Reaction to the Action

While not all Vikings players seem to be in the necessary shape, it was the Lions who made the crucial mental mistakes as the clock ticked down in the final minute of the game.

It truly amazes me the number of professional athletes that cannot stay focused during an NFL game. Mental toughness is more important in many situations than physical toughness, and there have been bundles of players released from their teams when the coach becomes aware of the predictable stupidity.

Players will get tired during an NFL contest, that's a given, but they are tiring more quickly now than the players of the past. I'm not sure if it is the size of the linemen now or poor training habits. I do know, however, that a few years back when the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl they had the smallest offensive and defensive lines in the league. I'm not as sure about the receivers, but it seems like they should be able to run like deer all day long since blocking exerts a lot more energy than running. Linemen have lost in excess of 25 pounds during one NFL game.

Now, mental toughness is different but very controlable. Mental mistakes are minimized with discipline and awareness, and in both the offensive and defensive huddles the Vikings of old would communicate with each other about the down, situation and at times make reference to the time remaining in the game. I'm glad the Detroit Lions didn't function like this Sunday, or the Vikings might have lost this crucial Central Division game. And I was also happy to see rookie coach Marty Mornhinweg not go for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 4:02 to go in the first quarter when trailing 7-0, a big potential four-point swing, while Dennis Green elected to go for fourth-and-1 less than two minutes later on the Detroit 44. Green believes in his players, and obviously at 0-3 Mornhinweg hasn't achieved that confidence in his players yet. These calls send big messages to the players.

An example of not having this mental toughness or awareness came in the fourth quarter, with 30 seconds to go and the Lions trailing by five points (not one point, which could have been the case, thus needing a field goal instead of a touchdown). Charlie Batch completed passes to seven-year veteran David Sloan and four-year veteran Germane Crowell. Neither of them had the awareness to get out of bounds and stop the clock. In situations like this, the rule is to just get the yardage and get out of bounds. It was stupid football by veteran players, but maybe that is why the Detroit Lions are now 0-4. For three hours on any given Sunday a player can always get beat up physically, and Lord knows it happened to me enough, but there is never an excuse to get beat mentally. Thank you, Detroit. VU

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