Player in the spotlight
Even with eight and nine defenders consistently crowding the line of scrimmage, Adrian Peterson somehow remains a threat to score every time he touches the ball. His 78-yard touchdown run a week ago at Detroit was the longest touchdown run on a player’s first carry of the season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. It also was the 19th time Peterson has had a rush of 50 yards or longer in his career.
“I don’t think of different ways [to run against stacked defensive fronts],” Peterson said. “I just go out there and keep my legs pumping and get our guys flying around until the whistle blows. I tell the guys all the time, ‘You never know where the ball is going to come.’ It might be designed to go to the right and I might end up behind the left tackle.’”
In 10 games against the Bears, Peterson is averaging 108.5 yards per game. That’s the highest average of all the backs who have played at least five games against the Bears.
Keep an eye on
Receiver Jerome Simpson caught only two passes for 14 yards in two games against the Bears a year ago. But his back and legs finally are healthy and he’s coming off a seven-catch, 140-yard performance against the Lions. That effort included one of the more acrobatic catches in a career highlighted by that memorable flip over a Cardinals defender for a touchdown as a member of the Bengals on Christmas Eve 2011.
“I’m the highest jumper in the league, hands down,” Simpson said. “It’s just always something I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s a skill I’ve mastered. When I was younger, I used to always try to touch the wall above the doorway with my hand. My handprints would always be on the wall and my mom used to kind of get on me. But I guess it kind of paid off.”
Now, Simpson wants to reach the end zone, something he hasn’t done since that Christmas Eve flip.
“Every week, a fan or somebody tells me that was their favorite play,” Simpson said. “That’s what people know me by, but I want to make more plays so I can be more than the guy who made that flip.”
Most pressing question
By now, we all know the most pressing question is how quarterback Christian Ponder will play. That’s a weekly query, but this week is especially important with Ponder coming off a four-turnover game. With Ponder starting at quarterback in NFC North road games, the Vikings are 1-5 while being outscored by an average score of 30-17.
Another loss and the Vikings fall to 0-2 heading into their home opener. Needless to say, the Metrodome wouldn’t be a Ponder-friendly venue at that time.
On the other side Sunday is Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He knows a thing or two about how to deal with criticism.
“That’s what you guys [the media] get paid to do is to break things down and criticize as much as you can,” Cutler said. “It is what it is. I think the guys in the locker room are used to it. It’s a tough business. We just have to try to keep everything in the locker room and make sure that we rally around each other.”
Be careful, Christian. With two more interceptions in last week’s victory over the Bengals, cornerback Charles Tillman ranks seventh in interceptions (35) and interception return yards (647) since 2003. He also ranks second in interception returns for touchdowns (eight), first in forced fumbles (39) and fourth in passes defensed.
In 17 games, 16 of them starts, against the Vikings, Tillman has 102 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Williams good to go
Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams missed Friday’s practice to tend to a personal matter, but the severely strained right knee that kept him out of last week’s season opener is good to go on Sunday in Chicago, coach Leslie Frazier said Friday. Frazier said Williams’ reps will be monitored closely, but the team expects him to be able to fulfill his role in a defensive line rotation that also includes rookie tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Williams and six other Vikings were listed as probable. The other six are center John Sullivan (knee), linebackers Larry Dean (shoulder) and Erin Henderson (heel), offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Robinson (quadriceps). Sullivan was the only one limited in Friday’s practice.