Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave
Q: When you look back at the first game against Green Bay, what went well in the running game?
A: We blocked them really well. Our fullback played a good game. Our tight ends did a good job on the edge. We had a long run on a short yardage play where they were crowded up in there and Adrian (Peterson) made two, three, four, maybe five guys miss once he broke through that initial line of defense. I guess those were some of the things that we want to build on.
Q: With the success Houston had against Adrian, how much of that was how the Texans played and how much do you think Green Bay may be able to poach a little bit knowing they’ll want to be better against the run?
A: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of ways that defenses can combat Adrian’s strengths and we saw some of them versus Houston. We’ve seen some from other opponents and Green Bay will have their version, that’s for sure. We’ll be ready to make adjustments if we need to.
Q: What were the things that excited you about
A: We’re happy for the player. He’s worked hard. He’s definitely team-oriented, like a lot of our guys. He started out his career I believe in Detroit, went to Charlotte, ended up in Indianapolis. He has ability. He’s really gotten better as the season has gone along here for us and as our whole offense has.
Q: What primarily makes him as good as he is at fullback?
A: He’s attentive to detail. He knows who to block, and then, of course, he gets there, he knows how to do it.
Q: Is that a tough role to embrace because it’s so gritty?
A: It’s gritty, it’s gritty. When I was in Jacksonville, James Harris, our General Manager, said you had to pay the fullback’s fee at times and for all that blocking that they do, it’s nice to hand them a “belly” every once in awhile, a “dive,” throw the ball out there to them in the flat. We haven’t paid Jerome’s fee very often and he continues to do a good job. We hit him on a touchdown there in the preseason versus Buffalo, but his catches have been few and far between and we know he caught one against Green Bay a month ago. He caught that opening play against Detroit at home, but otherwise he continues to work without us paying him probably like we should.
Q: How high is that fee then?
A: It’s probably being elevated as we speak.
Q: At what point during the season did you realize 2,000 yards for Adrian might be realistic?
A: I don’t remember what that point was. It may have been once he crossed the 1,000 yard threshold and we had so many games left. Perhaps it was after the Seattle game but I think we realized that we can keep this rolling and really do something unique.
Q: What’s the most amazing thing to you that Adrian has done in 2012?
A: He’s just so determined, you can see it in his eyes, not only on game day but throughout the week in his preparation. He’s our pace setter. He sets the climate and the weather and we all just try to keep up.
Q: Can you just take us through the motions of this past year with Adrian?
A: That day in Maryland, when we were at FedEx Field, was very disheartening, to see any one of our players have a serious injury like that, but in the offseason we would see him from time-to-time, had his rehab appointments here. We kept up to speed on what he was doing in Houston with his rehab appointments and then during this summer there in Mankato, we’d make an Adrian script everyday and he would do it with our training staff. He has really just stayed with the plan throughout and he’s so determined that he just wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Q: What things were on that Adrian script?
A: Runs and passes. You can imagine the throws from the training staff were a point of humor, but he really worked hard at it. He’s just so determined and very focused.
Q: How much significance does 2,000 yards still have as a benchmark?
A: I don’t know in the grand scheme of things how it will be perceived. Our feeling is if we play well and come out with a victory, the 2,000 will take care of itself and maybe more. We want to move the ball down the field, run and pass. We want to stay balanced. We want to be difficult to defend. We want them to have a tough time identifying what concepts we’re going to employ with Adrian and also through the air. If we do our jobs well, that 2,000 will happen and the victory, more importantly, will happen.
Q: What was the reason
A: I thought we started out okay. We did a couple good things on third down. He made a great throw there in the low red area for our first touchdown. There in the second half, when we started to approach the red area again, he made a couple of mistakes that turned out to be mortal mistakes, but I think we can get those out of our system. I think we’ve sensed from the last three games that he’s definitely learned from those and that’s the key. There’s going to be mistakes. Sometimes they’re not really recognizable, sometimes they’re very apparent like they were in the Green Bay game, but if you can learn from them, put them in the rear view mirror and not make them a second time, we’ll be all better.
Q: In the last three games he has played, what have you seen in his footwork and his decision making?
A: I think each and every week he’s continued to get better, he really has. He’s climbing in the pocket, providing a threat to the defense if the first, second or third receiver is not there, then he can take off and run, both in third down situations and also down there in the red area inside the ten yard line where things are very condensed.
Q: What did you think about that 29-yard run he had against Houston where he weaved all over?
A: That was great. That’s tough for defenses to account for a quarterback who can do that. They blitzed everybody, played Cover 0, no safety help, guys were covered, there were a couple of free runners and that’s another case where our players are playing where our chalk ends and he just did a fantastic job.
Q: Against Houston and St. Louis, he made decisions to gain yards on the ground as opposed to trying to survive in the pocket?
