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Associated Press
Brandon Marshall’s 13-yard touchdown catch was Chicago’s only score Monday night.

Vikings want to keep Bears down

Minnesota faces reeling Chicago 2 of next 3 weeks

– For a team in first place, the Chicago Bears sure are looking like a mess at the moment. And things could get even uglier.

Beat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and that just might turn them back in the right direction. Lose and, well, they’d better hope they have a parachute to stop the free fall.

“I’m confident that we have the right guys in the locker room to do it,” Bears star receiver Brandon Marshall said.

So he’s not flinching. There sure is plenty of angst around Chicago, though, and there’s no shortage of sources for it.

Between quarterback Jay Cutler’s concussion, the sheer meltdown on the offensive line and the sudden vulnerability of a dominant defense, these are tense times for a team that was riding high just a few weeks ago. Back-to-back losses by the Bears (7-3) to Houston and San Francisco took the shine off a 7-1 start. Now, here come the Vikings (6-4), a team that’s right behind them in the NFC North race.

They meet twice in the next three weeks, and no one needs to remind Minnesota’s Jared Allen how big an opportunity this is.

“I think the sense of urgency is where it needs to be at, from the standpoint of what we have ahead of us,” he said. “I mean, look at the way the division is playing out. I mean, 10-6 might not be good enough if Green Bay stays (hot).”

The Bears were scorching before this recent rut. Now, they’re tied with the Packers for the division lead and hardly looking like a championship contender at the moment.

Monday’s 32-7 loss to the 49ers was particularly ugly on just about every front, and it’s no given a healthy Cutler would have made a big difference.

He missed the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Houston’s Tim Dobbins the previous week. Backup quarterback Jason Campbell struggled in his place, throwing for just 107 yards with two interceptions and fumbling twice.

Then again, the way the line was blocking, he had no chance.

The Bears allowed six sacks Monday to bring their total to 34 on the year, second to Arizona (44), and that group will have a different look this week.

Starting left guard Chilo Rachal was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, meaning Chris Spencer will start. There was a shakeup at the tackle spots, too – Jonathon Scott will start in place of right tackle Gabe Carimi after he and left tackle J’Marcus Webb struggled against the 49ers.

“What we’re not seeing is that consistency in performance,” offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. “It’s too much like the teeth of a saw. It’s up and down, up and down. What you need is that consistency.”

Things were no better on the other side of the ball, with the defense getting picked apart by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his first start. In the end, the Bears did nothing to quiet skeptics questioning just how good they really are.

They’re 0-3 against the top teams on their schedule, and it’s not like they’re in for much of a breather this week, with Allen and league rushing leader Adrian Peterson coming to town.

The Vikings will be without top receiver Percy Harvin, who did not travel to Chicago because of a sprained left ankle.

“It is an opportunity for us and we know it’s going to be tough, but that’s what you live for,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “You live for the second half of the season to be able to control your own destiny, to be able to make a play for the playoffs, and that’s exactly what we have in our hands.”

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