Vikings Linebacker Audie Cole
Q: We know you guys always concentrate on stopping the run first, but first and foremost like you said you want to get that first divisional win. You guys are going to lay it all on the line. Could you sense that when you guys started off tonight?
A: I mean when we came in, I don't know if you could sense it, but I know the guys in this locker room were ready to go, and we went out on the field and showed it.
Q: It seemed after your first tackle that you were just kind of voracious for more, you were in a zone.
A: I want to make every tackle I can make. I want 30 every game, but obviously that's never going to happen. It's fun.
Q: Five of the first seven snaps you had a tackle. Did you think you were going to get every one?
A: No, I mean, you only get the ones that come to you. I missed a few; I left a few out on the field, which is going to eat at me a little bit. But it was a good defensive game.
Q: You said they were going to haunt you a little bit, the ones you left out on the field?
A: Oh yeah. If you have 10 tackles and you missed four, that's 14 tackles. They always haunt you.
Q: How much does this mean going forward, I know you guys didn't want to think towards next year, that you wanted to enjoy this for what it was, but what was this game going forward for you personally and the team?
A: It means a lot going forward. I know today it couldn't have done anything for the rest of the season for us but we wanted to go out there and play the way we know we can play. I think we did that and we're ready to come back in next year and hopefully pick up where we left off and keep building.
*Q: You played like you were possessed out there. You came out from the get go, and it was on, right? *
A: Once you've been between the lines you got to go, right? We just wanted to play tough today.
Q: No touchdowns given up defensively, it's got to be nice coming into that locker room after that.
A: It's awesome. I don't know in my lifetime if I've been on a defense that gave up zero touchdowns, but I don't know off the top of my head. That's the goal, I mean we don't want them to score touchdowns, kick field goals and we did that.
Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen
Q: What does it mean to get your first touchdown today?
A: It was awesome. It feels a lot better since we got the win on the last game of the season. We didn't care how we won we just wanted to get that W.
Q: What happened on that play?
A: I think they dropped the coverage. I believe that one guy was playing cover two and the rest were playing man and I inside released him and Teddy found me.
Q: How much of a boost was it to come in and get a win in the last game today?
A: It was huge for our confidence going into next year. We got a good team; we just had a lot of close games that we lost. We want to be in the playoffs next year.
*Q: How did Teddy (Bridgewater) mature in your mind over the course of the year? *
A: It is unbelievable the way that he matured and the way that he kept getting better each week and every day in practice. It's crazy how you can see it every day in practice and now you can see it in the games.
Q: What is the key to capitalizing on your opportunities when they come your way?
A: That's how the NFL works. You might not get a lot of opportunities but when you do you got to make the most of them because you don't know when your next time will be. It's just one of those things where I want to go out there and do it for my teammates who I've been working with since last May and it was just good to get the victory.
Q: Is it starting to crystalize for you that you might have a niche in this league?
A: I don't think of it that way; I just want to go out there and do my job and do what the coaches ask me to do to help this team win.
Q: Was it your plan the whole time to throw the ball in the crowd?
A: My fiancé was sitting there so I wanted to give her the ball; it was my first touchdown ball so hopefully she caught it.
Q: She put a picture up on Twitter and it says that she caught it.
A: Well that's good. I saw her but I didn't see her catch it or anything, hopefully she didn't fight too many people for it.
Q: Does she have good hands?
A: Yeah, she's got better hands than I do.
Q: Last week in Miami you were all alone in the end zone; did you think that might have been your best shot for a score this year?
A: I don't know; I don't really think of it that way. I just go out there and when I get an opportunity, I want to make the most of it and mostly I want to do it for my teammates because those guys put a lot of work in and we want to go win games and that's what it is all about.
Q: How about chasing that guy down, what happened on that play?
A: That was probably my fault in the first place; I wasn't going to let him score.
Q: What was your 40 yard dash time?
A: At the combine I ran a 4.45
Vikings Safety Xavier Rhodes
Q: What was the defensive strategy that you wanted to do today?
