VU: What do you think the job security is for special teams coach Paul Ferraro at this point?
BL: Special teams is a third of the game, and everybody hates to hear that. They say, ‘No, it's offense and defense,' but special teams is a big third. If you want to put the most blame on anybody, it is the defense and special teams. Whether his Ferraro's job is in jeopardy, that's got nothing to do with it. But certain basic things don't happen. Charles Gordon is a nice kid, but on that punt that bounced off his arm on about the 5-yard line, the basic rule is that you go no deeper than the 8-yard line and whatever motion you make, whether it's an attempt to block or whatever, you always move forward. He ended up being hit on the 5-yard line and he never should have been that close to the ball. Even on punt coverage, I'll see three or four guys in front of the person catching the ball and the first guy down should circle behind because he can't see who is coming up behind him. The first man down should circle behind in case there is a fumble on a fair catch so you have the back side covered. Those are some basic things and that bothers me.
As far as the kickoffs go, never, never, never give that good of field position in the National Football League. Even Ryan Longwell said in the Star Tribune that you can't give them the ball on the 50-yard line and expect to win. Kick it to the right corner or left corner, but to kick away from a kickoff returner and give him that good of field position, I know it's terrible coaching and that decision was done I believe by Brad Childress. That was his call. I think that's ridiculous to be that scared of one man like Devin Hester. This is the National Football League. Sure he's a good player, but to give up potentially nine-plus field goals by putting them in field goal position every time you kick off, that keeps a team in the game. Fortunately for the Bears, they got the ball on the 46- and 48-yard lines and scored both times. Bad decision.
VU: How much do you think the loss of E.J. Henderson has hurt them in the running game and probably even more in the passing game?
BL: Huge. E.J. Henderson is really such a big plus, not only from his coverage, but he's a defensive captain, from play-calling to blitzing to awareness. He's the total package in there and he really complements the best front four in football, which is what the Vikings have. Then you bring in a couple players in Napoleon Harris and Dontarrious Thomas and you activate Rufus Alexander, sure they are good athletes and everything, but they don't come close to E.J.'s talent. Experience-wise, you could say that Napoleon is the same, but Napoleon isn't as good as E.J. When you starting throwing that little look-in, that's the easiest throw in the National Football League. You can't give it to them and they ran it quite a few times. The receiver just came across the middle, they'd pop it for five and get some yardage after the catch. That's huge as far as losing him on defense.
VU: We've continued to analyze Jared Allen's effectiveness with three sacks entering this game and he had two against the Bears. Do you think Kyle Orton was holding onto the ball a bit longer or did they approach him any differently?
BL: No. 1, Jared Allen has been more than I expected. He's given our defensive tackles a better pass rush and more tackles. The defensive tackles are supposed to get three to five tackles. You should be in that range all the time. You look at the Williams brother – eight nine tackles some games. Allen has made that difference. As far as putting pressure on Orton, they had a lot of pressure but then he had a chance to dump. He was doing the short routes over the middle, but the pressure was still on. The blocking schemes do change up a little bit, but I just think that the plays that they called, Orton had a good day. The Vikings' defensive backs, they are getting better but you have to remember that's the weakness of our defense. They can say it's not the weakness of the defense, but when you bring in a defensive back almost every week trying them out, that's telling you that the defensive coaches aren't being negative by talking about it, but we've got a weakness here and let's see if we can find somebody. When they got Madieu Williams, they addressed the problem, but unfortunately he hasn't been able to play yet. With two weeks off, he should be able to play and that would be a tremendous plus for the Vikings.
VU: What did you think about the play of the offensive line?
BL: The offensive line seemed a little more aggressive yesterday. I though Bryant McKinnie had a real good game. The thing with the running game is that they've got to hit the holes quick. I liked the style more yesterday than I have in previous games. When you're a little confused going against a different defense, you're not quite as aggressive. You can tell with that slight hesitation. I thought you could tell they knew what they were going against yesterday, which gave them a little more confidence getting off the ball. Adrian Peterson is a hard-nosed runner and I don't like him running laterally. He hits the hole and pops it, and I like what the offensive line did yesterday.
VU: Do you expect any major changes with the bye week, whether that's in coaching or with the players and who is starting?
BL: Gus Frerotte has had almost 300 yards passing the last two weeks. I think the only big change I can see coming is to give Gus the flexibility to audible a lot more and go to his hots. I think the receivers are starting to realize, hey, wait a minute, this guy has his head screwed on straight. The receivers have got to realize that if they're the fourth man on a route, Gus will read the progression and he had better be ready to catch that as the fourth option. Even if you're downfield and not looking for the ball – last week it looked like there was a receiver who thought he was out of it and the ball was thrown to him and he wasn't ready for the reception. These receivers have got to realize that they are the No. 1 receiver on every play – whether they are the fourth read or not, they are the No. 1 receiver. That's what makes your receivers better. All of the sudden you're going to see your top two receivers are manhandled by three or maybe four defensive backs and your third and fourth receivers are going to have a better chance for separation. Gus knows that and Gus can see you are there. Gus did that in New Orleans and that's the reason they won. Because of his play, you can put the win on Gus' back. I've been very impressed with him and I think it's going to be nothing but better with a team coming in that the Vikings will beat – not should beat, they will beat. To me, that's the whole season. They say one game doesn't mean much; it means everything. I think it's going to mean a lot with how the fans approve Childress or disapprove Childress. This is the turning point for a lot of careers coming up.
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.
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