Vikings DE Allen enjoys a larger-than-life image
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It's impossible to avoid the larger-than-life persona of Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen in the Twin Cities.
Step off the plane, and there's Allen's purple Vikings jersey hanging on the wall at the security checkpoint. Walk past Mall of America Field, and a poster of Allen's menacing visage stares from the stadium walls.
Tune in Thursday nights and listen to his weekly radio show, or turn on the television and watch him pop on as a guest on the Vikings' weekly television program.
Jared Allen owns this town.
"That's Jared," said fellow defensive end Ray Edwards. "He's a lovable guy."
Allen added to his popularity as the Vikings reached this week's NFC championship game at New Orleans with their 34-3 pulverizing of the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.
Allen helped spark the win with his sack and strip of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo -- one of six sacks by the Vikings -- as he enjoyed the first playoff win of his NFL career.
"It took a while to get one," said Allen, who was part of playoff losses with the Chiefs at Indianapolis in 2006 and with the Vikings against Philadelphia last season. "But we finally did and got it in a big way.
"It's all perspective. This is just one. The only way to go out on a winning streak is to win the Super Bowl. So if you lose the next one, it doesn't really matter, does it?"
Allen, for the second consecutive season, finished the regular season with 14 1/2 sacks, second in the NFL. But 7 1/2 of those sacks came in two games against Green Bay, and he had just two sacks in the final five games.
Still, the Vikings led the NFL with 48 sacks for the season, and the ability to get to Romo so often was crucial in the win against the Cowboys -- and will be equally as important against New Orleans' Drew Brees this week.
"Everyone was talking about how our sack numbers were down the past four weeks," Allen said. "Well, offenses are going to do things to nullify you when you're hitting the quarterback. They're just not going to let you get three or four sacks a game."
The Vikings have seen a lot of maximum protection schemes, where teams are keeping tight ends and backs to help the offensive line, and quarterbacks have been throwing from quick, two-and-three step drops to negate the rushing of Allen and Edwards from the outside and defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams on the inside.
"When we're rushing four and they're blocking seven, you're not going to get the same numbers you were getting earlier," Allen said.
Eventually that changed in the Dallas game after the Cowboys fell behind and Romo needed to get more receivers involved in the patterns.
"In the beginning of the game, when the game wasn't out of hand, Romo wasn't holding the ball," Allen said. "He was taking a lot of quick shots to [tight end Jason] Witten ... dumping the ball off. We knew if we could just keep holding them, and stop the run, eventually he was going to have to go downfield with the ball, and we were going to get him.
"Tony's elusive in that pocket. We probably missed another three or four we could have had out there."
Allen, acquired from the Chiefs in a blockbuster trade in April 2008, has 72 career sacks since entering the NFL in 2004, which ranks first among all NFL players. He'll be making his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance this season -- if the Vikings don't reach the Super Bowl.
"The way he came in, he fit right in with us, he didn't try to come in and be that big guy on campus," Edwards said. "He just came in and tried to fit in and helped everyone take their game to the next level."
NFL sack leaders in the regular season:
Player, team No.
1. Elvis Dumervil, Broncos 17
2. Jared Allen, Vikings 14.5
3. Dwight Freeney, Colts 13.5
4. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers 13.5
First Published January 21, 2010 12:00 am