Swan Song

Bears right guard Chris Villarrial realized Sunday's start may have been his final one in Soldier Field as a Bear.

The 1996 fifth-round draft pick is the Bears player with the longest tenure and is an unrestricted free agent after this season. With a glut of young second- and third-year players capable of playing his position, like Terrence Metcalf, Steve Edwards, Josh Warner and Mike Gandy, it seems unlikely the Bears would offer him the kind of money he'll be able to make in the open market.

Villarrial couldn't help be wistful after Sunday's win.

"It's sad when you think about it, but it's been fun," he said. "I've had a lot of fun. I hope it's not done.

"I've just got to go out there this next game (in Kansas City) and help my teammates win and after that whatever happens, happens."

Kicker Paul Edinger has successfully negotiated winds before, but Sunday's 20-mile-per-hour swirling wind may have been the biggest obstacle he's overcome.

"This was the worst in terms of wind this year," Edinger said after his 45-yard game winner just cleared the crossbar in the south end zone."

Edinger had drawn the limit at 47 yards during pregame warm-ups.

"I told the coaches from the 30-yard line, line of scrimmage is the 30," Edinger said. "I just focused on hitting the ball straight. I knew it was good when I kicked it."

The wind had helped cause his misses from 30 and 33 yards earlier in the game.

He is now 25-of-34 on the year after his game-winning kick.

"He's still the only guy I would want out there in that situation," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

The Bears battled through three key injuries to win the game.

Left tackle Qasim Mitchell, who started for injured Mike Gandy, suffered a broken bone in his right leg and left the game in the second half, forcing the Bears to go with left guard Steve Edwards at left tackle and reserve Terrence Metcalf at left guard.

"I was screaming from the (coaches) box for Q to get back in the huddle," offensive coordinator John Shoop said. "I thought our tempo got a little slow there and here he's got a broken leg."

Whether Gandy can play the finale remains to be seen. The Bears may wind up with Edwards closing out the season at left tackle.

Wide receiver Justin Gage suffered a left knee sprain after catching four passes for 42 yards and wide receiver Dez White, who had a key 9-yard catch on the game-winning drive, suffered a twisted knee. Tight end John Gilmore suffered a concussion and reserve defensive tackle Ian Scott sprained his foot.

Anthony Thomas' season-high 141 yards rushing brought his season's total within 37 yards of his second 1,000-yard season. . . . R.W. McQuarters had already risen to third in the league in punt returns and his 32-yarder in second quarter was his fourth of at least 30 yards this season. He averaged 14 yards for four returns. . . . The Bears wound up 6-2 in their first season at the new Soldier Field.

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