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Bears' left tackle faces NFL's premier pass rusher today vs. Vikings
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

The Bears spent $6.1 million on offensive tackle Orlando Pace. Today that investment will be put to the test when Pace goes up against Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who has an NFC-leading 101/2 sacks this season.


John Starks | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/28/2009 10:57 PM | Updated: 11/28/2009 11:49 PM

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Even in the best of times, playing left tackle in the NFL is a challenge.

Left tackles protect a right-handed quarterback's blind side. And left tackles usually face the opponents' best pass rusher, who lines up on that side by design, so the quarterback can't see him coming.

That's why good left tackles get the big money. The Bears' Orlando Pace has been protecting his quarterback's blind side for 13 years, and he's been voted to seven Pro Bowl, but the last time was in 2005. After Pace was cut by the Rams in an off-season move to clear salary-cap space, the Bears figured he was worth a $6.1 million investment to protect Jay Cutler's blind side. Pace's three-year deal could be worth up to $15 million if he plays it out.

Today the Bears will find out if Pace was worth the investment because he has the unenviable chore of keeping NFC sack leader Jared Allen away from Cutler. Allen already has 101/2 sacks this year, and he had 30 over the previous two seasons, including 41/2 in two games against the Bears last season. Since he entered the league in 2004, Allen has an NFL-best 68 sacks, 71/2 more than anyone else.

A formidable foe, no doubt, but Pace has been around the block a few times, so he's not panicking.

"He's a hard worker," Pace said. "He's having a good year. He's going to rush hard, and he's going to play to the whistle, so you have to stay on him until the play's over."

When the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Allen was with the Chiefs from 2004-07 and Pace was with the Rams, they faced each other a couple of times, briefly, in the preseason. In their only regular-season meeting, in 2006, and Allen got 2 sacks.

Some teams try to run right at elite pass rushers, hoping to wear them down and take some of the energy out of their rushes. But Pace said even if the Bears tried that tactic, it wouldn't eliminate Allen from the equation.

"Jared's going to play hard, and he's going to play to the whistle anyway - run, pass, whatever," Pace said. "That's just what he's going to do. I don't know if you can necessarily take him out of the game. You just have to get on him and stay on him."