Lurtsema's Reaction: Signs of Development

Signs of a developing, maturing Vikings team showed themselves Sunday against Brett Favre and the Packers, from a thinking man's defense to smart decisions by a young running back.

It sure was fun watching this young Minnesota Vikings team be a tad on the feisty side at the Metrodome while playing the rival Green Bay Packers. It also was enjoyable watching the verbal exchanges from both teams, especially the jawing with my favorite quarterback Brett Favre, the total package.

How crafty is Favre? If you noticed before Lance Johnstone's roughing-the-quarterback penalty, Favre set up Johnstone for that penalty two plays earlier when the two exchanged rather loud vocal greetings with their heads bobbing during the conversation. Johnstone walked away and Favre immediately went to an official, probably to exaggerate the late hits and verbal abuse he was taking from Johnstone. Two plays later, as Johnstone put a mosquito hit on Favre, the QB went down as though he was hit by a freight train with a questionable yellow flag landing right next to him. Since it was third-and-3 on the Vikings 3-yard line and the pass was incomplete, that bit of acting allowed the Packers to score a touchdown on the next play rather than settle for a field goal on fourth-and-3. I still got a kick out of that, but not as much joy as the Vikings beating the 8-1 Green Bay Packers and allowing Favre to fall to 2-9 at the Metrodome.

Coach Mike Tice definitely has this team heading in the right direction, as the young veterans and rookies are starting to believe in his coaching philosophy. A simple example is after the Vikings gave the potential Super Bowl-bound Packers three great opportunities to win the game — giving them a fumble on the 1-yard line, a return of an interception early in the third quarter and an extra four points because of the roughing-the-passer call that allowed the Packers to score seven points instead of taking a routine three-point field goal — they still rebounded from the mistakes.

All these negative events did not seem to affect the defense this week. They carried their heads higher and showed a level of confidence that when they did make mistakes they knew it would not be enough to change the outcome of the game or let it affect their performance. To be a winner and play successfully in the National Football League, players have to be thinkers, and if they keep thinking about their previous bad plays they are going nowhere quickly.

And how about Michael Bennett on his 62-yard run with 3:03 to go in the game and a three-point lead? He might have had an outside chance of scoring by sprinting to the pylon or he might have gone out of bounds on the 1-yard line, but rather than do that he knew he had to stay in bounds and keep the clock running. Thinking on his feet in that type of situation tells you about the maturing process of a great back like Bennett. This is a young team and a young coaching staff, and Tice has got to be happy (although I know he's not real happy about the 3-7 record) with the improvement shown in this big win for his team.

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