Lurtsema's Reaction: Lost Discipline

The Vikings practiced it all week when preparing for the Falcons, but when it came time to perform they lost it on defense. What is "it?"

I was in my usual jovial mood before the game in the press box, knowing the Minnesota Vikings would beat the Atlanta Falcons. I knew there was no other way the Vikings could possibly give away another game. Wrong again.

This time it came because of a misinterpretation and communication problem between the officials and head coach Mike Tice. With 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Randy Moss split out left and came in motion right before taking a handoff from Daunte Culpepper. Moss continued his sprint across the field and then turned and threw a touchdown strike to Culpepper across the field. Tice had discussed this play with the officials during the pregame and gave them a drawing of the play to get their approval. Since it was an unbalanced line with Moss in motion, Bryant McKinnie became the end man on the line of scrimmage and thus was required to report as an eligible receiver. Somewhere between Tice and the officials, the pregame clarity turned into a game-deciding penalty.

As for this Michael Vick, he is the real deal. I've never seen a quarterback with such agility and tremendous running technique and style. Remember, he's a quarterback, but the only runner I can compare him to was the one I thought was the best in the National Football League, the Chicago Bears' Gale Sayers. He could cut 90 degrees to the right or left without slowing down.

Now, when defenders play against a man of Vick's talent, they must accomplish one basic thing — containment. During a game like this, players have to be intelligent and maintain a tremendous amount of discipline, which relates back to the simple basics of Football 101.

There are two easy examples of what I'm referring to between the play of the defensive linemen and the defensive backs. The defensive linemen work on containment all week, but during the game when an offensive tackle opens up and gives the defensive end the inside lane, the end cannot take it. Defensive tackles also have to stay in their lanes and have more rushes that are north and south — stay disciplined. This is easy to say, but to a degree it is much more difficult to execute on the field, as it can take away some of a player's aggressiveness. However, when they're working against this style of play, they have to be intelligent enough to bring discipline to the game and not take the easy route on certain plays.

You've heard me mention intelligence a few times, which is because during coach Bud Grant's years with the Minnesota Vikings he graded us strictly on mental mistakes, and if you didn't grade out at or near 100 percent every week, you cut yourself. As Grant always said, he never cut anybody — players cut themselves. This works for the defensive backs as well, because when they come up to snuff out somebody like Vick or his lead blocker on the run they must make sure they force him inside. Vick is quite an athlete, it was quite a loss, but a little more discipline would have easily swung the tide on who won this game.

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