(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Vikings will host their long-time rival
Chicago for the final time at Mall of America Field on Sunday.
This contest will mark the 32nd time, including playoffs, that the Bears will
at the Metrodome, the most of any Vikings opponent. Minnesota is moving after
the season to TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the University of Minnesota, while
its new venue in downtown Minneapolis, which is set to open for the 2016
season, is being built.
The Bears handed the Vikings a heartbreaking 31-30 loss in the teams' first
matchup of the season back in Week 2 on a last second TD, a development that
foreshadowed Minnesota's disastrous season, which has included four different
fourth-quarter collapses, including last's weeks 16-point implosion in Green
Trailing 23-7 early in the final frame, the Packers scored 16 unanswered
points with Matt Flynn under center to send that game into overtime. Green
Bay's Mason Crosby and the Vikings' Blair Walsh each made field goals for
their respective teams in the extra session, but neither club got much going
on offense after that and ended in a 26-26 deadlock, the NFL's first tie since
Nov. 11, 2012, when the 49ers and Rams played to a 24-24 stalemate.
For the Vikings, it was the first time they kissed their sister since 1978,
also against the Packers.
Christian Ponder connected on 21-of-30 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown
for the Vikings, who were coming off a 41-20 loss at Seattle. Adrian Peterson
carried the ball 32 times for 146 yards and a score, while bruising backup
Toby Gerhart added eight totes for 91 yards.
"We let it get out of our hands," Ponder said. "It's unfortunate we're not
walking away with our third victory."
The Bears, meanwhile, lost a chance to take over sole possession of first
place in the NFC North when they were drubbed by the St. Louis Rams, 42-21.
Josh McCown was 36-of-47 for 352 yards with two touchdowns and an interception
and Brandon Marshall hauled in 10 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown for
Chicago, which remains tied with Detroit for the top spot in the division
following the Lions' loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"There are a lot of reasons why you lose, and we didn't do a good job of
stopping the run," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.
The Long brothers, Chicago guard Kyle and St. Louis defensive end Chris, were
the focal point of a scuffle in the second quarter. In the skirmish, Kyle Long
appeared to kick Rams defensive end William Hayes before Chris Long intervened
as he dragged his younger brother away from the fracas.
"He happened to be a body I saw, so I grabbed him," Chris Long said. "I'm sure
there's some out there disappointed with it if they were glued to the TV
looking for conflict between us."
The Vikings and Bears have played 105 times overall with Minnesota holding a
slim 53-50-2 edge. Chicago, however, has won seven of the past eight in the
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
McCown's exceptional play has masked any desire to push the injured Jay Cutler
back too quickly
from his latest problem, a balky ankle. McCown has been rock solid in five
games (three starts) completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards
with seven touchdowns against one interception while compiling a 100.8 rating.
In fact, Minnesota would kill for that kind of production from the quarterback
McCown will get his third straight start against the Vikings, with Bears coach
Marc Trestman targeting the Dec. 9 game against Dallas for a potential Cutler
"I'm confident. I think Jay is confident," Trestman said. "You have to leave
yourself an opening, but there is no underlying information here. It's week to
week with the understanding that at some point in time he'll be back."
McCown should do fine against a Vikings D which has mustered only 14 takeaways
and allows an NFL-worst 31.5 points per game.
When healthy the Minnesota defensive backfield is one of the NFL's worst and
its down two starters, safety Harrison Smith, the only real difference-maker
in the unit, and cornerback Josh Robinson. To make matters even hairier for
the Vikings, corner AJ Jefferson was released after a domestic violence arrest
earlier this week and the team could be without rookie corner Xavier Rhodes,
who suffered a concussion in Green Bay.
That could be an untenable situation against the Bears' dynamic receiving duo
of Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, whose 1,805 combined receiving yards are the
most of any duo in the NFL entering Week 13.
Ponder had one of his better games in Green Bay last week but at his best,
he's a mediocre guy who can't get the ball downfield. At worst, he's a
turnover machine and a one-read
quarterback with no pocket presence.
"The consistent play is what we're always looking for," Vikings coach Leslie
Frazier said. "He had a good game, (now) put together another good game.
There's no second-guessing about playing him. He earned it the way he played."
The Vikings best and likely only chance in this one is to take advantage of
worst rushing defense. The Bears allow 145.2 yards per game on the ground and
surrendered 258 rushing yards in last week's loss at St. Louis. Chicago has
also given up 14 rushing touchdowns, second-most in football.
"We're going to continue to work at it," Trestman said. "There are a lot of
teams working in the same environment in the league. We're not going to give
up on it. We're going to continue to press the issue. We're going to work
harder on it this week and try to get better. We certainly have to. We know
what we're up against this week."
What they are up against is Peterson, the reigning NFL MVP, who hasn't been
his explosive self this season due to a nagging groin injury but has been very
Minnesota rushed for a season-best 232 yards last week against the Packers and
Peterson has averaged 107.7 rushing yards per game in 11 career outings
against the Bears, the most of any player in history against Chicago. Also,
don't sleep on Gerhart, a north-south, downhill nightmare if he gets to the
You see it almost every week. The Vikings are simply behind the curve of the
modern day NFL, relying on a run first, game manager-type offense and a
Tampa-2 heavy defense which can't hold up
consistently in a pass-happy league.
The Bears will figure it out even if it takes them until the fourth quarter.