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Rolle reveals injury as Bears D limps along

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The Sports Xchange

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle confirmed Wednesday that he suffered a high ankle sprain four weeks ago and remains limited in preparation for Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings.

For a team struggling to come up with turnovers, and playing a game in which getting the ball and keeping it seems critical, another week without their starting free safety could be insurmountable for the Bears.

For almost a decade, the Bears lived and died on defense by forcing turnovers in their 4-3 alignment, but they have just six forced turnovers in six games in their new 3-4 scheme. That includes only three interceptions. Even worse, they don’t have an interception by a defensive back.

“It’s about opportunities,” Rolle said of the turnover shortage. “It’s about a lot of things, a lot of things tying together when you’re talking about creating turnovers.

“We plan on getting to that point and hopefully it starts this weekend.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio pointed to all the changes in the secondary as part of the reason for a turnover shortage.

“We’ve got some new faces back there,” he said. “We’ve got to help them more. We’ve got to put a better pass rush on the passer. That is part of that equation, too.

“We’ve just got to get closer (in coverage) and make a few plays on the ball. We’ve got nowhere to go but up. It will happen at some point.”

Cornerback Kyle Fuller was the only holdover in the secondary when the season started, and since then more changes have come. Only part of it had to do with Rolle’s injury, which meant undrafted rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey had to start alongside rookie fourth-round draft pick Adrian Amos.

First the Bears cut veteran Tim Jennings in preseason, then promoted Alan Ball. A groin injury pushed Ball out of the lineup and he won’t regain the spot now that he is healthy because Tracy Porter impressed coaches with his coverage and he was moved all over the field to cover Calvin Johnson two weeks ago in the last game.

Ball now ranks in the top six defensive backs, according to Fangio, but is still behind Sherrick McManis in the nickel.

Despite all the changes, the secondary held Oakland and Kansas City to a combined 343 passing yards before falling off the rails against Detroit.

Rolle believes the group needs to avoid gambling and continue playing disciplined coverage.

“At the same time, you have to understand what a team is going to do to you and take a little chance,” he said. “Just make sure you stay disciplined to your coverage.”

The secondary probably can’t count on much help up front against Minnesota. With Adrian Peterson running against them, their attention will be devoted to stopping the run. The same with linebackers, who have made all three of the team’s interceptions.

Besides, the defensive front has its own personnel problems with Jeremiah Ratliff’s departure last week and the addition of Ziggy Hood. Bruce Gaston, a 6-foot-2, 310-pound lineman plucked from the Packers’ practice squad, could get playing time this week.

“We’re looking for a few good men down there,” Fangio said.

With wide receiver Stefon Diggs stepping up for 19 catches the last three weeks, the Minnesota passing offense looks more balanced than ever. This only compounds the problem for the Chicago secondary.

Rolle said his injury is one that could plague him even after it heals enough for him to play.

“I’ve had this injury before and it’s an injury that pretty much you feel all season long,” he said. “It’s just a matter of pain tolerance and feeling comfortable with running and breaking and all that good stuff.”

He said he’ll just keep “grinding” to get back to 100 percent.

It’s an approach the entire Chicago secondary has to take toward its play until the Bears reach something close to stability.

SERIES HISTORY: 108th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series 55-50-2. The teams have split the last three years. The Bears have won the last seven times in Soldier Field.

GAME PLAN

–The ideal way to beat Minnesota is to get an early lead and prevent the Vikings from playing ball control. They’re good at it, ranking eighth in possession time and sixth in rushing. They made a rare comeback from a big deficit at Detroit last week, but that’s Detroit. The 49ers played ball possession on the Vikings with great success in the season opener once they led.

The Bears are equipped to do this with Matt Forte’s running, but Minnesota isn’t usually content to sit back on defense. The Vikings will blitz. So Jay Cutler needs to work the underneath crossing routes that have been so successful. Pitches and hitches work against the Vikings’ gambling defense, anything to get the ball to the outside quickly, mixed with some screen passes to Forte.

The defense has to take a stay-at-home approach and be as stout as possible because Minnesota will keep handing it to Adrian Peterson if they sense an inability to stay in gaps. They’ll keep giving it to him, anyway, but a deficit would force them out of their style. Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner has gone to more of a spread offense look from his days of the power-I, so they’ll have to keep linebackers wary of Peterson being used in numerous locations on the field.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman, called one of the team’s most improved players by coaches, vs. Vikings center Joe Berger, who has played both guard and center.

Berger is playing because starting center John Sullivan needed back surgery. But he is an 11-year veteran who has had plenty of experience at it. Goldman’s strength is his power. He’ll try to overwhelm Berger and plug two gaps.

–Bears right defensive end Will Sutton, who will play more now with Jeremiah Ratliff and Ego Ferguson out, vs. Vikings left guard Brandon Fusco, who gave up one of the four sacks Detroit had last week.

Sutton’s strength is his quickness and he’s undersized. Fusco is one player he won’t be overwhelmed by sizewise at 6-4, 306. Fusco has struggled at other times this season and the Bears might want to load up the middle by sending Pernell McPhee on blitzes there. At times, he has been effective moving up and down the line.

–Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had eight catches last game in his first effort after a four-game absence with a pulled hamstring, vs. Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who gave up four catches to Calvin Johnson and was flagged twice for penalties.

Although Rhodes is 6-1 and measures up with some of the taller receivers, he had problems with Jeffery in the past in jump ball situations.


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