Lurtsema's Reaction: Fatigue, Mental Miscues

The Vikings looked tired in Saturday's game against the Chiefs, an indication that they haven't gotten into the flow of camp and games quite yet. But one of the other concerns has to do with an evolving trend on the sidelines.

Tired. The Minnesota Vikings played that way against the Kansas City Chiefs after breaking camp in Mankato on Thursday and then flying to Kansas City on Friday for their second exhibition game with a mild 100-degree temperature at Arrowhead Stadium. This was the Chiefs' third preseason game and they seemed to have their legs back, as each NFL team and player regains top physical form at different times in the preseason.

Hot weather, longer practice sessions, more two-a-days, extra hitting, longer meetings, etc. all have a profound impact as to when a team reaches its mental and physical conditioning target. It's easy to tell when a team isn't physically ready this early in the season — it becomes obvious on defense by the way they miss tackles and on offense by failing to really deliver the punch and second effort. This Vikings team is much better than they showed Saturday, and I guarantee that you won't see the same tired execution performed this poorly against Oakland.

I've been hard on the Vikings the last 11 years when discussing clock management, but with such parity in the league now, one costly fumble or one mental mistake definitely will cost teams a game or two during the season. Certain quick decisions made on the field — even in the first half — greatly affect how teams might play the last five or six minutes of the ballgame. It was like that Saturday when the Vikings used their first time out on fourth-and-10 with 1:13 to go in the first half with the ball on the Kansas City 30-yard line. The reason for the time out was obvious. In preseason, they are deciding if they should go for the first down or attempt a 48-yard field goal. But in this case, by calling the time out so quickly, it enabled Kansas City to have enough time after the Vikings made the field goal to come down and score three points (with 18 seconds to go in the half, the Chiefs were still out of field goal range).

In my usual awkward manner, here is my point: When the Vikings scored with 4:18 left in the fourth quarter, they went for the two-point conversion to try to get within eight points, 26-18 if successful. If that time out was not used so quickly at the end of the second quarter, the Vikings could have gone for the extra point after Nate Burleson's fourth-quarter touchdown, and that would have made the score 23-17 (without the Chiefs' field goal as time expired in the first half).

With a chance to actually win a game, players might not look so tired, and all the factors surrounding a long training camp would have turned from excuses after a loss to points of pride after a win. The winning margin is that small in the NFL.

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