A: Number one thing for defense is always to stop the run and to make them stop wanting to run. That was our goal.
Q: On that last drive, when they had the football at the end of the game, what needed to be done?
A: Just stopping them, get off the field so we could win the game. That's the only thing we were thinking, that's the only thing we wanted to do is just stop them.
Q: Did Cutler bring anything to the table that you knew you had to stop?
A: Cutler will be him. He will play his game, make good throws, make good decisions.
Q: It seemed like they weren't even looking for Alshon Jeffery in key situations, how does that feel considering what he did to you guys last time?
A: That's what they want to do, they want to throw it to him. My goal was just to go out there and cover him. That was the only thing I had to do, that was the game plan.
Q: How much did it help you guys to not have to defend Brandon Marshall?
A: Marshall is a threat. He's a great receiver; he's been a great receiver for years. Not having him made us focus on their other good receivers.
*Q: Do you like shadowing one guy as your defensive strategy? *
A: That's not my decision, that's the coaches' decision. They tell me during the week and I go with it. I have to do what they ask me to do, I can't just go out there and do what I want. I have to go with the coaches and their decisions and whatever their decision is.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: When you see a guy like that (Audie Cole) having a great game, even if it is the last game, setting the tone, how does that feel?
A: He's just the next man up and he just had an unbelievable game. He's making every play. It was awesome.
Q: Do you take a lot of positives from this game moving forward?
A: Yeah. Teams never stay the same in the NFL, but finishing out strong just sets the tone for this whole organization.
Q: When you think about this season, where you came from, 7 wins is probably not a bad deal considering all that you guys went through.
A: No, that's still not good enough for us. We want to be in conversations, competing for championships, in the playoffs, playing deeper than January. I think we're headed in the right direction we just have to keep going.
Vikings Linebacker Chad Greenway
Q: Do you have another year or two in your system?
A: At least one. Absolutely.
Q: Did you have any feelings today thinking what if this is the last time?
A: Yeah, you can't help but think that. I mean especially where I'm at in my contract and age, and obviously I want one more year. I'd like to be able to be a decade in a Vikings uniform, that's always been a goal to finish here a Viking. We'll talk about that in the offseason and what will happen, will happen, and we'll just handle it.
Q: Was it a close call today or did you wake up knowing you weren't going to play?
A: For the most part it was a close call throughout the week, it just didn't respond the way I had hoped to be able to play, and to be in a position to be able to go do anything for any amount of time. I was hoping to just go play as long as I could, but it just didn't respond very well.
Q: Can you talk about the strides this defense made this year? Statistically and all the way along the line?
A: I think there are a lot of good things we did. I mean throughout the year you look at the stats and the numbers and they're going to tell you we made some improvements, but there are some areas we still need to improve on. It's really just all about getting wins. Obviously sitting at 7-9 at the end of the year is not where you want to be, we were a couple games away from being in the playoff hunt and competing. We're that two or three game difference, and that's usually where everybody's at this time of year, two or three games one way or the other. We have to find ourselves three or four games the other side of it next year, if I'm a part of it, and get back in the playoffs.
Q: What stood out about Audie Cole's performance today?
A: He did great. I mean it's not really a surprise, he did great last year when he got a chance to play, and it wasn't surprising to any of us. He made some huge plays in the game, especially early on to thwart some of the things we knew they were going to do, especially in the screen game.
Q: You've had a year under the Zimmer defense, no worries about your fit with the style of defense?
A: No, no I don't think it's a worry about a fit, I think it's just a station of life more than it's the fit for the defense.
Q: Looked like you played well when healthy, right?
A: I felt good about my year, unfortunately missed four and a half games. I've never dealt with that before; it's frustrating for me to have dealt with that since my rookie year obviously. It's just a different vibe even today; it just doesn't feel like you're a part of the win. It's really a crappy feeling even though you were there for the whole season. Obviously I'm happy for the guys to get the win. I've always said since day one that I wanted to finish a Viking and I was going to try to do everything I could do to get that done. I hope that if they want me back, I hope we'll find a way to get it done.
