EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jared Allen had Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record in his sights last season, and his intensity and push for the record 22.5 sacks were apparent in the season finale against the Chicago Bears.
Allen had 1.5 sacks at halftime in the final regular-season game and then took down Chicago quarterback Josh McCown on the first play of the second half before his furious attempt at breaking the record fell short. With 3.5 sacks against the Bears and 22 for the season, Allen came closer than anyone else to Strahan’s record since Strahan broke Mark Gastineau’s old mark of 22 with 22.5 in 2001.
Allen returned this season and said he believed 25 sacks in a season is possible and one day Strahan’s record will fall. It could very well happen this year.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith are challenging Strahan’s record again, tied with 19.5 sacks with two games remaining. Watt and Smith are actually ahead of Allen’s pace and again are showing Strahan’s 11-year record might not last much longer.
“I think so,” Allen said Thursday when asked if he believes the record will be broken eventually. “I said it at the beginning of this year. I think 25 is a realistic number with the way this league is, especially with these 3-4 linebackers. You’ve got Aldon Smith, who is basically a defensive end. You’ve got (Dallas’) DeMarcus Ware, who’s basically a defensive end with the athletic ability of a linebacker standing up, coming off the edge and creating serious matchup problems whether it’s one-on-one with a back or where they can blitz from. I think it’s definitely attainable.”
Watt, a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, faces Allen’s Vikings team this weekend trying to make the same push Allen did just a year ago. Watt, in his second year in the league, also said the record will fall and, like Allen, he wants to be the one to break it.
“I definitely think it will,” Watt said Wednesday on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. “If it’s not this year, I think it will come soon. Pass rushers are getting so good, and obviously it’s a passing league. Obviously, I hope I do. I hope I do. I have a lot of respect for Michael Strahan. If you’re not trying to break it, then what’s the point?”
Allen, who was the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting last year, has slipped a bit this season. He’s tied for 17th in the league with nine sacks. Allen said he’s constantly facing double teams but his season just another example of how hard it is to reach 20 sacks. No player in league history has had two 20-sack seasons.
Allen has an appreciation for Watt’s amazing year, one in which he’s become the first player in NFL history to amass at least 15 sacks and 15 passes defensed. Though Allen respects the pass-rushing prowess of Smith and Ware, what Watt is doing as a mainly inside pass rusher stands apart.
Watt already has the most sacks in a season for a player who plays mostly from inside positions.
“Aldon Smith, obviously impressive year,” Allen said. “What J.J. Watt is doing is crazy from that 5-technique position. That is a once in a lifetime, praise God that is happening because you don’t see that happening very often.”
Allen gets most of his snaps on the outside as Minnesota’s right end, working against the league’s best left tackles. Watt, with his impressive combination of size (6 feet 5, 290 pounds), strength and athleticism, moves along the line, helping to create matchup problems.
Watt has become the premier inside pass rusher in just his second season in the league since being drafted in the first round by Houston last year.
“He doesn’t try to get outside of himself, I’ve noticed,” Allen said. “He does what he does. He has one move, has a counter and if he doesn’t get there, he tries to affect the game in all facets. He bats the ball down and he can play right or left, so he’s creating matchup problems whether it’s in 3-technique or the 5. You can see it, his energy level and the effort he puts forth to his craft is high right now, and he will not to be stopped. Like I’ve said, you got to have things go your way. You’ve got to have some sacks fall into your arms, and he’s got everything going his way right now.”
Sounds like the guy who chased the record thinks there might be a new record to chase soon.