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Run, run . . . and run

Vikings plan to pound the ball against Bears

By Dave Campbell

Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings beat the Chicago Bears in Week 2 by rushing 39 times for a season-high 202 yards.

So guess what they're going to do on Sunday?

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"We want to run the ball," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "There's no secret."

Culpepper connected on three touchdown passes of 43 yards or more in last week's lopsided victory over Seattle, but the long ball was open because thm Vikings established their ground game. It's doubtful the December weather in Chicago for the rematch against the Bears will be conducive to big plays, so Minnesota is banking on a black-and-blue game.

"Chicago is a tough-guy town, and you better carry that persona with you when you get on the charter flight," said coach Mike Tice, a big fan of the smash-mouth style this game might turn into.

"It is not really a week to celebrate anything," he said. "It is a week to grit your teeth and realize that when the Vikings and Bears play, it is a street fight."

When a head coach talks like that, his offensive linemen start licking their lips. The starting five of Bryant McKinnie, Chris Liwienski, Matt Birk, Dave Dixon and Mike Rosenthal is one of the biggest groups in the league, and they'll be asked to play that way on Sunday.

"They're at their best when they're going forward and not back," line coach Steve Loney said.

After allowing eight sacks in a 31-points loss to St. Louis two weeks ago, the Vikings' line bounced back with a strong showing against the Seahawks.

"You had that bad game, but what's most important was to get back in it and replace the bad one with a good one," Loney said.

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The biggest improvement against Seattle was a better job picking up the blitz. That's what killed them against the Rams.

"Don't make there be a reason for it to be third-and-long," McKinnie said, recanting his team's offensive mantra this week. "Just keep pounding down the field."

Running backs Michael Bennett (ankle) and Moe Williams (knee) are expected to play despite injuries, but that won't deter the Vikings' game plan.

"It's our job up front to make blocks for those guys," Rosenthal said. "Whatever plays the coaches call, we're going to execute to the best of our ability. ... We just need to get a hat on a hat."

The tone for the first meeting against the Bears was set on the ground. Minnesota won 24-13.

"We were able to take big chunk off the clock," McKinnie said. "We need to put a big game like that together. It could be windy and stuff, so it'll be a little harder to pass."

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