It's still too early to hold a parade for the Bears' offensive line.
But after Jay Cutler was sacked just once and Matt Forte gained yardage on 19 of his first 20 carries in a 27-13 victory over the Minnesota Vakings on Sunday at Soldier Field, a little respect might be in order.
Progress is progress.
''We understand how good they are on that defensive line. They have three All-Pros,'' Bears center Olin Kreutz said. ''It does mean a lot. But we still have to keep improving. We have not arrived yet. We're not near where we want to be. And if we don't come back [against the Dolphins on Thursday] and perform again, then this game doesn't matter.''
Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams an Ray Edwards aren't as formidable as they've been in the past. But they're still good enough to dominate when they sense weakness -- the Vikings had six sacks against the Cardinals last week.
So that the Bears not only survived but at times even thrived against the Vikings is reason for optimism for an offensive line that was embarrassed against the Giants and outplayed by the Seahawks and Redskins.
The Bears' running game wasn't impressive. But it was good enough that Forte (21 carries, 69 yards) and former Viking Chester Taylor (11-33) combined for 32 carries -- 25 of them while the Bears either trailed or led by a touchdown or less.
The Bears' surprising success on third down was another sign of progress. The Bears, last in the NFL in third-down conversion rate (23 percent, 22-of-96), were 11-of-19 against the Vikings.
Cutler was 10-of-14 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on third down Sunday, a 111.9 passer rating.
Continuity is a factor. The Bears started their best offensive line combination for the second consecutive week -- left tackle Frank Omiyale, left guard Chris Williams, Kreutz at center, Garza at right guard and right tackle J'Marcus Webb.
''Our line has been wishy-washy for a while,'' said Webb, who has started the last five games. ''Now that we've gotten a team of guys together that stuck together, that's helping us out.''
The line still had its moments. In one 14-play stretch in the second quarter, linemen were penalized four times -- Omiyale (false start), Kreutz (holding) and Webb twice (holding, false start).
But the damage was minimal. After Kreutz' holding call nullified Cutler's 10-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen, Cutler threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Olsen on the next play.
''We're trying to get better every week,'' Kreutz said. ''We hit a little lull in the middle when people kind of figured out what we were weak at. And now we're getting a little better understanding of what our coaches want from us.''
Kreutz acknowledged the line was motivated by line coach Mike Tice, who was the Vikings head coach from 2002-05.
''We'll keep it in the o-line room, what goes on and what coach says,'' Kreutz said when asked about Tice firing up the line during practice last week. ''Let's just say we knew how much it meant to him. We definitely wanted to go perform for him.''
Kreutz and Co. won't have that advantage against the Dolphins on Thursday in Miami. But after Sunday, they feel they're on the right track.
''It's never as good as you think, it's never as bad as you think [once you see it on film],'' Garza said. ''We've got a lot of things to work on. We still have a long way to go. But obviously a win like this is huge for us. Our confidence is just going to keep getting stronger as the season goes on.''