The Bears continued to play musical chairs on the offensive line Sunday, when Lance Louis -- who had missed the past two games with a sprained ankle -- was forced back into the lineup.
As with most things O-line related, it wasn't a simple process.
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Louis first stepped in for right guard Chris Spencer late in the first quarter when he suffered an injury to his right hand. Spencer, who took over when Louis was injured in the season opener, returned to start the second half. At the same time, right tackle Frank Omiyale was benched in favor of Louis, who has never started a game at tackle in the NFL or at San Diego State.
"I was practicing at tackle this week," Louis said. "I started out kind of slow; everything was moving fast. I just stuck with it and tried to do the best I could."
Despite the lineup juggling, the Bears rushed for a season-high 224 yards, the most by the Bears in more than 23 years. In their first three games, the Bears had rushed for a total of just 161. Matt Forte accounted for 205 on 25 carries, averaging 8.2 yards per try, a week after picking up 2 yards on 9 carries.
"We were just looking for the best combination that's working," said Bears coach Lovie Smith, whose team came into the game ranked No. 31 in the NFL in rushing yards. "That group was what we felt most comfortable with at the end."
The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Louis, who enrolled at San Diego State as a tight end, said he's OK playing anywhere.
"I just want to be on the field," he said. "I'm just happy I'm back. I just love playing."
Not nailing the landing:
After scoring his first Bears TD on a 3-yard run with 1:23 left in the game, Marion Barber attempted a back flip in the end zone, which ended with his face in the turf -- bringing teammates on the sideline to their knees in laughter.
"That was a nice face plant," running back Matt Forte said. "It's going to be all over ESPN."
Off the bus running:
The Bears had 31 running plays against the Panthers after combining for a total of 24 in the two previous games -- both losses -- which drew criticism for lopsided playcalling.
"That was the plan," coach Lovie Smith said. "We don't just get out there and make up stuff. (Sunday) what was working was the run, especially early on."
Julius Peppers' blocked field goal was the 10th of his career, the second most in the NFL since he joined the league in 2002. The Bears have blocked 21 kicks since Dave Toub became special teams coordinator in 2004, the most in the league.
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