Amid growing unrest from fans, the Chicago Bears chose not to make any changes to the coaching staff or starting lineup ahead of another NFC North matchup.
The suddenly dangerous Minnesota Vikings hope that means Chicago’s defense will continue to be historically bad.
Coming off one of the worst two-game efforts in NFL history, coach Marc Trestman will look to get his Bears turned around Sunday when they try to extend their home success against the Vikings.
Article continues below ...
Trestman said he can understand the building frustration from the fan base while postseason hopes have faded with Chicago (3-6) looking to avoid losing four straight for the first time since a five-game skid in 2011.
”This has been a very disturbing stretch of three weeks," Trestman said. "There’s no doubt about it. But we’re focused in and the only way we can work our way out of this is to go get ready for Minnesota.”
Although they had a bye week to fix their woes following a 51-23 loss at New England on Oct. 26, the Bears’ problems only seemed to be accentuated in a 55-14 rout at Green Bay last Sunday night.
They’ve allowed 50 or more points in three of their past 11, something they had only done six times before. They also joined the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons as the only teams in NFL history to give up 50 in back-to-back games.
”(Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is) doing everything he can under the circumstances to coach, to teach and to lead that side of the ball, and he’s got a very good staff with him,” Trestman said.
Tucker’s unit, however, is allowing a league-high 30.8 points per game and ranks 28th against the pass (268.6 yards per game) after Aaron Rodgers carved it up for 315 yards and six touchdowns in the first half.
Chicago isn’t generating much pressure up front with one sack in its last two games. Former Minnesota Pro Bowler Jared Allen has 1 1/2 sacks after signing a four-year deal that guaranteed him $15.5 million.
The Bears hope to recover with their 13th win in 14 home meetings with the Vikings. They’ve won the past six matchups at Soldier Field since Adrian Peterson rushed for a franchise-record 224 yards and three scores in a 34-31 loss in 2007.
With Peterson’s status yet to be determined after pleading no contest last week to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault following his indictment on felony child abuse, the Vikings (4-5) like what they’re seeing from running back Jerick McKinnon and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
McKinnon has rushed for 240 yards and 4.9 per carry in his last three games, while Bridgewater hasn’t committed a turnover since tossing five interceptions in consecutive losses to Detroit and Buffalo.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph could provide Bridgewater with a key target in the passing game if he’s able to return after missing six games following sports hernia surgery.
Bridgewater led two fourth-quarter comebacks to help the Vikings win back-to-back games before last week’s bye. They haven’t won three in a row since a four-game run to end the 2012 season.
"I think we showed some resiliency there," first-year coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think our team grew up a little bit."
Minnesota also has shown improvement defensively, allowing an average of 18.3 points in its last four after giving up 30.0 over the previous four. The Vikings rank fourth against the pass at 213.6 yards per game and have 20 sacks in their last four.
Now they’ll try to rattle Jay Cutler, who is tied for the NFL lead with 15 giveaways – including a pair of INTs and a lost fumble in Green Bay – and has been sacked 23 times. He completed a season-low 59.5 percent of his passes while throwing a TD for the 13th straight game.
”I think the biggest thing is that Jay has got to play better,” Trestman said. ”He didn’t play well enough, and we didn’t play well enough and I’m certain that he’d take accountability for that.”
Cutler has won all five home meetings against the Vikings since joining the Bears, throwing 13 TDs and six picks. He hit Martellus Bennett on a 16-yard scoring pass with 10 seconds left for a 31-30 victory in last year’s matchup at Soldier Field.
Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall is expected to play despite spraining his left ankle last week, while Alshon Jeffery hopes for another big performance after he had 12 catches for 249 yards and two scores in a 23-20 overtime loss at Minnesota on Dec. 1.
Bears running back Matt Forte averaged 156.0 yards from scrimmage in the two meetings last season.