Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Okay, I thought it was a good team win today. I thought it was good that we had some adversity in the football game, it was pretty smooth sailing there for a while. It was good to find the fight and the heart that we had there at the end. Defensively, they had us off balance some but with the three or four turnovers, whatever it was. I thought we did a nice job inside the five yard line, we played good field position football by punting the ball down in there and making them go the long way about three or four times. I thought [Kirk] Cousins played well. I thought we were decent in the running game. We have to continue to get better at some of those areas. It was nice to see us be able to, after the interception, be able to run out the clock and not give them an opportunity. They’ve got a good football team. I think Kyle Shanahan does a job nice with the offense and they’re a tough, physical defensive team. Good first win.
Q: What did you think of Harrison Smith’s performance?
A: He actually punched out that fumble, I believe. I don't know how much heat he was taking from the media, maybe he didn't play great in one game. This kid is a good football player. Crowd helped us a lot today, they were loud, I thought. They did a nice job throughout the course of the ballgame, especially when it got tight in there.
Q: Was it important to pressure Jimmy Garoppolo today?
A: It was catch-22, some. We tried to pressure him some, we tried to cover some. The other part about it was we had a lot of young guys who weren't really going to play today end up playing a lot of different positions. Jayron Kearse, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, all of them got in there. Like I told them, you never know when it’s your time. You’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to grind. They made some mistakes but hopefully we can clear those things up and go from there. I thought the defensive coaches made some nice adjustments on the sideline when we got some guys banged up and we had to maneuver with some other people
Q: Did Jayron Kearse play in that three safety set because of Trae Waynes injury?
A: A little bit, yeah. We’ve been practicing it and some of it was because of that. Mackensie Alexander wasn’t up this week so there was a lot of moving parts on the back end.
Q: How do you think Kearse played in the nickel role?
A: It’s hard for me to say. I think he did well, I didn't see. I saw the pass interference or the holding or whatever, I don't know. Other than that, I didn't notice him. Usually when I don't notice somebody, they’re good.
Q: What about his skill set fits that role?
A: Well, he’s big and rangy. I know he tipped one ball on a blitz one time. He’s tall and he’s quick. He’s really improved a lot from his rookie year to now, I guess this is his third year, of understanding concepts in the defense. So, I think that has helped him. Sometimes safeties when they go to nickel, they understand the pattern reads and all those things a little bit better than just a guy coming in from a corner that has never seen all the different combinations.
Q: What did you think of Kirk Cousins’ diving head first?
A: Hey, when the game is on the line we’re trying to get the first down. Go for it. I’m all in.
Q: Are you satisfied with how Cousins played?
A: Yeah, I thought he played well. Especially early, he made some great throws. The two touchdown passes were great throws. We had a little lull, offensively, for about three series there. We went three-and-out. We didn’t get much going on there. He scrambled one time and made a really nice throw. We had a free runner come and make a nice play. They were physical with us in the back end so we have to do a better job of getting off some of their press.
Q: What do you think of Dalvin Cook as as a receiver?
A: Yeah, Dalvin is a good football player and anytime we can get him in space, I think that’s a good thing.
Q: How did you feel about his (Dalvin) running the ball today?
A: I thought he had some good runs. Sometimes there wasn’t anything there but he ran hard. The one ball he fumbled, that was going to be a great run until he fumbled. He hasn’t had a lot of contact, we’ll get some more, I think this game will help him a lot. I think it’ll help all of us seeing the things we can do better and how we can all get better.
Q: There’s so many unknowns Week 1. What did you learn about your team today?
A: I think we have a pretty good overall team. I thought we punted the ball down in there well today, we had some nice hang time on the punts. The kicker did a nice job. Those were a couple unknowns. Defensively, they never panicked even though there were some misdirection plays that we had. Offensively, I was impressed with the quarterback. He was calm under pressure, he was calm throughout the game and I haven’t seen him in a real game before so I think all those things were positives.
Q: How did having a player like Sheldon Richardson in the middle of your defensive line impact things today?
A: It’s hard for me to see everybody, and I usually see guys making mistakes, but I know that he hit the quarterback on the last play, the interception with Harrison [Smith]. The more that we can do that, we can be productive in the middle there in our pass rush, the more it’ll help from our end.
Q: Do you get more excited when you see a rookie like Mike Hughes come in and make big plays?
A: Well part of the reason why Rick [Spielman] drafted him is because he’s a good football player. Now he made some mistakes today and hopefully, and none of those mistakes ended up costing us the game but you know, he practiced nickel all week long. He hardly practiced any corner so he had to go out there in corner, so for these young guys they have to be on point with everything that we’re doing. He had some unsure things going on today that we’ll get corrected and I think he’ll be better for it. He’s a good kid, good football player and he got a nice ball thrown to him one time today.
