But on Dec. 6 the Cardinals blunted Allen with double teams on every play—he was coming off a two-sack, one-interception game against the Bears—and the strategy worked. Allen was shut out, Brett Favre threw two interceptions, and Arizona crushed Minnesota. When a scheme is effective in the NFL, other teams copy it. The Bengals double-teamed Allen the next week, and again he did not get a sack (though the Vikings won easily). He did get a sack and force a fumble early in the game against the Panthers the following week, but Carolina's double teams and quarterback rollouts successfully stifled him. The Panthers won with a dominant fourth quarter, and afterward Allen was furious.
"The hardest part of getting double-teamed is the frustration," says former Vikings defensive end Carl Eller, a Hall of Famer. "It's frustrating because you've got two guys hitting you on every play, and it's hard to make plays when two guys are blocking you, believe me. What impresses me so much about Jared is that he plays hard every play. He may feel frustrated, but he never gives up on the play."
Playoff football is badass. Allen could not believe the difference. In 2006 the Chiefs, through a series of final-week flukes, sneaked into the playoffs and faced the Colts. The game was not especially compelling (Kansas City did not pick up a first down until the third quarter, and Indianapolis went on to win the Super Bowl), but Allen loved the white-hot intensity of it all. He would run with the bulls in Pamplona, and he would bungee jump in New Zealand, but playoff football was the thrill, man.
"In the playoffs it's like the business part of football is just gone," he says. "It isn't about how much money you make. Everybody makes the same amount [in the postseason]. It isn't about how good your team is, because every team is good. It's just, O.K., are you going to kick my ass or am I going to kick your ass? It's a lot like the peewee football we used to play. Let's just go see who is better."
After the Colts game ended, Allen went to K.C. coach Herm Edwards and said, "Man, that was such a rush. You have to get us back to the playoffs."
But that would not happen. A few weeks later Allen served his jail time, and then the Chiefs made it clear they weren't interested in signing him long term. "A young man at risk," Peterson called him publicly. Allen was enraged and said he wanted out of Kansas City.
"I'm very big on loyalty," Allen says. In his mind he had played his heart out for the Chiefs. He was a much better player than they had expected. He didn't hold out. He didn't make public demands. His teammate Larry Johnson—who had his own issues off the field—made a lot of noise and held out and got a long-term deal (which the team would come to regret). Allen just wanted to get as far away from the Chiefs as he could. But he was a restricted free agent, and no other team made an offer. He took Kansas City's one-year deal.
Still, his determination to move on helped him refocus his life. He changed his diet. He stopped drinking. He began a mixed-martial-arts regimen. And he played with a hunger that raged on every play. Gunther Cunningham, the Chiefs' defensive coordinator at the time, often spoke of how good Allen could be if he would play hard every down. In 2007 he did that. Allen led the league in sacks despite being suspended by the NFL for the first two games as a consequence of the DUIs. The Chiefs were dreadful—they lost their last nine games of the season—but Allen refused to allow the losing or the double teams or the bad feeling surrounding him to get in the way. He had his purpose. He wanted out.
"I loved my time in Kansas City," he says. "I loved the coaches—Herm and Gunther and everyone. I loved my teammates. But it was definitely a negative atmosphere. The losing kind of infected everything and everyone. It wasn't a lot of fun to go to work."
Allen was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the '07 season and made it clear again to Peterson that he had no interest in returning to Kansas City. For a while the G.M. tried to avoid the inevitable—he slapped the franchise tag on Allen—but three days before the 2008 draft the Chiefs traded Allen to the Vikings for a first-round pick and two third-round picks. The following fall the Chiefs had a total of 10 sacks, an NFL record for futility. Allen had 14½ for Minnesota, went back to the Pro Bowl and was a big factor in the Vikings' reaching the playoffs, for only the second time since 2001. This season he again had 14½ sacks. He made his third straight Pro Bowl and is a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.