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Bears facing a more dangerous Vikings 'O' by being less AP-centric

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Bears facing a more dangerous Vikings 'O' by being less AP-centric

“Adrian.” “Peterson.”

Two words that for a long time have visited true fear upon Chicago football. Not necessarily so anymore. But that is not necessarily good news, not by any means.

The Minnesota Vikings running back exploded on the Bears for 224 rushing yards, 128 return yards and three touchdowns as a rookie back in 2007. The last time the Bears saw Peterson, on Dec. 1, 2013, Peterson put 211 yards on the Bears in a 23-20 Minnesota win.

But that was then. And the NFL of “now” is not exactly the same one that he left one week into the 2014 season due to circumstances surrounding a case of child-abuse allegations. The NFL game is changing, nowhere more evident than in Minnesota.

[MORE BEARS: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson will tough it out to eat shrimp]

In his absence the Vikings have moved away from an AP-centered offense under coordinator Norv Turner and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the second of their two No. 1 picks in the 2014 draft. The spread offense of so many colleges has become a bigger part of the NFL game, including in Minnesota. Peterson is lining up more often without a blocking fullback than was his custom for so many years and results have begun to be questioned.

On 29 of his 45 carries over the past two weeks, Peterson was stopped for 2 or fewer yards, according to Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Peterson carried 19 times against Detroit and was held to 2 or fewer yards 14 times.

“It’s a big difference, but I knew that coming back,” Peterson said. “I knew it last year before week one with coach Turner, what he presents. I’ve been adjusting to it.”

But the bigger change may lie within Peterson, no longer the dominant back of his prime but also not demanding to be.

[MORE BEARS: Bears problems at wide receiver producing 'better' Jay Cutler]

“My philosophy is whatever,” he said. “They brought coach Turner in for a reason because he has a great mind, he has a great scheme. Of course, he wants to lead the team to a championship as well. My whole approach is to do my job, so whatever they ask of me, just try to do it to the best of my ability. If that’s sacrificing, then I’m willing to do that.

“I’m all about trying to win a championship. If that’s getting 3 or 4 yards and keeping the chains moving, finishing with 80 yards and Teddy finishes with 300 [passing] yards and we win, I’m satisfied with that because I’m trying to get a ring.”

But here is the considerably bigger problem now: It does not seem to matter whether an opponent stops Peterson. The Vikings are still winning.

Peterson ran for 134 and 126 yards in Minnesota wins against Detroit and San Diego in Weeks 2 and 3. Then the Kansas City Chiefs held Peterson to 60 rushing yards and 2.3 yards per carry, and lost. The Lions kept him under 100 yards (98), and lost.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

The Vikings have won four of their last five games. The only loss came at Denver, not because the Broncos shut down Peterson, but because they sacked Bridgewater seven times.

The overall, which has seen the Vikings have eight No. 1 picks over the past four years, has allowed the Vikings to tilt away from being AP-centric.

“I think Mike [Zimmer, coach] and their organization have done a good job,” said coach John Fox. “They’re a young football team, good young talent. It’s a team game.

“I know Adrian is a great player and we recognize his accomplishments and what he’s done. But they’re playing good ball in all three phases. They’ve won some close games, they get turnovers in defense. This is the ultimate team game and they play good team football.”

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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USA TODAY

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.