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Five Bears Matchups of Concern Facing Vikings

The Vikings have played like a playoff challenger all year while the Bears have looked like a team capable of playing games only in spurts and in specific ways, and key matchups for their game Sunday show this.

Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker has obviously never faced Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson but definitely had curiosity.

"Personally, myself, I watched them when they played the Eagles," Brisker said. "I was watching that game in my home. Pretty sure a lot of other people were, too.

"I watched that game and a little bit of the Detroit game."

What he'll see is a receiver who has almost twice as many receptions as the entire Bears wide receiver corps.

Jefferson has 28 receptions on 42 targets for 393 yards and two touchdowns. Bears receivers have combined for only 15 catches on 35 targets for the season.

And the Vikings have 21 catches from Adam Thielen and 11 from K.J. Osborn. The Vikings have completed five more passes to their three tight ends than the Bears have to their wide receivers.

In essence, the Bears will be facing a team 180 degrees from what they saw last week but it's one which will use the bootleg against them. The difference here being Kirk Cousins will bootleg and throw, rather than only run it like Daniel Jones did.

The Bears are facing a high-powered offense already in place before Kevin O'Connell took over as coach and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as general manager.

They've converted quickly to a 3-4 defense under former Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and have some advantages on that side of the ball, as well.

Here are the matchups where the Bears have real problems facing the 3-1 Vikings.

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Bears CB Jaylon Johnson vs. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

This won't be the real problem for the Bears. Johnson has faced Jefferson for two years, and did it last year as a chaser all over the field in the first game. So he knows what to expect from the speed and athleticism of this All-Pro receiver. One real problem is the Bears might not have Johnson because of the quad injury which kept him out of the last two games. And even if they do have Johnson, the Vikings move Jefferson all over the formation and could get him matched up on rookie Kyler Gordon or on Kindle Vildor, who has played better this year but still had trouble in the past covering talented receivers. Jefferson is averaging 98 receiving yards a game and is getting open 25 yards downfield as easily as if it was a wide receiver screen.

Bears CB Kyler Gordon vs. Vikings WR Adam Thielen

Thielen was injured part of last year and the Bears didn't see him at full strength but in this new offense he's thriving and on pace for the best season he has had since his best season of 2018, when he made 113 receptions. Thielen has caught 75% of targets, best on the team for wide receivers. Over the years the Bears have done a good job containing Thielen, as he averages 2.8 catches for 28 yards a game against them. That was against a different Bears defense. This one has been burned on the ground by even weaker teams and hasn't been able to put pressure on the quarterback sufficiently to render receivers irrelevant. Gordon has been a step behind most receivers he has faced. His athleticism is apparent, as is his ability to go after the ball if he's in position. What hasn't been apparent is tackling ability, a willingness to be very physical, and this is a trait good slot cornerback need. Their position is so difficult that they can't always stay stride-for-stride with every receiver, so they need to rely on physicality to maintain an edge. Gordon might be better suited to playing solely on the outside.

Bears DE Al-Quadin Muhammad vs. Vikings RT Brian O'Neill

The problem the Bears have had at left defensive end is Muhammad has provided almost no pass rush and Trevis Gipson hasn't been very effective against the run. Both will be trying to face a Pro Bowl right tackle in this game. O'Neill has been blocking more effectively in the running game this year than the passing game, as he has allowed two sacks. Overall, Pro Football Focus ranks him the 16th best tackle in the league. Muhammad hasn't had a sack or a quarterback hit yet and has started all four games. He has had five pressures, but knowing he can actually complete the process would be reassuring at some point for the Bears. While PFF ranks him better against the run than the pass, he has missed two tackles and that's not something the Bears can afford up front at the moment.

Bears LT Braxton Jones vs. Vikings OLB Za'Darius Smith

Back from an injury and still in the division but with Minnesota now, Smith is doing what he did for Green Bay when he was healty. He has three sacks using his outstanding closing ability and great speed to get around the edge. Smith has five QB hits and six tackles for loss. Jones has already been tested by facing Nick Bosa in his first game but that was on treacherous footing for pass rushers. Houston and the Giants didn't challenge Jones with top-line edge rushers. Jones has allowed one sack per game so far but despite the sacks allowed he has maintained his composure and has only one penalty while recording a PFF pass blocking grade of 61.3, respectable for a rookie. However, he has allowed 11 pressures and the Bears can't afford this with their offense in the current state of disarray.

Bears TE Cole Kmet vs. Vikings LB Eric Kendricks

The Bears did start to get more production in the passing game from Kmet in Week 3 and Matt Eberflus praised him for being more involved with a season-high three catches last week but he only gained 5.3 yards per three receptions. He has only been targeted eight times in four games and with Justin Fields constantly looking for someone who gets open, anyone, the eight targets doesn't say much for Kmet's ability to get free of coverage. His blocking on the run has ranged from excellent to sporadic. Kendricks has not had a particularly strong conversion to 3-4 inside linebacker from the 4-3 but has been fairly consistent and his game hasn't lacked in a specific area. Kmet has hurt the Vikings in the past with 3.3 catches for 34.5 yards per four games but has never scored on them. To think he'll have a big game this week runs contrary to what he has done so far this season.

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