Vikings Defensive End Brian Robison
Q: With Coach Mike Zimmer in his first year, you guys managed to get seven wins; do you think that that is a pretty solid foundation?
A: Well, we built a good foundation but there are a lot of victories that we should have had throughout the season. By no means are we going to be satisfied with this; obviously it's still a losing season. We wanted to get a winning season a couple of weeks ago, and that didn't happen for us. What we have to do is be more in-tuned next year, be more assignment-sound, tackle a little bit better. If we do that and the things that we were able to do today, that gives us the opportunity to be successful and get into the playoffs.
Q: Did this defense improve a lot under Coach Mike Zimmer?
A: Absolutely. I don't think the numbers lie. You look at the statistical categories that we've improved in, I think we've made vast improvements from where we were a year ago, and hopefully that continues next year and we become even better.
Q: You guys allowed no touchdowns on defense today, and seeing a guy like Audie Cole step up, what does that mean going forward?
A: I think that says that we got guys that are able to step up. Audie was put in a position this week; he hasn't played a whole lot throughout the year, but he was able to step up today and make a lot of big plays for us and make them early and set the tempo. When you have guys like that on your team, that add depth, that are able to come in when somebody is down make those type of splash plays, that says a lot for your defense.
Q: Was stopping the Bears offense each time that they got the ball something that you guys took personally?
A: That's what you have to do, especially with Chicago. They are a team that builds off of momentum, and if they can get that momentum on their side, they tend to thrive. For us, it was about, if they got the momentum we had to take it right back. We were able to do that today.
Q: I know you said you left a lot of victories on the table, but does it feel good to finally get a divisional win?
A: Absolutely. We did not want to end the season with no wins in the division and we were able to get one today. We were able to put ourselves in third place in the division instead of last place. Those are things that we can take away from this and hopefully build off of in the offseason and hopefully that transfers into a lot more wins next year.
Q: Did you say anything to Jared Allen after the game?
A: I just told him, "Hello," and told him good season. I didn't talk to him too much. I know him and Chad Greenway were talking quite a bit. We just told him good luck in the future and hopefully we'll see him again next year.
Q: You personally had to make some adjustments this year that Coach Zimmer advised, has this been one of the most challenging seasons for you in that regard?
A: Yeah, in some ways it has been difficult. I think in a lot of ways I had to change a lot of my techniques that I've been playing with for seven years. It's all within the scheme of the defense. It's one of those deals where it wasn't anything that I was doing technique- wise that was bad, it was just for the defense I had to change some things that would help the defense be successful, so there was a little bit of an adjustment period. I am not going to make any excuses for numbers or anything like that, they are what they are. There was a little bit of an adjustment period, and we were able to do that, and I think it showed up at the end of the season that it helped us.
Vikings Running Back Matt Asiata
Q: Positive way to end the season, isn't it?
A: That's our main goal, just to win. You know me, I'm not a big (me first) guy so I just want to help move the chains and score touchdowns. We got the win so we'e going out with a bang.* *
Q: It felt like there was some sense of urgency out there for you guys?
A: Yeah we knew that last drive was going to be big to put the game away. Unfortunately we didn't get the first down or the touchdown. I'm kind of pissed about that but we got the win and the defense stopped them.
Q: What are the positives you take away from the season moving forward?
A: It's been pretty up and down so just take it day-by-day and week-by- week trying to go out there to play hard for the team and the coaches. It's been a good season.
Q: Do you see bright spots for next year?
A: Every year is going to be something different. There is always room to get better and it starts by taking this offseason hard and move forward.
Q: You had some pretty long runs out there for yourself today.
A: Yeah like I said, just trying to get the first downs and trying to move the ball for our offense and execute. Our offensive line did a great job and Jerome Felton and Joe Banyard did a good job filling in.
Q: Did this year prove that you can carry the ball a lot and be a part of the offense?
A: I hope so. I go out there trying to score touchdowns and try to win for our team by executing. I try my best every game.
Vikings Defensive End Corey Wootton
Q: Where did the robot celebration come from?
