Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Ok, well I thought we came out today and played with a purpose. I thought the fans were ready to go, they were outstanding with the crowd noise today. I think we have the best fans, not only in the NFL but the world. They did an unbelievable job helping us. It was hard for them to communicate at the line of scrimmage. I thought defensively we played very well today. We did a good job in the running game, obviously on third downs 0-7 at half time and we did a nice job in coverage, especially on A.J. Green because he's a very good player. Then offensively we were coming out and scoring a touchdown the first drive, overcoming the penalty. Then defensively we intercepted the pass for a touchdown so that was big. I thought special teams played well today; we got them backed up there right before the half, unfortunately we didn't convert off of it. It was an overall very good team effort. Proud of this team. I know a division champion isn't the final goal but it's important to be able to go out and win 11 games, win your division, get a chance to get in the playoffs and then go from there.
Q: How big of a deal is it for this team to play a home game in the playoffs?
A: Well I think it is a big deal but I don't know it's like everything, we have to go out and do it the next couple weeks and go from there. Nothing is easy but this team has a bunch of fighters on it, lot of good guys, guys that care and play together, work together. But yeah that's obviously a big deal, it'd be the first ever (laughs).
Q: How big was the celebration after you won the division or was it a little restrained because there's more goals ahead?
A: I mean, guys had the hats on but I don't think it was a big deal. It's important that you go out and win the division. That's one of your goals all the time but I don't think it was a crazy celebration.
Q: What was is like for you to tell Teddy Bridgewater that he was going in?
A: It was good. You know I've been planning on trying to get him in there best we could anyway and I think it was… you know he's overcome so much to be able to go out there. Obviously the fans cheered him on but it was kind of an emotional moment when he went out there I thought because we care so much about the kid.
Q: On the Eric Kendricks touchdown, was that a new look you threw at them?
A: Yeah, I believe it was. I'm trying to think what the call was but yeah we had a couple different looks this week.
Q: Is that something you thought you had to do since they know you so well?
A: Well, they know me pretty well yeah, their defense is very similar to our defense. [Andy] Dalton has seen us practice, and we practiced against them as well so I'm sure they went back and watched the tape just like we did. I mean, you're always trying to come up with a couple new wrinkles here and there that can help.
Q: Did you see the news that Marvin Lewis plans to step down after the year?
A: Yeah I saw that, but I don't know that that's the case. He didn't say anything to me about it before or after the game. He came over to see me at the ranch over the bye week and he didn't say anything to me about it then so. If it is the case, Marvin is a unbelievable person, great mentor, great, great football coach. I hope that's not the case because the NFL would be losing a great, great coach.
Q: How difficult was it going against him today for the first time in the regular season?
A: I don't know if it was difficult going against him, you know a lot of those players over there on defense were one time my guys. There were some emotions there and you always want to do good against your former team but it wasn't, like I said during the week, I tried to see numbers this week and not faces.
Q: Was throwing it to Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray a focus this week?
A: Well they had some new linebackers in there and when they're playing man to man we thought we had an opportunity to get some plays.
Q: You've seen quite a few of Terence Newman's interceptions. How does that one rank?
A: That was pretty good, that was pretty good catching it between his legs. You know he's so smart. He had seen that play previously in a couple of games and for him to be able to jump it and then make the interception was really good. I am sure he knew he had pressure coming off the other edge and he couldn't hand the ball off he had to throw it on the smoke and Terence made a heck of a play. I was happy, knowing he was there too so I was happy for him, not only for that but I think it shows some of these other players that if you study hard, you do your due diligence, and you continue to work hard good things happen for you.
Q: Is this the smartest defense that you've coached?
A: They're pretty smart, they've been together for a while now. So, we can talk about things on the sideline and make adjustments very quickly. We had a dumb penalty there at the end of the game and a few bad penalties on offense today so that's something that we need to get cleaned up quick because we'll get beat if we continue to do those things.
Q: Is 11-3 with a backup quarterback exceeding expectations?
A: It's pretty darn good. I don't know, I expect us to win every game. So, I don't know about exceeding expectations. This team has done a nice job.
Q: What can you say about Kyle Rudolph battling through his injury to play?
A: He told Eric [Sugarman] this week, 'Don't count me out'. Then he ran some routes on Saturday and we had to upgrade him. It was good to see him get in there. We were monitoring him, how much he got in. Then we got up. On the touchdown, he sprinted out there. Because he knew the play. It was good for him.
Q: How important was the contributions from Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray?
