- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Throughout a deflated locker room in the moments after the Chicago Bears' 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the overriding sentiment among the players interestingly seemed to be the defense defended Adrian Peterson well.
Then again ...
"Apart from that first drive, guys played hard and tough," defensive end Israel Idonije said.
"He had two good runs," said Julius Peppers. "Other than that, we did a pretty good job with containing him."
Whatever the case with Peterson's outing -- whether most of the damage came in the first or the fourth quarter -- it proved strong enough to lift the Vikings over the Bears. Peterson broke a 51-yard run on the first play of the game, scored two 1-yard touchdowns in the first quarter and racked up 154 yards on the ground.
Peterson gained a team-record 104 of those yards in the first quarter. But only coach Lovie Smith seemed to recognize Sunday that although the team slowed down Peterson in the second half, the running back's production in the first quarter more or less sealed the deal for the Vikings.
"That opening drive really put us on our heels, and we never really recovered," Smith said.
Asked why the club couldn't recover, Smith said, "I don't know. You tell me. How do you answer a question like that? If I knew that, we would've done a little bit more about it."
Minnesota came out running, calling four rushes in its first six plays. After Peterson ripped off the 51-yard run on his first attempt, he also broke a 16-yard burst before scoring on the 1-yarder. Of the Vikings' first 15 snaps, 12 came on runs to Peterson.
By halftime, Peterson had gained 125 yards on 18 attempts.
"Yeah, whenever they open up with a big play and he's running free like that it kind of catches you off guard on the first play of the game," safety Chris Conte said. "We can't allow him to get out like that. We have to make that tackle right there. He's a great player, and he's made some plays."
Peterson faced a weakened defense with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher out of the lineup with a hamstring injury that likely will keep him out the remainder of the regular season along with defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who missed because of a foot injury. Urlacher's absence led to starting SAM linebacker Nick Roach moving into his place, with Geno Hayes coming in to play Roach's spot on the strong side.
Nate Collins started in Paea's place opposite Henry Melton at defensive tackle. Then Melton suffered a shoulder injury that eventually -- despite his attempts to resume playing -- forced defensive end Israel Idonije to play inside at defensive tackle.
"They still played outstanding," Peterson said of Chicago's depleted defense. "They came out in the second half and made some adjustments, forcing me to be more patient. When you take away a guy like (Urlacher), it kind of hurts the defensive movement. The guy they had in Roach is quicker, and in the same sense you had to work (against) him as well."
After giving up 125 yards in the first half, the Bears limited Peterson to 29 yards over the third and fourth quarters. Peterson averaged 6.9 yards per carry in the first half, but just 2.2 in the second.
Still, it didn't make a difference for the Bears because Peterson's damage had already been done.
"Peterson was being Peterson," Smith said. "He's a great running back. He's broken a lot of tackles in his career. We missed too many on him today."