While Sunday’s game vs the Vikings at home was a solid win for the now 8-3 Bears, the victory came with a serious price tag attached to it.
The team got back QB Jay Cutler in the 28-10 win, but lost three starters in the process to injury – RB Matt Forte, WR Devin Hester and CB Charles Tillman.
Cutler threw for 188 yards and a touchdown after missing a game, and the Bears broke it open early and cruised to the win to extend their lead in the NFC North following Sunday night’s loss by the Packers in New Jersey to the Giants.
“This was a big win for us because you can’t lose division games at home,” Lovie Smith said. “We were committed to the run and that really helped us today. Jay Cutler was really good today after coming off that injury. All of our guys came out ready to play.”
The Bears lost Hester, a receiver and record-setting return specialist, early to a concussion. Forte, their top running back, hobbled to the tunnel midway through the third quarter with an ankle injury.
Lovie Smith said Tillman, their star cornerback, also hurt his ankle, and had little to offer about the eventual return of the threesome.
That wasn’t all for the injuries, as the Bears lost both guards in the third quarter to knee sprains, with Lance Louis and Chris Spencer going down.
Louis’ injury on a blindside hit by Jared Allen as Antoine Winfield returned an interception forced Chicago to go with Gabe Carimi, who lost the right tackle job to Jonathan Scott.
Spencer, meanwhile, was in the lineup after Chilo Rachal left the team.
If the Bears are going to develop any continuity on the line, well, don’t expect it anytime soon.
”I don’t think it’s possible now,” Cutler said. ”With all the moving parts we have and Lance going down, you’re not going to have that. We’re going to have to roll with the guys we have and see what we have, lean on our defense as we have before, run the ball well. Be efficient through the air. See how far we go.”
The Bears D lowered the boom on Vikings starting QB Christian Ponder, as he was was 22-for-43 with 159 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Vikings (6-5), who were coming off their bye week and lost for a third time in their past four games.
Adrian Peterson carried the ball 18 times for 108 yards in the loss.
Henry Melton set the tone by sacking Ponder on the first play from scrimmage. Nick Roach set up the first touchdown by knocking the ball out of Peterson’s hands. Chris Conte set another TD with a 35-yard interception return, and Julius Peppers blocked a field goal.
The league’s leading rusher, Peterson tied Robert Smith’s club record with a 100-yard performance for the fifth straight game even though he managed just 25 in the first half. He also lost two fumbles and had to catch a cab to the stadium and arrived about 90 minutes before kickoff, according to reports.
Cutler completed 15 of 17 passes for 117 yards in the first half, and the Bears jumped out a big lead after a shaky start on offense.
Forte fumbled on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage, leading to a 40-yard field goal by Blair Walsh – all the scoring the Vikings did in the half.
The Bears broke it open late in the second half. Bush scored from the 1 and holder Adam Podlesh ran in for a 2-point conversion that made it 18-3.
Ponder got picked off by Conte and he returned it 35 yards to the Minnesota 13. That led to a scoring strike from Cutler to a lunging Matt Spaeth on the next play.
The Bears will look for their 9th win Sunday as they play host to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.