A: We hit a big screen early in the game, a couple screens early in the game. They played it better later on and the rest of the game. They had a couple linebackers out so we were trying to isolate them a bit with the running backs. Case [Keenum] did a good job there. He actually missed, he had Kyle Carter wide open on the one that Jerick McKinnon caught in the flat and ran for quite a few yards, so he missed that one. It turned out well.
*Vikings Quarterback Case Keenum *
Q: That's a nice hat…
A: Thanks, I like it, too. I have not taken it off.
Q: The defensive backs and wide receivers took photos after the game, did you have a photo op yet?
A: I did. I jumped out there. I made sure. I was wondering where the wide receivers went and went out and jumped in. Got some good pictures.
Q: How does it feel to get this one taken care of here on your way to your next step?
A: It feels awesome. This is unchartered territory for me, so I don't take it lightly. I think we got a special group of guys and I've said it all year long, to come through and to win when we needed to. Especially after last week, I think it was special. To do it at home in front of our crowd, that crowd is awesome. To guarantee a home playoff game here, I can't imagine. I have a feeling it is going to be even more amped up. It's exciting. It's great. It's the next step, the next goal that we had set. It's exciting.
Q: Does number one seed become the next goal?
A: Yes, we're still taking it a week at a time but everything we want is still out in front of us. I think goals you set for yourself, goals you set for your team. For me, I try to stay pretty specific as far as being the best player I can be, being the best quarterback and putting our team in the best situation. Obviously, having home field advantage would be the best situation. We can take care of that by taking care of each week.
Q: How important is it to get off to a good start when you're playing a team that's not in the playoff picture?
A: It's important to get off to a good start any game you play. We go out there and score first drive and defense gets a touchdown. Our defense is really hard to play against when they can pin their ears back and get teams out of their game plan. Those pass rushers are intense. The stadium is loud. It's tough on opposing quarterbacks.
Q: As an offensive guy, what do you think it would be like to go against that defense with the crowd in a frenzy?
A: I don't know. I can barely talk on the sideline during what is going on. It's very tough on those guys. Not being able to hear, call plays first of all, and not really getting a good jump on the snap is really tough.
Q: What were you thinking when Teddy Bridgewater went in?
A: I was pumped. I really was. I was so excited for Teddy [Bridgewater] to get back out there. He is such a good dude. I have the utmost respect for him. I might have been one of the guys trying to start the "Teddy" chant there. I couldn't be more excited for him.
Q: Did you say anything to him before? If so, what'd you say?
A: Yes, a little bit. Pat on the butt and said "Go get them".
Q: Did he show emotions?
A: Yes, I mean you guys were all there. You saw it. I think you guys can talk to him about it though.* *
Q: Getting Pat Elflein and Mike Remmers back what did that mean having them in the huddle with you?
A: It was great. Those guys are very talented players and I think like I've said before, "Our offensive line does a great job of playing together, not individually." Even for guys that have been out awhile to get back in there and get going again. They did a good job.
Q: Were you expecting Jerick McKinnon to have the kind of day that he did?
A: You never know with that guy, he's explosive man. We had some good schemes. Pat did a great job putting in some plays putting guys in tough situations to guard him and he was able to get really open and make some guys miss and some big plays for down the field on third down.
Q: After your last drive there were some "MVP" chants in the background. What does that feel like looking back on the season you've had?
A: I had a coach tell me "It's never really as good as it seems and it's never really as bad as it seems." I try not too stay to high with the highs or too low with the lows, stay the same guy all the time. I love the fans. I love the support that we from this building, but like I said I'm just trying to do my job every day.
Q: How do you feel about the way Kyle Rudolph gutted it out?
A: I mean for Rudy to get and make a few really big plays for us it says a lot. It says a lot to just have him out there. He does a great job preparing and not being able to practice as much as he did. And to step right in and fill right in, I think it was great
Q: What's your relationship with Pat Shurmur and how has that evolved?
A: It's a lot better than it was and I still think we have some room to grow. Pat does a great job calling the games. The more time we spend in meeting rooms watching film, talking through defenses – we're getting more and more on the same page and seeing things through the same set of eyes and I think that's important for a coordinator and a quarterback.
Q: From your observation point, was that the defense's best outing this year?
