Chicago Bears: Jared Allen
So does that make Cutler more or less easy for defenders to rattle?
The chatter between Allen and Cutler should resume Sunday when the Bears host the Vikings at Soldier Field. During the two matchups between the teams in 2012, Allen failed to sack Cutler. In 2011, on the way to setting a franchise record with 22 sacks, Allen posted 4.5 in matchups against the Bears.
But only one of those sacks came against Cutler, who lit up the Vikings that day for two touchdown passes to finish with a passer rating of 115.9. Cutler missed the 2011 season finale between the teams due to a broken thumb, a game in which Allen racked up 3.5 sacks.
“If [Cutler] can sit back there and set his feet, he’s deadly,” Allen said. “When he runs on his terms, when he gets outside the pocket and does things on his terms, he’s a very dangerous quarterback. The key to him [is] you’ve got to put pressure on him constantly. You’ve got to be around him. You’ve got to hit him. Just like any quarterback, the more you can get pressure on him, the more you can get him focusing him on the rush, or [a] missed assignment by an [offensive lineman], whatever it is, then his eyes aren’t downfield making plays that he’s capable of making.”
To find the Vikings’ last win at Soldier Field you have to go all the way back to Oct. 14, 2007 -- a 34-31 final that featured Adrian Peterson, then a rookie, rushing for 224 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
Since that signature Peterson performance, the Bears have won five straight at home against their NFC North rivals, and six of the last seven in the overall series.
“Goodness, we haven’t won since 2007, I think,” Allen said. “It’s got to change, to be honest. It’s embarrassing. It’s annoying. We can take the same team and bring them back to the dome and be successful against them.
“I think when you travel you have to have your mindset [being that] it’s going to be tougher than you think. Things always aren’t going to go your way … there is going to be some adversity and you have to play through that. You have to understand why you are there. We’re not going to Chicago to go down and grab a bite to eat at Gibson’s, you know what I mean. We’re there to work.”
The last three meetings between the two teams in Chicago haven’t even been close, with the Bears outscoring the Vikings by a combined 94-33. The Bears are coming off a Week 1 home win over the Bengals, while Minnesota enters Sunday 0-1 after dropping a close one to Detroit 34-24.
“I think when you get in there and [get past] the crowd and the ambiance, the field is still the same and you have to play ball,” Allen said. “I don’t know why we’ve struggled there. We’ve had some good individual efforts; Adrian [Peterson] in 2007 darn near rushed for 300 [yards]. We’ve had games where we were blown out in the first half, and then we start clawing our way back and shoot ourselves in the foot somewhere along the way.
We have to play better -- bottom line. We have to play better when we go to Chicago. It’s a huge game for us.”
The Vikings would catch a break on Sunday if Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams can return from a knee injury that sidelined him for Week 1. Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that Williams might be available to see action against the Bears at Soldier Field.
We'll take it team by team, of course:
Veteran report date: Wednesday
Analysis: Receiver Brandon Marshall missed almost the entire offseason program because of hip surgery, getting on the field for one day of mandatory minicamp. Place-kicker Robbie Gould also missed time as his surgically-repaired calf healed. Receivers Marquess Wilson and Alshon Jeffery also missed time with hamstring injuries, but there are no indications that any of them will be significantly limited when practice begins Friday.
Veteran report date: Thursday
Analysis: One of the biggest stories in Detroit this week will be whether safety Louis Delmas is ready to practice, and if so, whether the Lions let him do everything or if he is limited. Delmas missed the entire offseason because of ongoing knee issues, even after signing a contract extension that will pay him $1.715 million if he can't play this season. Receiver Ryan Broyles, meanwhile, is just under eight months removed from tearing his ACL. The Lions could put him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, or they could pass him on his physical and let him ease into practice. The assumption is that two other veterans who did little this offseason, place-kicker David Akers (sports hernia/hip) and running back Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) will be ready to practice.
Green Bay Packers
Veteran report date: Thursday
Analysis: Many of you have asked about offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, who hasn't had any football activity since suffering a gruesome leg injury in December 2011. The Packers had hoped he would be in the mix at right tackle this offseason, but that never materialized. If Sherrod still isn't ready to practice when camp opens, you wonder if he ever will be. Meanwhile, it's tough to expect defensive tackle Jerel Worthy to be ready anytime soon after he tore his ACL in Week 17 last season. The same goes for rookie offensive lineman J.C. Tretter (broken ankle). On the other hand, we're assuming that cornerback Davon House (shoulder) and running back DuJuan Harris (cyst) will be ready. The status of rookie receivers Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, both of whom missed the entire offseason, is not clear.
