The Chicago Bears have made it a habit in recent weeks of making opposing offenses look really good, and they could be in for another challenge this Sunday when they welcome the Minnesota Vikings to Soldier Field.
The Vikings enter the game with one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL, currently ranking 10th as they run for 119.3 yards per game. That number comes in spite of not having All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson in the lineup, as Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon have combined to replace him with a great one-two punch of talent. McKinnon far outpaces Asiata in rushing yards on the season, but Asiata has six touchdowns in Peterson’s absence, giving the Vikings a great scoring weapon.
The Bears have had some success against the run this year, but the real question will be whether or not they’ll be able to stop Teddy Bridgewater. After struggling in three of his first four starts, Bridgewater has started to come around lately, throwing for 509 yards and two touchdowns in victories over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins. He has also been taking better care of the football after throwing five interceptions in a two-week span earlier in the season.
While the Bears should be expected to have a good day at the office against a rookie quarterback making just his sixth NFL start, the fact of the matter is that their pass defense gives them little reason for optimism. Sure, it’s one thing to be shredded by guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but when a player like Ryan Tannehill completes his first 14 passes against you, that’s an entirely different matter altogether.
Thanks to poor performances in their last three games, the Bears are giving up 268.6 yards per game through the air, good for 28th place in the NFL. Their injury problems at the cornerback position certainly aren’t helping, with Charles Tillman out for the year and both Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller dealing with ailments of their own, but their lack of pass rush isn’t doing them any favors either.
Losing Lamarr Houston for the season impacted it a bit, but Jared Allen’s continuing struggles could mean that Bridgewater could have time to find his receivers down field against the Bears Sunday.
Another thing working to his advantage would be the return of tight end Kyle Rudolph. Considered one of the more underrated pass catching tight ends in the game, Rudolph not only gives the Vikings’ offense another dimension, but he also can take advantage of the fact that the Bears are one of the worst teams in the NFL in terms of defending the tight end in the passing game. Their linebackers have had trouble with those assignments all year, and safety help likely won’t do much either as Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy have struggled in pass coverage as of late.
Even though Bridgewater isn’t among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks like Brady and Rodgers were, he still has the potential to cause the Bears fits on Sunday. Unless they can get their pass rush going, and unless they can get their coverage issues sorted out in their secondary, the game could turn ugly quickly, and fans at Soldier Field won’t have much to cheer for if that’s the case.