Long before any of the current Bears were born, the Oakland Raiders went into the 1965 draft looking for an offensive guard expressly for the purposes of blocking Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Buck Buchanan. The Raiders had to deal with Buchanan, a future Hall of Famer, twice a year and they had to find an answer. That “answer” turned out to be Gene Upshaw, himself a future Hall of Fame inductee.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is not often likened to Buchanan (although they both opened their careers in Kansas City). But he has been within inches of the NFL sack record and stands as one of the dominant pass rushers of the last decade. Allen, as a senior in 2003, in fact won the Buck Buchanan Award, given annually to the best defensive lineman in college’s FCS (formerly Div. I-AA) division.
And Green Bay’s Clay Matthews is still early in a career that potentially could carry him to Canton as well.
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But the Bears have had to cope with Allen twice a season since he was traded to Minnesota in 2007. And they are still looking, unsuccessfully, for ways to handle Matthews.
Meaning: The Bears are facing either Allen or Matthews in one-fourth of their games each season.
They were not the only reasons, but certainly big ones, behind the Bears making Jermon Bushrod their top priority in free agency last offseason.
It was more than simply improving at left tackle.
In four New Orleans Saints games against Allen, Bushrod has never allowed a sack to the Vikings’ franchise defender. Allen had three tackles in a 2010 game against Bushrod and the Saints. But the Vikings have lost the last three (out of four total) games in which Bushrod has been tasked with stopping Allen.
Coaches say they work against opposing schemes, not individuals. But the occasional Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher are the exceptions.
So is Allen.
“The first thing we ask ourselves are, ‘Who are the difference makers on that side of the ball?’ And, ‘What do we have do to stop them?’” coach Marc Trestman said. “It’s no secret. [Allen] is one of them. Just like Geno Atkins was a difference maker for them last week.
“We’ve got to identify, on all three levels, who the difference makers are and make sure we try to inhibit their ability to take over the game. He is one of those guys that can still do that.”