A: It felt like it. I felt like we were just going back out and I think they were 1 of 13 on third downs. I mean that's awesome. Those guys played hard and did a great job. It definitely makes it a lot better when you know that even when you punt you're going to get the ball back soon and you expect to get the ball back soon. We just have to do our part on offense.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It was great getting back out there. It was amazing hearing the crowd chanting and things like that. But the biggest takeaway from today is that we're in the tournament. We set goals back in the spring, and we're hitting all of our goals right now. We still have to make some corrections, make some improvements. We know that we're in the tournament, but we know that in order to make a run in the tournament we have to continue to do the little things that got us to this point. It was great, a great team win today. An amazing atmosphere, and hopefully we can continue this atmosphere. We got one more game on the road, and then we come back here to finish up and start things in the playoffs.
Q: What did you think when you started hearing the Teddy chants?
A: It was great. It was even better seeing Case [Keenum] leading the chant. Case is an awesome guy, and to see him standing behind me was just amazing.
Q: What were your emotions walking out on to the field?
A: I didn't really feel much. It was great just being out there, and I have a ton of people to thank for getting me to this point. I can't name them all, but it was just a huge milestone to be able to go out there and call plays in the huddle, look the guys in the eye and sell hope to those guys. It was a great feeling.
Q: Was there nervousness or excitement?
A: Not at all, I was actually relaxed and calm, just happy to be in there.* *
Q: Can you talk about the support from your teammates?
A: It was great. This is a great locker room, and I'm proud to be in it, proud to be a part of it. This is a group of men who come to work every day, and they're very supportive of everyone on this team. To see them cheering for me and supporting me, they've seen what I had to grow through, and they went through this with me. [It was great] to be able to get out there on the field today, not only for me but for everyone who played a role in this.
Q: How did you feel physically once the play started and you were out there for real?
A: Pretty relaxed. Just happy to be out there.
Q: It looked like you took a little time for yourself, did you say anything to yourself?
A: No, I just thanked God that the opportunity presented itself and I was ready to go.
Q: Did you have to cup your ears to hear the play call through the ovation?
A: Yeah, it was pretty loud with the crowd chanting. It could probably be that loud on defense, and not on offense, but it was great. It was a great experience. It was loud, but I got the play call in and played ball.
Q: I know you never want to get hit, but would it maybe have been good test to get one good lick in?
A: No, not at all. Try to keep the quarterback clean, under all circumstances. It was great just being out there today, flying around with the guys.
Q: How much were you chomping at the bit to get out there in the third quarter?
A: I wasn't chomping at it at all. I knew we were playing well enough today that maybe there was a chance that I could get in there, so hats off to the guys, getting out early and jumping out on those guys. We set some goals early this week, and we started fast just like we talked about. It was good. In the third quarter I was like, 'hey, maybe there's a possibility that I might get in here.' Then it happened, and I'm grateful for that opportunity.
Q: When did they tell you that you were going to get in?
A: I think in the fourth quarter Coach Zimmer said something to me. I just knew that I might get in there.
Q: Did your receivers apologize for the dropped balls?
A: Yeah, they definitely came over to me and apologized, but that's a part of the game. Those guys work hard, and throughout the week we complete those passes. It happens, it's part of the game.
Q: What does this mean to you after everything you've gone through?
A: It's a great feeling. Like I've said, I don't think too deep into things. The way I see it, you have a group of men in this locker room who uplifted their brother throughout a hard time in his life. To see them so supportive of me, it motivated me. It's a great experience, and I'm glad that I was able to experience it with this group of men in this locker room, and we were able to clinch the division today.
Q: You mentioned that Case Keenum has been very supportive. Did he say anything to you before you took the field?
A: I really don't remember. I think just about every guy on the team came up to me and either patted me on the back or said something. Like I said, it's a great locker room, guys are very supportive, and it showed today.
Q: To finally get out there, did it feel like validation for all the hard work and rehab you've put in?
A: I guess you could say that. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago. I said that usually when you have a dream and you wake up, you don't remember what happened in that dream. I'm fortunate to pick up right where my dream left off. That right there, nothing tops that. Just happy I was able to experience it at home in front of this crowd. They've been so supportive of me also, between the tweets, emails, messages. It was just a great experience today.
Q: As you heard the "Teddy" chants, what was running through your mind before you even got in that game?
A: Nothing really. I tried to make sure that I stayed as even keeled as possible. I had to actually tune out the crowd so that I could hear the play call for one, but it was a great experience today, and I'm even happier that we were able to clinch the division.
Q: Do you know if you'll get more reps before the playoffs?
