(Sports Network) - It's early but the Minnesota Vikings and embattled startingquarterback Christian Ponder are already squarely behind the 8-ball.
The Viking are hoping for a different result when they hit the road for thesecond straight week against a NFC North divisional opponent, the ChicagoBears.
Problem is, Minnesota has lost five straight at Soldier Field and 11 of 12overall.
The Vikings are coming off an ugly 34-24 loss at Detroit in Week 1, whilethe Bears defeated the Bengals, 24-21, in the Second City during KickoffWeekend.
Reggie Bush totaled almost 200 yards in his Detroit debut and Matthew Staffordhad two touchdown passes in the second half, as the Lions handled an ill-prepared Minnesota team.
Bush, a free agent signing in the offseason, took advantage of the Vikings'cover-2 scheme designed to stop Calvin Johnson and finished the game with 191yards of total offense and a touchdown. He had 21 carries for 90 yards, whileadding four catches for 101 yards and a score.
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, last season's NFL MVP, appeared poised for a bigday as he took his first handoff 78 yards for a score. However, he wassmothered by the Detroit defense the rest of the day, gaining just 15 yards onhis next 17 carries. He did, though, have two rushing touchdowns and areceiving touchdown to go with four catches for 18 yards.
Ponder had what is becoming his usual tough day behind center as he went 18-for-28 for 236 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, along withlosing a fumble for the Vikings (0-1), who went 10-6 last season and lost inthe first round of the playoffs.
"Tough loss for our football team on the road," said Minnesota head coachLeslie Frazier. "We didn't do things you have to do on the road to win.Turnovers on the road - at home as well, but on the road in particular - aretough sometimes to overcome."
Things went differently for the Bears when Jay Cutler hooked up with BrandonMarshall for a go-ahead 19-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, asChicago began the Marc Trestman era on a high note.
Cutler finished 21-of-33 passing for 242 yards, two touchdowns and aninterception, while Marshall hauled in eight passes for 104 yards and thedeciding score for the Bears, who also went 10-6 last season but missed outon the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker with Minnesota for the sixth seed inthe NFC.
"There were a lot of question marks," Cutler said of coming into the seasonwith a new head coach. "It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect, we didn't thinkit was going to be. We made plays when we had to make plays."
Matt Forte rushed 19 times for 50 yards and a touchdown in the victory,helping Trestman, a Minnesota native, become just the fourth Bears head coachto win his debut contest, joining Hall of Famer George Halas (1920), NeillArmstrong (1978) and Dick Jauron (1999).
After leading the NFL with 44 takeaways in 2012 under ex-head coach LovieSmith, Chicago got a pair of Charles Tillman interceptions and recovered afumble against the Bengals.
The Vikings and Bears have played 104 times overall with Minnesota holding aslim 53-49-2 edge. This Week 2 matchup is the earliest between the clubs since2002 when the Vikings opened up the season against Chicago in Champaign, IL.
Minnesota and the Bears split the season series in 2012 with each squadwinning on their home field.
Trestman, who played QB at the University of Minnesota before transferring toMinnesota State Moorhead as a senior, began his NFL coaching career in 1985with the Vikings as a running backs coach under Hall of Fame mentor Bud Grant.The new Chicago pilot held that position for two seasons and then rejoined theVikings in 1990 as QBs coach when he worked two seasons with future MVPRich Gannon.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Bears have dominated the Vikings in the Windy City recently, averagingnearly 36 points per game and forcing 14 turnovers during their five-gamewinning streak at Soldier Field. Chicago has taken the last three by anaverage margin of over 20 points.
That doesn't bode well for Ponder, who normally serves up more turnovers thanthe local bakery even against pedestrian defensive teams like Detroit.
"You have to be exceptional to win those games when you finish minus in theturnover ratio," Frazier said. "We haven't shown that we are exceptional to beable to do that. We will get better."
All of the Vikings' faults manifested in Detroit last week with the mostnoteworthy being Ponder's inability to carry his own water and take advantageof all the extra attention Peterson receives as well as Frazier's inabilityto adjust on the fly.
Minnesota's defense went into Detroit with a plan to stop Johnson and stayedin their nickel, cover-2 even after the Lions made it clear they wereattacking with quick releases to diffuse the pass rush along with screens,slants and draws.
Despite mounting evidence suggesting Ponder simply isn't a sustainable optionat this level, Frazier continued to defend his QB this week.
"Christian, he made some mistakes, but he's not the only reason we didn't havesuccess on Sunday," Frazier said. "Our team did not play well, and thataffects the quarterback as well. It wasn't just Christian, it just so happensthat he plays the position that's under the most scrutiny."
Fair enough but Ponder's inability to make opposing defenses pay when theyload the box to stop Peterson is a problem as is his tendencies to stare downreceivers and slide out of the pocket at the first sign of trouble, instead ofstepping up and keeping his eyes downfield.
"Monday morning, as you head into the film room you get that bad feeling, andas you watch the game you're like, 'Oh man, that's something that was dumbthat could have easily just not happened," Ponder said. "As you watch it, it'sa bad taste in your mouth. But at the same time it gives you confidencebecause, hey, these are easily correctable."
Not of it has been corrected in 28 career starts, though.
For now, teammates remain behind Ponder, at least publicly.
"He can't win the game for us. He can't just lose the game for us. Trustme," veteran receiver Greg Jennings told the St. Paul pioneer Press. "We bearthe load -- not one man, not one person, not one individual. It's not fair forone person to get all the stones thrown at him when there were mistakes madeby 11 guys that were out there on the field."
Like Detroit, the Bears will try to take advantage of Minnesota's vanillaapproach on defense by utilizing Forte in the flats and underneath beforetaking occasional shots down the field against a typically soft zone withMarshall, who had 22 receptions for 252 yards and a TD versus Minnesota in2012
Minnesota is simply behind the curve of the modern day NFL, relying on a runfirst, game manager-type offense and a Tampa-2 defense which can't holdup consistently in a pass-happy league.
Add in a Bears D notorious for taking the football away playing against a QBwith absolutely no self-confidence and this shapes up as a rather easy one forChicago.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bears 27, Vikings 17