Lurtsema's Reaction: Hester, Peterson & More

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema gives his insight into Adrian Peterson's limited game, Tarvaris Jackson's progression, disguising defenses and Devin Hester in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session.

VU: What do you think happened with Adrian Peterson last week and why he struggled? Some think it might have to do with the injury and that he might still be suffering. Was it just a great defensive scheme?

BL: Whether you have an injury or not, when you run into a brick wall, I don't know how you are going to move it. I don't care how good you are. The San Francisco 49ers came up with a good defense the way they schemed everything. They seemed to have one more man coming at him than they could block. They were basically blitzing right out of the chute. A lot of times they brought both their corners. When you have situations like that, you're not going to be able to run. If you break it through that hole, you're going to make a big one and that's of course what happened with Chester Taylor. They had a great scheme and that's when your veteran quarterback comes up there and starts hitting the hot reads. An experienced quarterback could have torn that defense apart and that's why Tarvaris Jackson is still learning. You'll never see San Francisco attack Peyton Manning or any veteran quarterback. Brett Favre would just sit back there and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm dreaming.'

VU: How much leeway do you think they've given Jackson to get out of a run and into a pass? Earlier in the year, they talked about allowing him to switch runs from one side to the other. Do you think that's changed to where they've given him more freedom?

BL: I think they don't want to give him too much. We always talk about it taking three to five years to totally groom a quarterback. I think by watching it some of the better things that are happening is that he's getting in sync with his receivers. We talked earlier about discipline in running their routes and receivers have to be exact in running their routes. OK, now the receivers are running their routes, but the defense has caught up with when they are going to be cutting them in. So the receivers now have to cut it in at 5 yards or down to 9 or whatever it takes from what they were running them at. They are making a veteran decision and Tarvaris Jackson is on the same page with them. They are finding the soft spot in the defense. I think Bobby Wade, when I saw him earlier I thought he was having a great camp because I saw him open so much and they weren't on the same page. That's the part that's different now. And we're not talking about the big deep routes. They're just making the adjustment, getting their timing down and knowing that he's going to cut it off. They might even say it in the huddle, whatever route it is, I'm going to cut it at 6 this time, not 7. They could be communicating in the huddle, I don't know.

VU: What do you think is one of the bigger reasons for this turnaround over the last four games?

BL: I just think that when you have two running backs like they have, it makes it so much easier on the quarterback to work a little play-pass and get those timing routes in. They didn't play against a lot of powerful teams, but it's tough to win in the National Football League. It sure makes it a lot easier when your defense is putting up scores and when your defense is giving you the opportunity to be ahead. With 14 seconds gone in that Frisco game, to be ahead 7-0 like that changes everything. Boy, does that pop the balloon of the 49ers to know that your whole week of preparation after you give up seven in the first 14 seconds, with their type of record they are automatically going to think, ‘Uh-oh, here we go again.' I would give more credit to the defense that gives the offense a better opportunity to disguise their plays and work their play-passes and make the opposing defense a little less aggressive.

VU: Why do you think they are so much better at disguising what they are doing and becoming more aggressive on defense?

BL: The linebackers are getting the freedom to disguise things at their own pace and you've got to give defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier a lot of credit. He's doing an outstanding job of disguising this. They are playing so well together, that front seven. Some of the stunts that they're running up there, you give Frazier all the credit in the world and don't leave my man out, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. The defensive line when I played, we played our best football when we were in sync with the linebackers and vice versa. That's a huge step forward. It's the same thing when the quarterback is in sync with the receivers.

VU: Would you kick to Devin Hester or would it depend on where you are in the game – what quarter and do you have the lead? How do you decide what you do to him on kickoffs and punts?

BL: Kicking off to him, this is where coaching comes into play. And remember that I always say coaching is 60 to 65 percent of the game. You have to make the decision where you think you can give the Bears field position and be comfortable with that. So, do you squib kick it and give them the ball every time on the 35-yard line? Is that good for you or do you feel strong enough with Heath Farwell, who I hope will be a Pro Bowler. Do you have enough confidence to stop him? That's really a coach's decision on field position. With that, you might start off kicking to him and as the game goes on, if you're protecting a lead, you might give up field position to limit him. It's a good example of why coaching is such a big part of football. I think I'd probably squib kick a lot of them and give up the field position to the 30- or 35-yard line.

VU: Is Hester the best ever?

BL: You know a guy you can compare him with is Gale Sayers. On one kickoff, he put a move on me going full speed to his right and my jock is still over there. I had never, ever seen a move like he put on me. But Hester is setting the record, so you've got to say he's the best. I think Sayers had some of the same type of moves and quickness.

< BR>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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