EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The way Jared Allen sees things, he believes he should have about three sacks already this season while facing young quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck through the season’s first two weeks.
Allen, who led the NFL last season with 22 sacks, is still without one and is left to wonder about the occasions in which he had quarterbacks in his grasp. Allen believes he was robbed of a sack in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars after he was called for an offsides penalty while taking down Gabbert. Following Sunday’s game against Indianapolis, he told reporters he twice missed sacks while trying to cause a strip.
Allen said he faced a lot of extra attention from blockers against Jacksonville but lamented the missed chances last week against Luck.
“I go back and watch, and I have him in my hands and I’ve just got to get him on the ground,” Allen said. “(Brian Robison) has him in his hands in the end zone and we’ve got to get him on the ground. Credit Andrew Luck, he was way more elusive than we saw on tape. In the Chicago game, we thought he would try to escape on the B gap and he tore off our edges. But as far as that, protection-wise that game, nothing major. I’m always seeing chips. We’re going to see a lot of short to intermediate passing game.”
Last year was all about the chase for the league record. Now, Allen’s chase is getting his first sack and has been overshadowed a bit by his empty pursuit of Luck.
In the third quarter, Allen was chasing down Luck from behind and was called for a late hit on the rookie quarterback. On third-and-16, Luck had avoided the initial pressure from Minnesota and scrambled with Allen trying to chase him down. Luck was headed out of bounds short of the first down and Allen jumped at the quarterback near the sideline. He was flagged for a personal foul, extending a drive that ended in a field goal.
Allen didn’t think the play was a foul then and hadn’t changed his mind four days later.
“Nah, like I said, if that’s a running back, they probably don’t call it,” Allen said. “But they called it, so obviously I’ve got to own that. You’re trying to make plays.”
Allen said he was reminded of a November 2006 game between the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants in which New York linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka let quarterback Vince Young out of his grasp and the quarterback ended up running for a key first down as an example of not letting up. Despite the penalty flag on Sunday, Allen said he can’t let up.
“If you stop chasing guys down, eventually they’re going to know that, and they’re going to turn the corner and maybe he picks up that first down,” Allen said. “It’s not going to change the way I play. I’m still going to hustle after guys. I’m going to continue to do what I can do to get them to the ground. I launched when he was in bounds. It’s not like I hit him in the head. I hit him in the arm. It’s just trying to make a play.”
There were few such instances last season when Allen would lament missed opportunities. Coming so close to the NFL single-season record of 22.5, Allen could remember the sacks he missed, such as playing against Kansas City when he let up on a potential sack after being poked in the eye. Getting so close to a record can cause those types of reactions. Now, Allen is regretting missed chances to garner any sack.
He isn’t the only Vikings’ defensive lineman struggling to get the quarterback on the ground. Minnesota’s defense tied for the league lead with 50 sacks last season, led by the defensive line. In 2012, backup linemen Everson Griffen, who comes on during obvious passing situations, is the only defensive lineman with a sack.
“We were constantly in the backfield with our d-line, whether it was Brian, or Jared or Everson,” coach Leslie Frazier said of the game against the Colts. “They did a great job of flushing the quarterback out of the pocket a number of times. Of course, he made some plays on the run, which hurt us. But we have to do a little bit better job of being aware of where the next guy is. But the things we were trying to get accomplished, for the most part, we got it done. We just couldn’t always get him down. The time Brian had him in the end zone could have been a possible safety. We have to give their quarterback some credit. He did a good job. We had some opportunities to get him on the ground, and we couldn’t.”