Each week we focus on a Vikings player or coach who is in the spotlight. Heading into Sunday's game against the Bears, it's OLT Bryant McKinnie.
It should be noted that prior to Sunday, McKinnie had been having one of his best seasons in recent years. Amid all the Brett Favre-Brad Childress noise, the Randy Moss garbage and the Childress-Percy Harvin, er, discussion, McKinnie had been having himself a nice year.
He had been getting out to the second level, extending run plays. He had blocked well against quality rushers such as Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Taylor, DeMarcus Ware and others.
But in Sunday's narrow win, Cardinals OLB Joey Porter — a player who had struggled up to that point — basically undressed him for two sacks and a handful more pressures. Normally, a bad game would not a season make. But McKinnie has had some notorious cold streaks in the past, and you're always worried about the next one being right around the corner after last season, when he struggled badly for long stretches.
And speaking of last season, look who McKinnie must face off against …
Bears DE Julius Peppers completely manhandled McKinnie late last season when Peppers was with Carolina. Sure, the situations, teams and other factors are completely different. But McKinnie's massive struggles in one-on-one matchups makes you wonder how he'll handle Peppers on Sunday.
"He's a prideful guy. He's aware of that," Vikings head coach Brad Childress said.
Peppers, though, had no interest in talking history.
"I really don't want to get into talking about last year. That was last year," he said. "It's a whole new season against players that have improved. I've improved in different things. I'm playing on a different team, different scheme. So last year was last year. We're looking forward to playing the Minnesota Vikings of 2010."
It remains to be seen if McKinnie has that short a memory. The Vikings have to have a Plan B if he struggles in one-on-one situations. Favre already has taken a beating, lest we forget, through half a season.