Q: How do you feel the defensive line rotation worked out today? Did you feel the starters got a little frustrated at the end?
A: I don’t know. I know at the end our starters need to go out there and go play and try and win the football game and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll continue to try to rotate some guys in there. I told Andre [Patterson] I didn’t want to run all four in there at once though so we’ll get that fixed.
Q: What changed for you guys defensively in the redzone to hold them?
A: We practice a lot in there. We spend a lot of time in the redzone. Our defenders usually know how the redzone changes, the plays in the game and what we have to defend and how we have to defend it. We’ve typically (knocks on wood) done a nice job in there usually anyways. They’re a good offensive football team. They keep you off balance with a lot of their movement, motion, boots, and some of their play action passes. Once we were able to get the run stopped, and some of those things were my fault. I was trying to call things to help some of the boots and then they’d run the ball on us. I’m trying to keep them off balance just as much as they’re trying to keep me off balance.
Q: Did you say anything to Mike Hughes when you moved him outside?
A: No, ‘get out there, get out there and cover the guy’.
Q: How tough is that for him as a rookie?
A: They get paid too. We expect him to go out there and do that. I mean that’s why we drafted him. Everybody was complaining about taking that corner, I’m glad we had him today.
Q: Whether it was Mike Hughes, Jayron Kearse or Holton Hill, how do you feel they handled the communication within their roles when they were moved around to different spots?
A: Well, for the most part they understand everything. It’s just, we had to make some adjustments within the game with some of our coverages, they may not have heard as much. But, having [Andrew] Sendejo and [Harrison] Smith out there helps with communication and talking to those guys. We have to use hand signals usually on defense because the crowd is loud.
Q: What did you think of the offensive line today?
A: We have to get better there. But, for a center to come in 10 days ago and start this ballgame, I thought it was pretty impressive. There’s some things we have to get better at, we’re going to clean it up. We’re going to continue to get better there. They've got a good defensive front. That [DeForest] Buckner is a good football player. He tried to wreck the game at the beginning and we didn't take good care of him early but we need to make sure that we have targets on these good guys.
Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins
Q: Tell us about the play when you dove head first?
A: Yeah, you know we always talk about sliding and protecting yourself but in that situation, right at the chains, I think you got to do something. Maybe the right move wasn’t to dive but if you try to make him miss, do something. You want to take a hit because at that point if you get the first down you change the whole game. We had played too hard to that point to just slide and give up on that. I think you do need to in the situation to change your approach and try to go for it.
Q: So that wasn’t adrenaline?
A: Well, I’ve always talked about situational football. It’s something that I’m always trying to master and I don’t know if I’ll ever fully get there, but every situation changes. As the situation changes your decision making process has to change. First quarter, second down you slide long before that guy could ever get you. Third down, game on the line, couple minutes left I think you have to find a way to get the first the best you can or at least get close to a fourth down where now it’s going to get interesting.
Q: Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs did not look open on both of your touchdowns. Did you have confidence in your guys or trust yourself to make the throws?
A: I think that’s NFL football. I think that if you’re not really accurate and you don’t have that confidence to let it rip you’re going to be holding the ball and getting sacked, you’re going to be spraying it everywhere. If you’re waiting for guys to get open you’re going to be waiting a long time. You got to throw guys open and put it in a catchable spot. I was disappointed with a couple that weren’t accurate enough, specifically one to Adam Thielen down the field that could have been an explosive play against man coverage. It was left a little short. When you do hit ones like that in tight windows that’s big for our offense and to put points on the board.
Q: What was it like to win your first game as a Viking and at U.S. Bank Stadium?
A: Outstanding. The fan base, the traditions here, their support of the team it’s just very positive. It’s just a dream to play here, to be a part of this. I feel very fortunate to be in the position I’m in.
Q: What was it like waiting for your name to be called in the tunnel?
A: I don’t know if I’m really deserving going last there. I think they should reserve that for [Stefon] Diggs, or Adam [Thielen], or Riley [Reiff] or Dalvin [Cook] – anybody but me. It just is an example of the team welcoming me with open arms and so grateful for this opportunity I’ve been given and I just want to make good on it with every chance I get.
Q: Was that raw emotion on that touchdown celebration?
A: I think so. I think we work so hard and we’ve been waiting for a game, a real game for a long time now. When things click and you make a play that part of me comes out allowing yourself to have a little bit of fun.
Q: What did you think of the offensive line?
