Allen shooting to keep sack streak going

Jared Allen is hoping to keep his streak of double-digit sacks in a season alive. If he does, he would pass one of his football idols and move up the list he has in his locker.

In Jared Allen's locker there is a list of the all-time sack leaders in NFL history. It's a list that is getting shorter all the time. Allen is currently 14th on the all-time list with 124 sacks, just 2.5 sacks behind one of his idols in his early NFL career – Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs.

With 8.5 more sacks in his career, he will finish his career in the top 10. With 17.5 more career sacks, he will finish in the top five. The list of those in front of him is laden with current or future Hall of Famers – Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Kevin Greene, Chris Doleman, Michael Strahan, Jason Taylor, John Randle, Richard Dent, John Abraham, Lawrence Taylor, Leslie O'Neal, Rickey Jackson and Thomas.

Allen is a consummate team player, but the standard unit of measure for pass-rushing outside defenders – defensive ends and outside linebackers in a 3-4 – is sack numbers. Through the first 11 games of the season, Allen had just five sacks and needed five in the final five games to keep his six-year streak of double-digit sacks alive. He has recorded two in the last two games and is closing in on that milestone. Does an individual number like sacks mean a lot to Allen?

"Absolutely," Allen said. "Me and B-Rob (Brian Robison) were laughing about it today. I think the lead is 15 (sacks). If we would take the ones we had in our hands and we either missed or we knocked the guy and he falls forward – which is an incomplete pass versus a sack/fumble – I think we would both be sitting right around 12 or 13."

The lack of sacks is frustrating for Allen because he prides himself on that stat line and both he and Robison are graded out among the league leaders in quarterback knockdowns and hits – entering last week Robison was first with a combined 40.5 and Allen was 13th at 27.5. But, those hits are more often coming on plays where the quarterback gets rid of the ball and saves the lost yardage that comes from sacks. Allen is frustrated and defensive coordinator Alan Williams is left shaking his head.

"I don't know," Williams said when asked about Allen's comparative lack of sacks this year. "I don't have an answer for that. If I did, I'd gladly correct that. Sometimes they just come in bunches. Some years you have a boatload and some years it's just not your year. The one thing that is, if we had been closing ballgames out, or a little bit better defense in being (ahead in games), teams may have to come in passing more where he can just tee off in the pass rush. That hasn't necessarily been the case. The ballgames have been tight, so he's playing run and pass. I know that maybe in the past the ballgames were tight too, but I think we're seeing more balanced attacks than we ever have."

Robison and Allen have a friendly rivalry – to the point that Robison has come up with a signature post-sack celebration mimicking setting the hook and reeling in an imaginary fish to compete with Allen's calf-roping sack celebration. Theirs is a competition to meet at the quarterback and it has helped Robison elevate his game.

"When you have someone who raises the bar like Jared does, it forces you to do the same," Robison said. "We're both competitors and we push each other to get better. It's not a competition because any sack we get – whether it's me or Jared or Kevin (Williams) or any of the other guys – we're happy about it. But when you look at the kind of consistently big numbers Jared has put up over the years, the bottom line is that he is one of the best who has ever played the game at his position. Period."

Allen's frustration is not getting sack numbers that have been up to his career standards. A player can go two or three games without getting any and then get five or six in the next two or three games. This year, however, Allen hasn't had one of those breakout games that have been his signature over his career.

Allen has three games left to keep his career streak of double-digit sacks alive and, ironically, it would help him surpass the player (Thomas) whom he modeled himself after in terms of pass rushing early in his career while a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. The clock is ticking – both on the 2013 season and potentially Allen's career with the Vikings. He has the fire to get the three sacks he needs to continue the streak because, if he doesn't, he won't view his 2013 season as living up to his personal lofty standards.

"Double digits (in sacks) mean the world to me," Allen said. "I think 10 is kind of what I put my minimum at – what you need to get. If you have 10, you can say you had a good season. I like to view myself as a 10-sack-a-year guy. I've got three games to get three, so I've got to go out and do what I can do."

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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