x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jared Allen primed for sack race in the NFL

The Viking defensive end is on pace for a record season, but he is more than a pass rush specialist.

Jared Allen, right, the Minnesota Vikings defensive end, sacked the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, last month.
Jared Allen, right, the Minnesota Vikings defensive end, sacked the Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, left, last month.

Jared Allen and his wife recently brought home a baby daughter.

So Allen's bye week was mostly spent changing nappies and relishing the marvel of childbirth and the joy of fatherhood, not pondering his opportunity to break the NFL's all-time single-season sacks record.

But when Allen and the Minnesota Vikings take on the Packers in Green Bay tonight, the 29-year-old defensive end will resume his quiet pursuit of Michael Strahan's mark of twenty-two-and-a-half sacks. Halfway through the season, Allen has twelve-and-a-half, a pace for 25.

"I knew that he was really focusing on a mission for 2011, but to say I could've predicted he'd be at 12 in eight games? I don't know if I could've predicted that," Leslie Frazier, the Vikings coach, said.

"I knew he was going to play better than a year ago, and boy has he. Hopefully we can keep this going."

DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys was right behind Allen with 12 sacks before Dallas's game against Buffalo last night. Because of that and Minnesota's 2-6 record, Allen's production has not received much national attention. Yet.

"He's had an unbelievable year, and I think he should get more attention than what he's got even though we haven't probably been where we needed to be," Chad Greenway, the linebacker, said. "But I hope that we can get some more attention from him by winning some games."

What if Allen is close to Strahan's record, set in 2001 with the New York Giants, with a couple of games to go?

"At that point it'll be like Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, just not being in New York," Greenway said. "Everybody will be talking about it, putting a hex on him, but the way he plays we're all coming along with him. He's playing at a high level, so we're happy for him."

Like he has done to so many left tackles throughout his career, Allen manoeuvred around a question of whether 23-plus sacks is attainable this season.

"Anything's attainable," Allen said. "At the start of every year, everybody tries to attain greatness. It can't be your focus. If the end result is such, then it means you did your job, you did all the little things, preparing and going out every week and trying to do whatever it takes to go out there and win.

"If that's what you're focusing on, you're probably not going to get it and you're not doing your job and everything else you've got to do."

Allen, fifth in sacks among active players and 32nd on the NFL's career list, vowed to come back strong after a 2010 season that was his worst of four with the Vikings.

He has done it while facing frequent double teams and chip blocks from running backs while the defensive tackles have not done much to disrupt opponents.

Allen has at least a half-sack in 10 consecutive games, dating to the last two games of last season. "You expect it. You get it week in, week out, year in, year out," Allen said, adding: "If they concentrate on me, someone else is going to have a one on one, someone else is going to have an opportunity to make a play. More power to them, and we'll find a way to get it done."

Allen has proven, too, that he is more than a pass rush specialist. He has 44 total tackles, including five additional tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two passes broken up and one interception.

"Honestly, I'm just trying to go out there and have fun, really," he said. "Each week trying to go out there and get a win and bring a positive attitude to the game.

"Like I said, we're going through some adversity right now and got to believe there's a reason for it and we'll come out a better team. As far as personally, me at the end of the year, we'll sit back and look at it. Right now, we're just trying to win some football games."

Starting with the unbeaten Packers. This is Allen's favourite team to face, considering his 12 sacks in eight career games against them. For the Vikings to have a chance at victory over Aaron Rodgers and his amazing passing attack, Allen must have another one of his relentless performances on the edge and take down the quarterback several times.

"The guy's just been on a roll for a while, but there's nothing to say he can't have a bad game," Allen said. "We've played against great quarterbacks here in the past. We had a shot to win it last time we played him. We've got to come up in the fourth quarter and make a couple stops, but he's on a roll. Their team is playing great. Hopefully we can go in there and play the spoilers."