A: I don't know. Whatever happens, happens. I'm going to continue to approach each week with the same mindset, which is to get better, be a better teammate. Like I said, we're in the tournament now, so we have to continue to do the things that got us to this point, and continue to do the things that got us to the tournament. We still have two more games. Like Coach [Zimmer] said, we're playing for seeding. This next two games are just as important as the previous 14.
Q: How far away are you from being able to play more snaps in a game?
A: Obviously we're rolling right now, so as long as we just continue to play good football, that's all I want for this team. Throughout the week in practice I'm working with the guys, and we're continuing to just build on this rhythm and chemistry, things like that. We're playing good football right now, and I hope that we can continue to keep playing throughout the playoffs.
Q: Is your mom here today? Did you check and see if you got any texts or anything from her?
A: Nah, I just came in and got dressed. Excited, slapped hands with the guys high fives and celebrated.
Vikings Cornerback Terence Newman
Q: How did you make an interception that impressive?
A: I got lucky on that one. I was lucky I did not drop it. I was fortunate to be able to catch it and put us in a position to score.
Q: Do you know what you are doing at that point or is it just instinct?
A: I jumped and turned and it hit my shoulder pads. I was just trying to keep it from hitting the ground. The basketball play in the offseason kicked in.
Q: How does it feel to be close to the league lead in career interceptions among active players?
A: It is cool, but hopefully it is not the last one I get. I want to have this conversation again and not be at 42 (career interceptions).
Q: What do the big plays mean for the defense?
A: Our defensive line makes everyone uncomfortable. It benefits everyone. There are times the quarterback is not set and you get turnovers. It starts with our defensive line and we are able to cover and do everything on the back end. They make it easy for us.
Q: How did the crowd noise help you guys out today?
A: It is definitely to our advantage. They can't communicate. Half the time we can't communicate. It is beneficial because we work with crowd noise. It was helpful today.
Q: Did you sense they were getting desperate down the stretch?
A: Not really. They have a lot of guys that fight over there. They have not had the greatest season over there. I know in the past they have had a lot of success. We are going to keep playing our game and keep doing what we do.
Q: What are the next steps for you guys?
A: We have a big game next week and a big game after that. This is cool and everything but obviously it only one of our goals. We still have goals we are trying to achieve.
Q: How did you feel when Bridgewater came in the game?
A: It was awesome. I had tears coming out of my eyes because I know how hard he has worked to come back from that. He had everyone behind him. You heard the crowd go crazy. It is just awesome to see him get snaps.
Q: What does the crowd chanting for Teddy tell you about how the fans feel about him?
A: The magnitude of his injury was pretty severe. For him to come back and play in a game is awesome. I think everybody knows that. They welcomed him knowing that he has had a long journey. He made it. If anyone could make it, it was him.
Q: When Bridgewater's injury happened, did you think he would ever play again?
A: I did not have that mindset having met him, seeing how diligent he is. I go in on Tuesdays to watch film and he is working, lifting weights. He is a hard worker. He trusts in God so he is always going to be alright.
Q: Does Keenum pumping the crowd up to cheer on Bridgewater tell us something about this team?
A: We are all together. You cannot do the things we have accomplished without the team being together. We support everyone. You see how classy Case is for getting the guys amped up because down the road, who knows? We had a quarterback go down last year and we had a quarterback go down this year, you just never know. For Teddy to get some reps is important.
Vikings Cornerback Xavier Rhodes
Q: How does it feel that you guys won the NFC North?
A: It feels good to go out there and win the game and win the division. We got that out of the way and now we have to go for that second thing, to win an NFC Championship.
Q: What did you do to shut the Bengals down?
A: First thing we had to do was stop the run. That was the biggest thing we did not do last week. We emphasized stopping the run last week. I do not know how many total rushing yards they had this week. But that was our theme this week. Once we make them one dimensional, you go from there.
Q: Can you talk about the big plays you guys made on defense?
A: Coach always talks about trying to get turnovers and score touchdowns on defense. We have been playing well on defense. Coach wanted us to try to get turnovers and try and get in the end zone on the defensive side of the ball.
Q: Did you know Eric Kendricks could move like he did on the pick-six?
A: Yes. You watch him on film, I watch him on the field, he squeezes through holes and makes great tackles. He is good guy with good speed. It is not surprising to me.
Q: How did it feel to dominate them on all sides of the ball?
A: We did it in all phases. That was our season goal, dominate in all phases. That is what we did today.
Q: What is it like to see Terence Newman making plays?
A: Seeing a 39-year-old guy make a play like that is amazing. That is a one of a kind type of play. To catch a pick between the legs, I thought he was Michael Jordan out there.
