Bears-Vikings matchup of the day: Friday

Posted Dec. 30, 2011 @ 2:16 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

Here's another key matchup as the Vikings and Bears get set to close their regular seasons off Sunday in Minnesota:

Bears QB Josh McCown vs. Vikings secondary

McCown had a nice debut as the Bears' starter against the Packers, moving well in the pocket, showing command of Mike Martz's offense and finding open receivers. Because he had few deep options to throw to with Johnny Knox out, McCown mostly picked apart the short and middle spaces in the Packers' defense.

That same approach could work against the Vikings, although they will guard against it. All season long, the Vikings' secondary has been vulnerable, and last week the group ended its record run of nine games without an interception. There have been communication and execution problems, even with basic coverages, as the Vikings have rotated personnel in and out at safety and cornerback.

The Vikings play a base cover-2 defense, using it far more in recent games as Leslie Frazier has had more of a hand in defensive decisions. Although the execution has improved slightly, there are still holes for McCown to expose. If the pass rush is not beating him up too much, he should be able to complete around 60 percent of his passes and gain steady chunks of yards, even if the big-hitting pass plays are harder to find.

CB Cedric Griffin has been hobbled all season, but he had his best contest of the year against the Redskins last week. Nickel CB Marcus Sherels has looked OK, but CB Benny Sapp is overmatched most of the time. Look for the Bears to go after him. Mistral Raymond has made some plays at free safety, and Jamarca Sanford will make some plays near the line of scrimmage, but they are vulnerable deep and each is undersized.

McCown is in the middle of a two-game exhibition to show he should be Jay Cutler's backup in 2012. The Bears will play this game like any other, trying to come up with an excellent game plan to win the game. They'll key in on what McCown does best and let him prove he's the man for the job.