Chicago looks to open 3-0 for the first time since 1991, while Minnesota tries to begin a season with three straight victories for the first time in three years when the NFC North rivals meet at the Metrodome on Sunday.
Quarterback Rex Grossman hasn’t made more than three starts in his last three years in Chicago due to injuries and was less than impressive during the preseason, leading to speculation that he could lose his starting job to veteran Brian Griese.
The Bears’ offense, however, has flourished with Grossman under center in the first two games. Grossman leads the NFL with a 128.7 rating, is tied for first with five touchdown passes and is fifth with 551 yards passing as Chicago has scored an NFC-high 60 points.
“I know it’s always been fashionable to say (the Bears) haven’t had the offense to go along with the defense,” Childress said. “They’ve got the leading passer in the National Football League right now … A lot of times you have to grow into those offenses. I think you’re seeing, obviously, Rex Grossman mature.”
Grossman set a career high with 262 yards in the season opener against Green Bay and then threw for 289 in last Sunday’s 34-7 win over Detroit, connecting on 20-of-27 passes.
“(The fans) have been on him so hard the last few weeks,” said Bears tight end Desmond Clark, who caught five passes for 85 yards and a touchdown last week. “You sit back and you’re like, ‘Damn, just a few months ago he was (hailed) and now you’re booing him.’ I like what he’s doing. I hope he can keep it up.”
The defense will also be looking to keep up its strong play. Chicago has given up only seven points and is fifth in the NFL in total defense, allowing 256 yards a game.
Grossman will be facing a Minnesota defense that is ranked seventh in the NFL, but suffered another blow last week with the loss of defensive end Erasmus James to a torn ACL. James joins safety Tank Williams (kneecap), linebacker Chad Greenway (knee) and cornerback Dovonte Edwards (arm) on injured reserve.
Still, the Vikings defense has allowed only two touchdowns, held opponents to just 7-for-27 on third-down conversions and forced 14 punts.
Childress feels the depth of the defensive unit will make the losses easier to handle.
“We like fresh faces in there, fresh bodies,” Childress said. “A guy can get out and if (we) have equally as much confidence in the guy who goes in, that ends up being huge.”
Minnesota is coming off a 16-13 overtime win over Carolina last weekend after opening the season with a 19-16 victory at Washington. The Vikings trailed the Panthers 13-6 in the fourth quarter when kicker Ryan Longwell faked a field-goal attempt and passed to Richard Owens in the end zone to tie the score.
Longwell, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent in the offseason after nine years with Green Bay, then made a 19-yard field goal in overtime.
“Ten years in, I finally got one,” Longwell said of his 16-yard TD pass.
Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson didn’t throw a touchdown in the game, but was 19-of-31 for 243 yards. He connected with Troy Williamson six times for 102 yards, giving the second-year receiver 179 yards in two games after managing just 372 in 14 contests last year.
The Vikings are averaging only 3.4 rushing yards per carry, but Chester Taylor showed promise against the Panthers, running for 113 yards on 24 carries.
The home team has won each of the last eight meetings in this series, with Chicago’s last victory in Minneapolis coming on Nov. 25, 2001.
“If we can get this one, it would really set us up,” Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said. “We usually play well against them.”
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