Vikings sack machine Jared Allen targets Bears QB Jay Cutler
SEAN JENSEN ON THE bEARs October 13, 2011 10:58PM
Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears
Updated: January 23, 2012 3:48AM
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — If his pass protectors repeat their performance from Monday night in Detroit, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler might be on the wrong end of another dubious sack record.
Cutler, who was sacked an NFL-record nine times in the first half last October at the New Meadowlands Stadium, will be on the same field Sunday night as Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, the hottest pass rusher in the NFL, and the single-game sack record of seven doesn’t seem inconceivable.
But in an interview with the Sun-Times on Thursday, Allen said the struggles of the Bears pass protection will likely result in more obstacles between himself and Cutler.
“You take a guy like Cutler, who knows his O-line has been struggling,” Allen said. “Now his thought is, ‘Ball out, ball out, ball out.’ If he had an O-line that was playing OK, he might hold the ball a little longer.
“So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.”
The Bears offensive line isn’t entirely to blame for the debacle in Detroit. The tight ends didn’t exactly dominate, and the offensive players were responsible for eight of an astounding nine false starts against the Lions.
But Allen enters the game with a league-high 8½ sacks, which means the Bears will have to help left tackle J’Marcus Webb.
The Bears will likely run the ball more and, when they do pass, utilize max protection.
As odd as it sounds, Allen prefers to face upper echelon offensive tackles, the ones their coaches trust to block him by themselves.
“You take a guy who has good technique, there’s more confidence in that guy, and they’ll give him more one-on-one opportunities,” Allen said. “But you get a guy who is just kind of in your way, and you can’t use the skills you have.”
Asked specifically about Webb, Allen said, “He’s a big kid, lengthy.
“I do some things that I can be successful on him with. But, for the most part, he’s been doing all right.”
As he watched film of the Lions’ 24-13 victory over the Bears, Allen marveled at Cutler’s performance.
“Last game, they had people coming from all angles,” Allen said. “[Cutler] should have been sacked 10 times in that Detroit game, but they got him three times.
“Cutler was getting out [of the pocket] and making some playground plays.”
On Wednesday, Cutler strongly suggested that he wanted to get the ball out of his right hand quicker, to avoid taking so much abuse. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz on Thursday said they are working to do just that.
“He’s absolutely right. We’ve talked about it as a staff, and we’ve addressed this issue,” Martz said. “Until we get stabilized a little bit on the offensive line…
“The same thing happened to us last year, if you remember. Once we got stabilized there… In an ideal world, you’d like to have all those guys play just like you had in the opener, and things went well, but that’s not the case. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re giving him a chance with some of those quicker throws and things.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said Allen is on an “incredible pace,” but added that he projects one of his other defenders to have a breakout performance against the Bears.
Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams was suspended for the first two games, and he has two tackles in the last three. But Frazier said Williams has his legs under him now.
“He’s getting much better,” Frazier said. “This will be when we see him take off.”
But Allen insisted that Williams was directly responsible for his ramped up numbers. Allen had 1½ sacks in the first two games, but he’s racked up seven in the last three. That’s because Williams is such a force in the middle, denying quarterbacks a lane to avoid Allen by moving forward in the pocket.
“We didn’t have that middle rush,” Allen said of the first two games. “Kevin might not get to the quarterback, but he’s going to bat it down and have a direct effect on the check down game.”
With rookie Gabe Carimi still out, the Bears will not start veteran Frank Omiyale again, given his many problems this season. Lance Louis is expected to start at right tackle, but he’ll have his hands full, too.
Brian Robison has capably replaced Ray Edwards, who signed a free-agent contract during the offseason with the Atlanta Falcons. After a quiet start, Robison has four sacks in the last three games.
While they’re desperate for a win, given a 1-4 record, the Vikings aren’t placing an extra pressure on their defensive line.
“Every week, we challenge our D-line to lead us,” Frazier said. “We predicated ourselves on our defensive front leading our defense so it won’t be any different this week than next week.”