By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears went into their game against the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, coming off of a bye, with high hopes that they would earn their first division win in a long time against a team that had been playing hot and cold all season. While the Bears put up a good fight they failed to come out victorious in the end and lost to the Vikings 23-20. It was a good close game for the most part and the Bears played well but just couldn’t come up with the win. They were outplayed in the end when it really counted.
The following is a look at five keys for the Bears in their game against the Vikings this Sunday. There is a look inside the specific areas that they struggled with or did well with and some insight into how this team functioned in this game.
Special Teams Aren’t Very Special-The Bears punt return coverage unit allowed a touchdown in this game and that score was the difference. Chicago’s special teams has allowed three returns for touchdowns this season and many of the mistakes that they make on these returns are easily correctable. The team just doesn’t correct the mistakes. Whether it’s the personnel that are making the plays that can’t do it, the scheme or the coaching staff something is wrong with the Bears special teams and they need to get these problems fixed if they want to win more games this season. The coaching staff needs to take a hard look at the unit, make some adjustments and see how they do.
How Long Will Forte Be Out-The Bears lost running back Matt Forte to a knee injury in the game and early reports state that it is an injury related to his MCL. It is not know yet if it is a tear, a sprain or just a bruise but all that’s really known is that it’s related to the MCL. It’s difficult to tell right now just how long Forte will be out but the Bears can’t afford to lose him for any amount of time. He is a huge part of their offense and having him out there will definitely have a negative effect. Hopes are high that this is just a minor injury and he will be back on the field in no time.
Offensive Line Woes-The Bears were forced to reshuffle their offensive line for this game as starting center Hroniss Grasu missed the game due to a neck injury. This forced the team to move guard Matt Slauson to center, Patrick Omameh to right guard and Vladimir Ducasse to left guard. The run game didn’t seem to get going in this one except for little spurts here and there but the pass protection was relatively good as quarterback Jay Cutler was only sacked once. The Bears need to get their offensive line back in order quickly if they are going to have success especially on the ground where they need it most.
Alshon Jeffery is Magic-While he didn’t have as many yards against the Vikings as he did against the Lions two weeks ago, Jeffery showed up once again for the Bears this Sunday catching Cutler’s only touchdown pass and racking up a decent amount of yards. Jeffery is showing no ill effects from the hamstring injury that kept him out of several games this season and looks like he has picked up where he left off last year. He is a dangerous receiving threat and the Vikings couldn’t seem to find any answers on how to cover him. The Bears need to continue to utilize him more in the passing game as he’s a big play receiver that can make a huge difference in this offense.
The Defense is Good But..-The defense only allowed one touchdown in the loss to the Vikings but the touchdown came at a critical time in the game allowing the Vikings to tie the game and eventually win. The Bears didn’t start getting a lot pressure on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater until late in the game but they didn’t get enough pressure on him at critical points and he completed several key passes that allowed the Vikings to pull ahead and win the game. They did allow running back Adrian Peterson to gain some yards but didn’t allow him to run roughshod all over them all day long. In the end the Bears defense broke down and allowed the Vikings to pull ahead much like they allowed the Lions to do two weeks prior and eventually win the game.
Chicago has a lot of work to do if they plan on winning any more games this season. They need to play better on special teams as their gaffe there this week was the deciding factor in this game. They need to ensure that Forte gets back and is healthy enough to play. They need to utilize Jeffery even more than they have in the future because as long as no one can cover him, he is their best offensive asset after Forte. The team needs to get players back and healthy including Grasu, linebacker Shea McClellin and wide receiver Eddie Royal (who was injured in the game) among others.
So much goes into a game and you have to put all the parts together and have as close to a complete game as possible in order to win a game. The Bears have failed in almost every game this season to put together a complete game. They could have done it against the Vikings had their special teams and defense stepped up and played better. They just aren’t a particularly good team at this time and have a lot of work to do to get better. Hopefully good play and better results will come with time and good health.