MINNEAPOLIS With each calf-roping celebration on Sunday, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen drew closer and closer to Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.
Allen had the chance to perform his now-trademark sack celebration four times during Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. He entered the game four sacks shy of Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks set in 2001.
There was just one problem for Allen. The first time he roped an imaginary calf on Sunday was after a shared sack with linebacker Erin Henderson.
"At first I was pissed because sacks are hard to come by," Henderson said of sharing the sack. "But then I realized it was Jared and I was like, 'Alright, I'll share it.' Kudos to Jared."
After 16 weeks, one shared sack kept Allen from reaching Strahan's record. Allen finished with 22 sacks this season, becoming just the third player in NFL history to reach the mark. Allen wanted the record and did feel a tinge of disappointment at coming up short.
"It's like being runner-up at the prom," Allen said. "The crown just doesn't mean as much. It's an honor and a privilege to have the Vikings' single-season record, to be in the same breath as Chris Doleman and Alan Page and those guys. This organization has a history of dominant defensive linemen. To be at the top of that is a true honor."
With Doleman in attendance Sunday, Allen broke Doleman's team record of 21 set in 1989. Allen is just the eighth player in NFL history to have at least 20 sacks in a season and the first since DeMarcus Ware had 20 in 2008.
After Allen came up short this season, Strahan doesn't necessarily believe his record is safe.
"Of all the guys chasing my record, Jared Allen is one of those players I really respect," Strahan said. "He's relentless on every play, run or pass, and that's why I like watching him play. He had an incredible season and sometimes that's hard when your team isn't having a lot of success.
"Hey, records are made to be broken. I believe that. His career is far from over and he will have more chances, I think, to go after it."
Allen, Minnesota's lone Pro Bowl selection after a disappointing 3-13 season, felt the record was within reach. After combining with Henderson to drop Chicago quarterback Josh McCown near the end of the first quarter, Allen started picking up momentum.
Going against Bears' left tackle J'Marcus Webb, Allen's intensity seemed to grow with each sack and he notched No. 22 with 5:27 left to play in the third quarter. After breaking Doleman's mark, Allen high-stepped toward the sideline before doing his post-sack calf roping.
"I talked to Doleman and I told him when I tied it, 'What an honor and pleasure it was just to have my name next to yours,'" Allen said. "And he told me, 'I'm happy for you. Now go out and break it.' So I was just amped, just to be a half a sack away. We were in the third quarter. I had the whole fourth quarter. Then momentum shifted a little bit."
Specifically, the Bears' protection schemes shifted.
Chicago double- and triple-teamed Allen for much of the rest of the game and with the lead, kept Allen at bay with the running game.
"We were like, 'This is going to happen,'" linebacker Chad Greenway said. "I'm not even the guy getting the record but you're thinking, 'This is amazing.' You wish McCown would have pulled a Brett Favre and tripped in front of him and rolled around."
Because of Favre, Allen's former teammate, the merits of Strahan's record sack has been debated.
Strahan's infamous sack came against Favre in the final game of the 2001 season. Favre ran a naked bootleg and turned into a rushing Strahan before falling down and letting Strahan fall on him to break Mark Gastineau's previous record of 22.
It was the only sack of Favre that day.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Allen said about Strahan's record sack. "People talk about it, but a sack is a sack is a sack. I have gotten some where I was the closest to a guy when he ran out of bounds, so I will take it."
Just as Strahan did during his record year, Allen went without a sack in just three games this season. The 3.5 sacks he posted Sunday was his season-high.
"He was in that zone," Henderson said. "He saw what he was working towards. He was on a mission and he had his mind made up."
Now Allen is hoping to just keep the league lead.
Philadelphia's Jason Babin and Ware each entered Sunday with 18 sacks. Babin went without a sack earlier and Ware's Dallas Cowboys team played Sunday evening against the New York Giants.
Allen made one last plea.
"I'm hoping that with DeMarcus Ware, my man David Diehl (New York's left tackle), 'I need you to lock it down tonight, OK?' I'm trying to keep the lead. It's just humbling, I think, when I look back on my eight years. This is absolutely crazy."