JARED ALLEN VS. DUANE BROWN
When football fans think of bad blood between teams, it usually pertains to a rivalry like the Vikings-Packers, Giants-Cowboys or Steelers-Ravens. You don't hear about rivalries that often between teams from different conferences, but that is exactly what the Houston Texans have for the Vikings, making the battle between defensive end Jared Allen and Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown the matchup to watch this week.
The Vikings played the Texans Nov. 2 last year and in the game Allen dove after being forced to the ground by Brown, a rookie left tackle that started all 16 games. On the play, Allen hit quarterback Matt Schaub in the knee and knocked the QB out of the game. The Texans, who entered the meeting with the Vikings on a three-game winning streak, lost their next three games and took themselves out of playoff consideration.
Following the game, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak called Allen a "dirty player" and insinuated that two low hits on Schaub were intended to injure him. The NFL apparently agreed, at least somewhat, with that conclusion. Although he wasn't suspended, Allen was fined $50,000 by the league for the hits on Schaub.
Allen vehemently protested his innocence and said he isn't a dirty player, but the lingering sentiments about the injury are still vivid in the minds of the Texans. It will be Brown's job to keep Allen off of Schaub and their battle in the trenches will be one to keep an eye on Monday.
Brown struggled as a rookie, allowing 11½ sacks in a rotation system with Ephraim Salaam, who is no longer with the team. He has the measurables of a top offensive lineman, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 330 pounds, but he struggled against speed rushers like Allen and Dwight Freeney last year. Allen is expected to make his job of protecting Schaub's blind side extremely difficult.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Monday's game may hinge on a couple of factors. Will the Texans look for a piece of revenge against Allen and try to take a cheap shot at him? Will the Houston defense take a low shot on Vikings QB Brett Favre if they get the chance? They are both possibilities.
"I was cool with him already. Hopefully they don't try nothing cheap down there," Allen said last week when asked about the incident.
Allen said last year that he spoke to Schaub following the game and that there were no hard feelings on his part. Allen defended the hits and said they're simply part of football. But so is retaliation. To think it doesn't happen in naïve and to think the Texans have simply forgotten about the incident isn't likely. Allen may be a marked man Monday night. If Brown can't stop him, look for him to get help from a tight end or a running back providing a chip on Allen. Whether he likes or not, Allen will probably be a marked man Monday night, making his battle with Brown this week's matchup to watch.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this hot topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Key matchup: Allen vs. Brown
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