The Associated Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — Marc Trestman’s debut as an NFL head coach was such a success that the Chicago Bears want to do it all over again.
They’ll have to stop MVP Adrian Peterson to do it.
The Bears host Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, hoping to build on a season-opening win in which they showed plenty of promise. Chicago got enough big plays down the stretch from Jay Cutler to wipe out an 11-point deficit and beat Cincinnati 24-21. The rebuilt offensive line held its ground against a tough defensive front and did not allow a sack.
Cutler seemed comfortable in Trestman’s offense, particularly after the Bears opened it up in the second half.
“That was really the goal to start the season, if we could keep him clean early and give him a sense that he could be confident throwing the football that eventually we’d be able to open it up, and we talked about that at halftime,” Trestman said. “We didn’t talk about making radical changes and throwing every down or anything like that. But we talked about our sense that the young guys were holding up and they were doing well and Geno Atkins wasn’t a factor.”
Now, they’ll be staring at Jared Allen. And the defense will be trying to catch Peterson.
Chicago’s defense that led the league with 44 takeaways last season showed it still has that knack, forcing three turnovers. One thing missing was pressure on the quarterback.
Here are five things to watch for in Vikings-Bears:
BUILDING BLOCKS: After mostly holding their ground against Atkins and the Bengals, the Bears’ blockers face another test against Allen. All he’s done is collect 13 sacks in 10 games against Chicago, with a 3½-sack domination in 2011? The Bears have four new starters on the line: left tackle Jermon Bushrod, left guard Matt Slauson, and rookies Kyle Long at right guard and Jordan Mills at right tackle.
“They’ve upgraded in some positions, absolutely,” Allen said. “I think Bushrod is definitely a good addition there. It’s hard to tell with young kids after one game, but I think the biggest thing is, they’re still doing a lot of max protection.”
WHAT PRESSURE?: The Bears will try to get to Ponder while keeping an eye on Peterson, after giving the Bengals’ Andy Dalton all the time he needed last week. It was not a great day up front for a team that ranked eighth last season with 41 sacks. Julius Peppers and Henry Melton were quiet. The 33-year-old Peppers occasionally missed practices in preseason, while Melton was playing for the first time since a concussion during the first preseason game.
PONDER-ING CHANGE: Ponder had a rough time against Detroit, getting sacked three times and throwing three interceptions. He’s already hearing loud criticism from fans and some media. Coach Leslie Frazier gave Ponder a strong vote of confidence this week, saying the failures in Detroit were system-wide. Ponder’s starting job does not appear in immediate jeopardy, but another lackluster game and an 0-2 start will have the local fans restless.
THE PETERSON PRINCIPLE: Peterson has had some monster games against the Monsters of the Midway. He went off for 224 yards as a rookie at Soldier Field in 2007, and he ran for 154 and two touchdowns in a 21-14 victory at the Metrodome last year. Overall, Peterson has 1,085 yards and 14 TDs rushing in 10 games against Chicago.
“It’s going to be a challenge, there’s no doubt about it, because we’re going to have to find a way to fit the run and we’re going to have to defend the play-action passes and things like that when we are in single-safety coverages,” Trestman said.
FORTE’S TIME?: Quiet in the opener, Matt Forte could be poised for a big game. Reggie Bush racked up 191 yards of offense last week, and the two have similar skill sets. It just didn’t happen last week for Forte, who had 50 yards rushing and 41 receiving.