It was almost exactly a year ago when, as a rookie, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson played his first game at Soldier Field. It was pretty memorable – for him.
For the Bears, it was something they'd like to forget. Peterson rushed for 224 yards, more than any player has ever gained on the ground against a Bears team.
The Bears are doing their best to forget about that day, while at the same time ensuring that it doesn't happen again Sunday at Soldier Field. Both the Bears and Vikings are 3-3 and tied atop the NFC North with the Packers.
"That's dead and gone," Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije said of that 34-31 Vikings overtime victory, in which Peterson scored on runs of 73, 67 and 35 yards. "This is a new Sunday, a new game. That's what we're focused on and playing our defense, this year, and making plays and stopping them, this year."
Bears defenders don't have to replay last year's horror film to know how important it is to prevent a repeat performance by Peterson.
"That's something I really don't even want to watch," cornerback Corey Graham said. "He had a big game. We're just going to move forward and look at what they're doing this year and just try to attack them and do what we do."
A lot has changed since last year. Deep-threat wide receiver Bernard Berrian now plays for the Vikings instead of the Bears. And reliable veteran Gus Frerotte has replaced ineffective, young Tarvaris Jackson as Minnesota's quarterback.
But stopping Peterson is still the focus of the Bears defense.
"His ability is not a fluke," Idonije said. "He has a lot of ability and a great support system. They play well together."
Peterson's ability has been obvious for a long, long time. Bears nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek left Oklahoma a year ahead of A.P., but it didn't take long for him and everyone else to recognize that Peterson was something special.
"The first day he stepped on the Oklahoma campus he was the best player we had, which is a big statement for a team that went to the national championship," Dvoracek said. "He's a fast, strong, smart football player. He makes unbelievable runs. You're just like, 'Wow.' So it's definitely a big challenge."
Three weeks after bum-rushing the Bears, Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the Chargers in his eighth game as a pro. He rushed for 1,341 yards last season, even though he missed two games, and averaged 5.6 yards per carry despite being stalked by opposing defenses after his amazing early-season performances.
Peterson hasn't been quite as spectacular this year, but he's averaging 4.4 yards per attempt and is third in the NFL with 563 rushing yards – on pace for a 1,501-yard season.
The Bears defense committed to stopping Falcons running back Michael Turner last week and did so, but it came at the expense of getting gouged for 301 passing yards by rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. They will nevertheless have the same mindset this week.
"That's always the game plan going in," Dvoracek said. "You want to stop the run. We want to stop Adrian and have their passing game try to beat us."
Last week the Falcons' passing game did beat the Bears, so they know they must improve this week.
"A big part of that is us getting pressure on the quarterback," Dvoracek said. "We didn't do that last week. It's going to definitely be a main focus, getting off blocks and getting to the quarterback, making him make mistakes."
But that comes only after they've accounted for Peterson. In last year's rematch at the Metrodome the Bears limited him to 78 yards on 20 carries, although he scored two more touchdowns and the Vikings won again 20-13.
"We remember what happened here," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "It was a coming out party for him here. He had a great game. We played them better the second time around, and we're anxious to play him the third time."
Notes & Quotes
Berrian is tied for ninth in the NFL with 436 receiving yards, more than half of which have come in the past two weeks when he caught five passes for 131 yards against the Lions and six for 110 against the Saints – with one TD in each game.
"His play-making is evident," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "What he's doing there, what he's done in their last two wins, he was a very prominent factor at the end of the game. He's a great player."
And the Bears miss him.
"If you lose a great player, you're going to miss him," Turner said. "Fortunately, we've had some guys step up, which you have to do when somebody leaves. That's the nature of this business now. People leave, somebody else has to step up. Do we miss his play making? Yeah, he's a good player, a real good player." …
By any other name: Head coach Lovie Smith felt compelled to clarify his characterization of the offense.
"We're a running football team," he said. "We get off the bus running the ball. But if we have to pass, we can pass. How's that? Now, when you're a running football team, you want to get in the position where a team has to concentrate on your run. When that happens, you have to be able to pass the ball and that's what we've seen the past couple of weeks. When we're put in that position, we can throw the ball."
Quarterback Kyle Orton has thrown for 1,087 yards and eight TDs in his last four games, which have also included the top three yardage games of his career. Orton threw for 286 yards last Sunday against the Falcons, 334 a week earlier against the Lions and 268 against the Buccaneers in Week 3. …
Seven-year veteran G Terrence Metcalf has been suspended by the league without pay for the next four weeks for violating the NFL policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.
Metcalf, a third-round pick in 2002, has started 25 games and played in 84, including all six this season in a reserve role. He went to training camp as the starting left guard but had arthroscopic knee surgery and lost the job to Josh Beekman.
The 6-4, 310-pound Metcalf will be eligible to rejoin the Bears on Monday, Nov. 17, when Smith expects him to still be a member of the team.
"I don't see why he wouldn't be," Smith said. "I look at those things like I do injuries. We're not going to have a player for a certain amount of time. When you make a mistake like that, there are consequences that go with it."
With Metcalf unavailable, G Tyler Reed was re-signed to the practice squad Monday after being waived a week earlier, and G Dan Buenning could be active for the first time this season. OT Chris Williams, the first-round draft pick, is getting closer to being able to contribute.
Center Olin Kreutz wasn't in the mood to gloat about the two-minute drill that produced a 77-yard TD drive and a short-lived lead near the end of Sunday's game.
"We don't take an offensive point of view," Kreutz said. "We take a Chicago Bear point of view. We take a team point of view, and we lost. Offensively, we didn't do enough to win the game. Defensively, we didn't do enough. Special teams, we didn't do enough. We all lost the game, and we move on."
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