Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
It was a good team win for us tonight. I think we played with a purpose, we practiced with a purpose this week and we've got a lot of good football players on this team; they care about one another, they care about playing together as a football team. I thought we did some good things. When I got here two years ago, we kind of started this journey at the University of Minnesota and know there's been 16 regular season games, I have a lot of really good memories from this stadium, hopefully we get a chance to come back. If not, it's been good and I think our team has made it their home for the last two years.
Q: You've put yourself in position to win the NFC North, how do you like your chances?
A: Well, you know if you would have told me in July that we'd have a chance the last game of the year to go January 3rd and play for a division title, I would have been excited about it. It's still going to come down to executing and doing the things right. We've said all along, we've played good on the road this year, but we haven't beaten Green Bay, so that's something we've got to get done.
Q: What's the biggest lesson from your loss earlier in the season that you need to apply next week?
A: I don't know, I'll have to think about that a little bit, I've been so focused on this week. They got after us pretty good and we didn't make the plays we needed to win. They're an excellent football team, excellent organization, they've got a terrific quarterback. They played good defensively that night against us. We'll just see.
Q: Does it feel a little bit sweeter to clinch a playoff berth like you did in winning fashion?
A: Well, I would have took it the other way. But you know, it's always better when you do something yourself as opposed to relying on somebody else. That's the opportunity we have in front us, that was the opportunity that we had tonight.
Q: What do you attribute the offensive rhythm the last couple of games to?
A: Tonight we intercepted a few balls and scored touchdowns that way. You know, I didn't think we played great offensively in the first half. They obviously had a lot of guys up there and things, we got a lot of 2-yard runs. I told Norv [Turner], I said, 'Can we break one of these in here?' And then Adrian [Peterson] about that same time broke it and so it was good. You know, usually when they keep keeping all of those people in there against the run you have a chance to pop some long runs and it took a long time before we were able to get a couple of them. It's just part of the mindset that I'm trying to develop with this football team.
Q: Do you like where your team is heading right now heading in to the final week of the regular season?
A: Well, we've played good the last few weeks. I think we're playing with confidence right now. I think our guys feel good about the things we're doing. I think they believe and half of the battle is believing. When I was in Cincinnati at the early stages of when I was there, we played somebody, a good football team, I can't remember exactly who it was and they beat us that day and they said, 'You know those guys (Cincinnati), they have a good football team, they just have to believe.' I talked to the defense about it and we started believing that we were a good football team. I think our guys believe that we are.
Q: Did you see opportunities to get Kyle Rudolph going against the Giants?
A: Yeah, they've struggled a little bit against tight ends, but you know, their main deal was to get the run stopped with Adrian [Peterson], like most teams do, that tends to open some things up. A couple of the throws that Teddy [Bridgewater] made to him were really, really good throws. We have a lot of things that we have to clean up though from that ballgame. I know the score looked bad and all of that. There were so many things that – if we're going to be a great football team, we've got to clean these things up.
Q: Any examples of things you want to get cleaned up?
A: Well, the long pass. We checked in to some things that we weren't supposed to, we didn't check out of some things we were supposed to. You know, there was a combination of things that we can do a whole bunch better than what we did. I've got to grind them this week.
Q: Have any T-shirts planned?
A: No T-shirts, no T-shirts this week.
Q: Is your mom heading to Green Bay?
A: I don't know, might have to bring her.
Q: Any update on Matt Kalil?
A: His X-rays were negative.
Q: It was just a bruise?
A: I guess, I don't know. They just told me his X-rays were negative. [Terence] Newman was sick during the game, I should have got him out sooner. Other than that I think that was about it.
Q: Was Terence Newman sick going in to the game?
A: Yeah, apparently. I didn't know about it. No one told me until he came off one time and was throwing up on the sideline. I asked him, he gave up that quick out early in the ballgame and I asked him if he was okay and he said, 'Yeah.' But he didn't tell me he was sick. And then he gave up the touchdown pass, so I should have got him out before that.