A: I think they did a really good job. Some of it you’ll see that I was leaving the pocket, but maybe I need to trust it a little more or be willing to take the sack and not just leave. I think we’ll go back and watch and get a better feel for how much of it was loose, and how much was it me leaving too early or other issues, making the wrong calls or whatever it may be. But I thought they did a really good job handling everything that was being thrown at them, especially when you think Week 1 is a bit of a mystery as to what you’re going to see.
Q: What did you enjoy when watching your defense?
A: There’s a lot to like. There’s players all over the field, and when you can create those turnovers, create points for us off of those turnovers, in crunch time make plays, pressure the quarterback, so many players stepped up. It is a game of inches. So proud of our team and the way everybody contributed at some point to get the win.
Q: On the crucial hard count in the second half that drew a penalty, were you going out there thinking if San Francisco doesn’t jump you’d run a play, or were you specifically trying to draw them offside?
A: I think it all depends on where they would spot the ball. How close are we to getting the first? Is it a long yard or a short yard? A yard can be different depending on where they spot it. We were just trying to get a feel for the defensive look they give us as well, so you’re trying to process that at the line of scrimmage. Can I get a first down here if we do run a play, or will I just have to take a delay of game? You’re processing all of that, and those are the things that we worked on when we go out to walk through and in training camp on a Tuesday morning, when it’s just kind of half speed and we’re going through the mechanics of what that needs to look like. It showed up right away Week 1.
Q: On the pass to David Morgan on the touchdown drive, was he a check-down or was he blocking?
A: Yeah, he’s an outlet for me on that play. He’s a route or a player in the progression that I’ve hit a lot in my career. He did a good job of coming open, but it was maybe a little closer than I would have liked. It was a tight one, and there’s a lot of plays like that. I guess that’s just football in this league.
Q: Is a dual-purposed running and receiving role something that you envisioned for Dalvin Cook?
A: I don’t know how you can be a back in this league anymore and not be involved in the pass game. With play-action passes, so many times the defense is getting underneath the deep throws and you have to check it down to the running back. So many times they’re taking away other plays, and you have to get to your back. If you’re not a natural catcher of the football, you got to become one and work at it, because you get involved in the pass game. He did a great job today helping us in the pass game. I told him many times, I said, “I’m going to continue to throw you the ball, whether you like it or not, because first of all, it’s a good thing when the ball is in your hands, and second of all, you’re the guy who is open.”
Q: What was your sense of Dalvin Cook’s emotions in his first game back?
A: I just heard so many things about how dynamic of a player he is, and until you really get out here in a real game, it’s hard to truly tell. I saw for the first time how special he is as a running back. The run where we did have a fumble at the end, that was an impressive run. You don’t see that run play in and play out in the NFL. Very few guys can do that. The balance to get hit and stay upright and keep his feet and keep moving. He had a couple times, where in practice you don’t get to see that, and so he is the real deal. Coach [John] DeFilippo is going to always try to be creative to get the ball in his hands.
Q: Can you talk about your chemistry with Adam Thielen?
A: I go back to there were plays we left on the field, too. He had 100 yards, had a great game. There was a circus route that he ran that was just past his reach. There was inside fade that was left a little short. There was a couple receiver screens we could have checked to, to get to him that I regret not checking to that he would have had more opportunities. He is a great player. Again, like Dalvin, like Stefon [Diggs], we have to find ways to get him the football. When the ball is in his hand, good things happen.
Q: Given all that led up to this, did you feel a sense of nervousness?
A: I think Week 1 always carries a little bit of anxiety. Then you add coming to a new team. You have to manage that and process that. Just go and play. When your defense is making plays the way they were, creating turnovers, receivers are getting open. That makes a big difference to calm those nerves down.
Q: Is it hard to calm yourself?
A: I think it will always be a challenge playing quarterback in this league, of staying even keel and not riding the rollercoaster. Not allowing your emotions to take over. You also want to play with passion so you try to find that middle ground. I think that is a challenge of playing quarterback in this league. There is a lot on your shoulders and there is a lot going on. It is a fast game. You have to manage it the best you can.
Q: When you target Adam Thielen 12 times is that because of the matchup or was that the plan?
A: Honestly, I think it was more play in and play out, the way the game was called. So many times even a play call, we may be calling it to get the ball to Kyle Rudolph or Stefon. Then the coverage dictates I go to Adam. At the end of the day, you call the game plan. Besides from maybe the first few plays of the game, it’s hard to really force feed someone the football. It went Adam’s way, but who knows who it could be week in and week out. It could be rotating but that is okay. We have players who can play so it doesn’t have to be the same guy every week.
Vikings Cornerback Xavier Rhodes
Q: Can you take us through the interception you had?
A: I just read the route, broke on the route, and he threw the ball. I just caught it with one hand.
Q: How was that goal line stand with Linval Joseph and the turnover?
