If ever there was a more important game for a Lovie Smith coached team to come out and make a statement to the NFL about how good they are this weekend is that game. The Chicago Bears have a chance to effectively end the Minnesota Vikings' playoff hopes with a win at Soldier Field. A win over the Vikings gives the Bears three victories over their division opponents in their first three meetings with them. The Bears have thus far beaten the Lions, and Packers so beating the Vikings is of the highest priority.
There is no higher point of emphasis for this team, a chance to knock out one of the pre-season Super Bowl contenders and fittingly end Brett Favre's career on a low note. There is no better motivation for this Bears team.
The question is can they come out execute a death blow to the Vikings?
I am skeptical of that they can simply because it's not something that the Bears have managed to do much during Lovie Smith's tenure. This team lacks a killer instinct, witness the 2008 season where a nine win Bears team simply needed one victory to qualify for the playoffs, but lost to a 7-8 Houston Texans team. The Texans were out of the playoff chase and the Bears needed one victory to put them into the playoffs and lost.
This is the type of game that separates contenders from pretenders, an overstated cliche certainly but there is no more simpler way to emphasize the importance for the Bears to come out and win at home.
So what is it going to take?
Simple the Bears are going to have to find a way to stop Adrian Peterson who has been an absolute monster against the Bears since his arrival in Chicago. Peterson has had some of his best days against the Bears and in turn the Bears need to do whatever it takes to slow him down. Stop Peterson and getting to Favre will be that much easier and the Bears can win this game. This will be the Bears' first true test of the season on defense because they have yet to face a RB of Peterson's caliber all season long.
Stopping Peterson however won't be completely on the defense, the offense too has to play their part in this victory. They have to string together successful drives. Long successful drives so that the defense isn't getting off the field and then turning around immediately coming back on the field. This is something that has happened far too often this season. As soon as you feel good about a defensive stop the offense blows a chance moving the football and puts the pressure right back on the defense to do it again.
The Bears' defense has been pretty dominant through the first three quarters of each football game they have played this season, and then they've been worn down in the fourth quarter and wound up costing a shot at victory. When you see the same three and out scenario week in and week out on offense eventually it becomes the fault of the offense that in turn reflects poorly on the defense.
So what the Bears need to do is to score and score early. Make the Vikings play catch up and race to try and come back and win. The Bears' defense is far better than the Cardinals defense that the Vikes faced last week, so if the Bears put the foot on the throat of the Vikings early it bodes well for a victory.
If I'm in charge of game planning for the Vikings I'm going to get Chester Taylor and Matt Forte involved in all sorts of creative ways to make the fat bodies on the front line of the Vikings work. I want to slow them down by running pitches outside, screens outside, swing passes everything within our offensive arsenal that is based on speed. The Vikings do not have a lot of speed on defense so by forcing them to defend your speed you are forcing them to try and cover up a weakness.
This is a tricky game because in the eyes of Lovie Smith and the rest of Chicago this isn't a must win game, but for the Vikings and any hope for January they need this game far more than the Bears do. Some how some way the Bears need to deliver a knock out blow to an old nemesis.