Chicago Bears left guard Matt Slauson had no intention today of playing any position other than his usual slot at left guard. When center Will Montgomery went down with a broken fibula on the third play of the first quarter, Slauson's role suddenly changed.
"I looked up, saw Will on the ground, and immediately thought 'Oh shoot' or words to that effect," Slauson said after the game. "Obviously that's not a sight you ever want to see. Will's such a great player and I was thinking 'What now?'"
The 'what now' was Slauson taking Montgomery's place at center, while Patrick Omameh slid into Slauson's vacated slot on the line. It wasn't an ideal fit but ultimately it worked.
"My adrenaline was pumping a mile a minute for a while there," Slauson said. "I had done maybe six snaps at center the entire year so I would be somewhat OK as a backup if an emergency arose. This was definitely an emergency and I knew the team was counting on me to do things right."
With the exception of one botched snap to Cutler, resulting in a turnover, Slauson filled the role well.
"Montgomery is a great player for us. He sets the entire offense," Slauson said. "I was fortunate to have Jay in there behind me. He calmed me down, told me I'd do fine and pretty soon my breathing returned to normal."
The Bears squeaked out a 22-20 win thanks to a 49-yard field goal from veteran kicker Robbie Gould with two seconds remaining in the game.
"We all have complete confidence in Robbie at all times," Slauson said. "But I'll admit to holding my breath as the ball went through the uprights. We needed this win so bad."
The Bears are now 1-3 and finally have their first home win of the 2015 season. With Cutler back behind center the Bears out-gained the Raiders in total yards 371 to 243.
"I can't say enough about our defense out there today," Slauson said. "They gave us chance after chance after chance and kept us in this thing all the way. You know we had a meeting before this game and the topic that came up most was how as a team we are brothers. Each of us has our brother's backs. If one guy goes down we step in and take his place. I hope the team feels that is what I was able to do today."
The Bears drafted center Hroniss Grasu in the third round this year but he's been inactive the first three games and may not be ready for a starting role. Slauson said he doesn't see himself as the long-term answer at center.
"I need a lot more information before I can answer that," he said. "I just saw Will leave here in a walking cast but nobody here really knows what is going on with him at this point. I'm sure there will be a lot more information on that as the week progresses. I'm happy to step in as needed but if this turns out to be a long-term thing, the team might look for a center.
"We are used to Will doing so much for us but we could help a new guy fit in if necessary. It's tough sledding when important pieces of your offense are missing. Matt [Forte] played awesome. Jay hung with me through some uncomfortable times. We'll come together and fix the situation in a way that will help the team win."