Lurtsema's reaction: Brinkley, Winfield, etc.

The Vikings had a couple a new faces on their defense last week – a rookie making his first start and a veteran returning to the lineup – and it changed the defense, mostly for the good but with one bad play. Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema reacts to the defensive changes and a key adjustment made on offense.

VU: What did you think of Jasper Brinkley and his performance?

BL: I really like this kid. I watched him in preseason and watched him on special teams and he's not intimidated by anything. He's got great speed. I did a TV show with him this week and there was one big play last week that Cincinnati had when they picked up 42 yards on a run and he said that was his mistake. It doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're around different athletes and when they stand tall like that right away, that's a huge step forward. A lot of athletes won't do that and I don't know why, but those guys don't stick around long. Another thing that impressed me about him is when I asked him if the game slowed down for him at all. As you become a veteran, the game does slow down. You get used to things and can react automatically. You don't have to read in a progression as slowly as you started out doing. It becomes an automatic reaction. He said he started out and it wasn't that way, but later in the game it started to slow down for him and he made the adjustments. He handled the calls and is a very bright kid. You can't replace E.J. Henderson. I'm not going that direction, but I sure can give him some accolades to Brinkley and be sincere when I say that.

VU: Do you think Antoine Winfield made just a little bit of difference?

BL: Winfield made a huge difference. I think the game would have changed enough with Henderson being out of there and if Winfield was out, it could have been lost. Even though the Vikings blew them out, I think Winfield made that big of a difference. Early in the game, he came up and made a tackle and there was an easy eight to 10 yards more on the end of that run if it hadn't been for Winfield's great reaction. He does so many little things, and then he ended up being the No. 1 tackler. I do rattle coaches' cages, saying that coaching is 60 to 65 percent of a team. The Bengals tried to attack Winfield's side, and the previous four or five games there was a little difference out there. I think the Bengals coaches assumed he wouldn't be in shape or weren't wise enough to realize that he wouldn't be rusty. I think the Bengals coaching staff made some bad choices in their play selection.

VU: The pass defense held Carson Palmer to 94 yards. Do you think that was mainly Winfield or Cincinnati wanting to run the ball?

BL: Maybe Cincinnati has the worst coaching staff in the league. Why would anybody want to start off running the ball against the Vikings? Why would that be your main point of attack? To me, that's total ignorance. Maybe with Henderson out, that's what they were thinking – they wanted to run the ball and they wanted to attack Winfield – go figure. When you know Winfield and what an old-school player he is – the salt of the earth – when he did those pushups after missing on that almost-sure interception, some athletes would do that and I'd think it was all about themselves and they were being very self-centered. But that's Winfield being Winfield. That's the little guy being the total package. I even told him in the locker room that I can no longer call him the little guy anymore because he was the big man out on the field.

VU: On offense, the Vikings ran more between the tackles and appeared to get positive yardage more often. Do you agree with that?

BL: I talked to Darrell Bevell after the game and told him I kind of like him sending a 40-year-old Brett Favre out on a bare-legged boot. He didn't take it the wrong way, but his answer was, ‘Do you think I would send him out there if I knew somebody was going to be there?' I have to give a lot of credit to Bevell because they had become predictable. They made the changes. They went over the films the past three or four weeks and made some changes as far as their running game and how they approached it. When you have 13 carries for 19 yards the previous week, something is wrong. When I watched it strictly as a defensive lineman, I really thought that the when the Vikings were running one way the defense was slanting that way right away. It wasn't all the time, but I thought I saw that quite a bit. As soon as I saw that first step, I was thinking it was going that way and I was right. Whether the defense picked up on that, I have no idea. I just picked up on it as a beat-up old ex-defensive lineman. I do know that I have to give Bevell a lot of credit for coming up with an adjustment in that running game.

VU: What do you want to see these guys improve on for the playoffs?

BL: They don't have to improve. Each and every week somebody is going to make a mistake, whether that's on offense, defense or special teams. I just don't want their mental approach to the game to deteriorate. I'm not talking about being a tiger out there and growling, I'm talking about having the confidence to avoid the mental mistake. It's no different than Brinkley admitting he made a mistake and all the sudden the Bengals have a 42-yard run. I don't want them to deteriorate in making the right calls. They just need to be sure they have 53 players giving 100 percent. No mental mistakes.

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 for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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