Lurtsema's Reaction: Tale Of Two Games

For three quarters, the Vikings played some of the best ball I've seen from them in some time, but then came the fourth quarter. What — or who — was the difference between three quarters of great play and one quarter of poor play?

I don't think I've ever been as excited as I was after the third quarter of this Chicago Bears game played at the University of Illinois in Champaign, as I anticipated going to the locker room to congratulate the new coaching staff. After the third quarter, the offensive and defensive lines had played so well — I'm talking about them playing as a group and a unit. Guys like Corbin Lacina and Matt Birk and the entire offensive line walled off the Bears defensive line to such perfection that it was a thing of beauty. You could see the purpose behind every call and each block on offense, and every tackling angle on defense. In the preseason, at times the defense seemed totally confused, and to bring it together for this game made it an exciting three quarters of football for the Minnesota Vikings.

Unfortunately, I can list several major turning points in the game in the fourth quarter, but the biggest one was when middle linebacker Greg Biekert went down and had to be taken off on a cart because of spasms. He went inside for intravenous fluids and was hoping to play the rest of the fourth quarter. He did return late in the game, but when he left the defense, I got the feeling that they were reverting back to the way they had been playing during parts of the preseason this year. How big was his loss? It would have been like the offense losing Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper at the same time. After less than a week since being acquired by the Vikings, he seemed to make that much of a difference.

During his interview in the locker room after the game, he handled himself as a true professional and was hoping that the younger players would have quite a learning experience since they had just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Bears. I know how bad the fans feel during losses, especially after games like this, and I understand their emotion. But I feel more for the players, as the effort they put forth on that field deserved better than this 27-23 loss.

This team showed me they can win this year, but they have to eliminate the mistakes. When you're on the road playing on a great artificial surface against a tough divisional opponent, an All-Pro quarterback of Daunte Culpepper's caliber does not have the luxury of missing a wide-open Moe Williams on a blown coverage in the fourth quarter near the end zone for a potential touchdown. Nor does he have the luxury of throwing an interception, whether the receiver runs the correct route or not, so late in the game that it ends up giving the opponents an opportunity to score the winning touchdown rather than giving Kyle Richardson a chance to punt deep inside the Bears 20-yard line while holding onto a three-point lead.

There isn't a reason in the world to give up on this team this year when they put out an effort like they did today. As I'm heading back to Chicago from Champaign with my group from Low Budget Tours, Less for More, we're shedding our tears like all the other fans. But you can really see that this team has picked up Mike Tice's attitude and approach to a National Football League game. That will show even more as the season progresses, and this will be a winning season as this team comes together.

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