A: That's something I did in Chicago, so a lot of people in Chicago knew me for doing that. So I thought I'd stay with it.
Q: You talk about limiting them to no touchdowns, but you guys were also tracking Jay Cutler really well. On your sack, what did you see on him?
A: I think the biggest thing is that we knew that formation was a passing formation and got a good jump on the ball, got off the ball quick. It was one-on-one with the tight end, I tried to make the best of it. I roped around him and was able to get it.
Q: It's cliché to say this team was all about "next man up", but you saw guys like Audie Cole really step forward. What does it say about this team going forward?
A: I think the biggest thing is there is a lot of youth on this team, just like you said Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges was stepping up big, Shamar Stepthen; there is a lot youth on this team and the direction of the team is going upward.
Q: You guys seemed to stop them especially when they started to get momentum. What does that say, especially against a team like the Bears?
A: The biggest thing you have to do is, like you said, limit that momentum and be able to get stops and get off the ball. I think the biggest thing was, no matter how much yardage they got, we were able to stop them, get off on third down, hold them to a field goal. In that one turnover that they had, being able to limit them to a field goal was huge.
Q: You kind of looked like that Fox robot that they show during Fox football games.
A: Yeah, you know I actually got it from the Chappelle Show, if you've ever watched that, that's where I got it from.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Well it was a good win for us today. I thought our guys played hard; I was happy with the way the defense responded after last week's performance. I thought, again, that Teddy [Bridgewater] played well. He had a 90 quarterback rating and would have been over 100 if the ball wouldn't hit our guy in the chest and bounce out. But I was really proud of the effort though, the way they fought. We had a bunch of guys go in there – Adam Thielen goes in and catches 3 catches for 60 yards or something, a 44-yard touchdown pass, we had Audie Cole goes in and makes a ton of plays, Marcus Sherels has a heck of a punt return, makes a guy miss and gets down the sideline and we did a good job blocking. One of our goals was to have a big play in the return game. Josh Robinson, he got it handed to him the first time we played these people and I don't believe that he gave up a catch today. Those are all good things that make you feel good as a coach and it's good to win.
Q: Can you look at one thing that was maybe different today?
A: You know for the most part we lined up and did our job. They did what we asked them to do. We didn't freelance, we covered our guys, we were in the right place and if a guy messed up, and we had some mess-ups, but somebody helped. If you do those things you can play good defense. If you've got 11 guys that are doing things they're supposed to do and competing, we tackled average at the beginning I thought but we rallied around and kept swarming the ball. That's more what I would like to look like, it's not totally, but it's getting closer.
Q: Has it almost been the theme of the season that the next man steps up and it's fitting to have that to close the season?
A: Well I do think that in the NFL this is a survival of the fittest each and every week. We're not the only team to have do deal with injuries and other issues. We're not going to pat ourselves on the back for that but it's good for guys to come in there and when they get the opportunities to go do some things. This might be the first time in my career we dressed four linebackers for the game.
Q: Would Adam Thielen be in that position to make the catch if other people had done their jobs? Was he out there as part of the plan or did that come about during the game?
A: It came out as part of the game. We didn't have that play in for him particularly. But it's great, a guy like him, he goes out and he busts his rear end each and every week, he does whatever he can do and for him to get the opportunity, and they busted the coverage, but that's important as we get going and continue those things. I told the team I'd see them on Wednesday. I don't want to stop, I want to keep going so I was going to give them victory Monday but they said it'd be April 20 or something like that. They overruled me on that one. There was a lot of good things.
*Q: Did you learn something about Audie Cole today? *
A: Yeah, I probably did. He really was playing out of position. He was playing the Will linebacker and we didn't want to move [Gerald] Hodges and Hodges is probably really a Will and then we'd move two guys but Audie played in there in all of the sub-groups, nickel packages, the whole bit today, he made all of the calls and checks. The more you can do, the longer you get to stay and then when you get your opportunity you go out and do it. He wasn't mistake-free but his heart was big.
Q: How satisfying was it to be able to end the game the way it ended even after giving up the long kick return?
