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Vikings at Bears Six Pack: Just Win, Baby

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The Vikings reach a seminal moment in the Mike Zimmer era. By about 3:30 Sunday, we'll know whether this team is a contender or a pretender

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Hardcore fans of the Minnesota Vikings are well aware of the struggles the team has faced when traveling to Chicago in recent seasons. Even casual fans have probably heard in passing that the Vikings have a tough time winning there.

How tough? As much as it pains me to throw these numbers out there, let's look at them. I'm sure we'll go more in depth when Fearless Leader does the more in depth 'brief history' piece we do, so I'll just hit the highlights:

Last win in Chicago: 2007.

Wins in Chicago since 2000: 2. Yes, that's right. In the entirety of the 21st century, the Vikings have gone to the Windy City and won twice, in 2000 and 2007. Other than that. they're an ohfer there. Officially, that's 2-13.

Woof.

The last time the Vikes won back to back games in Chicago: 1999 and 2000. That was three presidents ago. Seriously, when I go back and look at this wasteland of football that is the Vikings playing the Bears in Chicago, the only thing I can think of is this meme:

Not even mad Ron Burgundy

And I have to tell you, every year, I'm kind of a Charlie Brown 'this is going to be the year' optimist regarding the Vikings getting a win in Chicago, and every year, Lucy metaphorically pulls the football just as I'm getting ready to kick. The Vikings have had some close calls, like the last two games.

So, can the Vikings finally get that all elusive win on the Bears home field? Yeah, they can. All they need to do is...

Keep feeding the monster that is Stefon Diggs. Diggs has given a jolt to the Vikings passing attack that was sorely needed. After the continuing regression of Cordarrelle Patterson and a slow start by Mike Wallace, Diggs has vaulted to the top of the depth chart with crisp routes, sure hands, 2 consecutive 100 yard receiving games, and a spectacular touchdown grab. For the last three games he's looked, at times, almost unstoppable, and there should be opportunities for Diggs against a Bears secondary that is second to last in the NFL in passing TD's allowed. But if Diggs is going to get loose, the Vikings are going to need to...

Protect Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater was hit a lot last week, and was sacked four times. It wasn't as bad as the Denver game, but there were a couple shots Bridgewater took that I wasn't sure he'd get up from. When you add the news this week that C John Sullivan had a setback and probably won't return this year, you come to the realization that there's no cavalry coming over the hill to fix this. The Vikings line play is what it is for 2015, so these guys are going to have to dig in their heels and work hard. Could there be changes coming? Yeah, I guess...but who, and where? I haven't heard the team mention anything in the works, so it's going to take coaching, effort, and scheme to give Teddy the time he needs. If they can, that's going to open up...

Adrian Peterson, the running game, and play action. I was as frustrated as everyone else watching Adrian Peterson plunge into the middle of the line on first down every...single...time in the first half last week, but I'm going to give credit to the Vikings here. NORV! was setting up the long con, if you will, and when he did go to play action in the second half, it was brutal in its' effectiveness. Guys were wide open and running free like gazelles on the Serengeti plain, and the Lions? They were napping under the shade of a tree. When Detroit did go to a cover-2 to try and neutralize the play action, Peterson burned them for a 75 yard run that got the Vikings inside the Detroit five. Hey, speaking of the red zone...

Convert red zone chances into touchdowns, not field goals. As impressive as the last three quarters of that game was for the Vikings, it turned into unnecessary drama with about three minutes remaining. A stymied Lions offense found some life, and flew down to the Minnesota one yard line. If not for a goal line stand, it would have been a 28-24 game with two minutes left, and anything could have happened. As good as Blair Walsh was Sunday, going 5/5 in field goal attempts, the game should not have come down to the Vikings defense stopping the Lions on the goal line at the end of the game to ensure a win; it should have never been that close. As good as the offense is moving between the 20's, it's almost just as bad trying to get a touchdown. In the second half, drives got as far as Detroit's 19, 3, and 2 yard line, and each time the Vikings couldn't punch it in. In the NFL, that's going to eventually catch up and cost you games, and in the House of Horrors that is Soldier Field, they simply cannot allow golden opportunities to score a touchdown slip through their hands. Speaking of getting their hands on something...

Harass, hit, and hurry Jay Cutler. For all the fun we make of Jay Cutler, he's been very good against the Vikings in general, and very good at Soldier Field in particular. But the thing with Cutler is this: if you get him off his game early, he goes into 'DOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNN'T CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE' Jay mode, and he is, at some point, going to throw a brutal pick or two. I want this to happen Sunday for two reasons. For one, it will give the Vikings an excellent opportunity to win the game.

Secondly, and most important: my Dad is freaking hysterical when he's making fun of Cutler. My father dislikes Aaron Rodgers, but he respects him and his ability. But Smokin' Jay Cutler? HATES him. It's as pure a sports hate as one person has for another team or player, and it is glorious. As soon as he starts struggling, my old man's eye's light up like a little kid flying downstairs and seeing the tree con Christmas morning. 'GO AHEAD AND CRY YOU BIG DAMN BABY', or 'LOOK AT YOU GETTING READY TO CRY LIKE A LITTLE GIRL, GO AHEAD AND CRY YOU LITTLE BABY GIRL.'

That, my friends, is something you can't put a price on.The Vikings defense was in jail break mode against the Lions last week, and they need to carry that over to this week. But when they are running free to Cutler and punishing him, they need to...

Remember to cover guys running routes underneath. In that brutal first quarter, the Vikings defense got gashed repeatedly, but one play in particular was on LB Eric Kendricks. He got lost in coverage and that allowed TE Eric Ebron to be more wide open than a paid in full hooker, and he rambled for 55 yards. The Vikings are going to have to play fundamentally sound, as the Bears have an exceptional pass catching running back in Matt Forte. Give him room to operate, and he'll make the Vikings pay all day long.

I'll finish with this...the Bears are a bad team. They are 28th in scoring offense and 31st in scoring defense. This is a team that's gotten old, hasn't been able to replenish the roster adequately, and is dealing with some key injuries. The Vikings defense is legitimately good, bordering on elite, and the offense appears to have finally found a productive and balanced attack running and passing the ball now that Stefon Diggs is firmly entrenched as a starter.

If ever the Vikings were going to get a win in Chicago, it's this team, this year, and this Sunday.

Skol Vikings, beat the Bears.