Lurtsema's Reaction: OL, Defensive Breakdowns

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema gives credit to the Patriots for their game plan on Monday night and analyzes the struggles on the offensive line.

VU: What do you think happened against the Patriots? Why such a big blowout, and were you surprised by it?

I was surprised with it. I thought the Patriots might win the ballgame, but I was surprised by the score. You have to give Bill Belichick so much credit. He carved up that defense. Everybody is saying, ‘Well, we missed this or we did that, and Tom Brady was hot.' Well, sometimes your defense gives the player an opportunity to be so successful on a given Sunday. I just give all the credit to Belichick, not only for that but the players he had—he lost two of his offensive linemen and had to start Billy Yates, who was on the practice squad and moved up—that tells you what you can do with smart football players. Childress is kind of going in that direction as well. Belichick can change up a game plan week in and week out, and his players make the adjustments. Players can say what they want, but they created that situation in this particular game. I can't give Belichick enough credit.

VU: The Vikings say they tried a lot of different things defensively. Was there anything else you saw they could have done defensively?

It's a tough question. Usually, I have all the answers as a Monday morning quarterback. But I think when an opposing team is addressing a weakness, if they go after a Ronyell Whitaker or a linebacker in a certain coverage, if they're hitting it pretty good, you're going to have to change, whether the guy is a regular or backup, and pull him out of there. Give them a different look or give them different personnel—someone they haven't seen on tape. The regulars all have weaknesses. If they attack your weakness, do you have a player that can come in there and his strength is the weakness of the starter? If you can make that adjustment right there and flip back and forth, that might be one way to approach it. You know they're not going to run against you, so do you have a nickel or dime and a three-man rush you can use? They told you they weren't going to run when they rushed once in the first quarter and only six times in the entire first half. A lot of times they say that the run sets up the pass or the pass sets up the run, but why attack the Vikings' front four? Why? If I'm going against a team and they're ranked No. 1 against the run and you know they have one weakness, attack that weakness. Don't go 80 percent of the time attacking their strength.

VU: The big question this week is if anybody will be able to duplicate that, or is Brady just so good with it that others won't have the success that Brady had?

They're living with blinders on if they think others won't attack them that way. Every coach is going to look at that film. The next nine games that the Vikings have, every coach is going to go to this film and look at what they were attacking and how they attacked it because they had success against the Vikings defense. In the same breath, they're going to look at the 49ers film too and see what adjustments the Vikings made to attack their particular weakness. I got a kick out of 49ers coach Mike Nolan saying they were going to attack them the same way and that's all they're going to do. That's great copy. He's so full of it I can't stand it. You can't just do that obviously, but if I watch an offensive lineman and I see him get beat by one particular guy, I look at that film over and over and over and asked, ‘Why is he having that success?' Then, sitting on the sidelines after a particular series, I'll say, ‘OK, I tried that and he made a correction.' But if he's made that correction, then he's made himself vulnerable to something else. As a defensive lineman on the next passing situation, I will make a different adjustment. During my eight years as a regular, that's what I would do between each and every series.

VU: How about Jayme Mitchell, the defensive end who got two sacks? Did you see what he did, or was it just a matter of the Patriots having the game in hand and Mitchell taking advantage of that, or do you see some real potential there to be a real contributor throughout the season?

I really can't answer that because I didn't see him that much and if one was a coverage sack. When I talked to him, though, he was a very polite individual and respects authority. I think that makes him a good, well-rounded kid, but young kids should know that your motor will get you action. If you play the defense, you keep your motor running. Don't go a play at 75 percent; you've got to produce. Based on how young he is, he's one of the rookies that might get stronger as the season goes on. And he hasn't played that much, so he is rested and he might get offensive ballplayers that are beat up after 12 games. He's a kid on the block with a lot of heart. You could potentially see him in a bunch of tackles, and when you see him I bet the majority of them will be in pursuit.

VU: What about offensively? Do you pin it mostly on Brad Johnson or was the offensive line mostly at fault for that performance as well?

There were problems on the line. There was such congestion up the middle and I know they were trying to make some adjustments on the sidelines. They did not have a good game. If you watch Bryant McKinnie, for $55 million, he was literally getting walked through one time, literally put flat on his back. You know your offense has problems. But when Brad made those mistakes, that's one of the few times I've seen Brad come unraveled, where he became frustrated and tried to make something happen. It was almost a Brett Favre situation. Everybody is bad-mouthing Favre because if they are losing by one point, they end up losing by 30, but he's trying to make something happen. That's very uncharacteristic of Brad, but that's the sad point of the West Coast offense. When you don't have a go-to guy—and they don't; Troy Williamson is not the deep threat they thought he was going to be—once you get behind, you have to get out of what the West Coast allows you to do. Unless you get two or three punt returns by Mewelde Moore.

VU: Do you think the problems on the offensive line are scheme-related? It seems like the talent should be there, especially on the left side. Almost halfway through the season it doesn't seem like they are where you'd expect them to be with the new scheme and the new talent.

I think they're way off. I thought I saw some improvement, but I haven't seen them dominate in the fourth quarter like I thought they would, even with the running game. Chester Taylor hits the hole hard. A lot of times there is a hole there, but the backs can't get to it. They're not getting the surge. As I watched that game Monday night, I saw the New England Patriots get off the ball and control the line of scrimmage. They were getting off so fact, they were delivering the blows rather than catching them. I think they got off the ball, controlled the line of scrimmage, and got some great leverage on the offensive line.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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