want to get off the field, it's going to be vital. Jay Cutler also has a tendency to compound mistakes, so we'll be curious to see if the Vikings can't throw him off his game with an early turnover.
Today's game against the Bears kicks off from Soldier Field in Chicago at noon on the FAN. Paul Allen and Pete Bercich will handle the call on 100.3FM here in the Twin Cities and across the Vikings Radio Network.
Check out the graphic to the left. It was created by "K I L L E R C H E F", a regular in Purple Chat. Check out the other submissions in this week's competition on Purple Chat. Have a fresh idea for next week's game? Pay attention to Purple Chat for next week's Gameday Graphic thread. Did we miss out on a major plot line for today's game? Tell us below or on Purple Chat.
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This article was written by jab. You can normally find him meandering around Rube Chat. Or feel free to email him at email@example.com.