Reaction to the Action

The Vikings defensive line played aggressive Saturday against New Orleans, but they also played with discipline. That could mean great things for the future.

Winning is a habit, and a good habit to have. But there are other great habits that individual players can form that are either self-taught or taught by their coaches. A lineman can work on his football stance all offseason, lining up and exploding out of it thousands of times to create a situation that when he gets tired during a game, he will revert back to his habits, and you hope they are good habits.

Maintaining a positive attitude during the severe circumstances of Korey Stringer's death, staying focused to grow from a negative and learning to reverse bad situations into positive experiences can all be necessary habits to form during the course of a season or a career. Easy to say, but not easy to execute, as we all know. But when conquered, everyone around you wins, even those in heaven.

Relating all these habit-forming practices to just defensive line play, let's start with the final stats from the Vikings' 28-21 victory Saturday over the New Orleans Saints. The Saints gave up the world to get running back Ricky Williams two years ago, and this year traded up to draft Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister as their No. 1 draft choice. Saturday, this dynamic duo combined for 10 carries for minus-4 yards or, as we can all figure out, a minus-0.4 yards per carry. The stats also show seven quarterback sacks, five tackles-for-loss and one interception.

Well, what's up? Ten years ago there was a new sheriff in town named Dennis Green, and now there is a new defensive line coach named Brian Baker, who has a new habit for the defensive linemen to learn — read and shrink. The linemen must react to what they see in front of them, in other words, the blocking scheme of the opponent's offensive line. They can't just think pass rush and fly upfield, leaving huge holes to fill, but rather they must learn to shrink the holes between the tackles. Having accomplished this, the running backs will sometimes have to bounce outside since the tackle-to-tackle area is so jammed. When that happens, you allow the linebackers and corners, even your strong safeties, to make big plays, which could result in a tackle-for-loss, which is just as good as a sack. This type of reading on the run becomes habit and is worked on day in and day out at practice, to a point where it could even create boredom in camp. As I stated, when tired, a lineman will revert to his habits — so why not have good ones?

Now, once the defensive linemen have conquered this, offenses might just look for more play-action passes, where the quarterback fakes the run to slow down the pass rush. This creates a different situation, but, as we all know, it is not an easy game. So let Baker figure that out. I'm just tickled pink the way this defensive line played against the Saints and the way the players' coach, Dennis Green, handled the worst adversity that could possibly have hit a football team. VU

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