Q: Is there anything you can take from the defensive performance?
A: When you create turnovers and you put pressure on the quarterback, good things typically happen. I thought we put good pressure on the quarterback tonight. I thought we got him to make some bad throws and we took advantage of it. The three interceptions we had were all huge. Actually, [Robert] Blanton made a huge play, on the onside kick, returning it back to the 12, or 20-yard line or something like that. Those turnovers flipped the field position and I thought, for the most part, we did a good job about that tonight. I talked to them all week about when the weather gets bad the field position becomes really, really important. When you have them backed up you need to keep them backed up defensively, special teams helps in that area. I thought for the most part we did a good job there.
Q: Will you keep the same routine this week since you will be on Sunday Night Football two weeks in a row?
A: I guess so. Rick [Spielman] said to me, 'You know, you've been flexed.' I said, 'Well, you know, it's hard to miss the thing on both ends of the scoreboard they're playing the Sunday Night Football thing.' I don't know, we can't win on primetime, so we just keep going.
Q: Was it nice to get Jerick McKinnon involved some?
A: Yeah, you know, Jerick [McKinnon] is a good football player and you see the explosiveness that he has. Unfortunately, he had the one touchdown early called back, but this is a guy that gives a little bit of juice in a lot of different areas. I really like him, he's played really well the last couple of weeks, but it was nice to spell him. We got [Matt] Asiata in there a little bit late.
Q: Do you think Linval Joseph picked up where he left off?
A: It's hard for me to tell, I saw him make some plays in there. Until I look at the film tonight, I won't be able to give you a real good evaluation.
Q: Will the players get victory Monday?
A: The players don't have meetings but they're going to come in and workout. They're tired of seeing me, too.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It was a great team win today. All three phases did a great job tonight coming away with this victory, defense especially; those guys gave us a short field all night and we took advantage of it offensively, and the special teams, those guys did a great job also. Coach Zimmer told us that you have to have that same intensity, that same focus that we've been playing with the past two weeks and I saw it tonight when I walked into the stadium. Those guys in that locker room had their minds made up that they wanted to go out there and prove something. What a better stage to do it than on primetime. The fans were awesome tonight. We're just very appreciative of them and it was just a well-fought game today and I'm proud of those guys.
Q: It's only step one, but how does it feel to be going to the playoffs?
A: Like you said, it's only step one but it feels good to know that you've earned it. You can't rely on anyone to do your dirty work for you. That's why we appreciate Coach Zimmer – that was his message – that we have to embrace the challenge that's in front of us. The guys did a great job of answering that and responding and it showed tonight.
Q: In what ways would you say your game has changed since that Green Bay loss?
A: I think we're playing smarter as an offensive unit, relying on guys to make plays. I'm like the point guard out there, I just have to assist, pass the ball to those guys and allow those guys to make plays. And we have the guys who are capable of making the big play every time they touch the ball and it's been showing the past couple weeks and I just have to continue to let the game come to me. We've been doing a good job of just getting the ball out and things like that and not trying to test protections. It was just an overall team effort too. Coach [Norv] Turner has been calling great games, allowing us to have some success and play fast as an offensive unit and it's been working for us.
Q: Has anything changed for you specifically or mentally since that Green Bay game?
A: I just continue to stay within the system, I haven't changed much. I guess I'm getting the ball out much quicker, trying to get the ball out much quicker to allow our guys to make plays on the outside. Those guys have been doing a great job for us.
Q: Do you smell blood in the water with the way the Packers have been playing or do you let that play itself out?
A: Yeah, we can't pay any attention to what the Packers are doing and how they've been playing. We have to continue to focus on ourselves. Coach Zimmer said something to us I think early in the week and he said, "Once we get in the playoffs, the only team that can beat the Vikings is the Vikings," and we don't want to beat ourselves. We know that we have a big-time game coming up next week, but we don't want to make the game bigger than what it is, so the guys are going to come to work tomorrow with their hard hats on with the same focus and intensity and approach this week as if there's something on the line.
