The Bears cut the Vikings down with a series of short passes against their cover-2 defense that was aimed at taking away the big passes, mostly to Bears WR Brandon Marshall. It was a nickel-and-dime approach that rarely saw the Bears throw passes 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Everything was short and in rhythm, and the Vikings were unable to stop the flurry of slants and in-cuts the Bears threw at them.
It was more than the defensive line not getting pressure. It was more than the defensive backs not rerouting receivers or breaking up enough passes. It was more than the linebackers not sinking enough to cheat toward those passes. It was all of that, plus poor defense on first and second downs to set up favorable playbook options for the Bears.
“It’s the same thing that happened last year (against the Bears),” DE Jared Allen said. “They came off a game where they got whupped, so they max (protected). We got chipped. We didn’t get too many one-on-ones. We were in 3rd-and-short all day.
“We’ve got to get off on first and second down and force them into 3rd-and-longs. Then we’ve got to get off the field. When we get opportunities to rush one-on-one, we’ve got to win them.”
Vikings CBs A.J. Jefferson, who spent much of the game trying to stop Marshall, and Antoine Winfield, who committed a key pass-interference on Marshall in the endzone, tried to audit the problems from a secondary standpoint.
“Going into it, we thought they were going to run it and take some deep shots,” Jefferson told PFW. “But as you saw, they were nickel-and-diming us. We tried to adjust. It’s tough — you’re trying to play the ball, trying to play aggressive, but (Marshall) was boxing us out, getting his body in front of us. I was just trying to get my hand on him.
“This one is on us. The game plan was fine. Those plays can be made. We have to fix those mistakes. We were being physical, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Packers and Bears, the Vikings’ next two opponents, both have rhythm passing games that rely on short, quick connections. Like Allen, Winfield thinks that stopping the run early can help the pass defense later.
“Anytime you can be two-dimensional (offensively),” Winfield said, “it’s tough to stop. They had a great game plan and (Bears QB Jay Cutler) got the ball out of his hands quick. We need to be quicker next time.”