A: It was great, man. Harrison (Smith) came in and hit the ball out. Harrison (Smith) has always been a playmaker for us and I am glad to have him on the team. Linval stuffed them up. We have been emphasizing things like that, stopping on goal line, not allowing them to score. That happened today and on that play.
Q: What did you think of Mike Hughes play?
A: It was great. Rookie’s first pick was a pick six. I know he is going to keep the ball, and probably put it on his mantle. I am happy for him.
Q: This is a quarterback who hadn’t lost a start, and you disrupted him pretty good?
A: I mean, he is still a great quarterback. It’s the first game; we still have 15 to go. So he is still a great one. I still think he had a good game, I mean of course we made a few turnovers but he still had a good game.
Q: Is this a game that gives a glimpse of how good this defense can be?
A: It is only the first game. We can’t tell from right now. We are just going to watch the film tomorrow and learn from our mistakes that we made this game.
Q: How much satisfaction do you get from them getting into the red zone that many times and not being able to punch it in?
A: Its good, man. We have been working on that every day in practice. Trying to stop the team once they are in the red zone and not allow them in. Create turnovers or make them kick field goals.
Q: Every time they ratchet up the pressure you guys got calmer is that difference from last year?
A: I mean, no. We just got together. We needed to go out there and make the stop. Put our team back out there, put our offense back out there as soon as possible. That is the whole mentality each and every game, is go out there 3-and-out, get turnovers and put our offense out there as soon as possible.
Vikings Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs
Q: You mentioned that it’s important to figure what your team’s identity is. You can’t really figure it out right now, but what did you learn about this team after one game?
A: We’ve got a lot to do. We’ve got a lot of growing to do. We got the win it, and it’s always hard to get. You’ve got to be thankful for the wins that you do get, the best thing about it is that this is the first game. We can only grow from this. You see the mistakes that you made and things you could do better, so it’s a work in progress.
Q: How do you feel about this process of getting the rhythm and timing with Kirk Cousins?
A: It’s fun. For me, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s nothing but work and I love work. As far as getting it down, it’s all about repetition and being in games. Practice is a lot different when going against our DBs we see. Training camp days, OTAs, going against somebody else. We just want to take the next step as far as preparing and continue to prepare and grind it out.
Q: Are you where you want to be?
A: No. Never. I would never say that. As far as like, being crisp, you can never be too crisp, especially at wide receiver. At the quarterback position, he (Cousins) does a great job and I know he’s hard on himself to do better, as are we as a receiver group. So, we are all working at it.
Q: What kind of dimension does Dalvin Cook give you?
A: You saw last year, what he does in the running and passing game is important. We work off of each other, and Kirk [Cousins] does a great job of managing the game.
Q: What did you learn about this team after one game?
A: We have to be thankful for that win, there’s a lot to grow from. There’s things you can do better, it’s a work in progress.
Q: What does it do for you to get this win when this team has such high expectations for the season?
A: We set the standard. We have to set the bar as high as we can and execute. If you’re not on this team, you can’t really say too much about it. It’s a work in progress.
Vikings Running Back Dalvin Cook
Q: What did you think about game one?
A: Good start. A lot of stuff to work on, a lot of stuff to get done in practice, but it was definitely a good start.
Q: I can’t imagine what was going through your mind, just trying to get out there coming off this injury. Can you take us through what was going through your head as this game started for you?
A: Getting the first play out of the way. As a football player, once you get that first play out of the way, it’s all football. Then you can lock in and do what you want to do. So, getting that first play out of the way, which was good, I got it in my head and I was just ready to play then.
Q: How is your knee holding up?
A: Great. My knee is good.
Q: Before the game, the coaches made it clear they were not going to take it easy on you and ease you in, they were going to give the rock to you. What did you feel like when they said that to you?
A: That’s why they brought me here, to run the football. Whatever my role is, whatever I have to do for this football team to win football games, that is 100 percent what I am locked in on.
Q: Is it going to take a little longer time to get the timing back on the runs?
A: No, we were close. A lot of runs were close. We got tripped up, I could’ve popped one out of the gate when they tumbled out. It is the first game. I have been out for a couple of months. So, it is just all about getting going. We are going back to the drawing board and get this team going.
Q: How did this game compare to your first game last year?
A: The yards were kind of different. As far as grinding it out, and going to make plays, I think it was the same outcome. We faced a great quarterback, [Jimmy] Garoppolo, like Drew Brees last year. It was a hard fought game. I think it was a grind of a game.
Q: Did you expect that many carries? Was that the game plan or was it just a result of play calling as it came down to it?
A: I don’t know what I am going to expect every week. They don’t come in and tell me you’re going to get this many carries. They don’t do that. I come in and I’ll be locked and loaded ready to go, because in practice I push myself to the limit so I know I can take the carries and they know I can take the carries. That’s just how it goes.
