Two of the Vikings coordinators had their customary weekly press conferences on Thursday following the team’s morning walk-through. In this weekly piece, we’ll choose a comment from each of them and explain or react to what was said.
Question asked: Have you been surprised at all at how many deep passes they’ve been willing to take without (Aaron) Rodgers?
Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams said: “Nope, that’s what type of team they are. I think every team in the NFL has the ‘Next man up’ mentality, and they are no different. He’s a NFL quarterback and he’s quite capable of making those plays, which shows up on tape. If he’s making them, I fully expect them to keep doing it. Their receivers are making big plays for him.”
Reaction: I was pleased to hear Williams respond in this fashion to the question because I think there’s a misconception out there about Green Bay’s willingness to remain aggressive on offense with Rodgers out of the mix. In watching back the Packers vs. Giants game last week, I noticed plenty of five-step and even seven-step drops from Scott Tolzien, the very same types of aggressive play calls Green Bay makes with Rodgers. In fact, one of the plays we had Vikings Radio Network analyst Pete Bercich analyze as part of this week’s Vikings GamePlan was a play-action fake, seven-step drop by Tolzien in which he connected with James Jones on a 45-yard gain in the 2nd quarter. Green Bay had several of these play calls in the game and I believe the Vikings will see much of that on Sunday. We will not see the Packers offense reduce to a shell of its normal self with Rodgers just because Tolzien is at the helm. Green Bay will remain aggressive and the Vikings are anticipating that, which is good.
Question asked: Any special plans to combat Green Bay’s kickoff return group?
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said: “Any time you go into Green Bay, you have to be smart about where you kick and how you kick it because of the wind, the weather, the cold. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to get, we have an idea it’s going to be pretty cold obviously. But as Blair has gotten healthier we’ve worked more and more on what I call his bag of tricks, you know the clubs in his back in terms of the mortar kicks, the liners and the deep kick right, middle, all those sorts of things. The more he feels comfortable kicking those types of kicks the better we are at coverage.”
Reaction: Typically I would feel quite comfortable with Walsh disregarding hang time and instead focusing on blasting a kickoff through the end zone. But, as Priefer mentioned, weather conditions on Sunday in Green Bay may be such that it’ll be quite difficult to do that. As a result, I expect the Vikings to consider the high-hang time kickoffs that will allow the coverage team to get downfield and stop Green Bay’s return well inside the 20. This strategy also happens to be quite convenient this week because Green Bay is last in the League with a kickoff return average of just 17.4 yards and they’ve had no kickoff returns of 30 yards. So, this might have been the strategy to use anyway against a team that hasn’t been able to get it going in the return game.