A: Greg Coleman told me that it's the first time since the St. Louis game, which seems like light years ago, that we had not given up a touchdown defensively. I kind of said, "There's way too many weeks in between that that's happened." We rose up when they got the turnover on the 9-yard line and after the kickoff return, like you said. There are situations throughout the course of the year that you think about that, the Buffalo game they hit the 4-and-20 and we end up losing the game, and these guys have the opportunity, if they go down and score a touchdown, to win the game. My mentality today was that we were going to do whatever we had to do to win. I think our guys, we didn't blitz as much today as we normally do, but we made some plays, the last two plays of the game I think we rushed three and we're double covering guys and things like that. But it was good for, I just think overall defensively we played better today.
*Q: Did you expect them to throw it down the field more? *
A: Well we were trying to take some of their downfield throws away but Xavier [Rhodes] covered Alshon Jeffery today and I maybe gave him help a few times but not very often so he did a good job. We let the quarterback get out of the pocket a couple of times, otherwise it probably would have been really good.
Q: What has Xavier shown you over the past couple of weeks, even today, of the way he can match up against receivers?
A: Xavier came up to me and said, "Thanks for everything," helping him get good. He's got a chance to be a really good football player and he's going to progress more with the mental aspect of the game. Right now he's relying a lot on his physical ability and once he figures it out and there's a lot of other things that we can do with him that allow us to continue to be good defensively and it just depends on how fast he progresses into where he's going. He's a great kid, that works real hard, that has improved so much from the time we had him in OTAs. He was just a big piece of clay that had a ton of ability and Jerry Gray has done a great job with him and getting him to understand things.
Q: Where have you seen the biggest improvements in him since OTAs?
A: His technique when he's playing bump-and-run on guys. There are still a lot of things he has to improve on. The thing I like about him – he's a tough kid. When the ball comes over there he's going to hit, the back comes over, he's going to hit him. He's not going to get out of the way and that's all part about, we don't have cover corners, we have corners that have to tackle too.
*Q: How would you assess the job you did in the first year? *
A: 11:00 a.m. Tuesday I'll figure that out. Right now, I'm still kind of thinking about the third down and the fourth down call and the different things that went on throughout the course of the game. I'll give you an honest opinion – all I know is we're 7-9.
Q: Can you talk about the importance of winning today and being 7-9 instead of 6-10? It sounds better.
A: Yeah, it sounds better to me. Teddy, I was walking off the field there at the end and I know you guys have been on my rear end about the division game but Teddy, I didn't even think about it, he comes over and hands me the ball and says, "First division win," and I said, "Oh, thanks Teddy." I'm sorry. What was the question?
Q: About being 7-9 and not 6-10?
A: Well, I like to win. The more that we can go and the more that we can win and I don't know, I think it gives everybody – the fans have been great with me here, I think it gives them some hope. I think the way that Bridgewater played gives them some hope. Hopefully they've liked how we compete and we're definitely not perfect – we've got a long way to go – but there are some good positives to take out of things.
Q: When did Xavier come up thank you?
A: In the locker room.
Q: After the game?
Q: What did that mean to you?
A: He cares. I guess maybe he thinks I know what I'm doing, I don't know.
Q: Can you talk about the hope for the future specifically in regards to Teddy Bridgewater?
A: Yeah, you know this kid is really everything that you want in a quarterback, I think, personality-wise. Somebody asked me about is he going to take charge and all of these things. All I know is the players on the football team, the coaches, the organization, hopefully the fans, believe in this kid. I'd like to go back and see how many times were yelling, "Fran! Fran! Fran!" during a game because he gives them hope. The thing that I get impressed with with him is he makes other people better around him. He's helped Charles Johnson have a heck of a year. We were going to go for it on the one play where he ran the boot and scrambled for the first down, we were going to go for it on fourth down anyway. He makes plays. He just continues to make plays. He's accurate. Even Norv [Turner] talk about this a lot. You talk about those real strong-armed quarterbacks and guys that hum the ball everywhere, but the bottom line is is getting it to the guy in position to catch the ball and run with it. Greg [Jennings] made a great catch on the one third down but he made some great throws in there. I know that Teddy is going to work extremely hard in the offseason to get bigger, get stronger, because he's still a little bit undersized for an NFL quarterback but the things he's done to come in here as a rookie, to take charge, to really put this team on his shoulders as much as we did, he's really impressive.
