MINNEAPOLIS — The last time the Minnesota Vikings played the Chicago Bears, they were well on their way to an important division victory on the road.
Until, that is, Jay Cutler, ruined their day. The Vikings led by six points with 3:15 to play at Soldier Field on Sept. 15. Then Cutler drove the Bears 66 yards, finishing the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds to win it.
Cutler will not play in the rematch today at the Metrodome because of a high left ankle sprain. A reason for the Vikings to celebrate? Well, they don’t exactly have fond memories of facing backup quarterback Josh McCown, either.
Back in 2003, McCown was making his third career start for the lowly Arizona Cardinals in the season finale. The 9-6 Vikings need a win over the 3-12 Cards to clinch the NFC North.
The Vikings led 17-12 as the final seconds ticked down and the Cardinals facing a fourth-and-24 from the Minnesota 28. McCown threw the final pass of the game — of Arizona’s season — into the corner of the end zone, and Nate Poole was there to haul it in for an 18-17 victory.
“No! Noooo!” Vikings radio play-by-play man Paul Allen yelled into the microphone in a call that still holds a prominent place in this tortured franchise’s lore. “The Cardinals have knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs!”
So forgive the Vikings (2-8-1) if they aren’t doing cartwheels knowing that Cutler will sit. But McCown doesn’t think the Minnesota defense will be too focused on him.
“I don’t think they adjust to me as much as they adjust to our receivers,” McCown said.
McCown has been solid for the Bears (6-5) in Cutler’s place, and they’re going to need him again against Minnesota’s struggling defense to stay near the top of the muddled North.
Pounded on the ground: Stout, menacing defense has long been a hallmark for the Bears, but injuries and aging have precipitated a rapid demise this season. In three of their five losses they’ve allowed 40-plus points, including last week at St. Louis. Only three other teams, Minnesota among them, have given up more than Chicago’s average of 28.1 points per game.
With the absences of tackle Henry Melton, linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams and cornerback Charles Tillman proving costly, the Bears have allowed an average of NFL-worst 145.2 yards rushing per game.
The Vikings rushed for 232 yards last week against the Packers, with a less-than-100-percent Adrian Peterson getting backup help from Toby Gerhart.
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