NFL: Vikings take aim at Bears’ porous rush defense
The Minnesota Vikings needed a career-high five field goals from Greg Joseph to edge the New Orleans Saints in London last week.
Entering Sunday’s Week 5 visit from the Chicago Bears, the Vikings are eager to get their offense on track.
Sure, they’re 3-1 and perched atop the NFC North, but the way running back Dalvin Cook sees it, there’s always room for improvement.
“That’s the most positive and encouraging thing about our offense,” Cook said. “We’re still on the brink of getting the run game to where we need to go. Our passing game, you know, we’re still missing a few things in the red zone. There’s a few big plays out there that we can hit. So that’s the encouraging thing about it. A lot of plays out there to be made, and we’re working day to day to get where we need to go.”
Cook may reach paydirt quicker than most.
Chicago (2-2) ranks last in the NFL with 183.3 rushing yards allowed per game, more than 10 yards greater than the next-to-last team.
The Bears yielded 262 yards on the ground in a 20-12 road loss to the New York Giants last week, including 146 yards on 31 carries from running back Saquon Barkley. Even quarterback Daniel Jones was an effective runner, averaging more than 11 yards on six carries with two rushing touchdowns before suffering an ankle injury.
Chicago knows something about a sputtering attack, as well. While quarterback Justin Fields turned in season highs in completions and passing yards against the Giants, those totals stood at a meager 11 and 174, respectively.
Although Fields connected with Darnell Mooney for four completions and 94 yards, a yardage high for Mooney this season, the Bears allowed six sacks and managed four field goals in 12 possessions.
“We’ve just got to be more consistent,” Fields said. “Whether it’s me, whether it’s the O-line, whether it’s the receivers. Some plays, we’re all on the same page, we’re all executing great, and some plays, we aren’t. The biggest thing with that is just consistency.
“There were some plays where I was just hanging out back there. No one was around me. So I think the (offensive line) did a good job on some plays, but there were other plays where they could’ve been a little bit better. Also me with some of the protection adjustments. I could’ve done that better.”
Chicago on Wednesday placed left guard Cody Whitehair (knee) on injured reserve after he exited in the first half of the Giants game.
The Bears will hope to catch the Vikings off guard as they recuperate from traveling overseas. Minnesota declined taking the bye week after the London trip. Teams who play again one week after playing overseas are 2-3. Most recently, the Miami Dolphins last season lost 30-28 to the Atlanta Falcons on the heels of their London game.
Kirk Cousins was 25-for-38 passing for 273 yards against the Saints, with one touchdown and one interception. Cook rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries, while Justin Jefferson had 10 receptions for 147 yards after a pair of slower efforts.
Chicago defensive back Jaylon Johnson, who has missed the past two games with a quad injury, missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness. The secondary could use all the reinforcements it can get against Jefferson, who has topped 100 yards receiving in three of his four games against the Bears.
Bears running back David Montgomery (ankle) also missed practice after being sidelined in Week 4.
–Field Level Media