This excerpt from 100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Mark Craig is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit www.triumphbooks.com/100vikings.
#59: Jared Allen
The greatest game of Jared Allen’s decorated career as an NFL pass rusher was upstaged by Brett Favre in a surreal Monday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome on October 5, 2009. “That’s okay,” Allen said after Favre’s first meeting against his former team. “If it gets me five sacks a week, I’ll shut up and not say a word.”
Actually, it was a career-high 4.5 sacks in a 30–23 win. Favre got his revenge while his successor, Aaron Rodgers, got sacked eight times. Favre completed 77.4 percent of his passes with three touchdowns, no turnovers, and a 135.3 passer rating. But the win wasn’t possible without Allen’s energy that night. “It was a feeding frenzy kind of thing,” coach Brad Childress said afterward.
In 2009 Favre completed 69.5 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no turnovers in two magical wins over the Packers. Rodgers also played well with passer ratings of 110.6 and 108.5. But the sack totals were the difference. Favre wasn’t sacked once. Rodgers was sacked 14 times, and Allen had 7.5 of them.
All these years later, it’s hard to believe Allen was considered a risky proposition when the Vikings traded for him before the 2008 draft. The reigning NFL sack king was considered the proverbial loose cannon. He had been arrested and charged with three DUIs and had served a two-game league suspension in 2007. The Kansas City Chiefs were so leery of Allen’s behavior that they shopped him to the Vikings rather than give him a long-term deal. The Vikings gave up a first-round pick and two third rounders. Then they gave Allen a six-year, $73.5 million deal, a record for an NFL defender at the time.
People waited for Allen to get in trouble off the field. He never did. On the field, three of his four first-team All-Pro selections and four of his five Pro Bowls came with the Vikings.
In 2011 Allen had 22 sacks, breaking Chris Doleman’s franchise record of 21 and coming within half a sack of Michael Strahan’s NFL mark. Doleman was on the sideline at the Metrodome when Allen had 3.5 sacks in the season finale against the Bears.
When Allen left via free agency after six seasons, he hadn’t missed a single start. In 100 games he had 89.5 sacks, including four in four playoff games. Not bad for a lean 265-pounder who got by mostly on sound fundamentals and sheer determination. “I’m a technique and leverage guy,” said Allen, who was tied for ninth on the NFL’s career sack list (136) at the end of the 2015 season.
Allen’s non-stop motor was a factor in his prime. The clock in a quarterback’s head tended to speed up when Allen was charging. Certainly, that was the case for Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky when he made his NFL starting debut at the Metrodome in 2008.
Orlovsky was in his own end zone, running from an Allen sack when he accidently ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety, and it wasn’t even close. “When the official started blowing the whistle, I was like, ‘Did we false start, or was it an accidental whistle or something?’” Orlovsky said. “Then I looked down to see where I was and I was just like, ‘You’re an idiot.’”
One of Allen’s career record-tying four safeties would cause the Lions to lose the game by two points (12–10) en route to the first 0–16 record in NFL history.
Raised on a horse ranch in Morgan Hill, California, Allen went from a fourth rounder out of Idaho State to celebrating sacks by dropping to a knee and pretending to rope an imaginary calf. He racked them up at a prodigious rate, recording 136 sacks while meticulously honing his craft. “When I first got to Kansas City, my line coach, Bob Karmelowicz, told me, ‘If you get a sack one out of every 19 rushes, you end up with 17.5 sacks for the year,’” Allen said. “That’s a great year, 17.5 sacks. But like Bob said, how do you handle those 18 other rushes that were failures? Using those 18 rushes to set up the move that gets the sack is key.”
Follow Mark Craig on Twitter at @markcraignfl for more Minnesota Vikings coverage.