Veteran report date: Thursday
Analysis: Center John Sullivan sat out the offseason after having microfracture surgery on his knee. Coach Leslie Frazier said at the end of minicamp that Sullivan was on track to be ready when camp opens. There have been no reports of a setback. Linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) didn't participate in the Packers' offseason, but he has said he will be ready for camp. Defensive end Jared Allen did not participate this offseason because of surgery to repair a torn labrum but has said he will be cleared for practice. Receiver Greg Childs was doing light running during the offseason and is now a year removed from tearing both patellar tendons, but he could be a candidate for the PUP list. Linebacker Chad Greenway's minor offseason knee surgery isn't expected to slow him in training camp. Cornerback Jacob Lacey broke his thumb in June, and his status merits observation. Rookie linebacker Michael Mauti (knee) got in some light work late in the offseason, but it's worth watching whether the Vikings deem him ready for contact drills.
Expected to be sidelined at least three weeks by a hamstring injury, Urlacher's contract is up after the season. Will the Bears bring back the veteran Urlacher, who was already dealing with a knee injury?
Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Brian Urlacher won't be back with the Bears next season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. It's too early to tell. As it stands now, there is no long-term replacement for Urlacher on the Bears' roster, that's why I refuse to rule out the possibly of the Bears bringing Urlacher back on a one-year deal. What if he returns for the postseason and lights it up in the playoffs? What if the Bears struggle badly in the next few games without him? What if he accepts a one-year deal and wants to retire a Bear? Would any of those scenarios change how the Bears view the situation? Probably so, which is why I can't get myself to write off Urlacher in 2013, yet.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. As difficult as it was to type that, things certainly seem to be trending toward the Hall of Fame linebacker not making a return to the team. The Bears need to make some type of push to bring back Urlacher, but it's unlikely it would consider paying anything remotely close to the $7.5 million he is currently receiving in base salary. So while it's safe to say the team plans to make an effort at signing the face of the franchise to a new deal, the question becomes how much is Urlacher willing to take? Urlacher has expressed excitement about the prospect of free agency, while also stressing he'd like to remain with the Bears. But Urlacher also wants a legitimate opportunity to win a Super Bowl. So if he thinks another team provides a better shot at that than the Bears, Urlacher could opt to go that route in free agency. Also, if the Bears submit an offer in free agency deemed insulting by Urlacher, he could leave based simply on principle because there is sure to be another team willing to pay just a little more.
Scott Powers: Fiction. A healthy and overly-athletic Urlacher has plenty of value as a free agent. The current Urlacher, who will be 35 years old by next season, has a knee which will never be the same and is now hampered by a hamstring injury, isn't going to draw a whole lot of attention or money on the free agent market. The Bears obviously still found value in his leadership and ability this season, and unless they decide to pursue another linebacker in the offseason, it's likely the Bears would want him back. I could easily see him returning to the Bears next season.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Phil Emery may be the general manager, but the McCaskeys still own the team and Lovie Smith still coaches it. Unless Urlacher's injury is worse than a strain, I think tradition and loyalty come through and Urlacher gets another deal for a year or two. He should get another shot to go out healthy. Plus, he can still play if he can run. Regardless, Emery needs to add a young explosive linebacker. Jerry Angelo probably should have drafted one years ago.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants to "mix it up" against Allen, schematically, but anything else beyond what takes place over the course of a normal play is "not how you play the game," he stressed.
"I don't see that happening," Tice said when asked his stance on retaliation. "I don't teach that stuff; never have. You've never seen any stories about my guys chop blocking or anything like that. We don't teach that."
Louis, a veteran guard who was considered the Bears' best offensive lineman, suffered a knee injury when Allen launched into him with a block during an interception return in the third quarter at Soldier Field. A source familiar with the situation said Louis suffered a torn ACL, and he was put on the IR. Allen was fined $21,000.
Read the entire story.
The Minnesota Vikings defensive end has never been accused of being a dirty player, yet there he was, launching himself into Chicago Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis during an interception return by teammate Antoine Winfield on Sunday. The blindside blow ended Louis' season and drew a $21,000 fine from the NFL.
Read the entire story.
