The Vikings sounded like the Bears for much of these last four years. “We moved the ball between the 20s, got in the red zone and found ways to screw it up,” Minnesota receiver Greg Lewis said.
The Vikings sounded like the Bears for much of these last four years.
“We moved the ball between the 20s, got in the red zone and found ways to screw it up,” Minnesota receiver Greg Lewis said.
“We didn’t do a good job converting on third down, and that hurt us a lot,” running back Adrian Peterson said.
They even sounded like the Bears when they said things that made no sense, as coach Brad Childress did when asked about Brett Favre’s three interceptions in Chicago’s 27-13 victory Sunday. “I thought his decision-making was good.”
Ah, yes, Brett is their quarterback. But don’t call him a hopeful leader, not after the two-time defending NFC North champs fell to 3-6.
“I’ve been concerned from Day 1,” Favre said.
And the Vikings struggles? “Nothing should surprise anyone, including myself,” Favre said.
The Vikings also looked as confused as Chicago at its worst, such as when Childress tried to decline an intentional grounding penalty that comes with loss of down.
Minnesota’s ineptness, from a Bears’ view, matters mostly because it makes it hard to accurately view the Bears.
“They are one of the top defenses in the league,” right guard Roberto Garza said. “Any time you get a chance to play against them, you know where you stand.”
No you don’t. Not any more. Those “three All-Pros” that center Olin Kreutz talked about on the defensive line have been invisible this year, with Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Jared Allen seemingly aging a decade overnight.
Doubts about the Vikings turned this not into a big win, but a stepping stone for a big win as the Bears (6-3) head to Miami.
“When you win these games, the next one becomes bigger,” Kreutz said.
If the Bears are finally ready for even bigger games, it’s because their offensive line has come of age, enabling them to protect Jay Cutler and giving him time to make big plays at the game’s biggest moments.
Cutler, the league’s most-sacked quarterback, was sacked just once Sunday and threw touchdown passes of 17, 19 and 19 yards Sunday. The Bears have now scored six red zone touchdowns in the last two weeks after being 6-for-20 in the red zone their first seven games.
“You’ve got to score touchdowns. That’s the name of the game,” said tight end Greg Olsen, whose 17-yard TD gave the Bears a 7-3 lead.
The name of the game isn’t running the ball. The Bears ran 38 times for 130 yards Sunday, the second consecutive time they ran more than they passed. But it didn’t help them win.
“When you are winning games, you are running the ball to end the game, so that helps your number of attempts,” Kreutz said. “You have to run effectively to call it.”
The Bears won because they converted 11 of 19 third-downs while the Vikings were 1 of 9. Jay Cutler converted all 11. The Bears didn’t even try to run on their first 17 third downs.
Chicago, 15-for-84 on third downs the first seven weeks, is now 18-for-31 the last two games.
“That’s huge,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “Takeaways and third downs are big in this league.”
The Vikings were actually more run-heavy than the Bears until Chicago ran 14 times to their one in the fourth quarter. Running did the Vikings no good because Peterson went nowhere. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor didn’t go far, either, averaging 3.1 yards on their 33 carries.
But the line gave Cutler time to produce third-down gains of 9, 25, 29, 11, 17, 10, 9, 9, 12, 19 and 11 yards, including two of his three touchdowns.
“Our line has been wishy-washy for awhile,” right tackle J’Marcus Webb said. “Now that we’ve got a team of guys that has stuck together for a few weeks on end, we’re doing better.”
Can the line keep doing better? The answer to that contains the answer to Chicago’s playoff hopes.
“The way they held their own, you can’t say enough,” Olsen said. “It all starts there. Give the guys on the outside and inside a chance to work and Jay is going to find you. So when we can put all that together, we’ve got a real good chance.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.