A: Correct. They were productive decisions. Rather than trying to salvage the play, he really created a play and I think these plays come with experience. The more things he sees, the more things he’s exposed to on the football field, both in practice and in games. He can put it in his mental file cabinet and learn from it when it shows up again.
Q: There’s a theory that run-first offenses take longer for young quarterbacks to develop because of the lack of reps. Is there any truth to that?
A: There may be some truth. I know Mark Brunell used to talk about how tough it was to play quarterback in Joe Gibbs’ offense when we were with the Redskins. It was heavy run oriented. It was Clinton Portis right and Clinton Portis left and then on third down, ‘quarterback, go make a play for us.’ As a quarterback, that’s a little bit more difficult than being able to throw it 45 to 50 times a game and getting in a rhythm like Kurt Warner used to there with the St. Louis Rams, the greatest show on turf. He knew he was going to get a bunch more throws and if one didn’t go his way, he knew he’d get another opportunity. It’s a different mindset and maybe a different learning curve as you indicated.
Q: What do you think his upside is? Do you think he can be an elite quarterback or a game manager?
A: The response to that question, that remains to be seen. This is his 26th start. He’s going to continue to improve and then we’ll be able to answer that after a few years down the road, but he’s making strides, as our whole team is. We’ve got a bunch of young guys, rookie receiver, of course, rookie left tackle, rookie h-back, second-year right guard, second-year tight end, they’re all making strides and getting better each and every week.
Q: Leslie’s philosophy seems to be to let players play through mistakes and learn from them. Do you share that philosophy and how has that helped Christian?
A; It’s very consistent. Leslie and I talked about that a lot when he first brought me on board. I was trained under Al Groh there in college as a coach at Virginia. He used to have a term for that called the “I.E.,” the instant evaluator, and you don’t want to be an instant evaluator. You want to give guys a chance to work through their mistakes and develop a body of work before you truly evaluate them and make a decision.
Q: After the Green Bay game, how much rebuilding of Christian’s confidence did you have to work on?
A: I think you get low when you get disappointed but I don’t know that your confidence is affected. I think you’re ready to bounce back and make amends for your mistakes. That would be the approach that I’m sure he took and our whole team took. We were disappointed in the outcome and so, hey, let’s get back to the drawing board and play better so we can enjoy a better outcome the next time.
Q: Are you sensing that Green Bay is a very beatable with a couple of minor corrections from the first game?
A: I don’t know. I do know this team is one of the hot teams in the NFC. There’s probably four extremely hot teams with Seattle and Green Bay, and then you could say the Redskins and the Vikings are hot also. They essentially pitched a shutout four days ago. We’re going to have our hands full. We’re going to need to play our best and that’s what we intend to do.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams
How are you guys doing today? I know it’s cold out there, sometimes I wonder how long they keep you waiting outside to get in here. Hopefully you had a good Christmas, some good time with the family. It will be a good weekend this weekend. We’ve always said it’s good to play meaningful football games in December and there’s no more game that’s more meaningful than this one against an opponent that we know, an opponent that we respect and an opponent that’s red hot right now in December. It will be a great challenge for us to go out there at our home field in front of our fans and play football.
Q: What did that performance at Houston do for your confidence as a unit, it seemed to be as complete as it was?
A: It really was. We’ve been harping on playing situational football and there were a lot of situations in that ball game where our guys played extremely well from third down to short yardage, goal line situations, red zone. The guys, like you said, played a complete football game and didn’t allow at the end of the ball game any leaky yards, any leaky points. A complete performance all the way around.
Q: You got a couple of stops from
A: That’s a big deal to us. We stress, and the coaches stress, that hustle is a big deal, it always gives us a chance to play another down. That stop on the one-yard line was a great hustle by him. He could have very well let the guy and just said, ‘You know what he’s close, let him run in’ and that’s a tribute to our guys and our coaches the way they coach up hustle and effort. You can’t substitute for those types of things. They paid big dividends for us.
Q: What has keyed the strengthening of the run defense?
A: Just staying firm I think in what everyone believes in. Fundamentals wins football games, that it’s doing the detailed things, the fundamental things better than anyone else over and over again and not wavering in what we believe in. I think when the guys play longer together more, they start to get a good feel for themselves. Team defense and team chemistry is not built over night, it takes a while. Luckily we have a head coach that believes in the system, he believes in being patient, he believes in our guys and believes in the coaches. It has allowed us to gel as a team and not just say, ‘You know what, a game or two we haven’t played up to our expectations, let’s scrap it and do something else’. Credit to our head coach that he waited and allowed us to gel as a team.
Q: What is it about Aaron Rodgers that makes it so dangerous to blitz?
