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Cutler's solid home record vs. Vikings can't cover up Bears problems

Should the Vikings want to face Jay Cutler?

The short answer is yes. The Vikings defense, which allowed 13 points in the season’s first loss at Philadelphia, has proven a difficult matchup for the NFL’s best quarterbacks. And Cutler, despite boasting a 6-1 record and average passer rating of 98.3 at Soldier Field against the Vikings, will have a tough time reviving these ailing Bears (1-6).

Cutler was not playing well for the Bears in an 0-2 start prior to injuring his right thumb. He’s expected to return on Monday night against a team he has enjoyed many big days against, even since Mike Zimmer came to Minnesota. Of his seven home starts against the Vikings, four times Cutler threw three touchdowns, most recently in 2014.

Last season, the Vikings finally ended a seven-game losing streak in Chicago, needing a 13-point fourth quarter with a last-second field goal to secure the win. There’s something about the Vikings playing there, including in playoff years of 2009 and 2012, that makes it routinely difficult.

Cutler’s receivers just might be it. In the Vikings’ win at Soldier Field last season, Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. The year prior, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall combined for three touchdown grabs.

The Bears haven’t been the same through the air, save for the Cutler-to-Jeffery connection, though even Jeffery has yet to score a touchdown. Through seven weeks, Chicago is the NFL’s worst scoring offense (15.9 points per game) after seeing the departure of tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte this offseason.

This time, the Vikings bring a scoring defense (14 points per game) that’s tied for the league’s best with the Seahawks. And they’ve got a thing about shutting down opposing receivers. No receiver has yet to top 76 yards against the Vikings, which Titans rookie Tajae Sharpe tallied in the opener.

So this is one when the past should easily be swept under the rug.

A day later, Vikings' Zimmer still irked about team's performance

Mike Zimmer used the words “dumb” and “uncharacteristic” often at his Monday news conference at Winter Park, a day after the Vikings lost to the Eagles 21-10 in Philadelphia.

“We’re trying to figure out everything right now,” the Vikings coach said. “This is a gut check day.

“We’re going to change some things up this week.”

As he did following Sunday’s loss, Zimmer was specific about the mistakes his team made. Quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked six times, the Vikings had three turnovers – after having only one through five games – and made more mistakes in key situations than Zimmer cared to count.

“I have faith in this football team,” Zimmer said. “But faith is belief without proof, and I have no proof yet.

“The three years I’ve been here, we’re trying to be a smart football team,” he said. “So many of these things were uncharacteristic.

“I’m anxious to see the determination this team has going forward. You never know. Every team is different, but I have a good feeling on these players typically and this football team.”

While the offensive line took the brunt of the post-game criticism, Zimmer said “there were a whole bunch of things offensively that we didn’t do good. Everyone said how I said it was the offensive line not doing good. The offense in general wasn’t very good.”

Safety Andrew Sendejo, who left the game because of an ankle injury, is day-to-day, “so we should be all right,” Zimmer said. Asked to evaluate the performance of Sendejo’s replacement, rookie Jayron Kearse, Zimmer said “average.”

7:30 PM, 10/31 (ESPN)
Minnesota 5-1
Chicago 1-6

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