LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A scowling Brian Urlacher headed straight to his locker, grabbed a football and walked away.
His teammates weren't in great moods, either.
The defense got sliced in record fashion by rookie running back Adrian Peterson, and the Chicago Bears suffered a demoralizing 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
On Monday, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said, "You can pretty much put this whole loss on the defense."
And defensive end Alex Brown said, "We've just got to start over."
What was arguably the most disappointing regular-season loss in years followed a comeback win at Green Bay in which the Bears (2-4) showed signs of turning things around. Instead, they became highlight reel fodder for Peterson.
The rookie carried 20 times for 224 yards -- the most by a Viking and a Bears opponent -- and broke off touchdown runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards. He was just as dangerous on kickoffs, returning four for 128 yards. That included a 53-yarder, which set up Ryan Longwell's 55-yard game-winning field goal on the final play.
That explains why defensive coordinator Bob Babich called a lengthy meeting and why coach Lovie Smith spent much of his day with that group. They watched more video than usual, and cringed.
"We needed that," Manning said. "We needed to see everybody and here what Babich had to say."
Players got their turn, too.
"We know how serious it is," Manning said. "We knew that before, but it got out of hand. Now, we're scratching and trying to get it back. It's not too late."
Battered by injuries, the once-feared defense now ranks 27th at 361.3 total yards per game.
Although coach Lovie Smith downplayed the injuries that have battered the Bears, Brown acknowledged their toll.
"Your first string is first string for a reason," he said. "A guy goes down and hopefully, you've got a guy who can come in and play. But you lose something. We've lost a lot of that this year. But how long do you use that excuse?"
"We made them look like one of the best rushing teams in the history of the NFL," Hillenmeyer said.
Manning made a mistake on Peterson's 35-yard touchdown run along the sideline in the fourth quarter. He went for the strip rather than the tackle, and the Vikings increased their lead to 31-17 with 4:10 left.
Safety Adam Archuleta let Minnesota wide receiver Troy Williamson run by him on a 60-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first quarter and got benched in the second half, although Smith said he remains a starter.
"Coaches, a lot of times, would stop the film at the end of a play and say, 'How many jerseys are in the film right now?"' he said. "They like it when you can see all 11 defensive jerseys when the ball carrier's getting tackled. Even when we did make the tackle, there were a lot of shots where there were only one or two guys in the film."
Along with the poor play, there were questionable coaching decisions.
Topping the list was kicking to Peterson after Devin Hester tied it at 31 on an 81-yard touchdown reception with 1:38 remaining. Peterson's 53-yard return set up Longwell's field goal.
"What we needed to do was stop Peterson one way or another," Smith said. "I wanted to stop him back on the 20, not give it to him on the 40 or anything like that. We have a lot of faith in our kickoff team, but just like the rest of our team yesterday, we didn't make some plays we needed."
The Bears veered from running back Cedric Benson after he ran for 46 yards through the first 20 minutes. They opted for a quarterback sneak, which Brian Griese fumbled, on fourth and inches at the Minnesota 44 late in the second quarter rather than give it to their power running back.
Manning started his second consecutive game at cornerback for Vasher, but moved back to safety in the second half even though he hadn't practiced there all week. And when the Bears made that move, they put rookie Trumaine McBride at cornerback rather than veteran Ricky Manning Jr.
"Recordwise, we're in a bit of a hole," Smith said. "We have a lot of football to go."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press