Bears Inside Slant: October 16

The Bears are in serious jeopardy of not making the playoffs at 2-4, and the schedule doesn't get any easier with three of their next four games on the road starting with the Eagles in Philadelphia. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

After Devin Hester's 89-yard punt-return touchdown opened the scoring Sunday afternoon, the Vikings either punted the ball into the end zone, out of bounds or so close to the sideline that Hester was hemmed in without much room to maneuver.

He managed just 19 yards on his three additional punt returns. And on kickoffs, the Vikings preferred to deliver the ball to Hester short, on a bounce or a roll to facilitate their coverage. Or they kicked it short to someone other than Hester, who was held to 86 yards on four kickoff returns for a modest 21.5-yard average.

The Bears, on the other hand, kept kicking off to Adrian Peterson, who may have already clinched Rookie of the Year honors with his 361 combined yards (224 rushing, 128 on four kick returns and 9 receiving) against the Bears. The last time they kicked to him, it cost them the game when he returned it 53 yards to set up the winning field goal.

"Kicking away from someone is not something we do," said Bears special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, who was voted to the Pro Bowl after last season because of his excellence in kick coverage and whose block sprang Hester on his return TD Sunday. "We're the best special teams unit in the league. We're not going to be like the Minnesota Vikings and kick the ball out of bounds." …

The Vikings had tied the score on the final play of the first quarter when Tarvaris Jackson launched a long toss down the sideline, and speedy wideout Troy Williamson easily ran past strong safety Adam Archuleta and made the catch in stride for a 60-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7.

At halftime, Archuleta, who has been playing with his broken right hand in a small cast, was benched. Danieal Manning moved back from corner, where he started in place of injured Nathan Vasher, to safety, and rookie Trumaine McBride took over at corner.

"I don't know if they had a lot of confidence in my right hand," said Archuleta, who was upset about giving up the TD. "It was a terrible, terrible play by me. Sometimes you try and do too much. I thought I saw something coming across out of the corner of my eye, and at that point it was too late. It was one of the worst plays I've ever been involved with." …

The Bears held the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chiefs' Larry Johnson – the league's top two rushers last season – to a combined 80 yards on 33 carries earlier this season, yet they were trampled by Peterson for 224 yards on 20 attempts.

"He's still a rookie and he's still learning, but I really expect him to get up to that [next] level real quick," Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. "He's a great back. He does a great job of taking the ball and hitting it outside and using his speed. Just an all-around great back in my opinion."

"He ran like a monster today," defensive end Alex Brown said. "He did everything. Every big play they had besides the long reception [by Williamson], he pretty much made them. We didn't help, but he made the plays." …

Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who started but didn't play the entire game because of a toe injury, scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Brian Griese to give the Bears a 14-7 lead with 11:45 left in the second quarter.

Although Berrian leads the Bears with 30 catches and 408 yards, it was his first TD of the season. Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield slipped to the ground when Berrian hesitated and then took off for the end zone, as Griese dropped a perfect throw into his hands around the 10-yard line. That and Griese's 81-yard TD pass to Hester may mute criticism of Griese's ability to throw deep.

"We never were worried about it," Berrian said. "[It's] the naysayers who think they know a lot more than what is actually going on. He threw two perfect balls on those plays."


WR Muhsin Muhammad
M. Spencer Green/AP Images
Brown got his first sack of the season but had just one other tackle. … Berrian had five catches and led the Bears in receiving yards for the fifth time in six weeks with 78. He also had his first TD of the season, a 39-yard grab. … WR Muhsin Muhammad had just two catches, but one was for a 33-yard touchdown, his second of the season, tying him for the team lead. … P Brad Maynard placed four of his six punts inside the 20-yard line and allowed no return yards.

– Griese brought the Bears back from a late 31-17 deficit with TD passes of 33 yards to Muhammad and 81 yards to Hester in a 58-second span to tie the game with 1:38 remaining. In all, he threw for 381 yards and three TDs with just one sack but was picked off twice in the second half. Berrian had five catches and led the team with 78 receiving yards for the fifth time in six games. Rookie tight end Greg Olsen had five catches for 63 yards, while starting TE Desmond Clark added three catches for 48 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus – Against the NFL's No. 1 run defense, the Bears managed an adequate 83 yards on 24 attempts, and Cedric Benson had 67 yards on 18 carries (3.7-yard average), which, for him, was a pretty good day. The big play remains absent from the run game, as the longest rush of the afternoon was Benson's 12-yarder.

PASS DEFENSE: C – The Bears allowed Jackson to complete just 9 of 23 passes, but one of them was a 60-yard TD to Williamson and they had just one sack and no interceptions.

RUSH DEFENSE: F – Peterson ran for 224 yards, more than any one player has hung on the Bears in the history of the franchise. As a team, the Vikings rolled up 311 yards on the ground, the third-highest yield by the Bears ever. Peterson averaged 11.2 yards on 20 carries, and the Vikings averaged 7.2 yards as a team. The Bears' defensive line was especially ineffective, as Brown and DT Tommie Harris were each credited with only one tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus – Hester had an 89-yard punt-return TD and Maynard dropped four of his six kicks inside the 20 and allowed zero return yards. However, after tying the game at 31, the Bears elected to kick off to Peterson, whose 53-yard return set up the game-winning field goal.

COACHING: D – The Bears knew the Vikings had one weapon in Peterson, and they couldn't defend him. Kicking off to Peterson was pure arrogance, and it backfired into a defeat. At least they finally figured out that it might be a good idea to have Hester run longer pass routes, and they're making an effort to get Olsen the ball.

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