Talk to just about anyone on the Vikings defensive line, and he will tell you that defensive line coach Andre Patterson is the best in the business.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Patterson earlier this week and said that he recognizes how to improve players.
"You see a guy that has the ability to do something, and you help teach him the technique and learn. Or he sees something and maybe he can try something a little bit better to become good," Zimmer said. "Andre has a great relationship with those guys. He's tough. When he needs to be, he's tough. But he's like a mother hen the rest of the time. He's always been a great sounding board to me and a great friend, as well."
What some fans might forget is the length of time that Patterson and Zimmer have spent together on coaching staffs.
Chad Graff of The Athletic delved into Patterson's success with players and overall coaching journey, including when he first met Zimmer. Graff wrote:
He excelled so quickly that a call came in 1988 from Mike Price, then the head coach at Weber State. Price wanted Patterson to coach his defensive line. Price told him he'd be working with a fellow young coach with a defensive focus — a coordinator named Mike Zimmer.
"He was intense, straightforward, really committed to detail and committed to trying to make his players the best they could be," Patterson told Graff about his first impressions of Zimmer.
In some ways, Patterson is the Zimmer whisperer to the Vikings coaching staff, the assistant coach who has been with Zimmer more than any other, this their third team together.
The two were in constant communication through Zimmer's frustrating process at the start of the decade of interviewing for head coaching jobs. Zimmer called Patterson to prep for each one and they talked about the pros and cons of each opening.
Patterson spent 1988-96 in the college ranks and then was with NFL teams from 1997-2006. He then went back to collegiate coaching until 2014 when he joined Minnesota.
Not many could've convinced Patterson to return to the cutthroat world of professional coaching. But he wanted to be on staff when Zimmer got his first chance.
"He's the same guy he's always been," Patterson told Graff. "I think that's what makes him really good. You know what you're going to get every day. As a player and a coach, you know what he demands and you know what he wants you to do."
SNF's divisional game could 'come down to handling pass rush'
The winner of the divisional game on Sunday Night Football this weekend will be in first place of the NFC North.
The Vikings will travel to Chicago to face their Bears for a prime-time showdown at Soldier Field for the third consecutive season.
"It's another normal night trip to Chicago," Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph told media members Thursday.
Chicago-based sportscaster Hub Arkush wrote for the Daily Chronicle that the game "could come down to handling pass rush."
Minnesota and Chicago both boast talented defensive units, ranking fourth and third in yards allowed, respectively. Arkush wrote:
With all due respect to Green Bay, Kansas City and Pittsburgh – all tied with Minnesota for the NFL sacks lead with 31, while the Bears are next with 30 – when the Vikings and Bears have all hands on deck, they are the two best pressure defenses in the NFL.
The team that handles the other club's pass pressure the best Sunday night most likely will win.
Arkush quoted Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy, who compared the two defenses:
"Both defenses are very similar," Nagy said. "They're good at stopping the run. They're opportunistic, and they take the ball away when they need to, and they're led by two great people on those sides in [Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio] and of course with [Coach Zimmer] running that show ever there."
Arkush said it will be interesting to see how each team's quarterback and run game responds.
Although both these teams' secondaries are playing great football, take away defensive pressure, and the two clubs become very beatable.
We'll see which team's pressure bursts the other's pipes Sunday night.