Q: Can you talk about the critical tackle that Adam Thielen made on special teams?
A: Yeah, well it gave us an opportunity to get them stopped. Good things happen when you hustle and that's the type of kid Adam is. It's great to see a guy from Mankato State come up here and get in the NFL and do the things he's been doing. I think his story is good for a whole bunch of players around the nation that, "Hey, all I want I want is an opportunity," and then when he gets the opportunity he takes advantage of it. It's hard work; it's being intelligent. You don't have to tell him to do things harder; you don't have to tell him to line up differently, he gets it. That's big.
Q: Was the third-and-1 and fourth-and-inches at the end on offense the same play? It looked like the same alignment, same motion?
A: Yeah and we ended up blocking the wrong guy. It's this much. We could have not blocked anybody and gained that much. We should have.
Q: What did you see from Matt Asiata today?
A: I thought Matt ran great today. He ran with a purpose – strong, good cutbacks. He actually came up to me after that fourth-and-1 and said, "I messed that up; I should have got it." The thing that Asiata does, he runs with his pads over his shoulders and he's got good feet and he's a good kid, he's a really good kid.
Q: How do you think he handled the challenge of being asked to step up after Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season?
A: I think he's done a good job. Matt's a solid guy. He's good in protection, he's another guy when he gets the opportunity he goes out and goes. He's always got a smile on his face, he doesn't joke around much, but he's got a smile on his face, at least when he talks to me.
Q: How do you think the offense did today?
A: I thought they were sporadic to be honest with you. We had a couple of really good drives but at the beginning of the game kind of milling around - we jumped offsides, we didn't get out of bounds on the two-minute drill, we had another time when we jumped offsides – but in the second half we cleaned up a lot of those things and we moved the ball a lot better. I think our third down conversions were pretty good for the most part today but like you said, last week we played great offensively, I thought, and not near as good today.
Q: You talked earlier this week about how end of the season wins and momentum doesn't carry over because of all the personnel changes in the offseason.
A: I was lying about all of that.
Q: What does carry over from an end of season win?
A: I honestly don't know. Things change so much in the NFL from year to year. Nobody expected Carolina and New Orleans and those teams in that division to be what the records that they had. So things change fast. I think it may give you a good feeling about going into next year and I hope like crazy that it is a factor towards next season. The bottom line is if we don't come to work when it's time to come back to work and we don't get in the weight room and get stronger, more physical, and understand more how to win games at the end of the year it doesn't matter. When we get to training camp, when we get to OTAs, all of the things we have to do to win these close games that we've lost it really doesn't matter. Maybe I can use it as a teaching tool more so as we get going.
Q: How was Cordarrelle Patterson in relation to the ball bouncing off his chest? What do you need to do to continue to keep his head high?
A: I've got a plan for this offseason for him and hopefully it works, but it's going to be up to Cordarrelle. I'll leave it at that.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
Great way to end the season today, get my first division win. It's good to end the season on a high note and head into the off season with a lot of momentum. We know that we have to continue to build off of this momentum and it won't mean anything if we don't come back for the off- season ready to work.
Q: Coach Zimmer said that you gave him the ball after the game and said, 'first division win', why did you give it to him instead of keep it for yourself?
A: I was more excited for Coach Zimmer. I wanted to tell him "first of many' but I was so excited, so caught up in how well the guys played today. Today showed a lot of character, the character of this team. Talk about Audie Cole, Adam Thielen, guys who we asked to make plays for us today and those guys stepped up, did a great job. It was an overall team effort. I just felt so comfortable and just felt good to give Coach Zimmer that ball.
Q: How do you think Coach Zimmer did this season with all the injuries and the distractions and all that kind of stuff?