A: Wow, he is intelligent, he’s seen all the looks so he knows what he’s looking at. He gets the ball out of his hands and when he doesn’t get the ball out of his hands, he has an uncanny ability to move and avoid the rush and keep his eyes down field and find open guys. Then when he doesn’t do that, he’s athletic enough to beat you with his feet. He’s a quadruple threat in terms of what he does when the ball is in his hands.
Q: How do you go about picking your spots with those?
A: We’re still trying to figure that out, how we’re going to approach third down, how we’re going to approach first and second down. It’s tough because you look on tape and people are bringing pressure and they’re coming free and he gets the ball out of his hands and there are guys open. He finds the right guy it seems like every time so we’re going to have to be patient with it. If we bring pressure and they pick up the first down or make a completion, we need to line back up again and play football. It’s not going to be an all-or-none situation and we have to be patient with him because he is an extremely good football player and the offense is a good offense. You’re not going to shut it down, you need to contain it. It’s going to be a 60-minute knock out, drag out fight and we have to be ready for that.
Q: Were you pretty satisfied if you remove that 18 play, 12-minute drive that they had in the third quarter?
A: No, we don’t want to bring home moral victories in terms of what we do. We want to go out there and win the football game. I know there are spots when you play well, but there are also spots when we don’t play well and ultimately against a good team that gets you beat. We want to make sure that we put together another complete football game not just defensively, but offensively and special teams. We want to play well as a team and that’s what it takes to beat this unit, the whole team has to play well.
Q: What were the positives you had in the first meeting with them?
A: I think we shut down the run pretty well and we always talk about not letting the top off the defense in terms of big plays down the football field. We did that for the most part. I know there was earlier on, we gave up a big pass but other than that, there weren’t any coverage busts, any time where we gave them cheap plays, so you take some solace in that. We still gave up too many points and ultimately that’s what you don’t want to do is give up points and we did do that in the ball game.
Q: How do you sense if the lesson was learned on the free plays you got?
A: Lessons learned… I’ll let you know after Sunday. If we learned our lesson and making sure that we watch the ball. He does a great job with his hard counts and that’s why he’s a pro. You’ll see time and time again the defenses that are jumping offsides in the neutral zone. We want to make sure we key the ball and get off on the ball and not any voice reflections and that type of thing.
Q: Is there extra time on that this week more than any other week?
A: Every week we work on it, but some quarterbacks are better than others in what they do and how they do it. He is one of the masters at it and we have to make sure that we hold our water and not jump and really shoot ourselves in the foot because we did do that the last time we played them.
Q: The Senior Bowl brought a lot of the coaches together, had you just come on at that point?
A: I was four days into being hired I think.
Q: What did that whole experience do for you?
A: It helped to get my feet wet in terms of being with the staff, getting to know them, getting to know the players, figuring out just as simple as being out at practice and where I stand, what I do, how I interact with the coaches while we practice. It was a good trial run for me being a coordinator. It helped out me a ton. Even though you don’t want to be the staff that’s coaching in the Senior Bowl, but it paid dividends in a big way.
Q: Do you, or when did you feel like you were completely plugged in?
A: I do now and I’m not sure when that time came, but I do feel like at this point I know our staff well, I know what we do well, I know our personalities. I feel good about my knowledge and the feel for our guys. Whenever that came I’m not sure, but I feel a lot more comfortable with our guys, with their abilities and how they play.
Q: What do you envision
A: Every ball game is a different game and sometimes it’s dictated by the offense in terms of how many receivers they bring out and what the package is. We had a package that Josh was involved in and it just so happens that we didn’t get to it. We were playing well and you don’t want to go to a different package just to put a guy in. That’s just how the ball game fell. We do have a package for Josh, it’s just the matter of if we get to it, if we need it for that ball game.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
A: Well, if you watch the tape, you guys I know watch the tape, he really hit it well. We always talk about even every long kick, you want to approach it like it’s a PAT or a 30-yarder mentally. Obviously he had to really stroke it, kick it a little bit harder, and he did that. It was a great hit, a great snap and hold, excellent protection, everything went well on that play for us.
Q: Leslie Frazier said you told him that basically if you cross midfield you’re in field goal range.
A: He misquoted me on that (Laughs). No I’m just kidding. I told him, I said, ‘If we get in the 40-, 42-yard range, yard line going in.’ Because the way he was hitting them in pre game was the best he hit them in the last few weeks in pre game. He felt good, he felt confident. His leg is fresh. I don’t know if he’s getting any stronger, maybe he is in the strength program and stuff like that, but this time it’s hard to get stronger. I think he’s maintained his strength because we’ve done a pretty good job of managing how many kicks he has per week.
