ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- The really scary thing about how the Bears played run defense in Sunday's 42-21 loss to the St. Lous Rams had less to do with the 258 rushing yards they allowed than with what it means about next week.
After all, when Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham can account for that kind of yardage, what's going to happen facing Minnesota's Adrian Peterson on the rug in the dome?
"We have Adrian Peterson next week, who's arguably one of the best running backs," said Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton. "They're going to look at the film and say, 'we can gash them.'
"We have to figure out what it (the problem) is. We must, if we want to go to the playoffs, if we want to go far."
Playoffs? Playoff teams generally don't hand out rushing yards at a rate of 184.7 yards per game like the Bears have their past six contests. Rams backs Sunday gained the most yards the Bears have given up on the ground since Peterson and the Vikings' other backs ran for 311 yards against them Oct. 14, 2007 at Soldier Field.
The only ones going far Sunday were the Rams backs, who averaged 8.9 yards per carry, and did it with their starter, Stacy, missing more than half the game with a concussion. He left with 89 yards. Cunningham gained 109 on 13 carries.
Everyone is gaining big chunks on the ground against the Bears' defense these days. They allowed 9 runs of 11 yards or more, including gains of 35 yards by Stacy and 27 yards twice by Cunningham. But the run that did them the most harm may have been the first big-gainer, a 65-yard Tavon Austin TD run on the third Rams play from scrimmage.
It came on what could best be described as an end around-reverse. Austin, a receiver, got the ball going left in the backfield, intentionally stopped, pivoted and turned on the burners to go past Shea McClellin and Chris Conte near the line. After that there were no other Bears defenders.
"They got us on that one," McClellin said.
The Bears defensive end pointed out the Rams had two weeks since their last game, and obviously put the play in especially to take advantage of a perceived weakness.
"They had a bye week to rest up and work on what they needed to and they did a great job," McClellin said. "I've never seen that (on film) before. We have to play our keys better and move on."
Despite their misdeeds defending the run, the Bears trailed only 27-21 in the fourth quarter and needed but one defensive stop to go for the go-ahead score. Instead, all they got was more ineffective run defense.
Cunningham broke off runs of 27 and 13 yards in an 80-yard drive to his own 9-yard TD score to lock up the win with 3:12 remaining.
"We've got to make sure everybody is doing their job, plain and simple -- just try to get better," middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic said. "That (trick) play, that's to be expected. Every team comes in and they scheme you and you've just got to rally and try to get to the ball."
Bears defenders continue to play shorthanded, lacking linebacker Lance Briggs, middle linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive tackles Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins due to injuries. They're only going to get Paea and Briggs back, though they may get some help when Jeremiah Ratliff is deemed healthy enough to play.
"We're not going to say we can't get the problem fixed, because it is fixable," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "We're going to get the little things right. We're going to simplify it even more than it has been, and continue to work at it until it is fixed."
The common explanation has been that players are out of their assignment gaps, but coach Marc Trestman wouldn't venture in that direction.
"I think the guys are in the right place, but we didn't get it done," he said. "I am not going to get into the technical aspect of it, but I do know this: I think we are putting in the time and the effort and we just have to continue to work at it.
"I know we will. We have to do a better job next week."
Against Peterson, anything less is already a defeat.