Adrian Peterson steamrolling Bears isn’t foregone conclusion
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 30, 2013 5:44PM
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Updated: December 1, 2013 11:48AM
MINNEAPOLIS — All is not lost. The Bears had three really good days of practice this week in preparation for Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at the Metrodome.
Give Bears coach Marc Trestman a little credit for realizing he said the same thing last week before the Bears gave up 261 rushing yards on 26 carries to St. Louis Rams rookies Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham and Tavon Austin.
‘‘Three really good days of practice,’’ Trestman said Friday after practice. ‘‘It doesn’t guarantee us anything on Sunday, but it gives us a chance.
‘‘We’ve got a very focused football team. There was energy all through the practices. Very good focus on assignments and the details. We’ll see what happens on Sunday.’’
Indeed we will. Trestman has spent enough time at the Metrodome to know as well as the rest of us how quickly it can turn the best-laid plans into mush. The Bears worked pretty hard last year before facing the Vikings at the Metrodome, and Peterson gained 51 yards on the first play from scrimmage and finished with 154 yards and two touchdowns. It happens.
After last week’s debacle against the Rams and their rookie trio, Bears fans are expecting the worst against Peterson. If it can get worse, we’re about to find out.
My guess is it won’t become the disaster it could. These might end up being famous last words with Peterson on tap, but — barring an injury to Tim Jennings or Corey Wootton — it’s possible the Bears’ defensive misfortune finally has bottomed out.
Defensive tackle Stephen Paea could return against the Vikings. Newcomer Jeremiah Ratliff is expected to play Sunday. Middle linebacker Lance Briggs is a week healthier and perhaps two weeks away from returning. Rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene are a week older; Bostic in particular is not very good right now, but he’ll get there eventually.
Even the bad news wasn’t disastrous. If strong safety Major Wright can’t play because of a hamstring injury suffered in practice this week, Craig Steltz gives the Bears a better run defender — just what they need against Peterson.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and his beleaguered players are taking the heat this week. They deserve their share. But this defense would be struggling even if Lovie Smith were still in charge; the Bears would be just as old and banged up under Smith as Tucker.
General manager Phil Emery is a target for leaving the Bears so thin behind their defensive core. Shea McClellin is on him. But how many GMs are prepared to lose their top three defensive tackles?
The dearth of NFL-quality defensive tackles on the Bears roster has magnified the intrigue behind the return of Ratliff. He’s a four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle but has not played since last Nov. 18 after surgery for a sports hernia with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s playing in a 4-3 defense after having played in a 3-4 with the Cowboys. And he wasn’t that great when healthy last season — no sacks in six games.
Trestman said Ratliff will play limited snaps. Regardless, his presence will epitomize the Bears’ plight on defense — even with the most limited of expectations, Ratliff is sure to be an upgrade.
‘‘He’s brought something to our locker room already,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We’re not going to make any proclamations at this point. But demeanor-wise, his attitude . . . our offensive linemen have felt his presence on the practice field during the week. That’s a good sign. And we’ll see where it takes us on Sunday.’’