NFC North: Mark Gastineau
January, 1, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
Marilyn Indahl/US PresswireJared Allen's 3.5 sacks Sunday left him one shy of breaking the NFL single-season record.MINNEAPOLIS -- Maybe it's a good thing that Jared Allen fell one sack short Sunday of setting the NFL record for sacks in a season. Asked what he would have done after breaking Michael Strahan's record of 22.5, Allen laughed and offered a nearly -- nearly -- preposterous scenario that would have made for a new level of in-game pandemonium.
"I probably would have thrown my helmet into the crowd," Allen said, "jumped up, ran up, kissed my wife and my baby in the suite, walked into the locker room and quit. No, I might have done some turf angels. Probably would have cried. [The Chicago Bears] probably would have gotten a first down -- a 15-yard penalty on me. I probably would have taken my shoulder pads off. So probably a good thing I didn't get it, right?"
Ha. Allen injected some drama into an otherwise droll Week 17 game, sacking Bears quarterback Josh McCown 3.5 times to finish the 2011 season with 22 sacks. That allowed him to surpass former Vikings record-holder Chris Doleman (21), whom the Vikings brought to the Metrodome for the occasion, and tie Mark Gastineau for the second-most in a 16-game season.
When we first started "AllenWatch" in October, I had my doubts that Allen or any other member of the Vikings could challenge the record. Sundays' 17-13 loss left the Vikings with a 3-13 record. Rarely did the Vikings have opponents in must-pass situations, limiting the opportunities for pass rushers like Allen.
I'm not sure whether Allen himself thought it possible; he said Sunday that his goal was to get 17 sacks so he could eclipse 100 for his career. He said that finishing with 22 was like "being the runner-up at the prom" but added: "I know it's possible now. I know it's possible. I'm going to work my butt off this offseason to try to help my team get back to the playoffs and to try to get that sack title."
The Bears started Sunday's game by regularly chipping and double-teaming the Vikings' edge rushers, according to Allen. But Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac -- in perhaps his last game with the team -- called some blitz combinations that committed the Bears' extra blockers to the inside.
"So I got some one-on-ones on the edge there," said Allen, who collected sack No. 22 by beating left tackle J'Marcus Webb with 4 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"I told him he had 20 minutes to get one sack," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "But they changed it up after that."
Indeed, according to Williams, Allen and others, the Bears regularly devoted two tight ends to help Webb the rest of the way. Allen got nowhere close to sack No. 23. The Bears weren't going to give him the record, as some would suggest Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre did for Strahan in 2001.
Allen said last week that "a sack is a sack is a sack" and that Favre's "slip" didn't diminish Strahan's accomplishment. Had Favre not "fallen," Allen would have walked away from Sunday's game with a share of the record once held by Gastineau.
"It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "Just being in the same breath as Strahan, and Gastineau and Doleman. … Man."