- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Whether reeling from injuries to Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Jay Cutler or Lance Briggs, the Chicago Bears continued to survive the majority of the season with a help-is-on-the-way mentality.
Against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, assistance for the defense came in the form of Jeremiah Ratliff making his Bears debut, along with Stephen Paea returning to the lineup from a turf-toe injury. Their availability helped Chicago’s pass rush generate five sacks, marking just the fifth time the team posted multiple sacks all season during a 23-20 overtime loss.
Still, the Bears' defense allowed Adrian Peterson to blister the unit for a game-high 211 yards, while averaging six yards per attempt.
“I felt we started off fast. But, still, to give up that many rushing yards is something that you can’t do and win. I know we limited the touchdowns and field goals, but something like that is definitely a cause for concern, and it’s been all year,” defensive end Corey Wootton said. “Week after week, guys are putting up huge numbers on us and I don’t know what to say.”
The Bears started the game with Paea and Wootton lined up inside at tackle and Shea McClellin and Julius Peppers playing defensive end. Ratliff entered with 10:57 left in the first quarter and nearly sacked Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder on his first snap. That extra inside presence allowed the Bears to move Wootton outside to play opposite Peppers.
At times, the Bears even used Peppers inside next to Ratliff with Wootton and McClellin at the end positions. The diversity helped the Bears snuff out Minnesota’s first three drives with sacks; two from Peppers and one other sack split between Paea and nickel corner Isaiah Frey.
Peppers finished the game with two-and-a-half sacks. Wootton and Paea contributed a half-sack each.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you. The flow of the game, it has its ups and downs. So I’m not sure how we played,” Peppers said. “I don’t like to really even talk about the game until seeing the film. So we’ll see.”
With the Bears generating near constant pressure on Ponder, who was later knocked out of the game with a concussion, and his replacement Matt Cassel, Chicago failed to contain Minnesota’s rushing attack after getting off to a promising start. Although Cordarrelle Patterson busted a 33-yard touchdown on his first rushing attempt in the first quarter, the Bears limited Peterson to 72 yards in the first half.
Peterson gained an additional 139 yards in the third and fourth quarters, in addition to the overtime period.
“We had good fits,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Sometimes we hung on, and he dragged us. He didn’t have a lot of explosive plays, but he got his share today. At the end of the day, we’re looking up at 23 points and offensively we stopped ourselves, didn’t get the third downs converted early. We had some long drives, but we didn’t finish them and that allowed him to get back on the field sooner than we’d like. It’s a team game. It’s all connected.”