Q: With the screen game, it appears to be your home run hitter type of play, do you feel like that is one of the most dangerous plays you guys have in your arsenal?
A: It is dangerous now. Teams always tend to give it a great look when we call it. The look we had today in the two minute, the linebacker on the ball kind of just sat there and just kind of waited for me. But other than that, the screen was effective today.
Q: Take us through the play that you fumbled.
A: Tried to make a play and I was close. I think if I would have had my shoe on, it would have been better. I couldn’t really get my feet in the ground, because my shoe was off, but we all have to take care of the football. When you try to make plays, things happen, but you have to take of the football. That is the most important thing, and I have to take care of the football. No excuses.
Q: Did you have something that you had to prove to yourself coming into this game?
A: There was nothing I had to prove. I know the type of player I can be. The Vikings know all the potential I’ve got. I just have to keep getting better every weekend, keep living up to it, which I am.
Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen
Q: What can you say about this win?
A: I think the best part about winning is that you get to get to go look at the film and be really critical. I know there were a lot of plays that we left out there, and there were a lot of things that I could have done better out there. Like I said, that’s the best feeling is when you have those, and you still win.
Q: We’ve been asking for months about Kirk Cousins, now that you’ve had some live fire, how do you think things went with the passing game today?
A: I think you can judge for yourself. I think he proved it and he threw the ball accurately. He got us in the right places and he is a guy that we have a lot of trust with. We know that if we can get open, he’s going to find us and he’ll put it on target.
Q: What can you say about the defense helping you out with some really big plays today?
A: Obviously when you have a defense like ours, it takes a lot of the anxiety away from our offense. We know we can go out there and be ourselves, and play football. We know they’ll create turnovers, and they’re going to be tough and physical, and I think now it’s our turn to pay that back and make sure that we are putting up points and taking the pressure off of them.
Q: How do you feel about the pass catching element that Dalvin Cook added today?
A: That’s why you like [Dalvin] Cook so much, he’s so explosive, and he can do so many things well. That only helps us as an offense and as a team.
Q: When you got out there, did you feel like you got back into that normal flow?
A: Yeah, that was the big thing this week, finally being able to get back in that flow. Having multiple series and being able to go out there and do your job to the best of your ability. Don’t worry about losing or dropping the ball, just going out there and playing football.
Q: You had a quiet preseason, and there was grumbling that you might not be on the same page or have chemistry with Kirk Cousins. What can you say about that?
A: I think it just goes back to getting in the flow, when you’re in a full game and you have multiple series, you can just get out there and play football. You might have some bad plays, you might have some good plays, but I just love being out there in a full game of situational football and just playing ball.
Vikings Defensive End Everson Griffen
Q: You have so much depth on defense now and I saw that you were all subbed out at once, how much does that help you during a game?
A: You know it’s amazing. The coaches they trust in the younger guys to go out there and get the job done. Tashawn [Bower] and Stephen [Weatherly] they played their tails off during the preseason and that’s why they’re here. I trust in them and I know the coaches do too, it just helps a lot being able to get that four or five play rest.
Q: What is it like playing with Sheldon Richardson, I know you’re not always next to him, you’re usually not but what was that like?
A: He made plays today. He was quick up the middle, he affected the quarterback, was good on the run, he played well. We’ve just got to build on this and get back to the drawing board, watch the tape and make the corrections that we need to make and then get ready to go play Green Bay.
Q: Is it going to be fun having Sheldon Richardson next to you for the next 15 games?
A: Oh my god, having him shoot up the middle, I’m going to have to get my get off even better the way that he played today.
Q: A bunch of guys stepped up today including Jayron Kearse, what does that say about the depth of this defense?
A: We hold ourselves to a higher standard. Guys are not just learning one position, they’re learning multiple positions. I think that’s when you know you’re becoming a professional. When you’ve got guys stepping in, that’s the way you want it. They did a great job.
Q: Mike Hughes, a rookie, running an interception back, it’s not supposed to be that easy to score is it?
A: We’re going to get pressure on him all day and once a quarterback feels us around him, he feels the pressure and then he feels like he’ll get hit so he gets the balls out of his hand quick, he’s afraid of the rush. We’ve just got to keep on doing it day in and day out and let your actions speak.
Vikings Safety Andrew Sendejo
Q: You’ve got to be pretty pleased with the way game went for you. You caused the strip that Harrison Smith wound up recovering. It was a great way to end a goal line stand?
A: Yeah. Anytime you get a turnover, especially when they’re in the red zone. It’s always a plus.
