Lurtsema's Reaction: Week 7

As a long-time opponent of the three-man line, what does former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema think of the new-look 3-4 defense now? Find out his reaction to that, the play of the offensive line, the second-half turnaround against Green Bay and his thoughts on his former boss with the New York Giants, Wellington Mara.

VU: In the past, you've said you don't like the three-man line. I'm curious to get your reaction on the 3-4 now after two games of using it as the primary defense.

Growing up not falling in love with the three-man line, sometimes they refer to it as the prevent defense, and on many occasions I thought it prevented you from winning. The nice thing about the three-man line is that it makes the opposing team have to prepare for two different sets. As an offensive team, if you don't see that set week in and week out, it can cause some confusion. I know in the past the Vikings haven't played that well against the three-man line because they don't see it that often. Of the 16 games, they might see 15 games with the four-man front and just one game with a three-man front. If I like anything about it, it would be the mix that you're going to have to make the opposing team prepare differently and the use of the linebackers with their speed to make some plays. They've got Kevin Williams and Pat Williams at defensive tackle, I still kind of like the four-man set. I think it's a lot stronger than what they have, but injuries of course forced Ted Cottrell to make the switch. With the results that they've had with it, it's hard to argue that it hasn't been successful, although if you look at a good quarterback facing a 3-4, a good quarterback will eat you alive.

VU: What about Pat Williams? It seems like since they made the switch to the 3-4 he's been so much more effective.

Whether it's the three-man line or the four-man line, Pat Williams has taken over as the team leader. I love his attitude in the locker room, the way he carries himself on the practice field, and I think he's comfortable with the three-man line because he's played it before. But more importantly, I think he's more comfortable with the personnel around him, and that's the biggest growing step that all the newcomers on the defense have. And it's amazing what effort will get you. They all have the talent, and when they put forth the effort it's amazing how much better they can be.

VU: What about the offensive line? With two games now with Melvin Fowler at center and Adam Goldberg at guard, do you think that's the combination to stick with now?

That's really a tough call because what I said previously about the defense is applying to the offense now. Not playing with each other, even with the snaps – on that one fumble I know it was a kicking ball that was in there by mistakes because it was a fourth-down play and kicking balls are more slippery – but it's just a comfort zone. You've got to settle in eventually and make a commitment. If this is what they're going to go with, it's going to be nothing but positives because, as with the defense, as the season goes on they're going to be more and more comfortable with the people around them and they'll be playing their best football toward the end of the season. If they make it to the playoffs, they're really going to be in great position. I watch the line and the blocking assignments, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of mental mistakes down there with them. That's the most important thing.

VU: Do you have any concerns about Fowler's snaps in the shotgun? They seem pretty weak.

When they're in the shotgun, it's interesting how they zing back there and then every so often you might get the floater. He'll work on it and become comfortable with it. I noticed the other day in practice they were working on it, working with the snap. It's nothing he can't make an adjustment for, but anytime you change things in your scheme there is a time factor. You don't just jump in and be successful. It does take time. Unfortunately, when you start 1-4, I know they're 2-4 now, you really haven't got a lot of time. Time is going to run out on you. You always hope in preseason you get enough snaps with those people together. That's what preseason is for. I believe in preseason – I think they should play the regulars more, work them into shape and get everything resolved into the season. Too many teams come out bone flat in the first couple games of the season and not really in football shape. These players that come in out of shape and overweight, my gosh, they've got five or six months to watch their weight and get in some type of condition.

VU: What did you see as the biggest differences between the first half and second half against the Packers?

The turnovers really put you in bad shape, but the way they came out with their body language, especially the offensive line, they got back a little swagger. They weren't going to let one or two plays set them backwards again. There is a type of cancer that can take over a team when you lose a lot, when you make a mistake you go, ‘Which way are we going to lose this game? Are we going to find a different way to lose?' I thought they really came out there with that swagger. If they had a bad play, it wasn't a big deal, they were going to move on. Don't dwell on it; move on. I really think they made a big step as far as confidence goes in that second half.

VU: At halftime, did you think they had any sort of shot?

At halftime, they're down 17-0, they're 1-4, everybody is mad at everybody, from the off-field issues and whatever. Did I think they were going to win? Not a chance. My chin was dragging on the floor as I was walking. No way did I think they were going to come back to win. That's what makes it so beautiful, and maybe they'll start believing in what Mike Tice is telling them. I love Mike to death, and the players have got to understand at some time, hey, wake up, this guy knows what he's talking about. Let's get behind him. Let's not do your own thing as an individual.

VU: Going back to last week, did you see similarities in the way things were going and the Les Steckel year?

I didn't see it going the Les Steckel way because players absolutely hated Les Steckel and did not believe in anything he presented to them. He totally had the respect of nobody on the team. Not even close because there is an entirely different approach. They found out he lied to them about his Marine background, and once a player find out you're lying to him, forget it.

VU: Finally, I know you've got a lot of respect for former Giants owner Wellington Mara. Talk about what you liked about playing for him and his strengths as an owner.

Wellington Mara gave me my chance to play in the National Football League. It was kind of cute when he traded for me with the Colts, I didn't know who he was when I walked in there and I had a Colts t-shirt they had given me for Thanksgiving or Christmas and wore that. He looked at it and I was like a little kid and said, ‘Yeah, they gave it to me for nothing.' It was given to me by the Colts owner, so I was all excited about it. He had a rather unique smirk on his face and he said, ‘My name is Wellington Mara and I'm the owner of the Giants.' I thought, ‘Oh (bleep), here we go.' He really ran the club as if it was his family. The Catholic priest was always around. Everything was done based on family morals. Even back then we had to wear a sportcoat and tie when we went out to do a banquet, although Freddie Dryer went out with a sportcoat and tie because that's what Wellington said, but he didn't wear a shirt. Of course, he was traded for who knows what reason to the Rams. Wellington took care of discipline problems in his own little way. He gave me another great thrill when the Vikings lost 41-0 (in the 2001 NFC Championship game). It's 41-0 in New York and he was down in the tunnel going out to receive his trophy for being NFC Champion. I was down in that tunnel too and he saw me. He came over to me, talked to me, shook my hand and wished me well. For him to take time out of his life at that particular moment, it sure made me feel awful good. When I left there it was 1971, so that was 30 years.

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