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Great start to Bears’ season a distant memory after 21-14 loss to Vikings

MinnesotVikings running back Adrian Peters(28) celebrates with teammate Matt Kalil (75) after scoring 1-yard touchdown run during first half an

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) celebrates with teammate Matt Kalil (75) after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy King)

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Updated: December 9, 2012 9:08PM



MINNEAPOLIS — There are many routes to the Super Bowl dais, where the victorious coach and owner hold up the Lombardi Trophy as confetti rains on them.

On Sunday, the Bears took all the wrong turns in a costly 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field before 64,134 fans.

They were gashed for a 51-yard run on the first play from scrimmage by running back Adrian Peterson. They gave up a touchdown to Peterson five plays later. They committed a turnover on the ensuing series, then allowed Peterson to score again for a 14-0 deficit.

They committed more turnovers, committed more penalties, missed more tackles and dropped more passes than the Vikings.

“Coming into this game, we knew we needed to play our best football, especially going on the road,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We know it’s going to be a hostile environment. We talked an awful lot about starting fast. You have to do that on the road.

“That opening drive really put us on our heels, and we never really recovered.”

The Bears’ 7-1 start feels like ancient history. After dropping four of the last five, there’s less talk of an NFC North title and more of a wild-card spot.

They’re sixth in the NFC playoff standings, right behind the Seattle Seahawks, who hold the tiebreaker because of their victory over the Bears last week.

“We can’t think about that,” Bears tight end Kellen Davis said of the rash of losses. “Our first goal is to make the playoffs. If we do that, all our goals are still attainable.”

Peterson set the tone with a Vikings franchise record 104 first-quarter rushing yards. That allowed the Vikings’ greatest weakness, quarterback Christian Ponder, to focus mostly on handing the ball off to his star running back. By halftime, Ponder had attempted just nine passes, one of which was intercepted.

But the Bears’ offense had its own issues. Jay Cutler over- and underthrew some passes, resulting in two interceptions that directly led to 14 of the Vikings’ points.

His receivers didn’t help, dropping at least four passes, two of which were likely touchdowns. Cutler finished 22-for-44 for 260 yards with a rating of 57.

Though the Vikings had only two sacks, they pressured Cutler better than in the Bears’ 28-10 victory Nov. 25.

“We felt like getting them into more third-and-seven-pluses would be a factor so we could rush the quarterback,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “Our fans, along with Jared [Allen] and everybody else up front, was big.”

The Bears, meanwhile, had one sack. Ponder attempted just 17 passes, many of them quick slants.

On the Bears’ final drive, Jason Campbell stepped in for Cutler, who injured his neck on a brutal hit by Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.

Smith said Cutler had a neck injury, and the quarterback addressed reporters after the game.

Now the Bears prepare for a must-win game next Sunday at Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers. Then they finish out the season on the road against the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions.

“This is crunch time for us,” defensive end Israel Idonije said. “The intensity has to pick up.”



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