Allen cherishes MNF, not giving up on defense

Jared Allen still enjoys the spotlight that Monday Night Football brings and is hoping it helps cure the ills of the Vikings defense.

The Vikings are going to be under the national spotlight Monday when they travel to New York to play the Giants. On Thursday, Jared Allen discussed the prime time game for the Vikings – for better or worse.

Allen said he's felt like a little kid every time he plays on Monday night because of the attention it garners from other players around the league and the game's ability to expose weaknesses or allow teams to shine. He's been around the NFL for a decade, but Monday night football is still special.

"It's Monday Night Football – there's something nostalgic about it," Allen said. "Everybody's watching. It's kind of a spectacle. It's like a little mini-playoff game within the season. Every time I get to play in one of those, it's like, ‘Man, I'm playing on Monday Night Football!' – which you dreamed about as a little kid."

The key for the Vikings defense, which has been routinely gashed through the air this season, is to force the Giants into third-and-long situations. New York has been at or near the bottom of the league in rushing throughout the season. The last time the Vikings played a team that has struggled that badly on the ground was Pittsburgh and the Vikings defense was able to pummel Ben Roethlisberger throughout the game. Allen sees the Vikings trying to do the same to Eli Manning and force him into the bad throws that have typified his 2013 season.

"If you look at the Pittsburgh game, we got them in third-and-long and were able to take that run game away and be successful on the first two downs," Allen said. "We were able to get after Ben. I'm a firm believer you have to earn the right to rush the passer. If you go into a game just thinking you're going to be able to rush the passer you're going to get gutted."

The Vikings will be without one of their top playmakers. Harrison Smith was on crutches with his injured left foot in a cast – a downgrade from the walking boot he was wearing Wednesday. With talk that Smith might need season-ending surgery, Allen said the Vikings will miss Smith's ball-hawking presence in the secondary, but he believes they have the players to get the job done.

"It's a big blow," Allen said of the Smith injury. "He's a heck of a player. Andrew Sendejo, he stepped in for us in London when Jamarca (Sanford) was down and I thought he did a great job. It's kind of the motto of the NFL is ‘next guy up.' It's really got to be that way. We play a violent sport. He's going have an opportunity to step on the field and make some plays for us and we're excited for him. We're obviously going to miss Harry. He's a tremendous playmaker, but what are you going to do?"

The primary source of defensive frustration for the Vikings has been the lack of fundamentals that have been drilled into them since training camp, but seemingly get lost on game day. While everyone is stressing that each individual player get his job done and success will follow, the Vikings have seen just the opposite happen this season.

Just as winning cures a lot of problems and washes the stink off of a bad stretch of games, losing can have a cumulative impact on a defense – something the Vikings have found themselves doing repeatedly this season.

"If you lose that's how it happens," Allen said. "I can remember back in 2009, there was times when there were four people playing out of gap, but we were playing so well off each other and you've got so much energy going. Winning in contagious, but so is losing. We're at a spot right now that if one guy is out of a gap, it's springing people. It can have a domino effect."

The Vikings are looking to exorcise the demons that plagued them in their blowout loss to Carolina at home last Sunday. Facing a 0-6 team is one way to get their season back on track.

The last time they played a winless team with multiple losses was against the Steelers and the Vikings got the job done. The Vikings still have star players on both sides of the ball. Allen believes if the Vikings can get a win and then come back home for another prime-time showdown with Green Bay they could turn their frown around in a hurry.

"We have the talent, we have the ability, but we have to be consistent," Allen said. "When you get your butts kicked like we did, it's very humbling. It causes everyone to look at themselves and then at the whole. Sometimes I think you've got get back to doing the little things better. If you correct the little things, you'll make big leaps."

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.

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