- Sunday represented quarterback Jay Cutler in all his glory. We saw him express anger at the offensive line for an early breakdown and to the sideline for getting a play in too slowly. We saw him stiff-arm and then get penalized for taunting Vikings cornerback A.J. Jefferson on a scramble. But despite that mistake and his overspilled emotion, we saw clear evidence of the calming influence Cutler can have on this team. It's no fluke that he's won 13 of his past 15 starts. Cutler got some good-natured attention for tying left tackle J'Marcus Webb's shoelace in the huddle, but I thought Cutler's importance displayed most clearly in the production and positivity of receiver Brandon Marshall. Cutler clearly knows how to keep this otherwise mercurial player happy. Sunday, he targeted him on more than half of his throws -- 17 of 31. The next most-active Bears receiver saw four passes. Marshall's implicit trust in Cutler as a quarterback and on-field caretaker has been one of the more unusual trends to emerge from the Bears' season.ESPN.com
- It was hard not to flash back to the saga of former Bears offensive lineman Chris Williams when Gabe Carimi was forced into emergency duty at right guard. Williams, the Bears' first-round draft pick in 2008, wound up at left guard in 2010 and never played his intended position again. Carimi, the Bears' first-round pick in 2011, was benched this season from the right tackle position. According to Pro Football Focus, Carimi did not allow a pressure in 32 snaps Sunday and blocked well against the run. I don't see Carimi as the Bears' long-term right guard unless Lance Louis' knee injury is more serious than believed. And it's hard to imagine current right tackle Jonathan Scott, a career backup with four teams, as a longer-term answer. But Sunday was an unabashedly positive development for Carimi, who performed functionally in a surprise role one week after a national embarrassment. We haven't heard the last of him, I'm sure.
- Let's not just single out Carimi for the improved protection Cutler received. Remember, the Bears played a portion of this game without either of their starting guards, Louis and Chris Spencer. Still, Cutler was sacked or under duress on only five of his 36 dropbacks (13.9 percent). Entering the game, he was sacked on 23 percent of his dropbacks. Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison entered the game with a combined 12.5 sacks, but each were limited to one quarterback hit. For as much criticism as the Bears' pass protection took after the Monday night disaster against the San Francisco 49ers, they deserve praise for plugging the holes quickly.
Five starters suffered injuries that required them to miss the rest of the game. But are any of them serious? We don't know yet, and coach Lovie Smith didn't offer much insight during his Monday meeting with reporters. Tailback Matt Forte (ankle) appeared to be limping significantly as he departed the field, and Louis' knee surely bent at an awkward angle when Allen blindsided him on an interception return. The biggest loss would probably be cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle), but indications Sunday were that Tillman was held out mostly for precautionary reasons.
Allen told reporters that he thought it was a legal hit, but Bears coach Lovie Smith was among those who fell short of agreeing with him.
"Jared Allen plays the game a certain way," Smith said Monday. "[He is] a good player in our league. I think there are some plays when you look at them again, you say, 'Hey, we could have done without that.' I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it. I think he could have gotten blocked a little bit differently."
The NFL will review Allen's hit and determine whether it deserves a fine or other discipline. We probably won't hear anything until Wednesday at the earliest on that. Officials did not call a penalty on the play, but for those interested, here is how Rule 12, Section 7 (b3) reads in the 2012 NFL rule book:
Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is: Illegally launching into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player (1) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and (2) uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body. Note: The provisions of (2) do not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle or block on an opponent.
One of the definitions of "defenseless opponent" is: "A player who receives a 'blindside' block when the blocker is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side."
Meanwhile, the Bears will have to decide how to replace Louis, who has been their most consistent lineman this season and was in line for a contract extension in the coming months.
Backup Edwin Williams could take his place if left guard Chris Spencer is healthy enough to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Another option is Gabe Carimi, the Bears' onetime starter at right tackle who did a decent job in an emergency situation at guard Sunday.
Regardless, the Bears have now lost two starting guards -- Louis and Chilo Rachal, who left the team -- in a matter of a week. Stay tuned.
Opponent: Baltimore Ravens
Location: M&T Bank Stadium
Day/Time: Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: The Lions continue to experiment with their arrangement in the defensive secondary, and Jacob Lacey is expected to start at cornerback with rookie Bill Bentley playing in nickel packages. … The first-team offense is looking to sustain some success after a scoreless preseason opener. ... Two prominent players who missed that game, receiver Titus Young (birth of child) and defensive end Cliff Avril (late camp report) are scheduled to play. … Coach Jim Schwartz grew up in Baltimore and was tweeting cityscapes from his hotel room Thursday evening. … The game will be televised nationally on FOX.
