Everson Griffen (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
The Vikings didn’t take advantage of the Bears’ makeshift offensive line in the first meeting, but Everson Griffen is hoping they can change that Sunday.
The Vikings struggles the last two weeks against division rivals Chicago and Green Bay have the Vikings playoff hopes clinging by a thread, but, where there’s hope there’s a chance. In their first meeting with the Bears, quarterback Jay Cutler had his was with the Vikings – carving them up with precision passes behind a patchwork offensive line.
It was a matchup that the Vikings thought they could dominate, but Cutler consistently made plays from the pocket and on the move, keeping the Vikings a half-step too late in getting to him. Defensive lineman Everson Griffen believes that has to change when the teams play for the second time in three weeks Sunday at the Metrodome. As he views it, it all starts with getting pressure on Cutler from the front four.
“Jay Cutler, he’s a leader,” Griffen said. “A tough guy. Cocky. He just likes to play ball. We love to go up against guys like that. Our defensive line has just got to step up and dominate their offensive line and just have everything else work off us.”
Like many NFL quarterbacks, if Cutler stays clean in the pocket, he can make the throws that can kill a defense. But, when pressured, he is prone to making the mistakes that can turn a game around. When the Vikings have been their most successful defensively, they have been able to create pressure from their front four and let the back end of the defense make plays.
If the Vikings are to even the score with Chicago Sunday, much of the onus will be on the front four creating the kind of pressure needed to make Cutler uncomfortable and throw the kind of passes that have frustrated Bears fans during the down times.
“Cutler is a gunslinger,” Griffen said. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to maintain him in the pocket, put pressure on him and stop the run. That’s the biggest thing. If we can stop the run early and get our ears pulled back to go up against their offensive line, we’ve just got to beat them down and make plays.”
Wednesday was payday for the Vikings players and rookie Harrison Smith had the look of a guy who wasn’t happy about his check. Why? The fines he has accrued this season are pro-rated and taken out of each paycheck as the season goes along – a constant reminder that the league has taken money away from him.
“There’s something missing in each check,” Smith said. “It’s a reminder every week and it’s get old after a while.”
The Vikings placed Percy Harvin on injured reserve Wednesday, but didn’t make a corresponding move to replace him on the 53-man roster, lending some to believe the team may be looking outside the organization for a replacement and may not simply elevate a player from the practice squad (Chris Summers is the only receiver on the practice squad).
One of the residual effects of playing a team twice in two weeks is that the anger some Bears players had over the hit Jared Allen laid on guard Lance Louis that ended his 2012 season is still fresh in their minds. While the Bears have claimed they have no intention of retaliating, don’t be surprised to see Allen subjected to a cheap shot or two Sunday.
Allen was the only Viking other than Harvin who didn’t practice Wednesday. He has been slowed with shoulder and back injuries that have rarely seen him practice on Wednesdays.
Five Bears didn’t practice Wednesday – running back Michael Bush (ribs), wide receivers Brandon Marshall (coach’s decision) and Earl Bennett (concussion), DT Stephen Paea (foot) and CB Tim Jennings (shoulder).
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.