Jared Allen laments missing record, says 22 sacks still 'ridiculous'
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jared Allen almost became the NFL's new sack king.
The Chicago Bears made sure he came up a half-sack short.
Allen had 3½ sacks in the Minnesota Vikings' season finale on Sunday, giving him the franchise's single-season sack record with 22.
But he couldn't get to Bears quarterback Josh McCown over the game's final 20 minutes as Chicago gave left tackle J'Marcus Webb extra help and countered the Vikings rush with sprint-out passes and screens.
"After I got the last sack, the next thing I know, they started bringing two tight ends and a tackle," Allen said. "I just knew if we could get a lead and get them in the 2-minute drill that we could get after it."
Instead, the Bears added a field goal on their ensuing drive, the Vikings didn't score again and Allen settled for a tie with Mark Gastineau for second all-time with 22 sacks -- just shy of Michael Strahan's decade-old NFL record of 22½.
"It's like being runner-up at the prom," Allen said. "The crown just doesn't mean as much."
Allen's play was a bright spot in a lost season for the Vikings, whose seven sacks as a team on Sunday couldn't keep them from another loss and a 3-13 finish.
He has reached double-digits in sacks six times over the past seven seasons but never had tallied more than 15½ until this season.
"Twenty sacks is ridiculous," Allen said. "To get over 10 is a great season. It's an accomplishment, (especially considering) the way these quarterbacks get rid of the ball so fast and the blocking we see every week."
He entered Sunday night four sacks ahead for the NFL lead over Dallas' DeMarcus Ware, who had one more game remaining against Strahan's old team, the New York Giants.
It was exactly the sort of boost Allen told coach Leslie Frazier he would provide in a couple of sit-down meetings during this past offseason.
"He was so committed to playing at a high level," Frazier said, "and then to come out and play the way he played every single week -- facing double teams, triple teams -- just a testament to who he is as a person, as a player. To have the kind of year he had and facing the protections that he faced (is) incredible. Just a great feat by Jared."
Allen entered the day with 18½ sacks, and it didn't take him long to add to that total.
He got a half-sack late in the first quarter when linebacker Erin Henderson wrapped up McCown and Allen helped finish him off.
"He was in that zone," Henderson said. "He saw what he was working towards, he was on a mission and he had his mind made up."
The next three sacks were all Allen, who beat J'Marcus Webb with multiple moves as the Vikings isolated that matchup with varied blitz looks.
"My hat's off to (defensive coordinator Fred) Pagac," Allen said. "He really did some things blitz-wise to force their tight ends and running backs to check the middle with our linebackers on the edge."
Allen got off Webb's block on a seven-man rush for his first solo sack with about 5 minutes to go in the second quarter.
On the Bears' first play of the second half, Allen used an inside move on a five-man rush to sack McCown again and tie Chris Doleman for the team record with 21 sacks.
Then, with the Bears facing third-and-14 and a little more than 5 minutes to go in the third quarter, the Vikings sent a six-man rush and Allen beat Webb outside for sack No. 22 -- tying Gastineau's 1984 total, which stood as the record until Strahan beat it in 2001.
"He played his butt off and he deserves everything he gets," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We just wish he would have got another one."
Allen never really came close to sacking McCown in the fourth quarter, although he was in the backfield a couple of times.
He said he could recall three near-misses earlier in the season -- one on which he got poked in the eye on Oct. 11 against Arizona, one at Green Bay on Nov. 14 that was ruled a team sack and another he couldn't wrap up at Detroit on Dec. 11.
"Each year, you are going to have a bunch of almosts, though," said Allen, who will turn 30 in April.
"When I first got into the league, one of the vets told me, 'You're going to miss two before you get one.' That's just kind of how it works. Hats off to Michael Strahan -- he obviously didn't miss too many.
"I will look back at this season, I will go back and study film and see where I could do more. I think there were three games where I didn't have a sack, so I have to try to be more consistent in every single game."