EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The Minnesota Vikings were on the wrong end of a blowout against New Orleans, and Jared Allen was on the sideline during the Saints’ final possession.
That’s not an unusual move to protect the health of a star player in the fourth quarter with the outcome long decided near the end of a lost season, particularly after he was chop-blocked during the previous series that drew a penalty.
But Allen said after the game he was upset he wasn’t on the field, an example of the competitive fire that has paid off in the form of 17 1/2 sacks this year.
“What are we resting me for? The playoffs? Come on,” Allen said. “That’s not my decision. I guess they want the young guys to play. I don’t know,” Allen said after a 42-20 defeat on Sunday that dropped the Vikings to 2-12.
Allen’s pursuit of the NFL single-season sack record has added a touch of intrigue to the last two games, with the only other drama the desire to avoid the worst record in franchise history, set at 3-13 in 1984. Players have discussed that often this month.
“I don’t want to come off the field. I feel like if we’re trying to win games let’s put the best players on the field,” Allen said, continuing his complaint about the late rest against the Saints.
Allen was shut out by a stingy New Orleans offensive line and the sly steps of quarterback Drew Brees, who deftly used his pocket to carve up the Vikings for 412 yards passing. So Allen needs five sacks in the last two games to match former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who had 22 1/2 sacks in 2001.
The Vikings play at Washington on Saturday and host Chicago on Jan. 1. As of Monday, the Redskins and Bears were 20th and 28th in the league, respectively, in sacks allowed per pass play.
So there ought to be plenty of opportunities for the 29-year-old defensive end, whose relentless performance is a bright spot in a second straight dark season.
“We’re looking for any kind of positive around here,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams reminded Allen last week about the record.
“I said, ‘Let me be the first one if nobody else has already brought it up. You’ve got a chance to do something in history that would be real remarkable and be on the plus side for this season,’ ” Williams said. “So I wished him luck, and hopefully he can do it.”
Allen has 100 1/2 sacks since he entered the NFL in 2004, the most of any player in that span.
“That’s been awesome watching him play this year. He came back really focused and wanting to improve off of last year,” Williams said.
Allen had a down season by his standards in 2010, recording only one sack in the first seven games and finishing with 11.