A: He did a great job. They say leadership starts from above. He did a great job and it trickled down to the coaching staff and into the locker room. With all that adversity that we were faced with, he did a great job of coaching us on the run and preparing us and teaching us how to handle every situation. That's the type of players that he wants on this team. He wants tough and physical football players but also tough mentally. I thought he did a great job for the most part and I'm just proud of this team.
Q: How do you think you did in that leadership role this season?
A: I think I did pretty good. I was able to lead within my character, I wasn't asked to do anything out of my character. It's always good when you have a group of leaders like Chad Greenway, Brian Robison, Greg Jennings, Linval Joseph; a group of guys who know what it takes to win on this level. Like I said the leadership has trickled down from the coaching staff into the locker room and I was able to do a great job also.
Q: What did you learn about yourself this season?
A: I learned that I'm a resilient football player but not only me, this team is. At the same time we learned that we have to be a much better team in crucial situations. There are a ton of positives that we can take away from this season but we just want to continue to do the things that will help us down the road, win those close football games that we were in this year. At the same time, like I said, our guys showed great character, great resiliency.
Q: If someone told you at the start of the year you'd start 12 games and go 6-6, throw for nearly 3,000 yards, would you have taken that?
A: I would have told you you were crazy. I thought that this was going to be a year where I was just going to be able to come in and compete but things happen, like I said we were faced with adversity this year and whenever my number was called I had to always be ready. Anything could have happened early in the season and unfortunately we lost Matt Cassel, but we lost a ton of other guys. You talk about how finishing the season with two of your starting offensive linemen out of the lineup. I think we did a great job, not only me, but guys like Vladimir Ducasse, Joe Berger, the other guys who had to step in for the guys who got hurt.
Q: Can you take us through the touchdown pass, when you realized they busted the coverage?
A: As soon as I got the snap I peeked over there and saw that the corner and the safety had a miscommunication. The safety seemed to be playing in the middle of the field and the corner seemed to be playing cloud coverage. It was one of those deals where it was an easy throw, just lay it out there and allow the guys to make the play. That's the same throw that I had earlier in the year in the Atlanta Falcons game when I missed Jarius Wright. It was just good to be able to hit those easy throws and capitalize.
Q: Are you at the point now where it's just instinctive now where you see the guys and hit the guy, do you think that happened throughout the course of the year where you got to that comfort level?
A: Oh yes. One thing I can say about this year heading into next year is that I've experienced it now. I've been able to start 12 games and play in 13. That's one of those deals where you get so comfortable and you develop that chemistry playing with guys and where you just gain confidence each week. Like I said, I was able to start 12 games. My next 12 games will be much better than my previous 12. Being able to gain confidence throughout the course of the year, I think that's what this year was about.
Q: What are things you take from this season and tell yourself, this is the next step for me, this is where I want to go in the off season?
A: That's one of those deals where I want to get with the coaching staff tomorrow and we're just going to have an overview of the season. For me on the most part, like I said towards the second half of the season I did a better job of thinking less and playing faster. That's one of the biggest takeaways from this season heading into the off season.
Q: Do you think thinking less now you're getting more from your talent and instincts?A: Yeah, I had a talk with Greg early in the year. Talk about Greg, a guy who's played with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He has experience, he knows the type of ball that a quarterback should be throwing, the ball placement, the type of touch that should be on the pass. I had a talk with Greg, he just told me 'hey man, I know you want to see every throw, you want to be perfect, but just feel it. Trust that we're going to be in the right area at the right time. Lay it out there and trust that we're going to come down with the catch and make a play for the team'. Hearing those words from Greg, it just gave me motivation, gave me some motivation as the year went on.
Q: Happy for Adam Thielen? A guy that works hard on special teams, getting to get a touchdown catch the last game?
A: I'm very happy for Adam. Adam was one of the first wide receivers that stood out to me when I arrived here. He competed with us in the rookie mini-camp and just showed flashes ever since then. He's a guy that works hard every week whether it's on special teams or on the offensive side of the ball or even if he's giving our defense a look on the scout team. I'm glad to see that he was able to score his first receiving touchdown today.
