The Bears' foundationrunning the ballcracked severely in their 25-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, one of the NFL's poorest run-stopping teams.
The Bears' top rusher was backup quarterback Henry Burris, who scrambled for 19 yards in two series of action in the fourth quarter. Anthony Thomas gained 9 yards on his first carry of the first half, 6 on his first of the second and 3 the rest of the game. The Bears rushed for only 44 yards, a major part of the reason Minnesota controlled the ball for 41 minutes 3 seconds to the Bears' 18:57.
"I don't feel that bad," Thomas said. "I know what I can do. I know I have a great offensive line that is going to go out there and bust their butts on every play. So I'm going to go out there and do the same."
Vikings running back Michael Bennett rushed for 106 yards, becoming the second back in as many weeks to top 100 yards against a defense that once routinely shut down featured backs. Detroit's James Stewart rushed for 172 yards last Sunday.
The Bears have held only one of this season's seven opponents under 100 yards rushing. Only twice this season has their offense topped 100 yards rushing.
In perhaps an omen of the frustrations to come, the Bears controlled the ball for eight minutes on a first-quarter drive, yet did not manage to move even into field-goal range.
On their drive to nowhere, the Bears ran 14 plays and gained 23 yards, which was seven fewer than the Vikings handed them on four penalties. The Bears controlled the ball less than 11 more minutes in the game.
The Bears continued to pull all the levers looking for answers on defense, moving former Notre Dame star Bobbie Howard in as a starting outside linebacker and Christian Peter at defensive tackle in place of Alfonso Boone.
Through seven games, 18 players have been starters on defense because of injury or performance-related changes. At this point last season, the only changes in starting lineups took place when the Bears used different personnel packages.
Asked if he would continue to try new personnel combinations, defensive coordinator Greg Blache laughed: "Who else have we got coming? Tell me who I've got."
Both Howard, making his first NFL start, and Peter are replacements for replacements. Mike Caldwell, who took the first snap as the Bears opened in a pass-defense package, had started after Warrick Holdman's season-ending knee injury. Boone became the starter after Ted Washington went down with a foot injury in Game 2.
Howard was outstanding in limited duty at Detroit and was rewarded with the starting job over Caldwell. Peter last started in 2000 when he started 15 games for the New York Giants.
With defensive end Bryan Robinson inactive at the team's discretion because of an alcohol-related arrest Oct. 18, Phillip Daniels switched from right to left end and rookie Alex Brown also made his first NFL start at right end.
Rookie running back Adrian Peterson also was active for the first time and was credited with a tackle on the opening kickoff.
With Fred Baxter and John Davis inactive with injuries, Kevin Dogins worked as a second tight end in short-yardage situations. Dustin Lyman started.
Failing to focus
Rookie left tackle Marc Colombo struggled along with the rest of the offensive line. Colombo was whistled for two false starts and beaten for a sack by the Vikings' rush. But Colombo didn't blame the legendary Metrodome noise.
"I anticipated the noise coming in and we practiced with noise," Colombo said. "It was just a lack of concentration by me."