Lurtsema's Reaction: Bad Timing, Good QBs

Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper each put on impressive performances in front of a national television audience Monday night, but the Vikings showed weaknesses with some mental errors.

The game just witnessed on "Monday Night Football" could possibly be a preview of the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville, as I picked Indianapolis to win its conference. Anybody who enjoys football could not have asked for a better quarterback showing than the ones turned in by the two best QBs in the NFL. Daunte Culpepper came up with a 121.3 rating while Peyton Manning finished at 144.8. I have been justly praising Culpepper all year, and, being a big Peyton Manning fan, I must say he had the slight edge Monday night.

Believe it or not, the Vikings defense actually improved — on two of the touchdowns they had great coverage, but on those two scoring plays the timing and speed of those passes from Manning were absolutely fantastic. The defense did improve for the third straight week, and the special teams put forth their best effort of this 2004 season. With the mistakes the Vikings made in Indianapolis, not having Randy Moss in the lineup and still having such a great opportunity to win should give enough confidence to lead to an easy victory over the Packers next week.

There were mistakes, however, that will be analyzed. The Vikings did break containment on a critical passing situation and allowed one of the slowest quarterbacks in the NFL to scramble for 15 yards on the final drive for the winning field goal. But had the defense played this well against 90 percent of the other teams, it would have been a slam-dunk win.

I still get concerned about clock management. If the Vikings had another timeout with nine seconds left in the first half, they could have had more plays and more options in their final drive of the half. At the beginning of the game, the Vikings had a wasted timeout because of confusion on defense, and they actually had 12 men on the field on consecutive plays (although the flag was only thrown once). People want to blame the coaches, but since these were both defensive linemen, the fans should blame them. As professionals, when they are coming off the field (and especially against the Colts) they should always look over their shoulders to see how far along the offensive team is in their upcoming play and show more urgency in getting off the field if needed. There are no excuses there.

That mistake is on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side, just before the end of the second quarter, once the Vikings made the 5-yard line for a first down they should have immediately taken a timeout. That would have given them one more shot at the end zone for a potential touchdown rather than settling for the guaranteed three points they got, as they let the clock run down to two seconds.

The use of timeouts is most important, and it's not just on the Vikings' side that they are mishandled. Tony Dungy's crew called a dumb, premature timeout, stopping the clock with six seconds to go before the winning field goal was kicked. By not waiting for the clock to wind down to three seconds, the Vikings had a chance to run the kickoff back. It's obviously a longshot, but at least it's a shot.

All in all, the Vikings played awfully hard. When a team does that, it's really hard to criticize anything, as there are always major mistakes on both sides of the ball. Even with the mistakes, it was a fun game to watch and very winnable.

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