Bushrod vs. Allen
In the 2011 season finale, the Chicago Bears watched in horror as tackle J'Marcus Webb did his best turnstile impression against Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Coming into the game, Allen needed four sacks to break the all-time NFL record of 22.5 set by Michael Strahan in 2001.
Webb's performance was sub-par to say the least and he gave up 3.5 sacks during the game. Allen came up a half sack short of the record but it was an effort by Webb most Bears fans would rather forget. Fortunately for them, they'll never again be privy to such a frightening scene, as Webb and Allen are now teammates.
"He's a tough competitor," Bushrod said today. "I've played him a few times and it's no let down every play. He's going hard to the ball every single play so I've got to be striking on all cylinders to get it done this week."
Bushrod and Allen have squared off three times in the past four years, including the 2009 NFC Championship game. Allen has zero sacks in those three contests.
"I've got all the confidence in [Bushrod] to block him one-on-one," Cutler said. "We're going to throw some different looks at him. I don't care how good you are on the offensive line. If you just go one-on-one, one-on-one, one-on-one, and you take big drops, at some point he's going to get to you. So we're going to help him out from time to time, but at the end of the day, I have a lot of confidence in Bushrod being able to block him."
On the other side of the line from Allen, the Bears also have to deal with DE Brian Robison, who had 8.5 sacks in 2012.
"We've got Jared and then we've got Robison on the other side and they're both very good rushers," Marc Trestman said. "Robison just as athletic, maybe a little bit more, not the experience but certainly a very good player. On both edges, we have to concentrate on that this week and we will have to make sure that these two guys aren't the difference makers in terms of the pass rush."
Chicago also must contend with DT Kevin Williams, who returns to the field after missing last week's game with a knee injury.
"Jermon has played against Jared Allen in the past but he is definitely a huge challenge," said coordinator Aaron Kromer. "They have more than one challenge on their front. It's a very stout front four, especially with Kevin Williams coming back. That will make a big difference for them with his veteran strength and power and he knows how to play the game. He's been very productive as well."
Learning from Detroit
Last week, the Detroit Lions rolled up 469 total yards of offense on Minnesota's defense. Matthew Stafford threw for 357 yards and the Lions as a team rushed for 112 yards. Detroit completed four passes of more than 20 yards, including a 77-yarder to running back Reggie Bush. For the game, Bush had 191 yards from scrimmage.
"I watched the tape. They got [Bush] out in space," Trestman said. "He did run the football and he had some space running the football, but they also ran him on some screens, they moved the ball around. The big run he had was a throw on the line of scrimmage. It actually was behind the line of scrimmage. They did a nice job of moving him around and giving him space. Very similar to what we've done, and we will do with Matt [Forte]."
The Bears will likely try to mimic a lot of the things the Lions did to carve up the Vikings' defense, although copying the playbook will only get them so far. Chicago's coaching staff must come up with something fresh to beat a defense that is very similar to the one the Bears run.
"They keep everything in front of them, kind of like our defense," said Cutler. "They like to play two safeties. They like to keep everything in front of them. They're very sound. They're not going to give you anything cheap. They're not going to give you anything big. They don't give up a lot of big plays, so you kind of have to dink and dunk and protect the ball and run the ball efficiently to move the ball. We're not going to get big 40-, 50-yard chunks."
That said, getting Forte on screen and swing passes, or any play that puts him in space, is still a sound strategy considering his ability in open space, and one that could lead to a few big plays.
"It's not something that isn't in our offense," Cutler said. "We have some similar plays. We like to get guys the ball in situations in space like that, especially Matt and some of those guys, so we'll see how it goes."
Limiting All Day
The Bears know that the only way to have success on defense is to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. That's easier said than done, as Peterson is one of the most dynamic backs in the league. Yet, according to Trestman, the recipe for limiting Peterson is really simple.
"It's not complicated other than everybody's got to be exactly where they're supposed to be," said Trestman. "We've got to know where to line up, we've got to know where to go and we've got to know when to adjust when it comes to changing strengths with tight ends or wide receivers because all gaps can change, fits change. There's got to be great communication out there. We've got to communicate in the noise because when we're on defense, it's going to be noisy."
"I think that we have to expect that he's going to have a run or two, and then we just got to go on to the next play. I don't think any of us think it's going to perfect out there when you're playing against Adrian Peterson. He's going to get an explosive run during the course of the game. I think the key is to try and minimize those runs as much as we can. Try to get hats on him as quickly as we can. Not make the last play indicative of what's going to happen next. We've got to give him his respect. He's a great player. He's going to have a great play at some point in the game, it's going to very difficult to stop that."
Chicago Bears right guard Kyle Long did very well in his first ever NFL start last week. Yet the rookie was hard on himself today, saying he had a terrible game. That's not a criticism Cutler is taking seriously.
"Kyle doesn't know what kind of game he had," Cutler said. "He's doing a good job. I think his mistakes are magnified because those other four guys are doing a great job and they don't make a lot of mistakes, so whenever someone does it usually is him because he is so young and he doesn't have as much experience as everyone else. We're just trying to get him up to speed with the rest of those guys. But if he keeps playing the way he's playing and getting better and better we're not going to have any problems."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.