Q: Do you feel the last game against Green Bay became bigger than it was for you guys?
A: I don't think so. We know that each game is a big game for us. Every time we're out there on that field, we know we want to come out victorious. That Green Bay loss last time still doesn't sit well with some of the guys, but we want to focus this week and make sure that we give it our all.
Q: Is there anything that recently changed in the playbook that helps you get the ball out faster or is it all in your progression?
A: Yeah, we haven't changed much. We have guys who are capable of making plays on the outside, so as long as I get the ball to those guys and they have space to run, those guys will make the big plays for us and they've been doing just that.
Q: What did you see on the touchdown to Kyle Rudolph?
A: It was just a nice matchup that we liked and Kyle is a big target and we wanted to take advantage of that matchup and Kyle did exactly that. He set the guy up on the route and gave me a throwing lane and we just played pitch-and-catch.
Q: How do you feel when you see a teammate like Harrison Smith come back from injury and get a pick-six?
A: I was very excited. Like you said, a guy like Harrison who has been through everything that he's been through this year. He's a hard worker, he does everything that the coaching staff asks of him. He's an outstanding player and we love to have him. We love the fact that he's on our team and not on the teams that we're facing. To see him get that interception and return it all the way for a touchdown – I didn't jump up, I just fist pumped on the sideline and just said, "Thank you!" That's something that's been missing and he stepped up and he made the big play today.
Q: What was so exciting about Jerick McKinnon's long touchdown?
A: Jerick, he's my roommate whenever we travel and whenever we stay at the hotel and we just talk all night, "Man, hopefully you can get in the endzone, what do you want to do, what celebration are you going to do?" We try to keep the celebrations down to a minimum though, that guy can get out of control. I was very excited for him. He's a guy last year I recall, every time we got down to the red zone, the goal line, we would take him out. He didn't get any rushing touchdowns last year, so to see him get in the end zone this year, I was just really excited for him.
Q: Is there any trick you've been using to draw the opposing teams offsides via the hard count?
A: We just wanted to take advantage of it. It's something that we can use to our advantage, get a free five yards and also get a free play. You put the tape on, you watch teams around the league, they're getting defenders to jump offsides and sometimes they get big plays, touchdowns and things like that, so we try to use it to our advantage and it's been helping us.
Q: This was the most points the Vikings have scored since 1998, is that a product of the short field of how defense and special teams played or have you guys found a new gear on offense?
A: Like I said, it was an overall team effort tonight. Special teams did a great job, that play by Robert Blanton, I was teasing him because he got ran down by an offensive lineman. With him making the heads up play recovering the onside kick, with [Marcus] Sherels making sure that he catches the ball and not have us backed up. That's Coach Priefer, he does a great job with special teams, he takes that very seriously, that's something that he has a passion about. The defense did a great job also with the three interceptions, giving us the short field. So it was an overall team effort. We made sure that we tried to capitalize with the field position and tried to take advantage of it.
Q: How important is it that you're getting healthy at the right time, getting momentum at the right time and the chemistry is all there?
A: It's very important to get guys back healthy and it's also very important to peak at this time of the year. Coach Zimmer, he's been saying that this is the time of the year that teams become great teams. Coach Zimmer, he's been on some outstanding teams, Super Bowl teams, so he knows what he's talking about and we've all bought into what he's been saying. Just good to get guys healthy, having Linval [Joseph] back out there, Anthony [Barr] out there today, Harrison [Smith] with the interception, it's just good to have those guys out there and get those guys back playing.* *
Q: You'll be playing your first game at Lambeau Field next week, how much more special does that make it?
A: You know, I'm not big on the history and things like that or the atmosphere. I'm just going out there with the mindset that we want to win a football game. We're going to be on primetime again and there's a lot at stake. We're going to approach this game with the same mindset, same intensity, same focus that we had tonight.
Q: Despite all the points you put up, Coach Zimmer said there was a lot to clean up on offense. From your perspective, what do you see you need to improve?
