VU: How lucky are the Vikings to be as healthy as they are right now?
BL: You don't talk about injuries as a player because everybody knows that's part of the game. But you watch a lot of the Super Bowl teams, they get all the breaks in the world as far as injuries go. You look at the Green Bay Packers now and they lost Aaron Kampman and Al Harris, two of their better defensive players. They are going to struggle towards the end and I really think that almost takes them out of the picture because you need those breaks – or no breaks as far as players are concerned – to be able to get all the way. The Vikings are lucky to have that week off at the perfect time. The team is healthy and that's probably the biggest plus I see to give them tremendous optimism to win the whole dance this year.
VU: How big of a boost would it be to get Antoine Winfield back and do think the experience these younger defensive backs gained will help down the road?
BL: Yes. You've heard the expression from a lot of players in the league about the game slowing down. Even in preseason, you watch and you don't get a feel for how fast the game is. You look at Jay Cutler and Brett Favre. With Favre, everything is in slow motion for him and with Cutler playing bad everything is going so fast that he can't catch up to it. I talked to Asher Allen and he had one bad play last week and was pretty upset with it. I said, ‘Was it as bad as you thought it was?' And he said yes, which is good because he had his first interception and had a good game and he's thinking about correcting his one bad play and wants to correct that. He had that learning process because of Winfield being out and it makes Asher a better player. The next time out there, whenever it might be, he'll be a better player because of the injury to Winfield.
VU: How fortunate do you think it is that the Vikings didn't end up with Jay Cutler and did get Brett Favre? And do you think Cutler would be a different player if he were with the Vikings?
BL: The Vikings are miles ahead with Brett Favre. I've said this tons of times to our readers, but I think coaching is 60 or 65 percent of it. Here you have Darrell Bevell, who knew Brett Favre and had five years with him in Green Bay, knew exactly how he would fit in and what they needed. They had a head start on taking him over Cutler. I actually thought Cutler was a good deal and I wasn't the only one if Chicago gave up two first-round draft choices. His head is so screwed up right now. In the last game he played, I watched him overthrow three players that were wide open. That comes because you don't want to throw an interception so you don't want to short throw it and then your adrenaline gets you more pumped up. There was no thinking that had to be done. He just had to strictly use his instincts to hit a player that was wide open. It's not a thought process that he had to go through. I think the coaches have him thinking with every move on what to do and where to throw it and he's not using his God-given talent. He might as well be a robot.
VU: With Orlando Pace looking like he's on his last leg in the league and Jared Allen at his peak right now, does Allen approach this matchup with a lot of excitement or does he try to stay even-keeled no matter who he is facing?
BL: You never lick your chops, as the expression goes, against any lineman because you know there is a good chance that he could really nail you. I had this happen to me because I owned this one particular guard in Philadelphia and I approached him too soft. I didn't make an adjustment to how he was blocking me and so he got the upper edge on me for a while. Having lived it, you've got to see how he's playing you and get your game plan together. If you beat him constantly with speed, he might set softer on you. If he's setting softer with a quicker backpedal, then he's vulnerable to the power rush. That's what Jared Allen has done when you see him literally bowl over people. It's no different than what Reggie White used to do. He'd get them leaning one direction and then put that head slap on them. He had the offensive tackle's momentum heading that way and said, ‘Here, I'll give you a little more help.' He'd flip you out of his way. The good ones make the adjustment. When you see some players have a bad game, they've taken it for granted and didn't create a good game plan for themselves. I know Pace is off his game a little bit, but is he setting slower, has he changed his stance up, is he being more aggressive? Why is Pace not having a good year? When you look at the films, you find out how these guys are beating him and look for a consistent reason for beating him. That's what makes Allen so good. He has a great variety of pass rushes. He had a great game last week, but he got shut out on sacks. But he has great moves.
VU: How do you think the Vikings stack up against the two undefeated teams in the league, the Saints and the Colts?
BL: You can talk about them in the same breath. Those are three outstanding teams. I think it's going to be between New Orleans and the Vikes as far as going to the Super Bowl from the NFC, and probably between the Colts and New England in the AFC. But you can't rest your regulars. They don't want to be rested, they want to play. Home-field advantage is going to be huge. I think that home-field advantage is going be worth five points rather than the three points that most people feel.
Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was 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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