VIKINGS AT BEARS
Time: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field • Line: Bears by 3 • Total: 46 1⁄2
TV: Ch. 2 (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Stacey Dales) • Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
With the Bears in need of going back to basics after two embarrassing losses, RB Matt Forte might be front and center — not only in the running game, but in blitz pickup and as a receiver to counter the Vikings’ big pass rush. Vikings rookie LB Anthony Barr has three fumble recoveries, tied for most in the NFL with J.J. Watt and Julius Peppers.
On the ground
As always, the Bears would love to establish Forte on the ground. But it doesn’t walways work out. By the time Forte got his third carry against the Packers, the Bears were down 14-0. Forte was productive against the Vikings last season (20 carries, 88 yards at Soldier Field/23 carries, 120 yards at the Metrodome), but this is a different Vikings defense under first-year head coach Mike Zimmer. Still, the Packers’ Eddie Lacy (13 carries, 105 yards, two TDs) and the Patriots’ Stevan Ridley (25 carries 101 yards, TD) have had success. No reason why Forte can’t do the same — if he gets the chance.
In the air
If the Bears can protect Jay Cutler from an improved Vikings pass rush that is third in the NFL in sacks (30) and first in sacks per pass attempt, Cutler can have a big day. But that might be tricky for a Bears offense that has allowed 24 sacks, especially against a rush that comes from all angles: DE Everson Griffen (nine sacks), DT Tom Johnson (5.5) and LB Anthony Barr (four). ‘‘You have to get rid of the ball,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘You can’t sit back there and hitch a couple of times and look guys off and switch sides of the field.’’ Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are due. Marquess Wilson might play.
WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL
It looks as though the Vikings finally have found a quarterback they can build around in Teddy Bridgewater. ‘‘Teddy’s a winner, and he competes at a high level,’’ Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘He does seem to have an element of clutch to him.’’ Bears DE Jared Allen (1.5 sacks) could use a big game against his former team.
On the ground
Behind an offensive line that has had four of five starters play in all nine games, the Vikings have pieced together an effective running game despite the loss of Adrian Peterson (suspension). They are 10th in the NFL in rushing yards and seventh in yards per carry. Rookie Jerrick McKinnon (90 carries, 446 yards), a third-round pick from Georgia Southern, rushed for 135 yards against the Falcons and 103 against the Bills. Matt Asiata (84 carries, 277 yards, six TDs) scored three touchdowns in victories against the Falcons and Redskins. Bridgewater (19 carries, 95 yards) is a threat, too.
In the air
Bridgewater is finding his way as an NFL starter. He struggled against two
top-10 defenses (one TD, five INTs and 13 sacks in back-to-back losses to the Lions and Bills), but he was better in his last two games (two TDs, zero INTs and three sacks in victories against the Bucs and Redskins). WR Greg
Jennings (35 catches, 459 yards, two TDs) isn’t the threat he was with Aaron Rodgers, but he has a history of clutch receptions. This is a much more manageable task for a Bears defense that ranks 28th against the pass and has allowed 13 TD passes with zero INTs in its last three games.
Special teams epitomized the Bears’ plight last week: The harder they try, the worse they get. Chris Williams can get the Bears off to a great start just by taking a knee in the end zone, avoiding the chance for the perfunctory illegal-block penalty and giving the offense the ball at the 20. It must be easier said than done. ‘‘We’ve just got to keep working on that and try to get those things cleaned up,’’ coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. ‘‘I promise you, we’re working on it hard in practice.’’ Williams had a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Packers. It was too little, too late, but maybe it’s something to build on. Maybe.
The Bears are on tilt after back-to-back embarrassing losses and are under the gun to respond against a much more manageable opponent. ‘‘The only way we can work our way out of this is to get ready for Minnesota and put it behind us,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. ‘‘But we’ve got to do it with some sense of urgency.’’ After a pathetic performance against the Packers, it remains to be seen if a ‘‘sense of urgency’’ means anything. Already 0-3 at Soldier Field, the Bears likely will have to overcome home fans who won’t receive them well and will be ready to take out their frustrations if the team starts slowly again.