Focal point: Tailback Jahvid Best appears likely to open the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, once again placing an emphasis on depth behind Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) and current starter Kevin Smith. You would figure that Keiland Williams and Joique Bell will once again get a heavy workload.
Opponent: Buffalo Bills
Day/Time: Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: The Vikings held a number of veterans out of their preseason opener, but most of them are expected to play Friday night. The list includes defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams, cornerback Antoine Winfield and receiver Percy Harvin. … You should also get your first look at rookie cornerback Josh Robinson. … Tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) returned to practice this week but won't play. … The Vikings are looking forward to seeing rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh's big leg in the still conditions of the Metrodome.
Focal point: The most important task for the franchise is continuing to push the development of quarterback Christian Ponder, who made an encouraging 2012 debut last week. But almost as important is getting at least an even performance from backup Joe Webb, who hasn't had a good summer. The Vikings made Webb a full-time quarterback in the offseason, but if he falls short, he's too good of an athlete to cast aside.
Opponent: Washington Redskins
Location: Soldier Field
Day/Time: Saturday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Quarterback Jay Cutler will make his preseason debut, and the same is assumed for tailback Matt Forte and defensive end Julius Peppers. … The next installment of the Bears' left tackle drama is expected to include some first-team time for Chris Williams. The Bears want J'Marcus Webb to win the job, but at this point Cutler's safety is the primary goal.
Focal point: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's knee surgery brings new scrutiny on the Bears' emergency plan at the position, which for the moment includes moving Nick Roach inside from the strong side and inserting veteran newcomer Geno Hayes on the strong side. Is that an arrangement the Bears could use if Urlacher is forced to miss regular-season time? Or do they need to find help from the outside?
When: Noon Sunday | TV: Fox | Radio: 780-AM WBBM & 105.9 FM
Coach: Lovie Smith | Record including playoffs: 73-59
Career head-to-head record (including playoffs) vs. Leslie Frazier: 2-0
Career record (including playoffs) vs. Vikings: 9-6
Last week: Lost to Packers 35-21
Key stat: In 10 drives against the Packers, quarterback Josh McCown led the team to two touchdowns, and two field goals. The team punted twice and had two drives ended with interceptions. By comparison, in the previous four games with Hanie, the Bears punted 29 times in 55 drives, scoring four TDs, and four field goals in addition to ending drives with nine INTs.
Offense rank: 20th (321.1 ypg) | Defense rank: 18th (353.7 ypg).
Offensive leader: Quarterback Josh McCown made his first start since 2007 against the Packers and showed poise in leading the offense to its best production in terms of yards (441) of the season. McCown needs to show that the performance against Green Bay wasn’t a fluke, because last year, this team was fooled by the play of Caleb Hanie in the NFC title game.
Defensive leader: Cornerback Charles Tillman was recently named to his first Pro Bowl, and is by far the most consistent player in Chicago’s secondary, despite criticism about his age. More players in the Bears’ secondary need to model their play after Tillman, who plays a physical brand of football replete with seemingly endless effort. Tillman ranks fourth in franchise history with 29 INTs.
" A loss would give the Bears their first six-game losing streak since 1998. The Bears haven’t lost their last six games in a row since 1989.
" The Bears are 6-1 this season when they gain 301 to 400 yards and 32-14 under those conditions since 2004.
" The Bears haven’t won a game this season (0-2) in which they gained 401 yards or more.
" The Bears are 0-2 this season in domes after finishing last year 3-0 in indoor stadiums.
Coach: Leslie Frazier | Record: 6-15 | Last week: Defeated Redskins 33-26
Career head-to-head record vs. Smith: 0-2 | Career record vs. Bears: 0-2
Key stat: The Vikings have had three different players -- Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and quarterback Joe Webb -- rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season, which is the first time that’s happened since 2003 and the third time in franchise history.
Offense rank: 18th (331.6 ypg) | Defense rank: 25th (368.1 ypg)
Offensive leader: Receiver Percy Harvin is just 16 yards away from setting a new career high in receiving yards for a season. Harvin leads the team with 852 yards receiving and is tied for eighth in the NFL in receptions (77). Harvin averages 9.1 yards per touch and is the first Vikings player to score on a run, reception and return multiple times in his career.
Defensive leader: Defensive end Jared Allen is second in Minnesota single-season history with 18.5 sacks, and has also forced four career safeties. Allen is also tied for first in the league with four fumble recoveries, and eight overall as a Minnesota Viking. From 2005-2011, Allen is tied for third with 26 forced fumbles.