A: There was one time in the red zone we could have got out of a play and it probably would have resulted in a touchdown. I came off the field and he was just drilling me. That's what I love about Coach Zimmer, even though he's a defensive minded coach, he understands what's going on the offensive side of the ball. Instead of getting a field goal we could have scored a touchdown. Blair [Walsh] did a great job tonight going 5-for-5, I think that was the third time in his career that he's done that. At least we came away with points, but like Coach Zimmer said we have a lot to clean up on.
Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson
Q: This is exactly what you guys wanted to do, control your own destiny. You guys win and you're in. How does it feel to know that you've earned it every step of the way?
A: It feels good. You know, coming in tonight we knew how big this game was, not depending on anyone else to win so we can get in, doing it ourselves, taking care of business. I'm just proud of all these guys, the coaching staff for making good decisions today. We performed well, but ultimately we got it done.
Q: Now you go to Green Bay with exactly the stage set that you wanted. Night game, flexed there, for the whole division.
A: Yes, now we are exactly where we wanted to be, in a position to win the NFC North. They flexed the game so it's going to be later. That is what it is. But this is what we envisioned ourselves having an opportunity to do at the beginning of the season. It's right here in front of us.
Q: Coach kind of talked about the emphasis being on the division title. Was that kind of the feeling in here, that you guys still have business to take care of?
A: Yeah, that was the whole feeling and the whole message this week - one week at a time. You know, who is in front of us now, New York. So coming out and taking care of these guys so that we can really kind of soak in on having the opportunity to win the NFC North.
Q: When you see Harrison Smith on the other side of the ball, he's missed so much time and to not only come back, but to play like he did, what can you say about that?
A: I take my hat off to him. You know, gangster white boy is what I call him, or Caucasian. But to come out in his first game back with a pick six, he's a warrior. He's a guy that if I'm starting a team, he's my first pick. So I got to take my hat off to him. He's the ultimate competitor and he's a great talent.
Q: You guys have only won one out of your last 12 games against the Packers. What, if anything, is different this time?
A: The NFC North Championship is on the line. We're here now and not looking in the past. We're going to look to our coaches to put us in the best position as far as how we want to approach and attack these guys offensively. It's on the line; this is for the title. So forget the past, worry about the future, and take care of business.
Q: Don't you smell blood in the water knowing how you guys have been powering lately and how they have been faltering?
A: Yeah, but you know when you're talking about Aaron Rodgers and playing these guys at home, you're going to get their best effort. So we can't take that lightly. We got to just continue on the streak that we're on, being focused, holding each other accountable, and playing hard for four quarters. Taking care of the ball, pounding the ball, making our plays defensively and putting pressure on the quarterback. I feel like if we continue to do those things, we'll take what we want.
Q: When you see the way that Jerick has played, he gets two touchdowns today after his first one last week, what do you say about a young kid like that?
A: I said here last weekend in front of you guys that he's probably one of the most talented players on the team, if not the most talented. I have a lot of respect for him; he's eager to learn and he's always asking questions. He's impressive. So when he's out there I feel comfortable with knowing that he can get the job done.
Vikings Defensive End Brian Robison
Q: Now that you got your guys back on defense, how much does that help you out down the stretch?
A: It's huge for us. The main thing you want to do down the stretch is be healthy and get hot at the right time and hopefully we're doing that. We got some guys coming back from injuries and they made an impact for us tonight. If you look at Harrison Smith and what he did for us tonight. This team is exactly that, we're a team. It's not about one guy and it's not about getting the statistics, it's about being a team.
Q: How does it feel as a veteran being back in the playoffs?
A: I was just telling Everson Griffen to not take this for granted, because you never know when it's going to come back again. You go from 2009 you're in the NFC championship game and you think you're going to be doing this for years to come and then you have one winning season since. Never take it for granted, you have to treat every day like it's your last.
Q: Is there a better way to clinch? You don't get the help you need in the day, but you take care of business.
A: Yeah, late in the season you want to control your destiny. You don't want to have certain people to lose or win, you want to be able to control your destiny and we we're able to do our part tonight. Now, we have another step forward next week and can hopefully take care of business.
