Louis' injury forces Bears to scramble
Step aside, Ndamukong Suh.
Jared Allen might have replaced you as the Bears’ most despised opponent.
A dirty hit by Allen has cost the Bears their most consistent offensive lineman for the rest of the season. On Monday, the Bears placed starting right guard Lance Louis on injured reserve because of a knee injury, thus ending his season after 11 games.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he believed that Allen’s hit was unnecessary. Replays showed that Allen left his feet to deliver a helmet-to-helmet hit against Louis during an interception return, and Louis twisted his knee awkwardly on the play.
Although referees did not throw a flag, Allen could draw a hefty fine for the hit.
“I think there are some plays, when you look at them again, you say, ‘Hey, we could have done without that,’ ” Smith said. “I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it.
“I think he could have gotten blocked a little differently, but that’s about all I can probably say about it. I’m sure the league will look at it and give another opinion about what they think.”
In the meantime, the Bears must think about how to replace Louis.
One option could be second-year offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who never had played guard in his life until he filled in as Louis’ emergency replacement Sunday. Another option could be Edwin Williams, although he might have to start at left guard if Chris Spencer is not able to play next week because of a knee injury.
Spencer was one of four starters besides Louis to exit Sunday’s game because of injuries. The Bears do not have to provide updates until Wednesday regarding Spencer, Matt Forte (ankle), Charles Tillman (ankle) and Devin Hester (concussion), each of whom is hobbled heading into next week’s game against Seattle.
At least the Bears’ playoff hopes are healthy after a 28-10 win against the Vikings.
Jay Cutler (73 snaps) posted a decent 86.5 passer rating, but his value transcended statistics against the Vikings. He completed 15 of his first 17 passes and delivered several incredible throws, including one to Brandon Marshall that somehow slipped between a pair of Vikings defenders who thought they had Marshall blanketed.
Running backs: C
Forte (41 snaps) lost a fumble on his first carry when he bumped into teammate Evan Rodriguez, and he never really redeemed himself with an average of 3 yards per carry and no run for longer than 6 yards. Michael Bush (31 snaps) delivered at the goal line and in short yardage situations, and he might earn the start next week based on how slowly Forte limped off of the field.
Wide receivers: B
Brandon Marshall (68 snaps) shined with a dozen catches for 92 yards, and he would have added a 42-yard touchdown if he had been able to make a difficult over-the-shoulder catch in the fourth quarter. Earl Bennett (52 snaps) caught all four passes thrown his direction, and Eric Weems (27 snaps) filled in nicely as a third option after Hester (8 snaps) left the game.
Tight ends: B
As usual, Kellen Davis (67 snaps) made the difficult plays while missing the easy ones. Davis caught a tough pass in traffic at the 1-yard line to set up Bush’s first touchdown, but he stumbled and dropped a pass in the fourth quarter. Matt Spaeth (37 snaps) made his best catch of the season by keeping his feet inbounds for a 13-yard touchdown.
Offensive line: A
Six days after a meltdown in San Francisco, the Bears’ new-look offensive line allowed only one sack in 35 pass plays. Jonathan Scott (73 snaps) proved to be a capable blocker in his first start at right tackle, while Carimi (32 snaps) held his own as an emergency replacement at right guard after Allen leveled Louis.
Defensive line: A
Starting with the first play from scrimmage, the defensive line was out to prove that its embarrassing performance against San Francisco was a fluke. Henry Melton (43 snaps) used a swim move to beat Vikings center John Sullivan and stuff Christian Ponder for a 9-yard loss, and the line added a half-dozen quarterback hits after that. Melton and Shea McClellin (27 snaps) led the way with two hits apiece.
Lance Briggs (58 snaps) struggled at times to keep pace with Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught five passes including a 2-yard touchdown. But reliable tackling by Briggs, Brian Urlacher (66 snaps) and Nick Roach (40 snaps) helped the defense back from a couple of subpar performances. Roach also prevented a scoring drive when he punched the ball loose from Adrian Peterson in the first quarter.
An ankle injury to Tillman (18 snaps) forced the secondary to adjust, and it did so admirably to limit Ponder to a meager 58.2 passer rating. Tim Jennings (64 snaps) nearly notched his ninth interception and made five tackles, while Kelvin Hayden (53 snaps) broke up two passes as Tillman’s replacement. D.J. Moore (28 snaps) returned to his longtime role at nickelback when Hayden slid to cornerback.
The absence of dynamic Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) certainly helped the Bears’ safeties, but they deserve credit for bouncing back from a horrid game against the 49ers. Chris Conte (66 snaps) broke up two passes and intercepted his second pass of the season, while Major Wright (63 snaps) broke up one pass and pounced on a fumble by Ponder in the fourth quarter.
Special teams: B
Julius Peppers flashed his athleticism as he leaped to block a 30-yard field goal attempt by Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, which prevented Minnesota from slicing the Bears’ 10-3 lead in the second quarter. Peppers’ 12th career block will draw a smile from special teams coach Dave Toub, but the same cannot be said for the Bears allowing Robbie Gould’s 39-yard attempt to be blocked just before halftime. Weems did well with a 27-yard kickoff return after Hester went down.
• Tom Musick covers professional sports for Shaw Media. Write to him at email@example.com.