Vikings look to get at ManningFor Jared Allen, a player who’s made his name and his money by bringing down quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, sacking Peyton Manning is one of those ultimate rewards.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For Jared Allen, a player who’s made his name and his money by bringing down quarterbacks behind the line of scrimmage, sacking Peyton Manning is one of those ultimate rewards.
The goal has been so elusive for Allen, as with many other pass rushers in the NFL, that it’s become almost mythical by nature.
“He said that’s his unicorn,” fellow Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards said this week. “He hasn’t gotten to him yet. I guess it is his pocket savvy. You’ve just got to keep rushing and hope you can get there.”
One of the not-so-secrets behind Manning’s remarkable success since the Indianapolis Colts made him the first pick in the 1998 draft is an ability to quickly get rid of the ball to his dangerous receivers. In 106 of 161 career regular-season games, Manning has been sacked once or not at all.
The Colts are 79-27 when that happens and 26-29 when it doesn’t, including last week’s home loss to Chicago.
“I’ve hit the heck out of him, but just haven’t sacked him yet. I always look forward to playing against Peyton. You want to compete against the best, and he’s the best there is,” said Allen, who totaled 43 sacks in four years with Kansas City before coming to Minnesota this spring.
He’s played Indianapolis three times, getting eight tackles in a playoff game after the 2006 season and putting together six tackles and four passes defensed last year.
Sacking Manning is, of course, no small feat.
According to Stats, Inc., he’s been sacked on 3.4 percent of his passing plays over 10-plus seasons. That’s the lowest percentage among all active quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts. Though historical comparisons are difficult because sacks haven’t always been an official statistic, Manning is up there with Dan Marino as one of the toughest to take down of all time.
“It can get frustrating, but you’ve got to create opportunity,” Allen said. “You’ve got to bat balls down, make tackles when you can, and when the DBs make him hold the ball for a long time you’ve got to make him pay for it.”
The Vikings’ proud defense was humbled last week in a loss at Green Bay, which broke in new quarterback Aaron Rodgers without much of a hitch. Allen didn’t muster even one tackle, while the Packers ran plenty of plays to the other side and Pro Bowl tackle Chad Clifton neutralized him when he had to.
Giving up a 56-yard pass by Rodgers to Greg Jennings and a 57-yard run to Ryan Grant was also a source of sting for Minnesota, which will try to emulate the success the Bears had against Manning and the Colts’ mighty offense in a dud of a debut at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It’s a challenge for all of us because of who we’re facing,” safety Darren Sharper said. “They’re coming off a loss, and we know they’re going to come in here swinging. We have to be prepared.”
Indianapolis has not started a season 0-2 since Manning was a rookie.
“The key is how we respond to it. Sixteen teams are 0-1 right now,” Manning said. “Hopefully we can be one of the ones that handles it the right way. There are obviously some things we need to improve on.
“Offensively, we have to find a way to score some more points. Thirteen points certainly is not enough.”
The Vikings need more consistency from their offense, too, after Tarvaris Jackson passed for only 16 yards in the first half at Green Bay. A late comeback was thwarted by an interception in the final seconds of the 24-19 loss.
Running the ball wasn’t a problem, predictably, as Adrian Peterson totaled 103 yards on 19 carries. The Colts let Bears rookie Matt Forte break loose and surrendered 183 yards rushing in that 29-13 defeat.
“He had one run for like a 60-yard run,” defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “What that means is it could be one guy that did the wrong thing. It wasn’t one of those games — if you watched — that was every play, 5 yards here, 10 yards there. It was one run.”
Pressuring Jackson, still one of the league’s most raw quarterbacks, hasn’t been the priority yet for opponents. That, clearly, is stopping Peterson and forcing Jackson to move Minnesota by throwing and scrambling.
Results, so far, have been mixed at best, but Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy offered a glowing critique.
“He’s a tough guy to defend. I think he’s going to be very, very good,” Dungy said. “I think he’s throwing the ball much better this year than he did on last year’s tapes. It’s impressive. It is.”
Nothing about the Vikings or the Colts has been truly impressive yet in 2008. They’ll be eager to change that on Sunday.
“I think that everybody kind of realizes we have to buckle down,” Minnesota linebacker Ben Leber said. “We really wanted to come out of Green Bay with a win and that didn’t happen. Looking at the tape, we obviously have some things that we need to clean up and fix, so I think there is kind of a sense of urgency. We definitely want to get a win and get a roll going.”