Q: What is the next step in the process?
A: We have three goals. Win the division, win the NFC and win the Super Bowl.
Q: What was it like on the sideline when Teddy Bridgewater came in?
A: You heard it from the fans. The fans tell it all. Us seeing his injury firsthand, seeing all the adversity he went through and seeing him go under center is amazing. There were people that said he would never play again, for him to go out there, he showed everyone that he was able to do it.
Vikings Running Back Latavius Murray
Q: How good does it feel to win the NFC North Division?
A: It feels good. It is my first divisional championship. Every team I have been on, that has been the first goal. It feels great with this team, this organization, this locker room, and these coaches. I think we have a really special group.
Q: The two-headed monster (Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray) was especially effective today. Why do you think you two were able to get so much traction?
A: We want the ball in our hands and to take control of the game. We had good opportunities and had good runs. We want to be a part of the passing game as well and obviously Jerick McKinnon was a big factor today with some big catches. Like I said, we want the ball in our hands and to be a threat out of the backfield.
Q: Talk about when Teddy Bridgewater came in and the emotions it had on the team.
A: It's crazy because I wasn't here throughout these years with Teddy. But even that moment and being a part of it was emotional for me. It's special and I think that is what it is all about. That's why you have to play the game is for moments for that. I will never forget that moment and I am sure for Teddy it was special for him. I'm just happy I was able to be a part of it.
Q: Teddy mentioned that Case Keenum was leading that chant. How cool is it to have that close of a locker room and have that support from Case Keenum?
A: It is just guys being unselfish. Those are two guys that play the same position and both want to be out on the field. It shows the character in this locker room and it shows how special this group is. I truly believe in that and that is why I love this group.
Q: What are you thinking when Jerick McKinnon is catching passes and has 40 yards of open field ahead of him.
A: I love it. If those receiving yards are coming to the running backs, I love it. Jerick is a huge threat out of the backfield catching the ball. He is a great receiver and when we are able to utilize that and the guys allow him to be open, we are going to get big gains out of that. I think it is huge for us running backs to make plays out of the backfield, and it takes the whole team to make plays like that.
Q: Jerick McKinnon hit over 100 yards receiving today. Do you two ever talk about that plateau as a running back?
A: No. Honestly it is kind of rare. If anything, you are thinking about getting 100 yards rushing. Whenever you are able to get 100 yards receiving out of the backfield, you have to love it.* *
Q: Talk about your catch on the opening drive when you had that 28-yard gain right after Case Keenum got sacked. How big was that play and the momentum it gave you?
A: I think it was a huge play for the team to build momentum and change the field position. It was a great start for us because we want to start fast and put points up.
Q: Now that you have the divisional title out of the way, is this going to allow you guys to focus on some bigger goals as you move forward?
A: I think the fact that we won the division and are in the playoffs allows us to focus on these last two games, maintain home field, and play for seeding is important. We want to get back out here and play in front of these fans who have been amazing all year. It felt like it has been forever but it felt good to be back home and play here.
Vikings Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs
Q: Case Keenum looking the safety off gave you just enough room, didn't it?
A: Case does a great job with that. As far as positioning the ball, looking off safeties, and just that good quarterback play. I just try and make the plays that come to me.
Q: Can you talk about having to get ready for yet another big game?
A: We have a short week but they have a short week too. I'm just excited to get back out to playing football. It's a fast way to get to the game, so I'm excited to get back balling.
Q: Can you talk about what's still on the line for you guys?
A: It's a lot on the line; it's a lot on the table for us to get. But it's on us to come back tomorrow, as far as preparing the right way and getting ready for those guys. They have a great team as usual, so we just have to get ready, do the things that got us here, and keep it moving.
Q: How cool was it to see Teddy Bridgewater to get in there?
A: I'm just excited. That's my guy, so I was just happy to see him back balling and get back out there. He hasn't played football in a long time so for him to get out there in game time it was special.
Q: Were you especially excited when Teddy Bridgewater got back out there?
A: Yeah, because I remember the day he went down, for him to be back out there fully healthy it was a special place for me at least. I'm just happy for him.
Q: Can you talk about being NFC North Champions?
A: It feels alright. Our coach kind of likes to operate that way so we don't really operate that way, as far as getting high on things. Success comes from hard work. We have high hopes for things and we just have to continue to do what got us here.
Q: You guys set the tone early today and came out firing, didn't you?
A: Yeah, we were just going with the game plan. Whatever they want to get done, we just try to get it done. We came out aggressive, trying to move down the field, and Case [Keenum] ran around a little bit. He does some great things with his legs so it kind of kept us going.
