Task gets tougher for Bears struggling defense

Updated 11/28/2013 4:09 PM
  • Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is always a handful for opposing defenses.

    Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is always a handful for opposing defenses. Associated Press

If anyone thought it couldn't get more difficult for the Bears' run defense, they didn't check the schedule.

Last week Rams backup Bennie Cunningham slashed through the Bears for 109 yards on 13 carries after Zac Stacy picked up 87 yards on 12 attempts before suffering a concussion.

A week earlier Ray Rice awoke from a season-long slumber and picked up 131 yards on 25 carries. A week before that Reggie Bush picked up 105 yards on 14 attempts.

That's a disturbing pattern, especially this week when the league's worst run defense must contend with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL's reigning MVP.

"It doesn't get easier this week," said Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. "What impresses me the most is, he's a relentless competitor.

"Every time he gets the ball, he's trying to take it the distance. He's willing to take the tough yards. He's always looking to fall forward.

"With a back like him, everyone is at the point of attack on every play; front side and back side. He stresses everyone on your front and in your secondary, in terms of leverage, gaps and things like that because he can hit it anywhere."

Theoretically, possessing the ball for a majority of the time should help the NFL's worst run defense against Peterson. But it didn't play out that way last week when the Bears dominated time of possession over the St. Louis Rams 36:09-23:51 but still got whipped 42-21.

"We're consciously thinking about moving the football, running, passing, completing passes, playing efficient football and finishing drives and getting points," quarterback Josh McCown said. "Whether that keeps him off the field or not, that may be a good thing. That would be added value.

"But the end result is to play good football and get the team in the end zone, and that is what we're concerned with. If we can do that, then his touches, they always matter, but if you are doing your part and scoring."

The defense hasn't done its part recently, but Tucker sees a ray of sunshine through several weeks of dismal performances, and he offered a little positive reinforcement to his players during the week.

"We showed them a series of clips from the previous game (vs. Baltimore)," Tucker said. "I think there were 10-12 clips of everyone on defense, in the run game, doing exactly what they were supposed to do, and they were 1-, 2-, 3-yard gains.

"So that's encouraging. We're looking to build off of those plays. And if you can get that type of execution in a game on a consistent basis, then you have a chance to stop people.

"So we're building on what we've shown that we can do in games, with the guys that we do have. We just need to do it on a more consistent basis."

There's a chance that Tucker's crew could get a boost this week.

Four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is getting closer to a return to the field for the first time since off-season groin surgery. It could come Sunday at Minnesota, and the Bears' beleaguered defense is desperate for what he could bring to the field.

"We hope that he'll do what we've seen him do in practice," coach Marc Trestman said. "The little he's been in there, he's holding the point. He's getting a rush. He hasn't played for a while, so we don't have high expectations right now, but we certainly see the light and we're hoping we get a little bit out of him."

No one could use the help more than the Bears' run defense.

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