Matt Kalil slumping at inopportune time against Peppers, Bears
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' offensive line allowed a season-high 15 quarterback pressures in their first meeting against the Chicago Bears in Week 12 last season.
Left tackle Matt Kalil, then a rookie, allowed Bear's veteran defensive end Julius Peppers to get to quarterback Christian Ponder six of those times. And in the midst of an early-season slump, Kalil is faced with the same challenge this Sunday when the Vikings travel to Chicago.
"Yeah, definitely," Kalil said when asked if Peppers was his toughest opponent. "He has it all, has the whole package. Age obviously hasn't slowed him down, he's the same player. He can turn it on and off whenever he wants. I'll be prepared for that."
The slump seemingly extends to the entire offensive line, which allowed three sacks and 16 quarterback hurries to the Detroit Lions last week, more than they allowed in any single game last season.
After a Pro Bowl season, Kalil surrendered four pressures and a hit to Ponder, who felt the pocket tighten on half of his 34 dropbacks against the Lions.
"There's no excuses for it," Kalil said. "I know how I have to play out there. Like I said, no one is a tougher critic on me than myself. I hold myself to a high standard."
In his second year, Kalil placed partial blame on getting used to the silent count for road games, which he said leads to fundamental problems in his game.
"I think it's certain things, I'm looking at the ball, the ball is snapped and my head snaps up to look at the defense and I'm drifting out," Kalil said. "So [the defender] comes inside. I'm wondering 'why are they doing all these inside moves on me?' and it's because I'm drifting out."
"It's one of those things you correct and you get better as the season goes on."
The Vikings' offensive line struggled against the Lions' movement along their defensive line as they shifted defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh into various positions and stunts.
Like Kalil, Ponder has confidence that his line will be able to make the necessary adjustments in the face of Peppers and the Bears.
"We know Chicago does a lot of stunts and movement upfront. They're going to have to pass some things off and do a great job of that and they will," Ponder said. "They're an offensive line that has played together for many games and they're experienced so I know they're going to handle it."