As the Bears continue to be afflicted with injuries -especially on defense- the defensive tackle position has been the most vulnerable. That could change tomorrow afternoon when the Bears take on the Vikings (in their last trip ever to the HHH Metrodome) as both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times are both reporting that both Stephen Paea and recently acquired Jeremiah Ratliff could suit up and see the field.
For Ratliff, this would be his first game with the Bears since he was signed back on November 2nd. He’s been sidelined with a groin injury since the tail end of the 2012 season. The Dallas Cowboys (who originally drafted him in 2005) were getting impatient for him to heel from the surgery that repaired his injury and decided to cut their losses.
Their loss could be the Bears gain if all goes well. Since he has been limited in all of the practices in which he has taken part in thus far, it is believed that he will be on snap count limit in Minnesota. As for Paea, his lingering turf toe issue which caused him to miss games earlier this year, forced his removal from the Baltimore game and kept him on the sidelines last week against St. Louis.
The Oregon State product has also been limited in practice this week, but that was done so there wouldn’t be extra pressure on his toe to allow for healing. Despite being limited, both men are feeling good and can’t wait to get back on the field. Their presence on the interior of the defensive line will be especially welcome in run defense.
In St. Louis last week, the Bears allowed the Rams to run for an ungodly 258 yards which is a team record. Corey Wootton and Christian Tupou started for the Bears last week with Landon Cohen and Tracy Robertson coming off the bench. It is unknown if Paea or Ratliff will start but here is what is known…. Robertson was released on Friday, Wootton could move back to defensive end depending on what lineup the Bears use, and Paea and Ratliff could provide some much needed relief against the run.
That relief will be critical as the Bears will try stop if not contain the ever-dangerous Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson just needs three yards to reach 1,000 on the season, he can get that one just one carry. He also averages 4.4 yards per carry, has 10 rushing touchdowns and is capable of rushing 10 or more yards at any time. Runs of 10 yards or more have been a major issue for Mel Tucker‘s defense over these last few weeks.
It’s not expected that Paea and Ratliff will stop the bleeding altogether, but it should give the Bears a fighting chance. Ratliff has 228 career total tackles, 27 career sacks, 16 career pass deflections, and four career forced fumbles on his resume. If he can be at least half of the player he was before the groin injury then the Bears should be able to stand their ground.
Paea may not be 100-percent either but if he’s on the field he is productive. And the Bears will take anything they can get out of him at this point. One thing that will take pressure off of both men is that aside from Peterson, the Vikings aren’t very good on offense. We will see just how much relief these players provide come kickoff on Sunday.
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