Lurtsema's Reaction: Young Defenders

The young players on the Vikings defense are still making mistakes, but there is hope. At least now they are recognizing the mistakes, as Willie Shaw continues to be patient with his reclamation project.

I hope my pen runs out of ink immediately. Well, it didn't, so here I go. The players and coaches have to stand up and be accountable after a bad game like this 21-14 loss to Carolina, as well as some media people who love the Vikings. On this particular Sunday, every player seemed to have some small contribution to this loss, and since I feel the defense usually has a bigger impact on losses, I want to go back to what defensive coordinator Willie Shaw mentioned before training camp. He stated that it would take up to four or five regular-season games before one would know exactly how good this defense will be this year.

Talking with Shaw on Friday at practice, he re-issued the same statement to me. But at least now he says that the players know when they are making a mistake rather than answering "I don't know" after missing an assignment. This actually is a strong step forward for young NFL players, as professional football is so much faster than college.

I got to watch this defense play quite a bit Sunday, as it was on the field for about 60 percent of the time. I noticed on too many occasions the defenders were originally lined up in the wrong position and a lot of shuffling was going on just before the snap. You could expect to see this a time or two during a game, since today's wild offensive schemes have so many formations they throw at defenses, but the thing that bothered me the most was what was said in the Carolina locker room after the game. Panthers running back Lamar Smith, who had 30 carries for 154 yards, had this particular quote: "I knew we had them when I heard them bickering after 3- and 4-yard runs. They also anticipated us to pass on critical third-down situations, so we caught them off-guard."

I never expected for a minute that the Carolina Panthers would beat this Vikings team, and neither did the Minnesota fans. Even when the Vikings were down 14-7 early in the fourth quarter and they had the Panthers on the Vikings 42-yard line in a third-and-17 situation, the fans were confident, as I was. Just like they did in the previous week, the crowd gave the defense a standing, screaming ovation. Unfortunately, as seems to be happening too often this young season, quarterback Rodney Peete completed a pass for a 19-yard gain, giving the Panthers first-and-10 on the 23-yard line. They did score the winning touchdown shortly thereafter, and that creates tremendous frustration for the fans, myself, and it obviously carries over to the players.

The Vikings continue to work hard, and I totally believe in what Shaw is doing, so I'm still a driver of this Minnesota Vikings bandwagon.

So close, so close, so close … 0-3. Oops, my pen just ran out of i…n…


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