LAKE FOREST, Ill. – No matter how bleak things look at the moment, Jared Allen insists he is not losing faith in the Chicago Bears.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive end's belief is being tested in a big way.
The Bears have dropped five of six and are coming off two of the worst blowout losses in franchise history heading into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings — Allen's former team. For a player who thought he was joining a playoff contender when he signed in the offseason, this can't be easy.
"This game is humbling," Allen said. "This game exposes people and it humbles you. If you're not in it, you'll get exposed. But I think we've got a good team, and obviously I came here for a reason, and I still believe in this team and I still believe in what we have and I still believe in what we can accomplish."
What the Bears (3-6) have accomplished in recent weeks has been mind-boggling.
They got blasted 55-14 by Green Bay coming off their bye after getting ripped at New England 51-23 two weeks earlier. That gave them the dubious distinction of being one of two teams to allow 50 or more points in back-to-back games. The other? The 1923 Rochester Jeffersons.
That certainly wasn't what the Bears had in mind when they overhauled their defense in the offseason, but the high hopes they had coming in are gone. Instead, Chicago will almost certainly miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
The Bears have not even won a game a Soldier Field, dropping their first three to match their worst home losing streak since 2007 and worst home start since 2004.
An offense that excelled in its first season under coach Marc Trestman is underachieving. The special teams have big issues, and the rebuilt defense has not performed the way the Bears hoped.
Allen has just 1 1/2 sacks after seven straight seasons in double digits — the past six with Minnesota.
The Vikings (4-5), meanwhile, seek their third straight win. They can get to .500 even though star running back Adrian Peterson has been on the commissioner's exempt list for most of the season following his child abuse indictment.
"We're not going to go out there and just lay down because of their record or anything like that," Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison said. "It's still the Chicago Bears. They've got a great tradition there, and they've done a lot of good things in that organization."
Here are some things to look for in Vikings-Bears:
CHILLY RECEPTION?: Sunday's game with be the first at Soldier Field since Oct. 19, and the reception for the Bears might be ugly.
"Obviously this city deserves better," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We deserve better. We deserve better for ourselves."
Fans have been calling for top-to-bottom changes, from the McCaskey family owners on down, particularly after the Green Bay game. The heat is on general manager Phil Emery and Trestman, not to mention defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. He has been a target for two seasons. But instead of making a change, Trestman voiced his support after each of the past two games.
APPLYING PRESSURE: Despite losing Allen in the offseason, the Vikings are keeping up the pressure. They're third in the league with 30 sacks, including 20 in the past four games.
Allen's replacement in the lineup, Everson Griffen, is tied for fifth in the NFL with a career-high nine sacks in his fifth season.
"I wouldn't be human if I didn't feel pressure (replacing Allen), but I just went out there and just bought into the scheme and bought into what I had to get done," he said.
PASSING GRADE: After struggling against the pass in recent years, the Vikings are allowing just 213.6 yards per game and rank fourth in that area.
That's not exactly great news for Chicago's Jay Cutler. He is tied for second with 10 interceptions after getting picked off twice last week, and tied for the league lead with five lost fumbles. Cutler committed three turnovers against Green Bay.
IN THE CRUNCH: Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has had some moments, particularly in the two-minute drills. He has led the Vikings back from fourth-quarter deficits in his three wins, but Minnesota has just six touchdown passes. By comparison, Aaron Rodgers had that many in the first half against Chicago last week.
OUT OF THE GATE: About the Bears and the first half — it's been ugly in recent weeks. They have been outscored a combined 94-7 over the first two quarters the past three games. And their 42-0 halftime deficit at Green Bay was the largest in franchise history.
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