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Bears gear up to face NFL's leading rusher

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The Bears have a pretty good idea what the Minnesota Vikings are going to throw at them on Sunday: the same thing they've thrown at everyone else.

The only team in the NFL with more yards on the ground than through the air, the Vikings are a true throwback. In terms of rushing yards, the Vikings trail only the Baltimore Ravens, who get a large amount of those yards from quarterback Lamar Jackson's ability to improvise. Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is the league's leading rusher, with 375 yards (125 per game).

The opportunity to face that kind of team excites inside linebacker Danny Trevathan.

"This is football, you know what I'm saying?" said Trevathan. "Ground game, this is how football started. If you're not hyped for that, you're in the wrong place."

The Bears are familiar with the Vikings' run-heavy approach. The last player to put up 100 rushing yards against the Bears in regulation was the then-Vikings running back Latavious Murray in 2017. Before that, there was a near-decade of Adrian Peterson.

Cook looks a lot closer to the version of Peterson that ran for 224 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears in 2007 than the Peterson that the Bears held to 37 yards last week against the Redskins.

"[Cook] is just very versatile, fast, runs with a lot of passion and aggression," said safety Eddie Jackson. "We've just got to be ready to come out and tackle him."

Stopping the run has been as crucial to the Bears' results as it has their defensive identity. Last season, the team went 1-3 when the opponent rushed for more than 100 yards and 11-1 when they didn't. Since 2014, in games where one opposing player broke the century mark, the Bears are 1-10. 

"Well, they're persistent with it," said coach Matt Nagy. "It's something that they're going to do regardless, and they're good at it. (Cook is) a guy that fits that mold, that zone-type runner that can see the vision of being able to hit the wide zone, the inside zone and cut it back. So if your pursuit's not there, you're in trouble. He's got speed. He can do things out of the backfield with his hands. They're using him really well."

Bears players feel that they're well-positioned to stop Cook's three-week streak of 100-yard games. Currently, the Bears are ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, fourth in yards per attempt, and remain one of three teams in the league yet to surrender a rushing touchdown.

Trevathan sees consistency as the Bears' biggest weapon.

"You have to be in the right place," said Trevathan. "A couple teams played him pretty good at the beginning. One got out of sync, and (he) hit you for 80-85 yards. So, it's all about us being in sync, having each other's backs, trusting one another to take care of the job. Be in the right place at the right time."

Cook has been able to break long runs in each of his three games this season, including a 75-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. The Bears have been able to put a lid on opposing running backs, avoiding any carries of more than 20 yards. Cook's breakaway speed could cause Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to play a more prominent role in run support.

"You see the guys we have up front: Khalil (Mack), Danny, Roquan (Smith), all those guys, (Leonard) Floyd," said Jackson. "So, on the backend, we know it's going to be tough for teams to run on us with the type of front seven we have. We've just got to be prepared on the back end: don't go to sleep and have our eyes in the right spot."

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