" Former Bears receiver Devin Aromashodu needs 42 yards receiving to surpass 2,000 yards receiving for his career.
" Allen needs 2.5 sacks to tie the franchise’s all-time single season sack record of 21 set by Chris Doleman in 1989.
" Tight end Jim Kleinsasser is set to play in his 181st and final career game in the NFL.
Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 10:
1. Road/home-field advantage: It's true that the Chicago Bears have won 10 of their past 12 regular season divisional games at home. But from a national perspective, I wonder if everyone is aware of the Detroit Lions' recent road success. The Lions are 4-0 on the road this season and have won six consecutive games away from Ford Field after stopping a 26-game road losing streak last December. The Bears feel confident that playing at home will alleviate the issues they experienced in the teams' Week 5 matchup in Detroit, namely nine false start penalties. The experts seem to agree. The Bears have been steady three-point favorites this week and all 10 ESPN experts, human and otherwise, are predicting a Bears victory. Recent history, at least, suggests the call is not quite that clear-cut. A victory would give the Lions a 7-2 record for just the second time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
3. Stretch run: Monday night will mark the first of a three-game, 11-day stretch for the Green Bay Packers. They'll play on Nov. 14 against the Minnesota Vikings, on Nov. 20 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then Nov. 24 for their Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions. It's not as difficult as it might seem. In 2009, you might remember, the Packers played three games in 12 days and won all three.
4. Smart pressure on Rodgers: Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has 11.5 sacks against the Packers in games that left tackle Chad Clifton hasn't played. Clifton (hamstring) has been ruled out of this game, to be replaced again by Marshall Newhouse, and the Vikings are hoping to get Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of his rhythm Monday night at Lambeau Field. But Allen brought up a good point this week. He noted Rodgers throws well when flushed out of the pocket and suggested that "we've got to get him to scramble where we want him to scramble." Allen wasn't specific about where that might be, but here are the facts: Rodgers has thrown 38 passes from outside of the pocket this season. He's averaging 14.5 yards per attempt (not completion) on those throws, the best in the NFL by a long shot. No other quarterback is averaging more than 8.5 yards per attempt outside of the pocket with a minimum of 20 attempts.
5. Slowing Peterson: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson has eclipsed 100 yards in two of his past three games at Lambeau Field and had 175 yards against the Packers in the teams' meeting at the Metrodome last month. Of that 175-yard performance, 89 yards came after first contact. That was the third-highest total in an NFL game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Peterson has saved some of the hardest running of his career for games against the Packers, and he is the Vikings' best chance for a victory Monday night. Quarterback Christian Ponder has displayed poise in his first two starts, but it's helped that Peterson has gained 258 yards in those games.
Trevor (De Pere, WI)
Kevin! We need a ForteWatch up in this blog! He's on pace for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage! LOUD NOISES!
Kevin Seifert (2:16 PM)
I can see that. I need four arms to keep up with all of my Watches....
Trevor must be an experienced NFC North blog reader. Any Will Ferrell movie reference gets you points with the blogger, especially if it's a Brick Tamland line. And if anything, Trevor undersold Forte's season to this point.
Forte isn't just on pace for 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards, a feat accomplished on 58 occasions in NFL history, according to Pro Football Reference. He has given himself a shot at producing one of the best seasons ever for a running back.
Check out the -- yes -- ForteWatch chart. At his current levels, Forte would finish the 16-game season with 2,493 total yards (rushing and receiving). That total would put him just 16 yards shy of the record set in 2009 by the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson.
(An aside: If there were ever a time for the Bears to break team policy and re-enter contract negotiations during the season, isn't it now? The Bears are in their bye week, and Forte's market value continues to rise.)
Obviously we still have more than half of the season remaining. Sometimes projecting 16-game performance is a silly exercise at this point in the season, but I think it's worthwhile to note that we have some NFC North players who are off to historic starts. Forte has joined Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson (10 touchdowns) and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (11.5 sacks) in deserving their own Watches so far this season. We'll obviously add and subtract as needed. (Still trying to decide how to handle Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' sizzling start.)
For those who are curious how Forte's performance compares to the best seven-game starts since 1960, Pro Football Reference's outstanding database has the answer.
Forte's 1,091 yards ranks eighth on a list that includes some pretty important names. Jim Brown totaled 1,193 yards in the first seven games of the 1963 season. Also appearing on the list are Marshall Faulk, O.J. Simpson and Terrell Davis. (Full list here.)
Related: Forte ranks fifth on NFC West blogger Mike Sando's MVP Watch this week.