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Bears defense prepares to face Vikings' Cook


The Bears will go from facing one dominant running back to hosting another.

The Bears were able to keep then-NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans in check on Sunday, holding him to 68 yards. On Monday, the defense will face Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who currently leads the league in rushing yards.

Cook has topped 130 yards in four games this season. He's recorded 369 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in the past two games while catching four passes for 109 yards and one touchdown.

Due in a significant part to Cook's performance, the Vikings have climbed to a 3-5 record, now resembling to be the playoff contender they were believed to be before the season. 

The Bears kept Henry in check, but they will face a different skill set on Monday night. 

"Derrick is downhill," said defensive tackle Bilal Nichols. "Once he gets to top speed, he's hard to stop. Dalvin is more change of direction. Once he plants that foot, his ability to cut back and just get vertical is tremendous. And that's what makes him such a great player. And his ability to also be able to break tackles and put pressure on guys in open space."

Unlike the imposing Henry, Cook is just as dangerous running routes as taking handoffs. In that way, he more resembles New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who gained 67 yards on 12 carries and caught nine passes for 96 yards against the Bears in Week 8.

"The past two backs we've played are unbelievable backs, superstars," inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said Monday, "and this guy's no different. He's a special player. I've been watching him all morning. So it's going to take everything we've got. But I know one thing, I know about our defense, he's going to get everything we've got."

Whatever differences exist between the three running backs, DeLeone believes the defense's approach will be the same.

"[Cook] has game-breaking speed," said DeLeone. "It's going to take a swarm. It's going to take our whole defense every single play to get him down. And he can do it in the run and the pass game."  

Since Cook arrived in Minnesota in 2017, the Bears have largely avoided him or kept him in check. Cook missed most of his rookie season due to injuries and did not face the Bears. In 2018, he managed 12 yards rushing and negative-2 yards through the air in his first visit to Chicago. 

In three appearances against Chicago, Cook has never rushed for more than 39 yards. However, given Cook's improvement over the past two seasons and the uncertainty of this season, it may not be a fair expectation for the Bears to shut down the Pro Bowl running back completely.

According to DeLeone, the key will be persistence and a short memory.

"He's going to make plays, guys," said DeLeone. "Just like Kamara had a play, just like Derrick Henry. They're special players, and they're going to make plays. You just can't let one play affect the next play. You've got 11 guys when the ball is snapped, 11 guys playing like a bunch of crazed dogs and [playing] with their hair on fire."