Q: How do you keep that mentality when they’re on the one-yard line? Like, there’s still a chance to not let them get in?
A: That’s just the way we are wired. Even if they get down there, we are going to force a turnover or stop them and have them kick a field goal.
Q: What does it mean today to have Jayron Kearse step in the way he did and play up the middle?
A: It was great, a good job by him. Being ready, we preach that all the time. You have got to stay ready, you never know when you are going to get called upon and have to go in the game. As a safety, you know a lot of what everyone else is doing, so great job by him.
Q: You talk about people stepping in. What was it like seeing Mike Hughes get in there and get a pick-six?
A: It was good. The little rookie getting in there and getting his feet wet. Jumping right in and getting a pick-six. That was good for him and it’s always good early in the season to get your hands on the ball, get a pick, and then they just keep coming after that. He got thrown right in, and got a full dose of defense and special teams. So now he can’t have any more excuses about being a rookie.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: You got the hat trick. The fumble recovery, the sack, and the interception. What are your emotions on that?
A: Those are big plays that obviously help us win, but there is a lot of plays that I could have played better on definitely. We did enough to win so that is all that matters, so I’m happy.
Q: Don’t you guys believe you made a point that you are starting off where you left off last year?
A: I don’t worry about last year. I know what you are saying, but I’m not worried about last year. We are focused on right now and playing good football today, and like I said, it was enough to win.
Q: Did you see Garoppolo getting frustrated as the game went on because every time they needed a big play you seemed to step in?
A: I didn’t see him getting frustrated. He’s a very good player, and he has had a lot of success. There is a lot of good players in this league and a lot of them on the field.
Q: Mike Hughes really stepped up well when Trae (Waynes) went out with that injury. He was showing a little bit more poise than many people thought he could. When he steps in as a young rookie like and not only gets a pick-six and follows it up with some big hits, what does that show to someone like you that has been there in his shoes?
A: That is what this league is about, and you can kind of tell the way he carries himself that he’s not going to freeze up on the big stage. Holton (Hill) came in and played well, Jayron (Kearse) came in and played well, so that is what is expected. It doesn’t matter what year you are or that you just came in, whatever. It is the NFL; things happen and there is not a lot of guys. Everybody’s got to be able to contribute.
Q: Can you just talk about (Andrew) Sendejo not giving up and being about to force the fumble that you recovered.
A: First of all, happy birthday to (Andrew) Sendejo, birthday boy, so happy birthday to him. He’s one of those guys who is always going to be fighting. No matter if he gets beat, if he doesn’t get beat, he is always giving 100%, laying his body on the line. He’s been doing it for years and years. He’s one of those guys who I think should get way more respect.
Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph
Q: Tell me about your touchdown you had today.
A: Kirk Cousins threw it in a place where only I could catch it. That is the trust we have built with all the reps throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp, and the preseason. Over my time here that has been my responsibility. When we get in the red zone, the windows are a lot tighter. My frame allows the balls to be thrown a little bit higher. Kirk Cousins threw it in a perfect spot and I made a play on it.
Q: What are your thoughts on Kirk Cousin’s head first dive in the last few minutes?
A: It is gutsy. I have talked about it all offseason about how big of a competitor he is. A lot of guys would not have done that. He did everything he could to extend the game. Obviously, he did not get the first down, but he put us in a good situation where we were fourth and short, and we got them to jump offside which lead to the first down.
Q: What does Kirk Cousins do that other quarterbacks don’t or that other former Vikings quarterbacks haven’t done in the past?
A: A lot of our former quarterback’s we have had here have done really good things. I have said it all offseason, but Kirk is one of the biggest competitors I have ever been around. That third down scramble embodies the type of player he is. He is out there competing and that is the kind of guy he is.
Q: How much more comfort is there this year with knowing who your quarterback is? You haven’t had that the previous years because of injuries.
A: Yeah, the last two years we have had a new quarterback by week 2. The last few years we have been in a situation with a new quarterback that we didn’t get many reps with during the offseason. It is nice to be out there with a guy that we have been working with since the middle of April and build a rapport with. I think you see that in a lot of the throws that the guys were catching today.
Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr
Q: To get a couple of those interceptions is obviously big, to turn them over the way that you guys did.
A: Turnovers are always an emphasis for the game. I think we had an early one. Offensively, we turned it over so it is important for us to get that back and even out the turnover battle and we got a couple more there. Especially the one on the goal line was huge, so continue to play situational football and see good things happen.
Q: How about seeing Mike (Hughes) step in as a rookie?
A: Yeah, it was awesome. He has worked extremely hard all offseason and we have a lot of confidence in him. The things I have seen have been very impressive and the things he can do on the field, he’s very quick, great feet. If his number is called I know he’ll go out there and play well.
