Even the O-line looks good, thwarting Vikings’ only strong unit
By Sean Jensen email@example.com October 16, 2011 10:54PM
Updated: November 18, 2011 9:01AM
The Minnesota Vikings are searching for an identity, the byproduct of a rash of offseason changes, including a new coach and quarterback.
So much of the Bears’ dominance of the Vikings in a
39-10 rout could be tempered, except in one notable way: The Vikings boast one of the NFL’s best defensive lines, featuring Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, two perennial Pro Bowl players. Allen leads the league with 9½ sacks, while Brian Robison, in his first full year as a starter, boasts a respectable 41/2.
Even their defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, has been around, joining the team in 2006.
That’s why it was puzzling to watch the Bears’ offense dominate the line of scrimmage from the jump, providing quarterback Jay Cutler with plenty of time to find wide-open receivers.
‘‘It felt awesome,’’ said Lance Louis, who started at right tackle. ‘‘It just felt good to get that win. Feels good to bounce back.’’
Last Monday’s loss at Detroit ‘‘was frustrating for us as a group,” Louis said. ‘‘So it’s always good to play [well] against a good D-line. It just gives us a lot of momentum.’’
Robison lamented that the Bears allocated six or seven blockers to protect Cutler.
‘‘We kind of expected that,’’ he said. ‘‘Fact of the matter is, they did a good job of neutralizing us and making plays they needed to make to win.’’
In bunches, in fact.
They did chip and double Allen, but not the entire game. In fact, on the 48-yard touchdown catch by Devin Hester, tight end Matt Spaeth actually blocked Allen long enough for Cutler to step into the downfield throw.
The front line also provided creases for running back Matt Forte, paving the way for 53 rushing yards on just seven carries in the first quarter.
Any suspicions that the Bears had pulled a switcheroo were put to rest when offensive linemen were flagged for two false starts in the second quarter. But Louis was more than adequate, starting at right tackle after the Bears finally benched Frank Omiyale. And Chris Spencer, a natural center, again played well at right guard.
All of that added up to a dominant first half in which the Bears jumped out to a 26-3 lead and racked up 264 net yards with a balanced attack. Most notably, Cutler wasn’t sacked.
‘‘We managed them,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘A lot of five steps and play-action left some extra guys in. Whenever we help them out like that and get the ball out of my hands, it’s going to be easy on me.
“It’s not that difficult. We need to be very judicious going forward with what we can and can’t do.”
Cutler surely hopes offensive coordinator Mike Martz hears those comments. Over the last few weeks, Cutler has been more vocal — not a surprise given the abuse he has taken this season.
The only glitch Sunday was early in the second half, when Cutler was sacked and stripped by Allen, who recovered the fumble. For the game, Cutler completed 21 of 31 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His rating was 115.9, pushing his record to 23-0 when he tops 100.
Forte, who only had one run in the fourth quarter, finished with 87 yards on 17 carries.
‘‘This is who we are,’’ receiver Roy Williams said. ‘‘Every team goes through adversity. There are going to be more sacks to come, more interceptions, more dropped passes. This is the NFL. But this is a good group, and we set the bar high, and we’re trying every week to play at a certain level.’’