Q: Can you talk about Jerick McKinnon and how he thrived today?
A: That's Jet's [Jerick McKinnon's] game. He can catch the ball, he can run, and he does some special things back there. As far as being at that running back position, he does some special things. It's just everybody doing their job.
Q: How much do you guys gain being able to beat teams in different ways?
A: It's more so our coaches putting us in the best position. No matter how we approach it, we're just trying to get done what they want. They put together a great game plan as far as coming out here and start fast, aggressive, get the shots that we can get, and moving the ball down the field.
Q: Isolating Linebackers with passes to the running backs, how does that change the game for you?
A: There was one specific play where I thought I got a flag but I knew Jet [Jerick McKinnon] was wide open so I was just trying to do my job for the next man. That's kind of how we are, everyone does their individual job so the next man can have success and vice versa.
Q: How helpful was it to see you guys eliminate mental mistakes?
A: I feel like we still didn't do a great job. We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds as far as penalties and things like that. Yes, we won the game by a large margin but as far as the little details and the stuff that we need to clean up, we still need to clean it up. Having penalties and self-inflicted wounds can get you behind the sticks and stuff like that can hurt you. Our thing is to come back tomorrow, watch the tape and clean it up.
Q: Do you remember how you felt when Teddy Bridgewater went down?
A: When he went down, I was more concerned about his well-being. Not only is he my quarterback but he's a good friend of mine, I was just hoping he was okay and it wasn't that bad but we came to find out it was kind of bad. It was a tough pill to swallow but we supported him throughout his process. He's back and he just has to keep going uphill slowly.
Vikings Defensive End Brian Robison
Q: How about that pick six by Eric Kendricks?
A: Heck of a play. We had a little of confusion on that play and there might be a new blitz out of it or something like that. It worked out for us and Eric was able to make a great play out of it and get into the end zone.
Q: You're the only Vikings player on the team to have three division titles. How does this compare to some of the other ones?
A: I don't know how you can compare it to the other ones. Each team is different. I love this team. I love the guys on our defense. I love the way this team works. It's just fun to be a part of.
Q: Can you just talk about why you guys were so effective against this Bengals team?
A: I think we just got back to work. At the end of the day we understand we didn't play the way we were capable of playing last week. Even today, we are going to go back and look at film and see that we had opportunities to make even more plays. We have to eliminate some of the penalties we had but that's what we want to able to do. We want to be able to create turnovers, get a fast start, and finish the way we want to finish.
Q: You guys also built enough of a lead for Teddy Bridgewater to get in?
A: It was great seeing Teddy get back out there. There's a difference between having him on the sidelines with us and actually having him be able to get back out there. Especially knowing all the hard work that he has put in. You know long strenuous days trying to work his way back and to be able to see him get back out there on the field was uplifting.
Q: How much fun was it for the second and third time this year to do your sack celebration?
A: Yeah, it was fun. But, it's not about me, it's about these guys around me. I'm proud of these guys and hopefully we can just keep this journey going.
Q: What was the celebration like when you guys got in here and the division title was secure?
A: Well, I think we are all happy but I think we all understand that this is part of the bigger picture. This is the first step for us to get to our ultimate goal. We just have to take one week at time. We are happy to be division champs. That's something that is really hard to do especially in this division. We understand that this isn't the ultimate goal and we have a lot more to accomplish.
Q: Was there a lot of hollering and jumping around?
A: I mean we were happy but we weren't going overboard like it was, you know, I'm not going to mention it. We will keep moving forward.
Q: What does it feel like when you're holding a team to 46-yards in a half?
A: That's what we want to do. We want to be a dominate defense and we were able to do that for the most part today. We had a couple plays there in the second half that got out a bit but overall that's the type of defense we want to play.
Q: On the pick six, was that the type of call you guys typically do?
A: We got a bunch of stuff that hasn't even really been put out there yet. That was just one wrinkle we were able to throw out there today and it worked out for us.
Q: There was no window there at all for Andy Dalton and he still threw it. He must have not seen Eric Kendricks at all?
A: I guess not. I haven't seen the play outside of what I was doing so I'll have to look at it on tape.
Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph
Q: How did you go from coach saying you're not going to play, to playing two days later?
A: It's important to me. I know we had an opportunity to win the NFC North today and I just asked [Eric Sugarman] to give me a chance. Wasn't a great chance, but the guys here on our training staff, our doctors, they did a great job. Like I said, it's something that's important to me, I wanted to be out there with those guys and I did anything I could to get out there.
