Jared Allen gave the Minnesota Vikings a show in an otherwise-meaningless game at the end of a forgettable season.
He finished just short of the all-time NFL single-season sack record, another almost-there moment for a team overwhelmed all year long by near misses, injuries and lacking skill at a number of positions.
Charles Tillman's interception return in the second quarter gave Chicago the lead for good, and the Bears finished the season by stopping their five-game losing streak with a 17-13 victory over the Vikings on Sunday despite 3½ of their seven sacks of Josh McCown by Allen.
"It's like being runner-up at the prom. The crown just doesn't weigh as much," Allen said with a big smile.
He finished the season with 22 sacks, behind Michael Strahan's mark of 22½ for the New York Giants in 2001. Allen had 20 minutes of game time left to get the record, but the Bears started running the ball more and giving left tackle J'Marcus Webb plenty of help down the stretch.
"After I got the last sack, the next thing I know they started bringing two tight ends and a tackle," Allen said.
Allen tied Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets in 1984 for the second-highest total in history and bested Chris Doleman's franchise record of 21 in 1989, with Doleman watching the game on the sideline. Doleman told Allen before the game he was rooting for him to break that mark.
"This organization has a history of dominant defensive linemen. To be at the top of that is a true honor," Allen said.
Joe Webb relieved Christian Ponder at quarterback for the Vikings (3-13) for the third time in the last month, but the wild-scrambling Webb wasn't able to do enough to keep the Vikings from matching the worst record in franchise history, set first in 1984. They also finished winless in their division for the first time in their 51-year history.
The loss ensured the Vikings the third slot in the first round of the draft, but the players didn't care about that. They were rooting hard for Allen to get the record.
"You wish McCown would have pulled a Brett Favre and rolled around a little bit," joked linebacker Chad Greenway.
Favre went down rather easy in 2001 when Strahan chased him down to set the record. But Allen said he held no bitterness.
"He is a beast," wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "His work ethic and his never-quit attitude speaks for itself. We had a losing season this year, and he still came out every game and put it all on the line."
Allen's relentless performance and remarkable productivity this year was matched on the offensive side by the do-it-all Harvin, one of the other few bright spots in this otherwise-dismal season.
Harvin scored on a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Vikings a 10-0 lead, and he finished with 10 catches for 115 yards—for a career-high 967 on the season. He also had 345 yards rushing and now has 24 touchdowns over three years in the NFL.
That's a full decade less than tight end Jim Kleinsasser, who played his last game after deciding earlier this year to retire. The second-round draft pick in 1999 spent his entire career with the Vikings, who rented two buses and gave out 125 tickets to residents of his tiny hometown of Carrington, N.D., so they could attend.
Jared Allen is Vikings' new sack king
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