The Bears defense was abused Sunday on the ground in the loss to the Rams and it will be tested again in the run game against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings on the Metrodome's artificial surface. Along with that comes play-action opportunities for quarterback Christian Ponder when the Vikings move the ball into the red zone.
As shown here, the Vikings have their Posse (or 11) personnel on the field (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) with Peterson offset to the open (weak) side of the formation. The Bears counter with their base nickel sub package (five defensive backs) playing Cover-1 (man-free) in the secondary. The Vikings and Ponder are looking to set up play action to target a high-to-low read off the swap boot.
Limit running game
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Before the Vikings target the Bears with play action, they will look to establish the run with Peterson and Toby Gerhart. That means the base two-back power runs (Power O, Lead, G-Lead, Counter OF) and the zone schemes that test the cut-back discipline of Mel Tucker's unit. The Bears were very poor with their gap fits during the Week 12 loss to the Rams on an artificial surface in St. Louis and struggled with backside contain responsibilities. That allowed the Rams consistently to get to the second level before first contact. The Bears must improve their overall technique in the running game if they want to limit the combo of Peterson and Gerhart.
The Vikings will set up the boot scheme with Cordarrelle Patterson (H) aligned in the slot to the closed (strong) side of the formation. Before the snap, the Vikings send Patterson on short, divide motion (motion to the core of the formation) and sell the inside zone scheme to Peterson. With Jerome Simpson (X) clearing out cornerback Tim Jennings (LC) on the 9 (fade) route, Ponder now has a two-level read with Patterson in the flat and tight end John Carlson (Y) running the intermediate crosser. To complete the route concept, Greg Jennings (Z) will release on the inside slant/skinny post to the closed side of the formation.
Tough matchup for Frey
Bears nickel cornerback Isaiah Frey is in a tough spot versus Patterson because of the scheme and his initial leverage. Frey has to bump down to the core of the formation with the motion from Patterson and bubble over the inside traffic (from an outside leverage position) to match to the wide receiver on the other side of the formation. That's a long way to run given the field position and the quick target Patterson provides in the open-side flat. Once Frey clears the linebackers biting on the play action, he has to drive downhill to attack the inside shoulder of Patterson to make the stop.
Backside contain vs. boot
One of the major issues for the Bears defense in the loss to the Rams was the backside contain. That showed up consistently with Shea McClellin as the defensive end chased inside on multiple occasions to open up the edge. In this situation versus the Vikings, McClellin has to read the play and get vertically up the field to force Ponder to pull up inside of the tackle box. If he runs down the line of scrimmage, the Vikings quarterback has time to let the route develop or look for a run/pass option.
Put game plan in Ponder's hands
For the Bears to win, their defense has to force Ponder to beat them. That is, make the Vikings quarterback convert third-down passes (from inside the pocket) and challenge the secondary in the intermediate passing game. However, to get to those third-down situations, the Bears have to win on early down and distances with their eight-man fronts (Cover-1, Cover-3, Under-10). Until they show the ability to limit the run game, every team left on the schedule is going to look to pound the ball on them.