Q: Was playing against your hometown team more motivation to play this week?
A: You don't need more motivation when you're playing for the NFC North Championship and it didn't matter who we were playing today I wasn't going to miss it.
Q: Was your touchdown celebration the Icky Shuffle?
A: It was the Icky Shuffle. I felt bad doing it at that point I the game, but as a kid that grew up in Cincinnati I had to do it.
Q: What was it like when Teddy got on the field?
A: I'm just glad the glass didn't break on the roof, because I was a little worried once I found out he was going in. But, I couldn't be more proud of him. The work that he has put in over the last 14 months to get himself back and to take the field again in an NFL game I think he's far exceeded a lot of people's expectations that don't know him and the kind of person he is. I love watching him on a daily basis, he always amazes me by the way he carries himself the positivity that he lives his life, it was great to see him back out there.
Q: What did you tell Teddy before he went in?
A: I just told him how proud I was of him and how much I loved him and how excited I was to see him run back out there on the field. I wished I was running out there with him but they wouldn't let me.
Q: Was Teddy emotional?
A: No, not at all. It's about as Teddy as it comes. Just as cool as a cucumber, I know he was excited deep down.
Q: Now you can focus on the number one seed?
A: Yeah, it's important. Coach mentioned it after the game. We've secured our spot in the playoffs, now we're playing for seeds. That crowd today is an indication that we want everybody to have to come here. It's a tough place to play, we have the best fans in football and they make it nice and loud.
Q: So this is just one step in the process?
A: Yeah, my tight end coach Clancy [Barone] had a great line this week and you know there are hats games, going to play for a hat. This is an awesome hat, but you don't get any jewelry with this hat. There's bigger hats to come and we want the hats you get jewelry with. So, it's awesome, we're glad to be NFC North champs but we still have things to work for.
Q: Thoughts on Eric Kendricks pick six?
A: As an offensive player we love to see those guys score anytime. I think it was our first defensive points of the year too so that's awesome for those guys. They've been so close so many times so to see them go out and play as well as they did today was really cool.
Vikings Defensive Tackle Linval Joseph
Q: Thoughts on the game today?
A: I think we had a good game today. The game plan for today was for us to minimize the mistakes and today we definitely did that.
Q: What's it like getting the crowd pumped up and not allowing the offense to communicate?
A: It's a great feeling. At the same time if they can't communicate it's hard for us to communicate. So, who's going to make the play first? Today we definitely did our job.
Q: It that the most complete game you have played this year?
A: I feel like we still have room to do better. Especially on both sides of the ball. So, we're just going to watch this film and try and get better every week.
Q: Do you think the other team got frustrated?
A: Of course. We have been in their shoes before, at the end of the day you have to rally. We had a couple games where we had to slow down and we had to get back together. So, just to rally out and be on top it's a good thing.
Q: There is more work to be done, but you can celebrate today that you got this division title.
A: Of course, like I said that was a stepping stone, we have a lot more steps to go and we are just going to get back to work tomorrow and rally and get ready for Green Bay.
Q: How does it feel to hold a team to 46 yards in a half?
A: It's a good feeling. The best feeling is a win and win at a high level in all phases of the game. Like I said, we need to go back in that film room and we want to keep going and keep winning. We have to just work on the little things.
Q: The whole team made big plays today.
A: Of course and that was good. We had some turnovers today, two picks. B-Rob stepped up and made some big plays and got the fans going. It was a great game.
Q: How'd it feel to see Teddy out there?
A: Like I said, the only way for you to get better is to get into the game. For Teddy to get in the game is a good thing. The fans loved it, we loved it, and thank God he stayed healthy we just have to keep going.
Vikings Running Back Jerick McKinnon
Q: How has your role in the receiving game grown?
A: I'm trying to find a way to do my best in every game and make the most out of opportunities given to me. They have been using me more in the receiving game this year than in past years and it's been fun. It's been awesome. It was good to come out here today with the home crowd. We've been on the road for a long time and to get this win, it was a great win. It puts us in the playoffs, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
Q: You caught a couple balls with a lot of space. Is there times where you catch a ball and turn and expect somebody to be there and there isn't?
A: Yeah I try to take a visual picture before I catch the ball and know what's in front of me. Case did a good job of finding me today. They didn't cover me, and left me open and I was able to make some big plays for the offense. Like I said before, it was a great team win and it puts us in a good position.
