Vikings

How the Vikings Should Game Plan for Chicago’s Front Seven

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

This week’s game is surely circled on Kirk Cousins‘ calendar. Not only is the game on Monday Night, where he holds an 0-9 record, but it is also against a team that he hasn’t beat while donning the purple and gold. The Minnesota Vikings are currently riding a hot streak on the back of MVP candidate Dalvin Cook, but if we look at recent history, going to “The Chef” may not be the recipe for success.

Since 2018, Cook is averaging 28.6 yards per game on 2.5 yards per carry with only one touchdown against the Chicago Bears. It doesn’t take a football guru to know that those numbers aren’t enough for a Vikings victory.

It’s hard to say that Gary Kubiak should go away from the run with how hot Cook has been, but trying to get through Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan is no easy feat.

Whether Vikings fans like it or not, Monday night’s game is shaping up to be in the hands of Cousins. While I can hear audible groans stemming from that statement, this Bears defense isn’t what it was a couple of seasons ago, and there are some things to exploit in that secondary.

Chuck Pagano loves to play an aggressive, press coverage style with his cornerbacks. This leads to some of the lowest completion percentages in the league, but also leaves open big plays, as demonstrated by A.J. Brown last week.

Kubiak has to take shots down field early and often, especially when you have two of the most talented route runners in the league with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. While Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson are talented defensive backs, they’re both susceptible to getting burnt every once in a while — the two have combined to allow 514 air yards this season.

Now this leaves the question of what Kubiak’s game script should look like on Monday. The past two of games have seen Cousins throw the ball a combined 34 times, while Cook and the run game have led the way.

You can’t, and shouldn’t, go away from your best player. But I just don’t see a way that the Vikings run the ball as successfully as they have in the past. Instead of running the zone run scheme that Kubiak likes, he’s going to have to try and get Cook outside with space. On top of that, play calling may have to be a more even run to pass split instead of the 60/40 split it has been recently.

Whatever direction the game goes in, the Vikings have to be flexible. They’ve been fortunate enough to play with a lead the past two games, but Monday could be a different story.

In a weird way this game could legitimize Minnesota as a viable contender for one of those seven (or possibly eight) playoff spots. If they lose, however, it’s hard to see a pathway to the postseason. The Green Bay win was fantastic, but they were able to run at will all game. This is something that likely won’t happen against the Bears.

So to all the Vikings out there, strap in and make sure you have some comfort food (and potentially a beverage or two) at the ready because Primetime Kirk Cousins will likely be the key to whether or not the hot streak continues.

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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

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