The lasting image from the Bears’ trip to San Francisco was 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith running amok.
And now Chicago’s battered offensive line gets to face Jared Allen, Chad Greenway and the Vikings on Sunday at Soldier Field.
No, Minnesota (6-4) is not in San Francisco’s class for creating mayhem with a physically imposing defense. But the way the Bears (7-3) are blocking _ make that NOT blocking _ for their quarterbacks, just about any team will be a major challenge, whether it’s Jay Cutler back from a concussion, or backup Jason Campbell on the field.
“You’re going to play a great team on their home field, a place that we’ve struggled at,” Greenway said. “But this is a new year, a new team. And I think we’re going to have a focus going in there that we’re going to give ourselves a chance.
“It’s going to take our best effort. It’s going to take our best game of the year to win out there this week.”
To get that win, the Vikings figure to emphasize their ace, Adrian Peterson, and the running game, while fitting in throws to Percy Harvin, who also is having a strong season. They must be careful not to fall victim to Chicago’s ball-hawking defense, which did little against the 49ers, but otherwise has been brilliant. The Bears have seven interception returns for TDs and have forced 30 turnovers, the most in the league.
The Vikings don’t get many takeaways, but they can get after quarterbacks. Allen has 13 sacks in eight games against the Bears, including 3 1/2 in last year’s season finale.
Whichever defense sets the tone figures to swing things in its team’s direction.
On Thanksgiving Day, it’s Houston at Detroit and Washington at Dallas in the traditional games, then New England at the New York Jets at night.
Also Sunday, it’s San Francisco at New Orleans; Green Bay at the New York Giants; Atlanta at Tampa Bay; Baltimore at San Diego; Pittsburgh at Cleveland; Denver at Kansas City; Seattle at Miami; Buffalo at Indianapolis; Oakland at Cincinnati; Tennessee at Jacksonville; and St. Louis at Arizona.
The Monday night game has Carolina at Philadelphia.
Houston (9-1) at Detroit (4-6)
After escaping in overtime against Jacksonville, the Texans find themselves as the only team that can clinch a playoff berth in Week 12. A win and losses by the Titans, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals and either the Chargers or Steelers will do it. Got it?
Matt Schaub completed 43 passes for 527 yards, both totals tying for second most in NFL history, and threw for a team-record five TDs against the Jaguars. Andre Johnson had a career-high 273 yards receiving.
Houston never has been 9-1 and has four straight victories overall. It’s also 4-0 on the road.