Vikings Kicker Blair Walsh
Q: With the cold night, it didn't seem to phase special team's guys tonight.
A: We did a good job protecting, snapping and holding all game. It makes my job easier. You need good protection so you can kick the ball lower and get it out there on those deep kicks. Kevin (McDermott) and Jeff (Locke) were setting me up with good spots and holds all night.
Q: No hesitation at all with the long kicks tonight? How far did you think you had in you tonight?
A: I don't know. 55 was all we really kind of backed up to in pregame. Usually in this type of weather you're not going to attempt 56 and 57 yarders. You kind of just go out there and get a feel for it. 55 yards and in I was comfortable with both ways. It just happened we had a couple of 50 yarders in tonight's game.
Q: What's it like to see the offense and defense control a game like that?
A: It's impressive. I was impressed with our team all game. That was the first time where we came out I think this year where we just dominated the opponent from start to finish. That's huge for us that we're doing it this time of the year. We just need to carry it on into next week and move on.
Q: You made the playoffs your rookie year and now have a chance to win the division this year, how does that feel?
A: Heck yeah! We didn't have a chance to win the division my rookie year, so there's a difference there. Anytime you're playing for a division title, that's so huge. Especially in a division with a good quality team like Green Bay. Bottom line, we want to be NFC North champs just as much we want to make the playoffs.
Vikings Linebacker Chad Greenway
Q: What are your thoughts heading into the Green Bay game next week as the NFC North title is up for grabs?
A: We thought we were in a good position to take them down earlier in the season at our place. We just made way too many mistakes and played uncharacteristic. It's going to be more about us focusing on our jobs and doing what we have to do. Obviously we know we have to keep Aaron (Rodgers) contained and we can't let him get out of the pocket. That's when he made all of his plays against us last time. We just have to cage him in and stick to our coverage.
Q: How great does it feel to be back in the playoffs?
A: It feels nice. Obviously we really want the division. We know it goes through the Packers and they play so well at their place. It's going to take our best football game of the year. The game got flexed to Sunday night so it's going to give us another opportunity to learn how to win in this situation like we did tonight. It was really big for our football team, just the maturation of it. I think it's important for us to go through this process and know that tonight was a playoff game. We have had some playoff - like game atmospheres these past couple of weeks. This is what it's all about this time of the year. It's time to buckle up and keep grinding. We know the opportunity is there in front of us.
Q: The defense looked relentless in the first half. Was that the best you seen from the defense all season?
A: Yeah I thought the guys played really well. We played for each other, did their jobs and really limited our own mistakes. That's really the biggest key. If we do that, we always give ourselves a pretty good chance in ball games. You can tell the ones we haven't with too many penalties, too many mistakes, mental errors and just not focusing in.
Vikings Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn
Q: Did you think all long after the last game with the Packers that the next game you see them would mean something?
A: I kind of figured that the last game would always mean something with the Packers. Both teams have a winning record. Both teams are playing for something and now it's for something bigger. It's for the NFC North Division. We know we have to come out next week and play our style of game. It's for all the marbles.
Q: What's it like to have this opportunity sitting right in front of you.
A: It's a great opportunity. We slipped up and lost some games that we shouldn't have lost. We felt like we let a lot of people down. But we still have an opportunity to win it. It fell right back into our laps. Now we have to go out there next Sunday and execute.
Q: In the first half defensively, was that the best you think you guys played as a whole this season?
A: That first half I think it couldn't have gone any better. The defensive line played phenomenal. They stopped the run as they pressured Eli Manning and the back end we covered the receivers up real well. That's how defenses are supposed to be made. We executed and we dominated the game.
Q: What did you see before your interception tonight?
A: I saw the guy run inside. We were in a zone coverage and I let him go. I played high to low and I kind of baited Eli (Manning) a bit and he threw it. I made a play on the ball and made sure I caught it first since it was pretty cold out tonight.
