Bob Lurtsema's Reaction to the Action

Dennis Green and the Vikings have the toughest schedule in the NFL this season, but that could keep the team focused, like sure tackling and a winning habit carried them to a perfect preseason.

The only undefeated team in the 2001 NFL preseason was the Minnesota Vikings. The last two times coach Dennis Green's teams went undefeated in the preseason were in 1992 and 1998 — and the Vikings were the NFC Central Division champions those years. The last undefeated preseason with coach Bud Grant was in 1973 — and we ended up going to Super Bowl VIII.

You've read this many times in my Reaction to the Action, but you know I truly believe that winning is a habit. Another cliché I write, which draws an unbelievable amount of confusion, is that coaches do miss tackles, but this year the missed tackles seem to be missing as well. Coaches missing tackles is a fun topic, but sure tackling and the winning habit are two key ingredients on championship teams. Yes, you read it right, championship teams.

Now, a third little ingredient has been added this year, the Vikings' schedule, supposedly the toughest in the National Football League. The Vikings seem to have the toughest part of their schedule near the middle of the season and then later in the season, but good athletes couldn't care less. Injuries have a bigger impact on wins and losses than what the average person considers a tough schedule. Players love good competition and love playing against the best. And Randy Moss will back me on that one.

Believe me, when you play an 0-10 team, two things always seem to happen. One is sloppy play, because as an athlete it can be tough to get up for games against teams of low caliber. Secondly, there is a greater chance for injuries. When going full tilt and totally focused, a player's chance for injury is reduced. Also, getting your butt kicked by an average or below average football player is worse than getting it handed to you by a good player. Why? When the star football player beats you up during a game, good athletes learn from that experience and improve their performance the next time. But when an average player beats you, there is a tendency to make excuses for your play and not learn what you did wrong and how you can improve on the mistakes. It can become a potential rut of built-in excuses where you self-justify why you got beat instead of correcting the real problem — you. It sounds crazy to some, but when you've lived it like I have, the end results can suddenly become predictable with current players. That's why a hard schedule can sometimes be a good thing. It's keeps the team focused.

And speaking of predictions, how about a 10-6 or 11-5 year, as this club has a great offense, super special teams and a defense on the climb (with no coaches missing tackles). Not only that, in this preseason the Vikings were the only team to score 100 or more points and the defense actually finished in the top 10. The team does have some rookies in key positions, but the veterans have taken a liking to each and every one of them and this veteran leadership can keep these rookies focused on this most unusual and exciting career of being an NFL player.

I know you probably don't believe a thing I just wrote, but the mental ups and down during an NFL season are predictable. So take the camaraderie of this group of players and add a good coaching staff and the end result just might be what no other team accomplished — an undefeated preseason. VU

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