Lurtsema's Reaction: Performance evaluation

The Vikings have had their share of breakdowns on offense and defense. Former Viking Bob Lurtsema examines the performance of some of the players in question, the tactics being used, and evaluates the Pro Bowl selections.

VU: What's your opinion on Antoine Winfield and if it would be better to sit him to try to get the foot healthier for the playoffs? How do you view him being limited versus a healthy backup?

BL: When he came back three weeks ago, he played a great game. Whether he re-injured the foot or not, I don't know. If he didn't re-injure it, then I'd stay with him. But if he did re-injure it and it's prohibiting him from making the deep coverage – he's a great force player – I'd have to say it's going to be a big-time coach's decision.

VU: He said the pain comes and goes depending on what's happened to his foot during the course of a game. It sounds like an up-and-down situation with him throughout a game.

BL: He's so smart and he's so good, but he even admitted the last couple of games that he knew what was coming and he still got beat at it. I think he's really fighting with himself with what he can and can't do.

VU: When you watched the Chicago game, what did you think was the big difference offensively between the first half and second half of that game?

BL: The second half, they put the Bears defense on their heels. I'm a firm believer that the Vikings offensive line is just going to play the line of scrimmage and go area blocking and they are setting soft on the line of scrimmage. The first couple of plays they lost yardage. As a defensive lineman, the first couple of plays are when I've got my energy going and that's when I'm getting off the ball hellbent for election. If you aren't going to get off the snap as an offensive lineman with some urgency, then I think I have the edge as a defensive lineman. And I'm not into scripting 15 plays. You can script the plays, but don't be afraid to get out of them a lot quicker. And when Brett Favre is out there and can tell the defense is tired, I've been out there so many times where you just know the offense has got our number and they're just rocking us – I could feel that as a defensive player. I'll never forget playing against Dallas one time and I almost called a timeout just to yell at the other 10 players and myself. You can feel it. Well, Brett Favre has that feel on offense. When he gets them on their heels, bury them. Make them use a timeout and make them make the adjustments, not the Vikings offense.

VU: You're saying they should use a little more no-huddle, hurry-up feel when they're getting into a rhythm?

BL: Absolutely. Once they get that rhythm, you can just feel the confidence. The offensive linemen are getting off quicker, there is no hesitation, there is no thinking, it's all instinct. Every game is a roller-coaster. Nobody is going to come out and dominate for four quarters. I think when Dallas beat New Orleans, that first quarter the offensive line was just terrorizing the Saints defense. I think what Trent Dilfer said about the Vikings is 100 percent correct. There's nothing wrong with having the pass set up the run.

VU: When people look at the defensive line and how Jared Allen is getting double-teamed, what's your assessment of how well Kevin Williams is playing and is he taking advantage of the opportunities he is getting, both in pass rush and run defense?

BL: Kevin has had a Pro Bowl season. You start to expect so much of him, but I noticed he is starting to stand up and look at little bit. It happens to a defensive lineman, where all of the sudden you think you know what's coming and you stand up and take a look. Once you do that, you're very susceptible to a double-team, on the run plays especially. As far as pass rush, he is putting some pretty good pressure on, but they are running a lot of stunts. They're running a lot of tackle stunts. And they are running more defensive linemen in coverage, which I'm not a big fan of but apparently there must be substance to it. But I've seen more stunts than I would normally see and I would think that would hurt Kevin more than it would help him because Kevin can set up a guy for an inside rush or an outside rush. That's the fun part of playing all the time – you can get your offensive lineman thinking a certain way and then go with your pullover to the opposite side or a hard rush outside and spin inside. You can set them up. When you show them a stunt, you're hoping for a surprise, but I don't see it happening that much lately.

VU: How about the play of the safeties. So far combined, Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams only have one interception. Is that a product of the system they're running or do they need to step up their games?

BL: A lot of it goes back to your question about where all the sacks are. They are doing a lot of short dumps, and the way the Vikings defense is predicated they don't want to get beat deep. When they aren't going deep often and are having success with the short stuff, that will take away from their stats.

VU: With the Pro Bowl roster announced, what are the surprises for you on the Vikings roster, both those that made it and those that were left off?

BL: The coaches count for one-third of the vote, and when you have Bryant McKinnie voted in, it brings out a flaw in the adjustment that the Vikings were making. Apparently he plays well enough that the opposing team and the coaches fear him, and yet when you bench him against Julius Pepper you didn't address the real problem. They were just reaching in a hat and hoping they pulled out the right rabbit. I'm glad he's in because he deserves it. He does a great job blocking with the scheme that the Vikings have.

I'm tickled pink for Heath Farwell. He makes it look so easy on special teams. I know his numbers might be off a little bit, but he's getting double- and triple-teamed now. Anyone who gets a chance to be at the game, they should watch him because he's so fluid coming down. When he beats a double-team, it's like nobody even attempted to block him.

Kevin Williams deserves to be there. Jared Allen, that's a no-brainer. Sidney Rice has given all the credit to Brett Favre, but Rice is a good athlete with that 40-inch vertical and his height. Of course, Favre deserves it.

VU: Any surprise that Pat Williams didn't make it?

BL: Not really. I'm not a firm believer when a guy doesn't play the whole game for being a Pro Bowler. Of course, against the run he's solid, but if he was to go this year, the Vikings run defense should have been first or second.

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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