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Mid-Game Shuffle Works to Bears' Advantage

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Offensive Line Shuffle Works to Bears' Advantage

AP

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) calls a play from the line of scrimmage in the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A familiar phrase heard around Halas Hall is "Next Man Up," but its been uttered more than usual this week.  Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice demoted two starters on the offensive line during the week. Instead, Jonathan Scott and Chris Spencer started at right tackle and left guard, respectively.

"It's just next guy up just part of this business" Spencer said after the Bears beat the Vikings 28-10 Sunday. "We got a good group of guys and Coach Tice and Tim Holt did a good job with us, we don't just know one position, everybody know what's going on with everybody". 

Spencer, however, only lasted until the second quarter when he was injured on a pass block. Next up was Edwin Williams, entering for for his first snaps of the season.

"It felt good working with all the rest of the lineman" Jonathan Scott said after replacing the demoted Gabe Carimi at right tackle. 

It was Scott's first start since lining up for the Steelers against the Broncos in last year's playoffs.

"Everything seemed like we were on the same page" Scott added.

During the week, Tice didn't simply adjust the game plan to its new starting linemen. Not satisfied with having his linemen know all offensive line position responsibilities, he forced all the linemen to learn the entire playbook.

The move turned out to be crucial because Spencer's injury was followed by the other starting guard Lance Louis falling victim to a Jared Allen block after Antonio Winfield intercepted Jay Cutler in the third quarter. With Edwin Williams already subbing at left guard, there appeared no Bears offensive lineman left to play right guard.

“I asked Tice when Lance Louis went down, and I was being serious - 'Who is coming in at guard?'" Jay Cutler said after the game. "I know Gabe had never played guard. I didn’t know what we were going to do."

The Bears radio sideline reporter said when players came off the field, an offensive coach asked "Who is my guard?" Immediately, Carimi raised his hand, despite having never played the position.

"I knew I'd be back in there," Carimi explained after dealing with a demotion during the week. "Just didn't want it to be this way, but got in there and did my job."

"I knew he would do well," Cutler explained, "Anyone with desire will do ok, he gave his best effort". Indeed, six days after giving up six sacks to the 49ers, the Bears offensive line allowed just one sack to the Vikings -  it came in the 1st quarter when Cutler tripped on Center Roberto Garza's foot on a back pedal.

But everyone on this Bears team has each other's back even under the most illogical circumstances. When left tackle J'Marcus Webb's shoe became untied, Cutler himself knelt down to tie it. 

“I did. I loosened it and tied it." Cutler admitted. "I guess my fatherly instincts were kicking in. I was trying to keep the drive going so we wouldn’t have to burn a timeout, but we burned it anyway.”

Maybe it also built some chemistry along the way to another Bears win.

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