|Despite the loss of both starting guards, WR Devin Hester and RB Matt Forte to injuries Sunday, QB Jay Cutler still led the Bears to a 28-10 win over Minnesota. (US Presswire)|
The Chicago Bears quarterback, just removed from a concussion, saw both his team's starting guards go down with knee injuries during a 28-10 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. Considering he'd missed six quarters of play with a concussion, the matter of who would block for him was no small matter.
The Bears lost four starters on offense and one on defense during the game, including guards Chris Spencer and Lance Louis to knee sprains. As a result, recently benched right tackle Gabe Carimi had to come in at right guard.
“I asked (offensive coordinator Mike) Tice when Lance Louis went down, and I was being serious, 'Who is coming in at guard?' because I know Gabe had never played guard," Cutler said. "I didn't know what we were going to do. He said Gabe is going to play guard.
"I went and told (Carimi), 'Hey, just go in there, do what you can, keep your head up and use your hands.' He's a good player. He wants to do well. Any guy who has a lot of desire like him is going to go in there and give his best effort."
The Bears liked their depth coming out of training camp after new GM Phil Emery addressed it, but it's not likely he foresaw a game when they would lose both guards, WR Devin Hester, RB Matt Forte and CB Charles Tillman.
Tillman left late in the game with an ankle sprain, but seemed to be able to move around on the sidelines well. Kelvin Hayden replaced him.
Forte suffered his ankle injury in the third quarter and went to the locker room for X-rays limping noticeably. He had an ankle sprain earlier in the season that cost him about six quarters of play.
Hester suffered a concussion early in the contest and was replaced on punt returns by Earl Bennett and Eric Weems, and by Weems on kick returns. Both Bennett and Weems replaced him at receiver, but the Bears were already without Hester's backup, Alshon Jeffery, due to arthroscopic knee surgery last week.
There were no updates as far as future games for the five players beyond coach Lovie Smith saying it's never good when a player "doesn't finish the contest."
In that regard, at least they came away happy that LB Lance Briggs was able to return after an undisclosed injury in the second half. Briggs came into the game bothered by a thumb injury.
The makeshift offensive line had Edwin Williams at left guard and Carimi at right guard. Jonathan Scott made his first Bears start at right tackle because Carimi had been benched. Williams actually was their fourth guard. The third guard, Chilo Rachal, went AWOL last week in anger after being benched and was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. So C Roberto Garza and LT J'Marcus Webb were the only line starters playing at game's end where they normally have been.
"Gabe Carimi hasn't played a lot of guard and coming into the game, he wasn't thinking about playing guard, but just being able to fill in there," coach Lovie Smith said. "Same with Edwin Williams. Both of those guys. It's always about the next guy stepping up. Injury is a part of it. I thought they did a good job."
The line allowed Cutler to be sacked only once for a 5-yard loss, always a concern going against someone like Minnesota's Jared Allen. They blocked well enough for the offense to pile up a season's best 37 minutes, 30 seconds of possession time.
Going forward, the line has undrafted rookie James Brown available for depth. He was inactive Sunday.
Cutler said he expects if regular offensive linemen miss games in the future, it will affect the way he plays.
“Absolutely," he said. "When you have a line of new guys in there, I want to get rid of the ball fast, find my first read and take it. We also want to limit sacks. Sacks really kill those guys up front.
"The more I can do to get rid of the ball quickly and run the ball, if we have to design routes to shorten things up, so be it. We want to limit sacks and keep their confidence high."
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.