- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Chicago Bears reporter
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Two more wins likely gets them in, but the Chicago Bears fell again Sunday, for the fourth time in their past five outings, this time to the Minnesota Vikings, who used a dominating performance by Adrian Peterson to capture a 21-14 victory at the Metrodome.
The Bears suffered a slew of injuries in the game with varying degrees of severity, which aren't yet known.
What we do know is that after reeling off a 7-1 start to the season, the Bears have now lost four of their past five, and host the Green Bay Packers before hitting the road for their final two contests. The Bears are inching dangerously close to another late-season collapse that could sabotage the club's playoff prospects for the second year in a row.
It's getting that serious. Let's look closer:
What it means: In addition to falling a full game behind the Packers, the Bears seem to be trending the wrong way at the wrong time of the year. Bears coach Lovie Smith constantly talks about the need for the Bears to be playing their best football in December, but that's not what's taking place right now. Chicago has lost four of its past five outings, and that once seemingly secure spot in the postseason now doesn't look like such a lock.
Shorthanded: The Bears started the game Sunday without defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who had been hampered all week with a foot injury and was placed on the list of inactives. So the team played with Nate Collins and Henry Melton at the defensive tackle spots. That combination didn't last, however, as Melton left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half that forced Israel Idonije at times to move inside next to Collins.
Although Melton played sporadically throughout the contest, all the shuffling up front likely played a role in Peterson gashing the defense for 154 yards on 31 carries, which allowed the Vikings to siphon precious time off the clock to limit Chicago's possessions on offense.
Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin also suffered a knee injury in the first half that knocked him out of the game.
Record-setting Marshall: Brandon Marshall tied Jeff Graham and Harlon Hill for the most 100-yard receiving games (7) in a single season with his second consecutive 100-yard receiving performance. His 5-yard reception with 6:02 left to play gave Marshall his 100th reception of the season, which ties the team record set in 2001 by Marty Booker.
Marshall has now caught 100 balls or more in four seasons, which ties him at No. 1 in NFL history in that category with Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Wes Welker.
Jeffery return big: Alshon Jeffery returned to the lineup Sunday after missing six of the past seven games with injuries to his hand and knee, and made a near-immediate impact. Jay Cutler didn't look Jeffery's direction much early, throwing him the ball just once in the first quarter.
Cutler hit Jeffery for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:52 left in the first half to pull the Bears to within seven at 14-7 after Robbie Gould's extra-point kick. Jeffery entered the game averaging 33.2 yards per game, which ranks No. 9 among NFL rookies.
Jeffery finished the game with three catches for 57 yards, which came off as refreshing considering Cutler looks Marshall's way the majority of the time.
What's next: With heavy snowfall causing several flight cancellations around the Minneapolis area, it's unknown at this point whether the Bears' flight back to Chicago would be cancelled. Given the injury situation, look for the Bears to take Monday and Tuesday off before returning to the practice field Wednesday to prepare to host the Packers, who defeated the Bears 23-10 in Week 2.
Rapid Reaction: The Bears' slide continued on Sunday against the Vikings.