Week 3: Highlights, Lowlights and Notes

The Vikings are thankful for the bye after only three games. They lost a number of players to injury Sunday against Chicago. Some should return for their game against Houston on Oct. 10, others won't be so fortunate. Get the injury rundown, along with other trends.

The Vikings certainly didn't come into Sunday's game against the Bears in good health. They had seven players — two starters and a nickel back — on injured reserve.

It got worse — much worse — as the game progressed.

Here is the rundown:

The Vikings had every intention of benching linebacker Donatarrious Thomas, and they did … to start the game, but they weren't intending on benching Chris Claiborne, too. When Claiborne left the field hobbling on the first drive with a strained left calf, he forced that move.

Mike Nattiel came on in relief of Claiborne, joining Thomas' replacement, Keith Newman, and E.J. Henderson in the linebacker corps. Claiborne could be out for a few weeks, according to head coach Mike Tice, but with a bye next week he might not missed too many games.

Newman, who started the game on the strong side, pressured Bears quarterback Rex Grossman several times in the first quarter but whiffed while trying to make the tackle.

Henderson also left the game with a left knee sprain in the second quarter. His return was questionable, but after evaluation at halftime the Vikings decided to keep him off the playing field until after the bye week.

That injury is more serious. "56 (Henderson) might a little longer than (Claiborne's 2-3 weeks)," Tice said.

The Vikings will look at several options in Henderson's absence. Tice was pleased with Thomas' play as Henderson's replacement at middle linebacker, and he could stay there. They will also look at rookie Rod Davis, and might also consider Newman moving into the middle.

Thomas finished with a team-high 11 tackles and one forced fumble.

The only waiver-wire action they might experience could be brining Max Yates, with the team in camp the last two years, back to the practice squad as insurance.

The Vikings also lost center Matt Birk in the second quarter to a left ankle sprain on their first-half touchdown drive. Cory Withrow replaced him, and Tice was pleased with his fill-in work as well.

Birk returned on the next drive but gave way again to Withrow in the second half.

Running back Onterrio Smith left the game in third quarter after getting hit following an 11-yard gain on a screen, giving him 104 yards receiving. He was listed as having a neck strain.

He returned to the game.

He finished with 104 yards receiving and 94 yards rushing. He caught only six passes, but those were open because of what Tice called a Tampa cover-2 defense employed by the Bears, where they doubled the wide receivers on the outside and slid both the cornerback and receiver in bracket coverage. That allowed Smith some running room to the outside after catching the ball in the flats.

Wide receiver Marcus Robinson also left the game with what was announced as a hamstring strain in the third quarter. His return was announced as probable, then later downgraded to doubtful, for his return. Robinson said after the game that it was just cramps.

With Jim Kleinsasser on injured reserve, second-year free-agent pickup Sean Berton was expected to fill Kleinsasser's blocking duties and rookie free agent Richard Owens the pass-receiving duties. How did they do?

Smith gave Berton credit for a good block that sprung a long run, and Owens had two catches for 16 yards, including one difficult one on the Bears' sideline.

Filling in for Rosenthal at tackle, Adam Haayer started the game and played two series. Haayer had a rough start. He started his first series with a false start, then had a holding penalty in the middle of the series. Later, left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye had a sack and caused a fumble on third down (recovered by Moe Williams) before Morten Andersen missed a 42-yard field goal.

Ogunleye got to Smith on the Vikings' second series and ripped the ball away from him, as well.

Nat Dorsey took over at right tackle for the rest of the game and faired pretty well, according to Tice. Dorsey is expected to get the start against Houston.

Another mid-game fill-in, center Cory Withrow, did a good job blocking and pulling, but he was also credited as having snapped the ball on the wrong count on a reverse to Kelly Campbell. The offense linemen didn't get on their blocks on that play because of the early snap, and Campbell fumbled when he was hit shortly after the exchange from Daunte Culpepper.

Kickoffs have been the bane of Tice during the start of the season. In the first game, Morten Andersen didn't get enough hang time on his kicks. In the second game, Aaron Elling's kicks weren't terribly long and lacked some hang time as well.

After an opening kick to the 18-yard line, Elling's kickoffs improved. His second one sailed to the 7-yard line, his third to the goal line and his fourth one sailed 1 yard deep into the end zone. Then he kicked to the 7-yard line, and ended it with a final kick 2 yards deep in the end zone.

Tice said he also had good enough hang time, around 4.2 to 4.3 seconds, on his kickoffs.

The Vikings had a kickoff return for a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter … until the yellow flags flew. Campbell fielded the ball and started an all-out sprint while angling to his left. He found a seam and needed only to beat cornerback Nathan Vasher. Campbell made it to the end zone, but behind him were two flags, one for holding and one for an illegal block.

With the Vikings placing Mike Rosenthal and Jim Kleinsasser on the injured-reserve list this week, they couldn't be deactivated. Instead, the Vikings deactivated Shaun Hill (third quarterback), RB Michael Bennett, RB Mewelde Moore, LB Rod Davis, G Adam Goldberg, TE Jermaine Wiggins, DE Chuck Wiley and DT Spencer Johnson.

The Bears deactivated Craig Krenzel (third quarterback), CB Jerry Azumah, CB Charles Tillman, LB Brian Urlacher, G Rex Tucher, OL Mike Gandy, DT Alfonso Boone and DE Alain Kashama.

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