Q: What happened on that interception?
A: It was a poor throw. I threw the ball behind Cordarrelle [Patterson] on the slant route. If I just put the ball right on him on his upfield shoulder, at least he can catch it and get a gain of 4 or 5 yards. I left the ball behind him and it just went off of his hands. Like I said, I can do a better job of ball placement and just finishing throws.
Q: Is it disappointing when you throw it just a little off and it gets tipped for an interception or is it something you can't really control at that point?
A: Yeah that's one of the things you can't control. Every pass isn't going to be a perfect throw and every time you drop back you're not going to have a perfect pocket. I just have to be able to have a short term memory in that situation. The ball was in the second play of the second half, we could have easily threw in the towel but our defense did a great job of stopping those guys in the red zone and it just built up our momentum.
Q: Was that your first NFL tackle?
A: I believe it was and hopefully I don't have to be making many of those.
Q: How does it feel to come out here every time and have the fans cheering your name and cheering for you?
A: Oh we love it. Not only because they're chanting my name or anything, it's just the support. The fans have been loyal to us all year. We had some cold games, our first year outside, and they stood by our side whether we traveled, they attended the away games also. Really thankful to have the fan support like the one we have here and it's just going to be exciting moving forward.
Q: What about when they chant your name?
A: I said it's pretty cool but our guys would disagree because they are chanting when we're on offense.
Q: You downplayed this a couple of weeks ago from it looks like this is your team from the outside looking in. Do you feel differently now than you did three weeks ago?
A: I'm going to say the same thing I said three weeks ago. This is as much Vladimir Ducasse's team, Jabari Price, Jerrick McKinnon, the same guys. I'm glad to be a quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, it feels great to hear those words from the Coach but everyone plays a role around here. I'm just excited to be on a team with this group of guys. It's going to be kind of bittersweet because it's going to be the last time taking the field with some of the guys on this team because it's just the nature of the business. It was a special season and I was glad to be a part of it.
Q: Guys have stepped up all season long with injuries and such, did it kind of sum up the season told how Adam Thielen and Audie Cole stepped up today?
A: Oh yes and it just shows we have a ton of talent and shows the character of the team. Guys could have easily just had that mindset of hey, this is the last game, let's just get through it. But our guys came out, we competed today. Talk about Audie Cole having 10 tackles today, he played lights out for us today. Like I said, Adam Thielen, he changed the game for us. Whether it was in the kicking game, making the tackle, he saved the touchdown on the kick return, he had the touchdown catch in the game. Those guys did a great job today and we're proud of them.
Q: Can you describe the mood in the locker room after today's game?
A: It was a good feeling, especially being able to get that first division win. We work hard each week around here and it's just good to see our hard work paying off.
Q: How do you believe the offense did overall this week?
A: We did pretty good but we could have played better today. I know that I could have played better today, like is said the expectation level around here is pretty high for us. We're just going to build off this momentum today, it's always good to get the win no matter how you get it, as long as you win the football game that's what it's all about. We know that we're capable of playing much better than we did today but Chicago is a pretty good team also defensively and we knew that it was going to be a challenge.
Q: What's your plan for the off season in terms of where you're going to work out?
A: I'm pretty sure I'll be back home in the Weston area, Weston, Florida. I'm going to talk with the coaching staff tomorrow and see what the plan is going forward.
Q: Is there one play or one thing from this season that is going to stand out for you?
A: There are a ton of plays, a ton of things that are going to stand out. Whether it's, as you could see Greg Jennings today making the one-handed catch bailing me out on a bad pass, or the two blocked punts we had in the Carolina game, or the first game of the season where Cordarrelle Patterson takes a pitch out of the backfield for a touchdown. Just the little things like that that stand out about this year and gives you some excitement going into next year.
Q: Where you work out in Weston, Florida, is that kind of to get away from some of the distractions right in Miami and just hone in?
A: I've always been good at blocking out distractions. I'll have to continue to be a pro and I'll just be in Weston, that's where I trained before the draft and I'll just go back down there.