Lurtsema's Reaction: Stopping Brees

Former Viking Bob Lurtsema talks about stopping a quarterback like Drew Brees and a tactic that could be employed, how the offense is getting better after a December dip and other keys to the NFC Championship Game.

VU: Let's start off with the Cowboys game. What surprised you about that game – I assume the margin of victory at least surprised you a little bit?

BL: Anybody had to be surprised by that score because everybody in the world was picking the Cowboys. I actually knew what the Vikings were going to score because I said 34, but I said 27 for the Cowboys. I thought it would be a little closer game, but that the Vikings would come out on top. The thing that was cool was the game plan that Leslie Frazier put in. The game plan he came up with against the Cowboys was great. The defensive players knew what was coming. They said they've never had a better game plan and knew exactly the plays, what the tendencies were and the whole works. They were literally bubbling over with compliments for Frazier. They just felt all the confidence in the world on defense. They just knew what was coming and it's just a great feeling. I've had that feeling before where you know exactly the play that is coming. Boy, it can make you so much more aggressive because you go through your reads a lot differently.

VU: What sort of feeling did you get from being in the locker room on Friday?

BL: The same feeling I got last week. I think the week off that Coach Childress gave them helped, but New Orleans had the same week off. They had fresh legs as well. The team had a lot of spring in their legs and I think that game last year, the Monday nighter last year where Reggie Bush ran two punts back, that game really stressed all the weaknesses that the Vikings had, especially the special teams. I think they are using that as a tool now – that, hey, we're going to their home and they've got the 12th man this week and they're using that this week.

VU: After the way Ray Edwards came on last week and now he and Kevin Williams are both listed as questionable, how big of a factor do you think that could be against Drew Brees?

BL: Huge. That could be a huge factor. No. 1, Drew Brees is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the National Football League. He reads so quickly. And Brett Favre can do that. Here you've got two quarterbacks that are so brilliant in the football sense. From the snap of the ball, they can tell you where all 22 people are on the field. That's why they read so well and that's why they have such a high percentage of completions. I believe Drew Brees set a record for completion percentage (70 percent). Championships are always won with great defense. That's a true cliché. It's going to determine the outcome of this game. Everybody is downplaying the Saints defense. They held Peterson to 32 yards on 21 carries last time they played him. Their defense is good and they are a good defense in the red zone. Everybody is talking Brees and Reggie Bush. They're talking Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre, but it's going to come down to the big boys up front and the defense. The defense is going to win this one.

VU: Jared Allen was saying he thought Brees had the second-quickest release next to Peyton Manning. What's the key in going against a guy like that? Do you accept the fact that you're not going to get many sacks and just try to get your arms up in the throwing lanes?

BL: I had that type of situation. It's very frustrating for a defensive lineman. I had that problem when I went against Sonny Jurgenson and Joe Namath. You could beat a guy so clean, and I did that on several occasions and I got nothing out of it, not even a sniff. That is frustrating beyond belief. You can run stunts, but the ball is out of there. You have to be aware and get your hands up, but you're always aware of that situation, whether the guy has a quick release or a slow release. You can't change your style of pass rush or stay at the line of scrimmage and jump up and down. Then you're giving an intelligent quarterback a longer time to read the field.

VU: You're talking about running stunts, but when a guy is getting rid of the ball so quickly does that limit the amount of stunts a coordinator is going to run?

BL: Absolutely. The thing that they're doing now is they are dropping defensive linemen in coverage and I'm not for that. As a defensive lineman, I hate it. But coordinators are doing it, so I've talked to a couple of quarterbacks about it and they say it can cause a problem because those defensive linemen aren't really accounted for in the progressions and they want to get rid of the ball so quickly that they don't count the dropping defensive linemen. You see a couple of linemen making interceptions this year and knocking the ball down. With them going against a quick-release quarterback, maybe look for the Vikings to drop linemen a little bit more.

VU: Looking back at Peterson, the last time he had a 100-yard game was Nov. 15.

BL: I watched the Vikings-Cardinals game and they were shadowing Adrian Peterson and they would change up when the corners were blitzing and they would disguise them very well and I think other teams picked up on that as far as having seven defenders against six offensive guys. Last week I noticed that when Dallas tried to do some of those blitzes and stunts, Favre really burned them immediately. So I think Arizona found a defense that was very successful going against Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre, but now I think the offense has caught up with what they're doing and making the adjustments on their part.

VU: Give me a couple of keys to the game and how you think it will all play out?

BL: It's going to be the line play. Will the Vikings defensive line dominate their offensive line and vice versa – will the Vikings offensive line dominate their defensive line. They both have good defense. Everybody is talking offense, offense, offense. Come Monday morning, the defense is the one that's going to make the turning point of the game and whichever defense does that is the particular team that's going to win.

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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