Vikings Running Back Jerick McKinnon
Q: How important is it for you guys to kind of win on your own, not back in or anything like that, but just take care of business on your own?
A: I say it was, a lot. We knew what type of game this would be. That's a good football team over there with a good head coach and a good coaching staff. We just wanted to come out and solidify a win and solidify a spot in the playoffs. It was a great team win, but we're going to have our hands full next week, so we have to get back to the drawing board and hit the ground running.
Q: What happened on that final run? It seemed like you were bottled up, then came out of nowhere.
A: I mean, they had a lot of guys down in the box, and the offensive line did a great job of pushing the back side to try to keep the front side. I kind of felt my way through it and saw the daylight on the backside. I just hit it and got some space, and just tried to run as fast as I can to the touchdown.
Q: When you saw that daylight did you kind of know that you were going to be gone or did you worry about the safeties back there?
A: No when I saw the hole I just made a straight beeline when I saw the goal line. I got a great block on the perimeter if you go back and look at that. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, got a great block on him. I just hit it and tried to go for a touchdown.
Q: What were you thinking when you saw there was a flag on the first touchdown that got called back as a dead play?
A: I was hoping it was on the defense. But I mean we still got points out of that drive, just have to move on and when I got another opportunity, just make the most of it. Bittersweet, but it's all good that we got points and that's the most important thing, sustaining those drives as an offense and coming away with points.
Vikings Wide Receiver Jarius Wright
Q: How sweet is a playoff spot? It's been a couple of years.
A: It has been. It's been since my rookie year when we went to the Wildcard Game. It feels good to get back and get a chance to play some playoff football.
Q: You love being that 3rd - down weapon for Teddy Bridgewater, don't you?
A: I do. 3rd - down is a very important down in this league, and if you can convert on third down, you'll go a long way on offense. Just to know that my team and know that Teddy [Bridgewater] definitely has confidence in me to make a play on 3rd - down is definitely a great feeling.
Q: How good has Teddy Bridgewater been the last two games?
A: I don't think words can explain it. He's been outstanding in the last three weeks actually, dating all the way back to Arizona. Last week and then this week, he's playing lights out football, playoff football is what we like to call it. We're playing it at the right time.
*Q: Is next week as good as it gets, Sunday Night Football again with the North on the line? *
A: Like you said, Sunday Night Football, division on the line, we haven't had the chance to play for this since I've been here, so it's definitely an exciting feeling.
Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph
Q: Any better way to clinch a playoff spot than by winning this one?
A: That was our main focus all day. Even though we were sitting around the hotel, we tried not to watch. We had to take care of our business tonight and clinch our own spot. Almost everything that needed to happen for us to clinch before the game didn't happen, so for us to go out there and clinch on our own was good.
Q: Explain what happened on your touchdown.
A: It was a route that we've worked on ever since I've been here. Teddy (Bridgewater) made a great a great throw, keeping the post safety away from me, and I kept the other safety on my outside shoulder. Teddy made a great throw.
Q: From what you saw on film, did you see some opportunities there for tight ends to have success against their defense?
A: Absolutely. I think we had a bunch more opportunities, but when you run the ball as well as we did today, you just have to keep going with what's working. There were a lot of tight ends that had success against them, and I'm glad we were able to take advantage of that as well.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: Feel good taking one to the house?
A: Yeah, it felt good getting back out there and playing with the guys. We played well in every phase to clinch a playoff spot, but our work is not done yet. We have to get ready for next week.
Q: How big is it for you guys to punch your ticket to the playoffs?
A: It was big, there's always talk about if somebody wins and if somebody loses we get in, but we knew it was in our hands and that's all we were focused on.
Q: A great first half defensively, does that show what this defense can do when healthy?
A: Yeah, even when other guys are out, a lot of players stepped up and played great. We played successful football then and getting guys back is only going to help. I think we're doing a lot of good things. There's obviously plays we can still correct.
Q: How is it having you, Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr back?
A: We're all big time competitors and being in the training room together and knowing we want to get back, so being able to come back together got us geared up.