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Injuries test Bears' depth

MINNEAPOLIS – A painful season continued for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday.

A neck injury forced Cutler to the sideline in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Cutler was drilled by Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen on a high, hard hit that resulted in a 15-yard penalty with about 7:30 remaining in the game.

After the game, Cutler said his neck was bothering him.

“Yeah, really stiff,” said Cutler, who also has injured his ribs and sustained a concussion this season. “Started stiffening up more and more. I just have to take it day by day.”

Jason Campbell replaced Cutler on the final series and led the Bears on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. Campbell earned a 124.3 passer rating on the drive, while Cutler posted a subpar 57.0 passer rating for his performance (22 of 44, 260 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs).

Predictably, Bears coach Lovie Smith was tight-lipped about the seriousness of Cutler’s injury.

“He took a hit,” Smith said. “I don’t know much more about it than that.”

Meanwhile, Cutler kicked himself for throwing a pair of interceptions to Vikings defenders Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith. The first turnover came when Alshon Jeffery slipped and fell in the first quarter, while the second came on a high pass to Brandon Marshall in the third.

“We got the coverage we wanted on both of them,” Cutler said. “Alshon got tangled up and fell, which was an easy pick for them. In the second one, we couldn’t really follow through. …

“It happens sometimes.”

Also ailing: The Bears’ defensive line has thrived for much of the season by putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

On Sunday, a slew of injuries put pressure on the Bears’ defensive line.

Second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea did not play because of a foot injury. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Henry Melton (shoulder) and defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) both spent part of Sunday’s game on the sidelines because of injuries.

The depleted group of defensive linemen managed only one sack, which came when defensive end Corey Wootton stuffed Christian Ponder for a 14-yard loss in the first quarter.

“Everybody has injuries – that’s a part of this league,” Bears defensive end Julius Peppers said. “We’re going to have to play through that."

Spoke too soon: Several days ago, Marshall joked that kicker Robbie Gould was the only player on the Bears who remained 100 percent healthy after 12 games.

Marshall might have jinxed his teammate.

Gould strained his left calf during pregame warmups and relinquished kickoff duties to punter Adam Podlesh as a precaution. Gould connected on both of his extra-point attempts.

After the game, Gould wore an ice pack on his left leg.

Bears bits: Marshall caught 10 passes to increase his season total to 101, which set a team record. Marshall surpassed Marty Booker, who caught 100 passes in 2001. … Safety Craig Steltz (chest) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (knee) also left because of injuries.

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