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Vikings-Bears Notebook: 1 Loss 'Turned Into 2'

CHICAGO —The Vikings unwillingly appeared in a horror movie sequel against the Bears on Halloween night.

Minnesota fell on the road for the second week in a row and suffered its eighth setback on Lakeshore Drive since 2007.

The 20-10 defeat, which was fueled by early missed opportunities and some key missed tackles, moved the Vikings to 5-2 on the season but failed to change the goals that this team still has.

Players, however, know they must right the ship.

"It's a struggle to obviously keep your confidence and stay with what you're doing," most-tenured Viking Riley Reiff said. "But the reality is that we've got a lot of games left and we can't let this game … the cry last week was to not let one (loss) turn into two. Now it's turned into two.

"Now we have another divisional chance coming up this week at home," Greenway continued. "We've got to lean on our home crowd, we've got to lean on the fact that we've played well there."

The Vikings did receive help in their quest to defend the NFC North this weekend. Green Bay fell to 4-3 with a late loss at Atlanta (5-3), and Detroit fell to 4-4 with a loss at Houston.

Kyle Rudolph said, although the loss was tough, the Vikings goals for the year aren't spoiled.

"Bottom line is that we're still in first place and everything we have is still in front of us," Rudolph said. "We've come a long way since August and have gone through a lot of stuff so two losses isn't going to get us down. We'll have a short week to get back to our home stadium and face the Detroit Lions."

On the line: The Vikings opted to start Jake Long at left tackle and Anthony Harris at right tackle on Monday.

It was Long's first start as a Viking and the first start at right tackle for Clemmings since last season. The week before, Minnesota opened with Clemmings at left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles at right tackle, then rotated Long into the game and slid Clemmings to right tackle at times against the Eagles.* *

The Vikings struggled with pass protection, which is a combination of multiple factors, for a second straight week.

Kyle Rudolph was sacked a total of five times, and press box statisticians tallied nine quarterback hits. After falling behind early for the second week in a row, the Vikings again found themselves in must-pass situations.

"We've got to play better. We'll watch the film and correct it like we always do," Long said. "But as a whole, we have to play better and keep Sam upright. When he has a clean pocket he does great things. We can't get him hit like that."

The Bears, however, were able to establish a balanced attack throughout the game and move the pocket. Jay Cutler extended plays with his feet and utilized bootlegs to keep more than an arm's reach away from Vikings defenders that had been incredibly successful at pressuring quarterbacks.

Cutler was sacked just once by Everson Griffen, and press box statisticians counted only six hits by the Vikings on the quarterback in his first action since suffering a thumb injury in Week 2. Cutler completed 20 of 31 passes (64.5 percent) for 252 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers for a passer rating of 100.5 in his first action since suffering a thumb injury in Week 2.

The teams were a combined 0-for-7 on third down in the first quarter, but Cutler's improvisational scramble-and-shovel pass to Jordan Howard gained 34 to convert third-and-8 and lead to the Bears second field goal of the night early in the second quarter.

"They got some good plays on us – they got the little flip play, the little screen," Griffen said. "They played a better game. Now we have to go back to the drawing board and get ourselves back on track. We were on the field a lot. We were getting pressure on him, but he was getting the ball out quick. They ran some good plays, and we got outplayed."

After failing to convert its first three third downs, Chicago finished the game 7-for-14, which stood in stark contrast to the 2-for-13 rate by the Vikings.

"Really the theme of the night was them just making plays … big throws, Jeffery had the one big catch, a lot of third-down conversions, the little flip play," Greenway said. "They just kept doing enough on third downs."

Coaches' Challenges: The Vikings made it to their seventh game of the season without having an opponent challenge a ruling and without throwing a challenge flag.

Both happened in Monday's game, and both teams were unsuccessful.

Chicago challenged a spot of a run by Nick Easton that converted a third-and-1 at the Chicago 3. The Bears lost the challenge, but the Vikings failed to capitalize on the fresh set of downs. Asiata totaled one yard on a pair of runs thereafter, and Bradford was sacked on third-and-2, forcing the Vikings to settle for a 30-yard field goal.

The Vikings challenged a ruling that Howard was down by contact before the ball came out on the second play of the third quarter, but the call was upheld. The Bears converted the ensuing third-and-5 with a 34-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Alshon Jeffery. That possession concluded with an 11-yard touchdown from Cutler to Jeffery for a 20-3 lead. 

Filling voids: Jayron Kearse started at safety in place of Andrew Sendejo (ankle). Kearse became the fourth rookie seventh-round pick to start a game this season.

The other players selected in 2016's final round are: Philadelphia DB Jalen Mills (one start), Oakland RT Vadal Alexander (two starts) and Indianapolis OL Austin Blythe (one start).

The Vikings also were without running back Jerick McKinnon and punt returner Marcus Sherels.

Matt Asiata started in place of McKinnon and rushed 14 times for 42 yards, and Ronnie Hillman rushed four times for 15 yards.

"I'm just trying to be a good runner, move the ball and get down the field and help out the offense. There's always room to improve every week," Asiata said. "I feel like the offense scores right away we can run the ball all game."

The Bears, however, were without starting guards Kyle Long (replaced by Ted Larsen) and Josh Sitton (replaced by Eric Kush), as well as nose tackle Eddie Goldman (replaced by Will Sutton) and punt returner Eddie Royal (Cre'Von LeBlanc).

View game action images as the Vikings battle the Chicago Bears on Halloween Night Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.

Tone-setter: Howard broke free for a 69-yard run on the Bears third offensive snap of the game.

"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. We give up three points."

Up next: The Bears (2-6) snapped a three-game losing streak with a win against a division opponent for the second time this season and became the only team in the NFC North to win in Week 8. Chicago defeated Detroit in Week 4.

The Vikings will host the Lions at noon Sunday and try to remain undefeated at U.S. Bank Stadium.

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