(CBS) If Monday was a “must have”, then Sunday is a must win. If the Bears were to lose against Minnesota, they would drop to 2-4, with all four losses coming in the NFC. It would also make them 0-3 in the division. When it comes to tie-breaker math, that ain’t good. So here’s what I’m watching for Sunday night:
Play-action vs. Bears New Safety Tandem: Major Wright and Chris Conte will get the start at safety. Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather have been benched. The Bears are going to be very aggressive against the run. Adrian Peterson will be their focus. That means that your safeties are going to be coming downhill to help against the run. Donavon McNabb doesn’t have much left, but he still has over a decade of experience. Because of the emphasis on stopping the run, a play fake is the perfect way to freeze two young safeties and make plays down the field. Wright and Conte will have to stay disciplined.
Bears Defense vs. THE BIG PLAY: Last year the Bears gave up nine pass plays of 30 yards or more. This year in five games, they’ve already given up six. That means there is a fundamental breakdown in a defense that is designed to minmize big plays. Bears defenders have been getting out of their gaps and have been bad at reading their keys. The other part that is discouraging is that the Bears haven’t been able to get the quarterback on the ground. At this point, McNabb is a bit of a statue and the Vikings protection issues rival the Bears. So there are some opportunities for the Bears defense to get.
Against Detroit, the Bears gave up an 88-yard touchdown to Jahvid Best. In that scamper, he went untouched. Peterson has made a living off of busting the Bears for big runs. This is what AP told reporters after watching Best’s performance: “Of course you get excited when you see the team you’re playing get gashed.” He loves playing on grass and has had a bunch of good games at Soldier Field. So with all the problems the Bears have had, let’s hope they can correct them before ‘Purple Jesus’ turns their lights out.
Communication: Going back over the last two seasons, the Bears have struggled getting plays in. This season it has been more prevalent. This week a couple players and Mike Martz have pointed to the equipment being the issue, not decision-making or play-calling. I’m skeptical, but whatever. If that’s the case this week, then perhaps they should have some other protocols in place instead of calling timeouts. They have a smart quarterback in Jay Cutler, it makes sense to let him call his own game in situations where the technology fails. If Cutler really is on board and in touch with Martz’s system, then he should have an idea of what type of play Martz would call in given down & distance situations. Trust him to do so. Those timeouts are valuable and the Bears misuse of them is getting embarassing.
Devin Hester vs. Chris Kluwe: Hester has 3 touchdowns vs the Vikings punter. Kluwe has a great leg and kicks the ball deep. He will occassionally outkick his coverage and that leaves opportunities for the Bears. We’ve seen Hester have a minimal effect in the kickoff return game (like most returners around the league). Touchbacks are up and starting field position is down almost four yards a kick in the NFL. Where Hester can still have an impact is in punt returns, so make them count.
For live gameday coverage Sunday, follow Laurence on Twitter (@lholmes670).