Q: Harrison (Smith) coming up with some major plays today. Just talk about his ability to come up with those plays when you need them.
A: I don’t think anyone was surprised. We’ve seen it long enough. The guy is all over the field. For whatever reason the quarterbacks like him. Hopefully he keeps doing that and it gives us a good opportunity.
Q: Did you catch your breath sometime when they had a couple of guys running free, but just weren’t able to click with them.
A: They had a lot of plays where they snuck some guys out and we didn’t really account for them. That will be a point of emphasis going forward, but they are a good offense. Give them credit; they got good players that get paid too. It is important for us to play good when it mattered and we did so.
Vikings Running Back Latavius Murray
Q: Tyler Conklin was saying that he thinks Kirk Cousins is one of the fiercest players around. Do you agree?
A: I can agree with that. I think you could see it in his preparation. You can see it in his attitude on the field, his mentality. Just the way he carries himself, the way he goes about the game. And then you get this play that you talk about, a play like that—obviously we needed that first down just to hold the clock. And for a quarterback to lower his shoulder and give his body up, that’s motivating, that’s inspiring, because I don’t see a lot of quarterbacks doing that.
Q: Kyle Rudolph was saying that even playing charades at Adam Thielen’s house, Kirk Cousins was competitive, he didn’t want to lose, right? That comes out in every aspect of his life it seems, huh?
A: Yeah, definitely. Now, getting to know Kirk and being around him every day, you just see that he’s a competitor, and he wants to win. It doesn’t matter what it is, he wants to win, and that’s how he goes about life.
Q: You know what it’s like to come back from injury so what did you see from Dalvin Cook today?
A: I think you embrace it, no matter the outcome. I think you embrace being out there, because the only way you can get better is being out there. I think Dalvin embraced it. He got some good carries; he caught the ball out of the back field; he did some really good things. I think embracing that and not thinking, “Let me ease my way into it,” or “Let me take this thing slow,” you just embrace being out there and knowing that you’re only going to get better by being out there and getting all those reps. I think he did a really good job of that.
Q: He had a homemade schedule next to his locker with that being a superlative, this one being a statement game. Why do you think it was that?
A: It could be, looking at it from his standpoint, a statement game for him coming back from an injury, but in general for the team, this is the first one. We want to make a statement and show these 49ers, show everybody around the league, what kind of team we are, what kind of offense we are, and the things that we can do. I think that’s why he had different places he could have put that statement and so he put it with the first game.
Vikings Center Brett Jones
Q: You had a critical fourth and one late in the game trying to run the clock out. You got them to jump offsides. Talk us through how that worked?
A: Definitely, that’s one of the things we have in our offense to try and get them to jump there. It was a smart play by Riley (Reiff) to tap his helmet. It’s an easy one when you do that. It was a great play by him. It was a cool play, to have that work for us.
Q: How has it been getting used to Kirk Cousins and how you guys are working together?
A: There is a lot of little things that go into the center quarterback-exchange, the cadence, the protections and things like that. I think that from this week to the next week we will only be getting better. I think there will be more familiarity and we will keep getting better every week.
Q: Being on a three-win team last year and now being on one of the best teams in the league. How exciting is that for you?
A: Last year we had a lot of downs and some ups. This year I am very excited to be here with the Minnesota Vikings. We’re just going to take this one game at a time. This week we got a win, so next week we will try and win again. That’s the nature of the NFL, just take it week by week. It’s definitely exciting to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings.
Q: Are you amazed at how loud this crowd is and how much they help you guys?
A: The fans are great here. They have a really good understanding of football. On third down and those critical situations they were up there cheering. If we have a big play on offense, they know to get quite for us. It was definitely a great feeling to be out there and know they have your back.
Q: Howa was the pass protection execution today?
A: I think we had a great plan coming in, we were going to try and change the launch point on a couple different plays. We’re going to try to keep moving the ball and not have him drop back in the same spot over and over again. That was a good thing for us up front that we can change that. I think that as we keep working together and keep communicating we will even go up.
Vikings Defensive End Danielle Hunter
Q: You got a disciplined defense too. It doesn’t matter what they do, you kind of stick to a plan.
A: Yeah. That’s what it’s all about. Just going out there and doing your job. You don’t try to be Superman, because if you don’t do your job then somebody else is going to be open to make a play.
Q: It was nice to get that first win out of the way?
A: It felt great. To just go out there playing as a team and winning together as a team. That was a good win.
Q: Anthony Harris said something interesting. He said ‘We see the splash plays. We see the big plays. We see the sacks, we see the interceptions, but it’s when you’re in the right place at the right time. That’s what the d-line and the whole defense is about.” Is that a humbleness, or a brotherhood, or what’s going on there that that’s more important?
