Notebook: Jared Allen doesn't just say he's healthy, he looks healthy
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
After multiple offseason surgeries, Minnesota Vikings defense end Jared Allen has proclaimed his health and resurgence this preseason, but on Sunday, he proved it.
Allen, 31, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder as well as a procedure described as a 'minor cleanup' of his knee, both on Jan. 31.
Despite playing through the shoulder injury and probably other ailments, Allen still registered 12 sacks in 2012 and, now that he's healthy, he set his sights even higher for this season.
His quest began on Sunday, when he took down Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for the only Vikings sack. In fact, any pressure Stafford felt mostly came from the 10-year veteran's left side. Allen tallied the only sack, two of the team's seven pass deflections and three of the four hits Stafford took.
It was to be expected of Allen, who was matched up against a second-year left tackle in Riley Reiff. The only surprise is his teammates along the line didn't follow suit.
"I was beat up [last season], I was hurt, you start wondering, is age getting the best of you?," Allen said earlier this week. "But after surgery, after getting healed up, I feel great. I was able to train again, work out, feel young."
Allen proved his youth on Sunday.
Jeff Locke's debut
Rookie punter Jeff Locke made his NFL debut on Sunday, booting five punts for a 42.2 yard average and pinned one inside the 20-yard line.
Locke's first punt was his worst, backed up to the Vikings' 21-yard line in the first quarter, he only managed to get 36 yards out of the kick before Lions' return man Michael Spurlock gained eight yards and set up Detroit at midfield.
"It's a process with us, [Locke] has had some good moments and some moments he would like to correct," Kicker Blair Walsh said on Thursday. "He's a pretty mentally strong guy. I think his mental fortitude is solid, doesn't get too down, too high."
Locke's distance and hangtime suffered on multiple kicks, but the rookie appeared to improve as the game went on.
On his next punt, Locke was set up at midfield and pinned the Lions at their own 16-yard line, which after a Detroit holding penalty, became their eight-yard line.
Locke averaged 35 yards across five punts after accounting for return yardage. To put it in perspective, former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe began 2012 with a similar stat line, just with a bigger leg against the Jacksonville Jaguars: five punts for a 48.4 yard average and one inside the 20.
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said throughout training camp that a team that turns the ball over and scores with that turnover, wins 75 percent of the games.
Williams was referring to a stat coach Leslie Frazier posted from the 2012 season, but it's the mentality he was trying to instill into his players that mattered.
Cornerback Josh Robinson appeared to embody that mentality on Sunday when he forced a fumble on Lions' tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Robinson plucked the ball out of Pettigrew's hands after he caught the ball on a screen play, forcing a fumble recovered by safety Harrison Smith.
Robinson was later seen scooping up an apparent fumble forced by safety Jamarca Sanford as Lions' running back Joique Bell crossed the goal line. The play was ruled a turnover, but was overturned and called a touchdown.
One of four pass deflections along the defensive line also turned into the first career interception for linebacker Erin Henderson, who grabbed the Vikings' second turnover of the day.
The Vikings only kept pace with the Lions in one stat: pass deflections. Each team had seven and the Vikings received four from their men in the trenches. As mentioned prior, Allen had two, along with defensive tackles Fred Evans and Sharrif Floyd, who each had one.
While taking chances and capitalizing is worth noting, it doesn't overshadow the glaring holes in this defense. The Vikings escaped the first half with a lead simply because of the Lions' dropped passes, Suh's illegal block penalty on center John Sullivan and a botched field goal hold, but this could've easily been a much bigger loss on the scoreboard as the Vikings surrendered 469 yards of total offense.
•Walsh extended his perfection from 50-plus yards in the NFL to 11-of-11 after converting from 52 yards in the loss to the Lions.
•The Vikings were 2-of-10 on third down, looking collectively terrible in those situations. Quarterback Christian Ponder finished 4-of-7 for 26 yards, was sacked twice and avoided a third sack with a two-yard run on third downs.
•The Vikings led 14-13 at halftime, but the Lions scored touchdowns on three of their five second-half drives while Minnesota's offense remained stagnant.