Hub Arkush: This one's on the offense
For the most part, things have not gone well for the Minnesota Vikings this season. Gee, was that an understatement?
And after all kinds of turmoil at the quarterback position because of injury and the surprising signing of Josh Freeman, who then failed miserably in his one start for the Vikings before suffering a concussion, the Vikings look an awful lot like the club the Bears barely got by, 31-30 in Week 2 at Soldier Field.
When the Bears get to the “Humphdome” on Sunday for their final performance in Mike Ditka’s favorite venue, Christian Ponder will be re-entrenched as the starting quarterback, and both he and Adrian Peterson will be coming off one of their best games of the season Sunday in Green Bay.
The biggest questions in this matchup will be about the Bears’ mindset after the egg they laid Sunday in St. Louis, and whether or not they have any hope at all of slowing Peterson with the worst run defense in the NFL?
Peterson had 146 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries in five quarters of football against the Packers and while he hasn’t approached his 2012 heroics, he was still the NFL’s second leading rusher before the Redskins, 49ers game Monday night with 997 yards, 226 carries and 10 touchdowns.
It looks like Jeremiah Ratliff will see his first action as a Bear and Stephen Paea may be ready to go again, too, which couldn’t come at a better time for Mel Tucker and company.
Ponder has been a threat on the ground with 34 scrambles for 151 yards and four TD’s, and while his 78.7 passer rating shouldn’t scare you he did put up 233 yards on 21-of-30 passing for a 103.9 rating Sunday at Lambeau.
Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson have been up and down but are reliable targets for Ponder, while Cordarrelle Patterson is a factor in the kick return game while still struggling to find himself as a receiver.
That should allow the Bears safeties to spend more time in the box and worry less about pass coverage, a move that suits Greg Steltz who may see more action than usual. Major Wright dinged a hamstring in practice Friday and he could be limited.
The Vikings are 30th in total defense, 14th against the run but 29th against the pass. They are 23rd in interception percentage and 26th rushing the quarterback.
Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are former all pros who are both still capable of big games, but don’t do it on a regular basis any more. LeTroy Guion and Brian Robison are still starting up front as well, as this is the unit that helped key the Vikings playoff run in 2012. But they have struggled this year.
Linebacker Chad Greenway will make plays all over the field, but Erin Henderson in the middle and Marvin Mitchell on the weak side are just guys the Bears should be able to exploit.
Third- and second-round draft choices Josh Robinson and Chris Cook on the corners are both athletic and fast but terribly inconsistent, which is why this team is 29th in pass defense.
The safeties, Jemarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo aren’t bad forcing the run but struggle in coverage.
What this one comes down to for the Bears is what are they going to do about Peterson? A.P. did skip practice Wednesday and Thursday with a groin injury but is expected to play. In recent weeks Peterson had been held in check by the Redskins and Seahawks before exploding again last week in Green Bay.
The unfortunate fact is if the Vikings climb on Peterson’s back, there is little the Bears will be able to do besides get into a shootout.
The good news is that Josh McCown continues to flourish in Marc Trestman’s offense and a shootout between these two actually favors the Bears.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears and the NFL for Shaw Media and Hubarkush.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.