Lurtsema's Reaction: Missed Reads

In a 48-17 blowout, there are many plays that can be blamed for contributing to the loss. However, it was the not-so-obvious mistakes on defense that I think hurt the most.

What a blowout! Yes, it was, but it didn't necessarily have to be that way. Look at it this way: On the Vikings' first punt with 13:21 to go in the first quarter, the punt was blocked and recovered by St. Louis on the 18-yard line. Then, on the Rams' first offensive play of the game, Marshall Faulk took seven seconds to run it in for an 18-yard touchdown. Later, in the third quarter, with 7:29 to go and trailing 20-17, the Vikings decided to try a fake field goal from the 25-yard line. It was definitely the right call, as they were not going to beat a speed team like the St. Louis Rams by kicking field goals. The right call, yes, but it produced bad results when the intended receiver, Charles Stackhouse, tripped over an opposing defensive player and was unable to catch Gus Frerotte's underhand pass. Those were two special teams mistakes, so let's blame the special teams for this lose.

Not so. How about blaming the offense? They were trailing by 17 points with 12:20 to go in the fourth quarter with a fourth-and-3 on the St. Louis 5-yard line, and rather than taking the field goal the Vikings decided to go for the first down. Good call, bad results again. This time Daunte Culpepper fumbled and Aeneas Williams picked up the ball and ran 90 yards for a touchdown.

I have just mentioned three major plays that contributed to this blowout. But wait, I'm not done yet, as I think three mental mistakes made by the Vikings defense were bigger contributors, as they each kept St. Louis scoring drives alive. The defense has been in position to make big plays so many times lately, yet when the situation appears they just don't seem to pull the trigger.

On three separate plays, the defense was given easy sack opportunities. But on those plays, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger got outside the pass rush, completed the passes for big gains and kept the eventual scoring drives alive. On these plays, the Vikings defense must have a player to trail the play. The technique of trailing the play is to avoid following the pursuit down the line too quickly, as the defender must be sure nothing is coming back his way. This player — defensive end, linebacker or cornerback — must be alert for reverses, end-arounds, quarterback bootlegs, etc. In looking for these plays, this player has to trail the play as deep as the deepest offensive player. Once he has read the play properly, he then has the green light to pursue the ball carrier with reckless abandon. In other words, he has to stay home first, then rock. Had the players followed this simple technique these few times, this game would not have been a blowout. I guarantee you that.

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