LAKE FOREST – Mike Zimmer might feel a bit lucky this week. That’s because his quarterback question isn’t the biggest on Monday Night Football this week.
That’s what happens when the second pick in the previous spring’s draft will be starting his first game against your team on a major NFL stage.
With Mitchell Trubisky getting the call for the Bears, the question of who would start for the Vikings has created a little less of a stir. Case Keenum has started the past three contests in place of Sam Bradford, who has been dealing with a left knee injury he suffered in a Week 1 win over the Saints.
Some clarity may have come late Sunday night when during an ESPN production meeting, Zimmer said he expects that Bradford will play against the Bears on Monday. That comes after a week of the Bears preparing for both potential signal callers, but it wasn’t a major chore according to Vic Fangio.
“Their offense hasn’t changed at all with Keenum in there,” said the Bears’ defensive coordinator when asked about the difference in preparing for the two quarterbacks. “They’ve run the exact same offense, Keenum’s done a very nice job running it. They’re in a good spot, they’ve got two good quarterbacks, they’ve got a quality backup and obviously Bradford is good.”
Bradford had moderate success against the Bears’ last season, his first with Minnesota. He was 23-of-37 for 228 yards with a touchdown in the Monday Night loss last October but was better in the season finale on New Year’s Day, going 25-of-33 for 250 yards and a touchdown compared to one interception.
In relief of Bradford, Keenum has completed 61 percent of his passes for 755 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover. The Vikings are 1-2 with him as the starter, entering this week after a 14-7 loss at home in Week 4 to Detroit.
A REPEAT PERFORMANCE?
As Trubisky introduces himself to the NFL, he could only hope to have a showing like Jordan Howard enjoyed during his first major playing time on Monday Night Football.
Serving as the backup for the first weekday game against the Eagles, Howard truly introduced himself to the league when he got the start against the Vikings last Halloween.
That night he gauged the Vikings’ defense for a career-high 153 yards on 26 carries along with a touchdown in a 20-10 Bears victory. He would gain another 135 yards in the second meeting in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day, finishing the season with a Bears-record 1,313 rushing yards.
Howard, who has 252 yards and four touchdowns so far this year, doesn’t expect to be under the radar in his third-career game against Minnesota.
“They’re definitely going to be after us this year because we ran the ball with a lot of success last year,” said Howard, who faces a Vikings’ defense that is fourth in the league in rush defense, allowing just 71.3 yards per game.
Since training camp, the Bears’ linebacker position has been decimated at different times by injury.
Starting with Pernell McPhee’s knee scope before practices in Bourbonnais starter, to Jerrell Freeman (pec) being lost for the year then Nick Kwiatkoski (chest) missing significant time, it’s been a rough year keeping the second line of defense healthy.
That appears to have gotten a little worse this week as the Chicago Tribune is reporting that outside linebacker Willie Young’s triceps injury will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
It’s a blow considering Young’s solid pass rush, which has already netted two sacks in four games this season. He’s gotten 26 since joining the Bears from Detroit back in 2014. While the team has yet to confirm the move, they were already discussing the impact of his loss on the field for at least Monday night and perhaps longer.
McPhee and backup Sam Acho will have to pick up the slack left by Young against the Vikings and likely much longer.
“I feel good about our backups, I feel good about the replacement people we’ve had in there,” said Fox of the outside linebackers. ” We’ve had more depth this season than we’ve had in the past.”
STAT OF THE WEEK: 3
The number of consecutive victories the Bears have over the Vikings on Monday Night Football.
That includes victories in 2009, 2010 and then last season’s match-up on Halloween Night at Soldier Field.
The Bears enter the game 30-37 on Monday Night Football with a 16-13 record at home.