The Bears' situation on the offensive line can officially be considered critical.
The 8-3 NFC North leaders learned Monday afternoon they will be without their best offensive lineman for the remainder of the season. Right guard Lance Louis was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Louis suffered a torn ACL in his left knee -- the result of what many Bears players and coaches believe was a questionable hit by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. It came after a third-quarter Antoine Winfield interception of a Jay Cutler pass in Sunday's 28-10 Bears victory.
Allen left his feet to deliver a vicious shot to Louis' head and shoulders, and it came from the blind side, causing the lineman's knees to buckle as he fell backward. Louis left the game and did not return.
"I saw the play. It wasn't necessary," Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said. "There have been a number of rules put in the game now that you can't hit a defenseless player. Lance's vision is clearly downfield. Allen hits him on his blind side.
"He could have easily (hit him) shoulder to shoulder. He could have laid him out with just using his hands to his chest. (There are) a lot of options. Lance is quick, and he's fast, but it's not a situation where he was just blazing and (Allen) had to lay out to make a saving play. He hit him that way because he chose to hit him that way."
Bears coach Lovie Smith agreed that the hit from Allen crossed the line.
"Unnecessary? Yes," Smith said. "Jared Allen plays the game a certain way; (he's) a good player in our league. But there are some plays when you look at them again, you say, 'Hey, we could have done without that.' I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it. I think you could have gotten a block a little bit differently.
"That's about all I should probably say about it. I'm sure the league will look at it and they'll give an opinion about what they think."
In the meantime, the Bears will have to determine how to replace the offensive lineman they could least afford to lose.
And that's not the only injury the O-line is dealing with. Chris Spencer, who started at left guard against the Vikings, left the game in the second quarter with a possible knee injury and was replaced by backup Edwin Williams.
Since guard Chilo Rachal was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list last week, he is ineligible to play for the Bears this season. That's why benched right tackle Gabe Carimi had to be plugged in for Louis, and he did an admirable job, considering he had never played guard before. The Bears may have no choice but to leave Carimi at guard.
"I really liked what he was able to do," Smith said. "When you haven't played that position, and the team needs you, and you step in right away and play pretty good; just like Edwin Williams hadn't gotten a lot of time. But he stepped in and did a good job, also."
Veteran Jonathan Scott made his first start as a Bear Sunday at right tackle in place of Carimi.
"He did a heck of a job also," Smith said. "The offensive line did some good things, which allowed our skill guys to take over."
But the Bears' depth on the line is dangerously thin and will be for the remainder of the season. In addition to Louis, who had started 23 straight games, and Rachal, who started eight games this season, the Bears no longer have versatile veteran Chris Williams, who was waived on Oct. 16 and signed by the St. Louis Rams. He started 22 games the previous two seasons.
If Spencer is unavailable, the only five healthy offensive linemen on the roster who have played in an NFL game are the five who were on the field at the end of the Vikings game.
Undrafted rookie tackle-guard James Brown was promoted to the 53-man roster last week from the practice squad, and Warren High School graduate Chris Riley, a free-agent guard, was signed to the practice squad.
Expect more additions this week, but don't expect much in the way of talent and experience.
"We're always looking for guys," Smith said. "We have some other options still."
Those are options the Bears don't want to explore.