- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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But the euphoria of the victory might be tempered as a result of losing five starters to injuries.
Already playing behind a patchwork offensive line after demoting guard Chilo Rachal and tackle Gabe Carimi, the Bears lost starting guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer to knee injuries against the Vikings. The injury forced Carimi back into the starting lineup at guard because he was the club's only offensive lineman remaining on the active roster.
The injuries marred an otherwise solid performance by the offensive line, which allowed only one sack. Not to mention the return of quarterback Jay Cutler, who missed the team's last game because of a concussion and came back to put together an efficient outing (23-of-31 for 188 yards and a touchdown to go with a passer rating of 86.5), and Brandon Marshall becoming the franchise's first receiver since 2002 to reach 1,000 yards.
Let's look closer:
What it means: The Bears remain in contention for their second NFC North crown in three years with the win over the Vikings. The victory also snapped a two-game losing streak, which is important with the Bears playing three of their last four games against division foes after hosting the Seattle Seahawks next week.
Marshall hits 1,000: Marshall became the first Bears receiver since Marty Booker in 2002 to reach 1,000 yards receiving, and five games still remain in the season. Marshall came into the game with 925 yards receiving, and reached 1,000 in the third quarter.
Through the first three quarters, Marshall had already racked up 11 grabs for 79 yards. A fourth-quarter catch moved Marshall past Mike Ditka and put him in a tie with Curtis Conway for the seventh-most receptions (81) in a single season by a Bears receiver.
He finished the game with 12 catches for 92 yards.
Carimi benching doesn't last: The Bears benched second-year offensive tackle Carimi prior to Sunday's game because of a horrid performance in the loss Monday to the San Francisco 49ers. Carimi took the demotion in stride, and as it turned out, and it didn't last long; an injury to Louis forced the tackle out of his natural position and inside to guard.
With Spencer suffering a knee injury that forced Edwin Williams into action, and the club placing Rachal on the reserve/non-football injury list last week, Carimi was the club's only remaining lineman on the active roster once Louis suffered his knee injury.
Even before that, however, the Bears used Carimi extensively in the first half when they executed out of unbalanced formations.
“I'll come back from this,” Carimi said on Thursday.
But nobody expected it to happen this fast.
Takeaways return: After failing to generate a takeaway for the first time all season in the loss on Monday to the 49ers, the Bears bounced back to net three takeaways against the Vikings.
Nick Roach poked a ball out of Adrian Peterson's arms in the first quarter with Tillman recovering to give Chicago possession at the Minnesota 22. That takeaway led to a 1-yard Michael Bush touchdown run. Safety Chris Conte picked off a Christian Ponder pass intended for former Bears receiver Devin Aromashodu in the second quarter to set up Chicago at the Minnesota 13. Cutler zipped a 13-yard scoring strike to tight end Matt Spaeth on the next play to give the Bears a 25-3 lead at halftime after Robbie Gould's extra-point kick.
Major Wright scooped up a Ponder fumble in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers also stay: The Bears have turned the ball over eight times over their past eight games, which is a concern with the team needing to perform at its best down the stretch with the division title on the line.
The Bears proved in their loss to the 49ers how costly turnovers can be if the defense doesn't take away the ball. So eliminating turnovers moving forward will definitely be a point of emphasis for the Bears.
Peppers scores another block: Bears defensive end Julius Peppers blocked his 12th career field goal attempt Sunday when he knocked down a 30-yard attempt by Blair Walsh with 12:00 left in the second quarter.
Having entered the game with just six sacks on the season, Peppers hasn't been extremely productive on defense. But there's nothing wrong with contributing elsewhere. Peppers last blocked a field goal in 2011.
What's next: The Bears take off Monday and Tuesday before beginning preparation Wednesday to host the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field next Sunday. The Bears play three of their last four on the road to end the season. That and the fact it's now crunch time in the NFL season makes a victory over the Seahawks extremely important for the Bears.