Hartman: Every game feels like a playoff game

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 4:50 PM

Minnesota faces a must-win situation once again.


Jared Allen

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press

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Jared Allen, the Vikings' defensive leader, knows how important beating the Rams is if the Vikings are going to make the NFL playoffs.

"We'll see what happens this Sunday. We have to go out there and put back-to-back games together," he said.

"We have to continue to play good. The Rams are hot, they're on a three-game win streak right now. We have to go to St. Louis, which can be a tough place to play, and we have to shut it down. We just have to be consistent. If we can be consistent, we'll see what happens."

Allen hopes the Vikings can play as well against the Rams as they did against the Bears -- he was particularly pleased with the defensive effort in that big victory.

"I think just the way we stayed on top of them," he said. "We never really got into a situation where we were reeling. Consistency, the turnovers were phenomenal, and taking those turnovers and scoring or putting our offense in a scoring position. You could feel that and you could feel the focus and the energy of the guys. I think we got to carry this over. Each week rests on its own merit and this is the playoffs for us, so we have to keep winning."

Allen has a lot of respect for the Rams.

"They just came off a good win with the Niners and went and won in Buffalo. It's going to be another physical, hard fought game."

Allen is 30 years old, and this is his ninth season in the NFL and his fifth with the Vikings, but he still goes about preparing the same way for an opponent as he did when he was a rookie

"I still break my film down the same way," Allen said. "I still each day try to work on what that is and get my own personal game plan set and try and practice that, get what I need as far as block recognitions and the flow of what they're going to do. You try to go out there and make plays and put yourself in a position to make plays.

"As you get older you have to learn how to use practice time and use this time for your benefit. It's good to have routines.

"Each day, it's like Groundhog Day. Each Wednesday is the same with a different name on the board, same process; each Thursday is the same; Friday, Saturday and so on, you just have to get into a routine and get what you need to get."

Allen is one guy who practices and plays with pain, and this year is no different as he's battling back and shoulder problems. Those injuries have slowed him down some and contributed to the fact that he's got just nine sacks this year, down from his record-setting 22 of last season.

Kingsbury a winner

Kliff Kingsbury, the new head football coach at Texas Tech -- the Gophers' opponent in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 28 -- got his coaching start under former Gophers assistant Kevin Sumlin at Houston. He also worked with Tony Levine, another former Gopher, who is now the Houston coach.

Kingsbury started coaching in 2008 as an offensive assistant before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2010. He helped the team win two Conference USA championships. This season Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Sumlin at Texas A&M, helping quarterback Johnny Manziel become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

Minnesotans lead Notre Dame

Edina native Anders Lee is playing hockey at Notre Dame and was recently named the CCHA Player of the Month after scoring seven goals and tallying nine points.

The other good news out of South Bend, Ind., is that Mario Lucia, son of Gophers head coach Don Lucia, is back playing after rehabbing a broken leg. He has five goals and eight points and Notre Dame is 7-1 since he joined the lineup. Lucia was recently named the CCHA Rookie of the Week.

Lucia is also on the preliminary U.S. roster for the World Junior Championships in Russia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Unless he is too tired from that grueling tournament, he will get a chance to play against his dad Jan. 8 when the Fighting Irish visit Mariucci Arena.

Target Field updates nearly complete

Construction on the revised right-field seating area at Target Field is nearly completed. The project will result in the net loss of 478 seats. ... Also, Jim Rantz, the longtime Twins director of minor leagues, was presented with the club's first "Tradition Award" ever during the team's annual holiday party at Target Field.

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