CHICAGO — Entering Monday night's matchup against the Bears, Minnesota's stout defense had given up an average of just 279.5 yards per game, the only unit in the league to be under 280 yards per game.
But a balanced Chicago offense befuddled the Vikings defense all night, as the Bears racked up 403 yards of total offense, 158 of which came on the ground.
The down performance contributed to a 20-10 loss in which the Vikings dropped their second straight game and fell to 5-2.
A pair of Vikings veterans said it was the run defense that irked them the most.
"I say it all the time, if a team isn't able to run the ball, it sets everything up for us," said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. "Our number one objective is to stop the run, and if we don't do that, it's going to be a long night."
Added Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway: "That's what we pride ourselves on and have for a long time. That's just completely on the defense."
Chicago gained more than half of its rushing total on its opening possession as rookie running back Jordan Howard broke through the middle and peeled off a 69-yard run. Howard finished with 26 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown.
"The big one early … they hit it and we missed a tackle and bad angles and as a whole defense we gave it up," Greenway said. "They made a play and we didn't counteract that."
Quarterback Jay Cutler returned to the Bears lineup after missing a few games with a thumb injury. Cutler completed 20 of 31 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown.
Cutler's steady play helped the Bears convert on seven of their 14 third-down opportunities.
Greenway said the theme of the night was Chicago's ability to make a key play at a crucial time while the Vikings couldn't stand tall in the clutch.
Minnesota now returns home for an NFC North showdown with the Lions, who are 4-4.
"It doesn't get easier for us," Greenway said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and do what we do well. But tonight wasn't us."