A: It goes all the way back to the Defensive Coordinator (George Edwards) and Coach (Mike) Zimmer. They make up the plays, they put us in the right position to make plays, and it’s all about just going out there and being in the right position for you to make the play or for the other person to make a play.
Q: Did you sense that Jimmy Garoppolo was getting frustrated at all out there?
A: As the game goes on, you have got to bring the pressure on him. You see that he’s starting to get scared.
Q: How about for a guy like Mike Hughes to come into his first NFL game and get a pick-six. What’s it like to see a young guy succeed like that?
A: It all comes down to us working together. We are all blitzing, and having the quarterback throw the ball and having him make a play. That’s just a really good feeling for him.
Vikings Cornerback Mike Hughes
Q: How nice is it to have veterans all around you as a rookie and these guys have proven themselves?
A: It’s amazing, man. They always put you in the right places at the right time when you’re not sure what to do. But for me, I pay attention to the small details so when I am out there I know what to do. Trae Waynes went down today. We always preach one guy goes down, next man up. That’s what happened today. Some good things, I took advantage of my opportunity.
Q: Take us through your pick-six?
A: Like I said, Coach called a great defense. I give a lot of credit to the defensive line. They got good pressure and forced Garoppolo to throw a bad ball. Took advantage of it, and got into the end zone.
Q: What was the feeling like to get into the end zone?
A: I kind of blanked out. I was just amazed. All my teammates came around me. I was celebrating, I was getting the crowd hyped. It was a great feeling, man.
Q: You talked a lot about staying patient in training camp what has that process been like?
A: Like I said in training camp, it is all about staying patient. Today my number was called. I took advantage of every opportunity. All the guys around me helped me out. They trusted me to do my job and that’s what happened today.
Q: How long did it take you settle in?
A: We all get butterflies. If a player tells you he doesn’t get butterflies before a game, he is lying. I think it is natural. After the first play, I was good. I settled in and went through my calls and play within the scheme.
Q: What is the communication like for you guys throughout the game?
A: Like I said, we left a lot of mistakes out there on the field. But that is why we are going to correct it tomorrow. Get back to work tomorrow and we will correct those things for next week.
Q: On the play in the end zone did you almost fall?
A: Yeah, I thought I had another pick. I kind of tripped on the turf and made a play to break it up.
Q: Making a play when you needed to, does that show you how good this team can be this year?
A: Yeah, we have a bright future. We played as a unit today. Like I said earlier, we left a lot of mistakes on the field. I see us doing a lot better; that is why we are going to get back to work tomorrow.
Q: What is it like when that dream happens in front of 80,000 people?
A: It is surreal. But doing that just makes you want to do more. We are going to get back to work, and hopefully I can get one next week.
Vikings Safety Jayron Kearse
Q: You and 24 both got a little action in there, so I would imagine it’s just next man up when someone goes down right?
A: Yeah, it was really good to get out there and get on the field with those guys. I was playing nickel, not my natural position, but I practiced it during the week and things happened that I was able to get on the field. I just thank God for putting me in that position and giving me the opportunity to get out there.
Q: What was that like for you making that quick adjustment?
A: It’s really just going through the week, talking with Terence [Newman] helping me out and now he’s on the other side. It’s really good just having those guys who believed in me, from Coach Zimmer to Coach Gray, and Terence so it was really good. Just going up there as next man up and if somebody goes down you know you have to be ready. If your number’s called you have to go out there and play just like you’re a starter so I’m just happy I got the opportunity today.
Q: So that was part of you just replacing the nickel it wasn’t part of a 3-safety pack that you guys practiced during the week?
A: No, we’ve been running that since training camp started and it just happened that today was the day that we were able to actually make it happen. It was good, and it wasn’t like it was my first time just stepping out there and being at the nickel. It’s something we’ve been working on and we just happened to show today.
Q: What are the differences for you when you’re rolled up at the line of scrimmage in the nickel versus when you’re playing safety?
A: I think things just happen more quickly when you’re at the nickel. There’s a lot of different moving parts with you having to run with a lot of motions and things like that. It’s definitely something I like, me being closer to the ball, so that’s something I hope I can get used to and continue to grow into that role and help this team further down the road.
Q: Do you feel like this defense now with your ability to come up and do something like that and the defensive line rotation even from where it was last year, it seems like it was more multiple and there’s different things that you can show other teams?
A: It definitely is. Coach Zimmer’s a mastermind so he’s definitely going to put all the players in the best positions to go out and make plays to help this team. As the year goes on there’s probably going to be some things that we do different than in the past years and we just have to trust Coach Zim, and he’s going to put us in the best position to help this football team.