Following two straight losses in primetime action, the Chicago Bears defeated the Minnesota Vikings 28-10 in Week 12 and will try to use what they learned in order to do the same this upcoming Sunday at the Metrodome.
Heading into the Vikings game two weeks ago, all of the talk was surrounding the return of quarterback Jay Cutler from a concussion and how the Bears offensive line could protect him.
Despite the losses of starting guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer, the offensive line did a good job of keeping Cutler upright, as they gave up just one sack. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb did not allow a sack against Jared Allen, who was able to get to the quarterback 3.5 times the last time they had met.
The running game struggled at times, but the Bears still finished with over 100 yards rushing combined between Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Forte left in the third quarter due to an ankle injury, and his replacement, Bush, finished with 60 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite gaining just 2.9 yards per rush, the offense was persistent in its desire to run the football, and it helped keep the Vikings honest in the passing game.
Cutler had solid numbers in his return, going 23-31 for 188 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The focal point of the offensive attack was Brandon Marshall, who hauled in 12 catches on 17 targets for 92 yards, often coming up with big catches in traffic.
Regardless of who is covering him, Cutler knows his most reliable target is Marshall. The Vikings game showed that regardless of their desire to slow him down—whether it be with man-to-man coverage, zone coverage or with safety help over the top—he is going to make plays as long as Cutler has the time to get him the ball.
Expect the Bears to once again try and run the football against the Vikings, particularly to slow down the speedy pass rush of Allen on the Metrodome turf. Running the football will also help quiet down the always raucous Vikings fans.
The running game will help open up the passing game, particularly with play action, something the Bears were able to exploit at times two weeks ago. Cutler also did well when rolling out of the pocket and was able to make many pinpoint throws, including his 13-yard strike to Matt Spaeth that resulted in a touchdown.
The statuses of wide receivers Earl Bennett (concussion), Alshon Jeffery (knee), and Devin Hester (concussion) are still up in the air for Sunday, but Jeffery appears to be the closest to returning (h/t CBS Sports).
Jeffery offers a downfield threat opposite of Marshall, and it appeared that he was starting to build a rapport with Cutler before the hand injury that first sidelined him after the Jacksonville game. The Vikings main focus will be to slow down Marshall, and if Jeffery is available, it is possible he could become a major factor in the offense this Sunday.