CHICAGO – The Chicago Bears got Jay Cutler back from a concussion, only to lose three more stars to injuries.
Start with Devin Hester. Add Matt Forte and Charles Tillman to the list, and just for good measure, throw in two starting guards.
Consider this a painful win.
Cutler threw for 188 yards and a touchdown after missing a game, and the Bears broke it open early in a 28-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The injuries, however, tempered some of the good feelings.
The Bears (8-3) grabbed a 25-3 halftime lead thanks to Cutler’s pinpoint passing. The defense held Adrian Peterson in check early on, although he finished with 108 yards rushing.
Chicago also came away with three more takeaways to increase its total from a league-leading 30 entering the game to 33.
The rather easy win came after back-to-back losses to Houston and San Francisco, but it also came with a heavy price.
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. Coach Lovie Smith said Tillman, the team’s star cornerback, also hurt his ankle.
Besides those three, 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.
As for Cutler, he looked sharp after missing Monday’s blowout loss at San Francisco.
Back after being knocked out of the Texans game on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Tim Dobbins, he got off to a scorching start and completed 23 of 31 passes with an interception to go with his TD.
I felt good, Cutler said. It was a matter of going through the motions, talking to the doctors. I had a good week of practice, a shorter week with the Monday game and Thanksgiving.
Brandon Marshall caught 12 passes for 92 yards and became the first Bears receiver since Marty Booker in 2002 to go over 1,000 yards. He now has 1,017 yards this season, his sixth straight with 1,000 or more.
In the third quarter, I leaned over to Jay and said, That catch puts me at 1,000 yards for six seasons in a row.’ And he looked at me and said, You’re disgusting,’ Marshall said, laughing.
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.