Lurtsema's Reaction: The present and past

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema describes the mood among fans and players leading up to the Vikings and Cowboys, and lays out some keys to the game. He also revisits in detail the Hail Mary passing from the 1975 playoff that never should have happened, a play he was a part of.

VU: Do you get the feeling from fans that they are worried about this game?

BL: I went down to the Boat Show and I got stopped about every five feet that I walked and the fans are absolutely petrified. They think the Vikings are snakebit from the get-go and they just kind of begged for me to tell them that the Vikings are going to win. I got a kick out of it because they always talk about the Hail Mary in 1975, the play of course that I was in on. We chat about that and they just feel that the Vikings have trouble with America's Team and Brett Favre hasn't done well against them. All they do is start talking negative. I turned it around and tell them the truth and talk positive and change their line of thought. But, yes, fans are definitely scared to death.

VU: What's your feeling from the players in the locker room after talking to them?

BL: Talking with John Sullivan, he mentioned how the players have to prepare the same as any other game. He said they know the importance of it and they have to be on their A game. That's the same thing as about four others said. Percy Harvin and Jim Kleinsasser were the same way and I didn't have to bring it up. But I don't want the fans to go all ballistic on my quote that it's just another game. The players know the importance and they know this is when they have to bring their best football. But even with the jobs they do, every day they go into work they don't always hit 100 percent. Some days you're up and you're right on and other days you're off a little bit. They know they have to be on their A game here and they are very confident about it.

VU: What do you see as some keys to the game, what they need to do and what they need to avoid?

BL: They have to take away the quick passes by Tony Romo. He has a tremendously quick release and he's on a hot streak right now. He was NFC Offensive Players of the Month in December and they've played every week now, so they are in a rhythm. When you have somebody like Jason Witten, who has caught over 90 passes, you've got to take away their strengths. In the same breath, though, I watched the Cowboys-Saints game when New Orleans was undefeated and the Cowboys beat them that day and they got off the ball so well and established their running game so quickly that they really took control of that game immediately. They haven't been behind in the last four games, so they like a quick start and what would really hurt the Vikings is if they went three-and-out a couple times in a row. I think that would really, really hurt the Vikings big-time. What they've got to do is put something up in the first few series, whether that's two field goal or touchdowns – just come away with some type of points.

It's going to be a tremendous game up front. They've got a couple Pro Bowlers up front with Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. They're going to bring it. The Vikings have their own Pro Bowlers with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, but yet the Cowboys have the biggest offensive line in the NFL, I think. With all those things going for the Cowboys, the Vikings have to start and they have to start quick. They can't sit around and wait for the last quarter and decide to turn it on. It's got to be a quick start and put a negative thought into their mindset and more importantly take something away from their game plan.

The fans should relax and feel like the Vikings are going to win because they have Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson – two people that are not selfish. They always say, ‘We have to establish the run.' No, you don't. If you cannot establish the run, then you can pass. That's not a problem because if they are giving you the pass, those two great athletes know how to make the adjustments. With Brett Favre at the helm, that's a great combination. There is nobody that's selfish like Terrell Owens.

VU: It seems like you touched on it, but the adage is that you have to run the ball and stop the run in the playoffs, but you sound like you are OK with starting out passing the ball to loosen the Cowboys defense up and not have to rely fully on Peterson at the start of the game.

BL: No. What this is going to come down to, to a big degree, is coaching. I saw Wade Phillips throw in some different defensive blitzes last week that I thought were rather interesting and had pretty solid substance using the talent they have. When I say it comes down to coaching, they've got to make adjustments on the run. Do I care if they come out passing? Absolutely not. But if they are going to come out passing and the Cowboys are loaded up in the defensive backfield to stop that, obviously the Vikings have to go to the running game. The Vikings have to take what they give them.

When you start in the first series or whatever and if it's not working, throw it out the window. Successful championship teams make adjustments on the run. You can't just say that you're going to make the adjustments at halftime. That's a cliché. Having played defensive line, we made many adjustments in the first quarter and into the second period while we were out there and that's why we were successful.

VU: The Cowboys and Vikings are very similar in a lot of the rankings. What are some of the unknown, benchwarmer type players that you think could make an impact in a close game?

BL: The person that could come out with a big play is Percy Harvin. He can do so many things. But coming into a game like this, where both teams can dink and dunk, maybe you have Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in there together a little bit more. If you get them in the flat for a short pass, they have an opportunity to break a big one. A surprise could be someone like Chester Taylor.

VU: There has been a lot of talk about the 1975 playoff game with the Cowboys and the Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson. Take us through it as you saw it on the field and in the years since reviewing the film of that play.

BL: The series before the Hail Mary was a fourth-down play. Fourth-and-16, and Drew Pearson caught one out of bounds and when Nate Wright hit, but they said that Pearson would have landed in bounds if Wright hadn't hit him. I talked to (former Cowboys personnel man) Gil Brandt and he said that was the worse call there, which would have ended the game, than the actual push by Pearson in the next series. The rules of today would have given us the ball and would have given us the win because now you have to come down with both feet in bounds and it doesn't matter if you were pushed or not. There is no guessing by the officials. So I wish they would have had that rule then.

But on that Hail Mary, I was actually in the game playing right defensive tackle and Mark Mullaney was playing left defensive tackle. We ran a stunt. The offensive formation determined who was supposed to go first on this particular stunt, where one of us clears for the other. Mark was supposed to clear for me, so he cut to his right. It was a great call. We caught them by surprise. They never thought we would pull a stunt like that. The guard literally tackled Mark, so there is one big-time infraction. A blatant infraction.

So if Mark doesn't clear, I go back into my lane. They grabbed me by the back of my jersey – very slightly. Very, very slightly. You can kind of turn your head on that particular hold. It wasn't that big of deal, but you could obviously see it was a hold but it didn't slow me down at all. Then they had the push on Wright by Drew. Drew happened to catch it awkwardly and the ball landed on his hip. I remember he walked in backwards for the touchdown.

God bless Drew, but Drew told me in my restaurant at Benchwarmer Bob's, "Sure, I pushed. I'll never admit and I'll deny I ever said it.' So I guess I'll say that he didn't say that, but if it did go down, that was exactly the way it would go down. He did tell me that, but he said he'd never admit.

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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