If you were to look simply at the numbers, you would think Jared Allen didn't have a good season-opening game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not only didn't he have a sack, he didn't record a tackle.
Not surprisingly, Allen feels differently. After looking back at film, he was happy with a lot of the things the defense did Sunday. As the Vikings look to win their second game of the season this Sunday at Indianapolis, Allen said the team is looking for much of the same, especially on first down.
"We have to be physical up front," Allen said. "It starts with first and second down. You really have to be successful. If you put them in second- and third-and-long – we did that last week, I didn't realize we had so many second-and-longs – but you can't give up big chunks. Getting off the field on third down is going to be huge. If you can force them into situations to where you can dictate to them – if it's third-and-4, third-and-3, third-and-5, they've got pretty much anything they can run so you can't pin your ears back and get after it. A lot of it is going to be predicated on getting them into situations so we can put pressure on them"
Coming off a 3-13 season, the Vikings have a chance to start the 2012 season 2-0 with a win over the Colts – they have been installed as a 1½-point favorite. People are expecting the Vikings to win, but Allen said that just as many people think that the Vikings should lose, especially coming off their improbable finish in the opener against Jacksonville.
"I think we're one of those teams that people look at and think they should beat us because of our record last year," Allen said. "It's very important. You have to take every win you can get. If we don't come back and win the last game, things could easily unravel and people could go, ‘Here we go again.'"
Coming off a 22-sack season that was only a half-sack short of the most prolific year for sacks by a player in NFL history, Allen expected to see a lot more double teams and help from tight ends, fullbacks and running backs this time around. He wasn't surprised when he was constantly chipped and double-blocked more plays than not last week, which could explain why he didn't get a sack or even a tackle.
Allen said that defensive ends, for the most part, are judged by their sack total. Even if they play a strong game, if they don't notch up a sack or two, it's often viewed as a failure – even if the player grades out high. Allen said that's just the price of doing business in the pass-happy NFL.
"Sacks are kind of how we get judged these days," Allen said. "I thought we applied great pressure last week. We just didn't cash the checks all the time. I missed on the first drive. I came around and thought it was going to be a forced fumble. I ended up hitting the back end of the ball and he was able to get it out. B-Rob (Brian Robison) had two or three which he probably could have had on the ground and Ev (Everson Griffen) had one. You've got to keep plugging along. I would take getting there and missing versus not getting there. At least we were forcing him to get off his spot and he couldn't be as effective as he wanted to be."
Allen has made his reputation as a relentless pass rusher, but he said that is only part of his game. Defensive ends are ranked often by their sack totals and their disruptiveness, but Allen prides himself on being a complete player – able to do many things well, not simply blow past offensive tackles and sack the quarterback.
"I don't consider myself a pass rusher, I consider myself a defensive player," Allen said. "There's plenty of opportunities within a game to win games. If I'm getting chipped, doubled or they slide protection toward Kevin (Williams), that will have a greater effect probably on making big plays because they have to worry about where certain (players) are at. When it's all said and done, hopefully one day people will say I played the entire game in the way it's supposed to be played. I've never wanted to be seen as a third-down specialist. For me, stopping the run is probably 10 times more important than rushing the passer. If you can't stop the run, you never get to pass rush."
For a team looking to build momentum before facing a pair of tough challenges against San Francisco and Detroit, Allen believes going on the road and getting their second straight win will be a huge step forward in getting the Vikings where they want to be in 2012. The strange thing about the NFL is that teams rise and fall quickly because it is a game of momentum and game-changing plays. The Vikings were on the wrong end of that far too often last year and, as they attempt to change the culture of losing that has festered in the organization, getting off to a fast start would be the ideal cure to what has ailed the team the last two years.
"Winning is contagious, just like losing is," Allen said. "You have to build good winning habits. We were able to eek out a win and, you know what, we'll take it. We're going to move from it and build confidence from that. Now we have to go on the road and we've got to go play a young team that people are expecting to struggle. But, you watch them on film and they do some good things. A couple of dropped passes here and there and that Chicago game is little bit different."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Allen desires more than just pass-rushing rep
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