LAKE FOREST – Jared Allen does not understand the hubbub.
Allen, the Pro Bowl defensive end of the Minnesota Vikings, leaped off the ground to deliver a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit against Bears right guard Lance Louis during an interception return Nov. 25 at Soldier Field. Louis twisted his knee awkwardly during the play and learned one day later that his season was finished because of the injury.
Yet any talk of retaliation this weekend confuses Allen. The Bears (8-4) will visit the Vikings (6-6) on Sunday at Mall of America Field for the teams’ second meeting in three weeks.
“There is nothing to retaliate,” Allen said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters at Halas Hall. “It wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t done out of ill will.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Regardless, the Bears’ best revenge will be to frustrate Allen with a slew of clean blocks.
Allen, 30, is a four-time Pro Bowl player with 13 sacks in nine career games against the Bears. But he was shut out by the Bears in Week 12 with no sacks and one quarterback hit on a play in which Jay Cutler connected with Matt Spaeth for a 13-yard touchdown.
The Bears have reshuffled their offensive line in recent weeks, inserting sixth-year veteran Jonathan Scott at right tackle and starting Edwin Williams and Gabe Carimi at guard. Yet their strategy will not change against Allen, whom they neutralized with extra blockers and quick passes en route to a 28-10 win two weeks ago.
“We’re going to do similar stuff that we did,” Cutler said. “We threw different things at him, different blocking schemes at him. We threw a fullback at him, threw a tight end at him, got rid of the ball quickly and efficiently. We’ve just got to do those things and do more of it.”
As he reviewed film of the game, Allen marveled at Cutler’s efficiency.
By halftime, Cutler had completed 15 of 17 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. He relied largely on three-step drops before making his passes, which marked a departure from the slow-developing plays of the Mike Martz era that allowed defenders to collapse the pocket.
“We went back and put a clock on it,” Allen said. “I think there was only two or three times the whole game he held the ball more than about 2 1/2 seconds. That intermediate passing game was clutch for them.
“And then they did some things boot-legging and max protecting from different looks, chipping in and out with the tight ends and the running backs, and that makes it tough.”
The Bears helped their cause by establishing a 25-3 lead by halftime and limiting the amount of snaps in which Cutler had to look deep down field. By the end of the game, the Bears had rushed the ball 39 times for their highest total of the season.
No wonder Allen was so quiet as a pass rusher.
“The biggest thing was they had a lead the whole time,” Allen said. “So there’s no need for them to spread out, there’s no need to create one-on-ones, and very rarely were they in third-and-long, third-and-unmanageable.
“When you have a lead and you’re not threatened that way, there’s no need for you to take shots down the field. Or, I should say, unprotected shots down the field.”