Q: You had an opportunity to kick a 58-yard field goal, but instead
A: Coach [Frazier] and I talked about that and I think it was 16 to 6 at the time and the risk-reward, the risk goes higher than the reward at that point, in my opinion. The way our defense is playing, he and I talked about it and he made a great call and a great decision on going ahead and punting it there in that situation, which I think is the perfect call. Now, if we’re down 13 to 6 or whatever the case may be, I think we take a shot there, but because of the situation and because of the way our defense is playing, pin them back deep and let’s go. Kluwe had a great punt and Josh Robinson made a really nice play for us.
Q: Do you know where that line is risk-reward-wise?
A: It’s a situation where – what’s the score, how’s our defense playing, how’s our offense playing, how are we covering punts, are they rushing the punt, are we getting it off fast – there’s a number of factors that go into that. And that’s going through my little brain anytime we’re in the situation, exactly what I’m supposed to be thinking about while Coach Frazier is being a head coach. That’s my job to manage the game from my point of view and then he and I talk about it and he makes the decisions from there.
Q: Based on how your defense is playing and playing at home, what is your philosophy on kickoffs? Do you want to see a touchback?
A: Randall Cobb is a great returner. I know he’s a little banged up right now, but I expect him to play. I know Coach McCarthy has said he probably will play. I would expect him to be back there because this game is big for them as well. I think touchbacks are fine with a returner like that, but we’re going to kick it high and deep and we’re going to cover them and when he brings them out we have to be there to make the play.
Q: The one kick return Houston took out and had a good return gets called back with about seven or eight flags.
A: There were four flags, which I have never seen four on one play. It was awesome. They called one hold, it was a blatant hold, and there were two other holds on the play and all three were at the point of attack. Our guys are taught anytime you’re held, and you’re held every play, but if you don’t get off the hold, and that’s what the officials are looking for, if you don’t actually attempt to get out of there, they’re not going to call it, nor should they. But our guys did a really good job of fighting to keep working to the ball.
Q: Mason Crosby has struggled this year for Green Bay. Have you ever been this late in the year and you’re still working through a guy’s confidence and getting out of his own head?
A: Yeah, I think that’s at any position, kicker, punter, snapper, returner, core special teams guy that’s not as productive as he needs to be at a certain time of year. Mason Crosby is an outstanding kicker. I remember when he came out of Colorado. Obviously, he was drafted by Green Bay. I think they’ve done a great job of managing that situation, because that could blow up if he was anywhere else. If he was playing for a different team, maybe New York, or something like that it would be different story, but being that it’s in Green Bay and Coach McCarthy has handled it so well, I think they know that he is such steady guy that he is a consistent guy that once he finds his groove, he’ll be just fine. Hopefully he doesn’t find it this weekend.
Q: What’s the helplessness of a coach in that situation when it seems like it’s mostly inside a player’s head?
A: Well I think you have to go back and you have to help him with his confidence. You go back and you watch tape or you go back and you talk about when he was successful. Last year he had a phenomenal year and earlier this year he was kicking the ball well. I’m sure that’s what the coaches are doing there because they have a very, very good staff and they do a great job on special teams. It’s one of those things that any good kicker, punter, any specialist needs to work through those things. Like any other sport, so much of it is mental and once they get it figured out, they’re fine.
Q: Do you have to tell Blair anything to maintain him confidence-wise?
A: We’ll do field goals today and we’re always watching tape together. We watched the last two games together again this morning, just to kind of reinforce what we’ve been doing because he is hitting the ball so well I’m not going to over coach him. He’s confident right now, he’s feeling good and that’s where he should be.
Q: Blair said on Sunday that the whole kicking operation is in as much of a zone as he’s ever been in.
A: Cullen [Loeffler] and Chris have been fantastic and I can’t under emphasize the importance of the protection because the protection has been solid, knock on wood, all year. Those guys take it seriously. They line up and they know they have a good guy behind them that if they just give him a little bit of time he’s going to get it up in the air and put in through the pipes. I’m proud of that whole team, that whole unit as I am most of our, or all of our special teams for that matter.
Q: Were you the one that delivered the news yesterday that Blair was voted to the Pro Bowl?
A: I did, because he had just left and Coach Frazier allowed me to do that. That was kind of cool. It was his idea so it was cool. He was fired up, Blair was really fired up about it.
Q: Did you talk to him on the phone?
A: I talked to him on the phone. He had just left. He had done his treatment or his maintaining his body or whatever those guys do and then he was at home when I called him.
Q: What was his reaction?
A: He was excited and understandably so. We always forget, he’s 23 years old. He’s a young guy. What a huge honor. His peers and fans and coaches voted him as a pro bowl kicker. The best thing about the conversation I had with him is that he is so locked in and focused on this week that where a lot of young guys would – when I was 23 I would be so fired up myself. But, he is such a team guy and the things that he says in the media and in the locker room and in our meeting room is true. He is really, really focused on being a team player and the most important thing is this weekend’s game.