VU: With the quick release of Peyton Manning, how do you try to get to him or is it more about batting down balls at the line of scrimmage? What's the strategy that can work against somebody like him?
BL: You just tell your defensive backs and linebackers to have tighter coverage because you ain't going to get close (laughing). It's like going against Sonny Jurgensen or Joe Namath. They have such a quick release. Sonny Jurgensen could have been one of the fastest around. You do want to knock them down, but you cannot get caught up in the attitude that you're not going to sack him and just settle for batting them down. All of the sudden, you're making yourself vulnerable to the offensive tackle because you're going to start standing up a little quicker. Once you stand up too much, you give them all that area that when they do go deep on a longer pass, you've really given the offensive line a better opportunity to restrain you from getting a sack. There are just some guys that get rid of it and you might throw eight or nine guys in the box, but I sure wouldn't do it against Manning because he's seen every scheme possible and he's going to catch the hot receiver. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He's the total package. I would take him over Tom Brady all day long. I think he's the No. 1 quarterback right now in the National Football League.
VU: I agree with you on that. I've thought that the last three years.
BL: What he does, when you're getting your signals in for the defense, you've got to get them in quicker. Now once you're in your defense, Manning has 40 seconds to scout the field and he can see what you're doing. He can audible out of it because of the no-huddle. It's tough, but as a defensive lineman, you've got to play to your strengths. Don't get caught up in the Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Namath or Peyton Manning-isms.
VU: What do you think has made Tony Dungy such a success? Is it just the way he treats players and the respect he gets?
BL: Tony Dungy is such a wonderful, wonderful man. He makes me feel like I'm No. 1 on his list, one of his best friends. We even called him one time when we were down in Tampa Bay one Saturday night and we left a message on his recorder. We had been partying, but we happened to have his cell. The next day, when I'm on the field in Tampa he's 20 yards away and the first thing that comes out of his mouth is that he's apologizing for not calling me back. That doesn't seem like much to a lot of people, but that's classy. He's got a game – he's playing the Vikings in Tampa – and he's apologizing for not calling me back from the night before.
Having played the game and knowing the game, he's a lot like Leslie Frazier. I put a lot of credence into a guy who has played the game because he knows when to really push the team a lot of times. He doesn't have an ego and a lot of times when a coach will press his ego, it really shoots him in the foot. The players love playing for the man. He's going to treat you fair. You be fair to him and he'll be fair to you. The easiest comparison I can make is Brian Billick. Everybody was saying they needed a quarterback in Baltimore, but Brian Billick's ego got in his way and he said, ‘Oh, no, I'll make this quarterback work.' With the defense that they had in Baltimore with Billick, if doesn't let his ego get in the way so much, he could have gone to the Super Bowl another time or two. That's the type of fine line that has a player respecting or not respecting a coach. Once an ego gets involved, then things change and it starts turmoil. It's no different than Ted Thompson in Green Bay. There a manager ego that's disruptive for the Packers. Take Matt Millen. He's another example and he's not successful. When you have consistency of a coach and he has three or four years in, then you can start rating them because you'll find predictably.
VU: When you get a defensive end like Dwight Freeney – the real fast spinner types – do you run at him? Is that an effective way to try to neutralize what he's doing on the pass rush?
BL: When you get a guy that quick, you cannot get physical with him. You want to set softer on him because if you go at him too quickly, he's going to beat you with his quickness. You've got to set up a little softer, but that's just within a half-step difference of how you're going to react to him. If you've got somebody as good as that, you can use chop blocks – legal chop blocks – and try to get him going outside and run underneath. You've got to get inside his head any way possible because once you're inside his head, then he's thinking. And when you're thinking, you're not as fast as you normally are. That's where good coaching pays big-time dividends.
VU: Give me a couple of keys for the Colts game.
BL: The key is that Adrian Peterson can beat Bob Sanders. Sanders is really, really good. He's aggressive and hard-hitting, so the biggest part is to be able to get Adrian away from Sanders and limit the number of tackles Sanders makes. I think people realize what a difference he made when he was out of there for the Colts, how poorly they played when he was hurt.
On defense, I think I'm more concerned about the defensive backs. They've got to play one of their ‘A' games, whether that's in the nickel or not. You cannot give Manning a 5-yard gimme. When you line up on the line of scrimmage, you hope you can disguise the coverage, but at the same time it's tough to do. But don't give him an automatic 5 yards because he'll beat you to death. If you're going to blitz him and he picks that up and gets the right call, he's going to lay it right on the money. He was a little rusty last week, but I don't think Manning will be rusty two weeks in a row – but I hope he is.
Bob Lurtsema registered 57 careers sacks as 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 VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Sizing up the Colts
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