Q: What did you think when you saw Teddy Bridgewater come out?
A: It was amazing. Everyone knows his story and just to see him battle back and work hard and get to the point of even practicing and then get out there today and get some reps, it was amazing. I'm glad to be out there with him.
Q: Did you know you were getting close to going over 100 yards at one point? Do you keep track during the game?
A: No, I did not know. I just knew I had some catches for some long runs. When they put it on the big screen that's when I realized I went over 100. But it was a great team win, playing good football on offense and receivers were making plays. The offense line has been outstanding all season. Case has been outstanding. We just need to find a way to keep things going.
Q: When you saw on the screen that you were over 100 yards, what does that mean to you as a running back?
A: It's a good feeling, but there is a lot of roles that take part in that. A lot of people just see the running back catching the ball, but the offensive line has to protect and the receivers have to run routes. It's good to come out here at home and run over 100 yards, but I give all the credit to my teammates, it was a great team win and it wasn't just me going over 100 yards, it was all 11 of us.
Q: What can you say about your offensive line? They've been dealing with injuries and were able to come together and be fantastic today.
A: It was fantastic. We are still missing Riley Reiff, but everyone who has been called upon has done a great job and it's just been that "next man" mentality and it's been a great year so far and we have to find ways to keep this thing rolling. Defense is playing lights out. Every week is a new challenge and we have to keep coming out fast. It was a great win but there is still things we can take and learn from it. That's the good thing about it.
Q: Would you say you want to celebrate the Divisional Championship but there's still bigger fish to fry?
A: It was a great win and it puts us in a good position and in the playoffs, but like Coach Zimmer said, the journey isn't done. We have two games to finish the season and it's just about us, playing with a chip on our shoulders and staying focused on the task at hand, not looking down the road.
Q: Are you aiming to be the first seed in your division conference?
A: Yes, that's definitely what we are aiming for. If we want that seed there are things that need to happen.
Q: What's kept the chip on your shoulder all year long?
A: Coach Zimmer. It's a challenge every week. The thing about guys on this team is that everybody takes that challenge personally and wants to get better and better and I think it shows week-to-week. We are coming out and playing as a collective team on offense, defense, and special teams.
Q: Talk about that 3rd down, you needed two yards and you got 41.
A: Case Keenum put it on me. I guess they didn't want to cover me today. Before I went in, coach told me, "Down and distance," and I wanted to maximize the opportunities given to me and that's what I'm aiming for.
Q: What did you think of Eric Kendricks speed on his touchdown?
A: He got a touchdown, so if I had to rate him 1-10, I'd give him an 8.5. Maybe a 9 for the dive.
Q: How early on did you realize this was going to be a big day for you?
A: After the first catch I figured they would guard me and I just seemed to slip out of there. Case and I were just in sync and he found me and we were able to make some plays
Q: How do you maintain your edge about the next game even though you just had this big win?
A: Staying focused and being greedy. We've done a lot of good things this season but everybody hasn't been satisfied with it. That's Coach Zimmer's attitude and our attitude as a team. We want to win and keep winning. Everybody is greedy for more.
Q: What happened on Teddy's interception?
A: I told Teddy when I saw him that it was my fault. After I saw it go up and Shawn Williams intercepted it I felt bad. It put me in a bad mood. The pick was on me, but it was great to be back out there with Teddy and it's been amazing watching him get back out there and to get the ovation he got and he deserved.
Q: How loud was that ovation from your perspective?
A: It was very loud and very good and everybody on the team was trying to get the crowd even louder. It was a great experience to be back out there with him and see him out there taking snaps.
Q: Could you hear Teddy in the huddle?
A: We could hear him. He was being Teddy. He was being himself. That's all you can ask from him.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: Was securing the division the main goal of today's game?
A: Yes, that was goal number one. We are where we want to be. We still have things to accomplish.
Q: Was as this as strong as you guys have played in three quarters all season?
A: We played pretty well. We can always play better but we obviously did enough to win today. [Terence] Newman and [Eric] Kendricks made big plays today.
Q: What was working so well, especially the first half?
A: Nothing new. We obviously didn't show up like we wanted to last week. We got back to the basics and fundamentals.
Q: How much work was it getting back to the fundamentals after last week?
A: We weren't really worried about it. We know what we can do, we just have to go out there and do it. It's easier said than done, but we had to get back to running to the football, playing hard, having fun, making plays and celebrating with each other.
Q: The moment when Teddy came back, what did that feel like for you?
A: It's awesome. I think the whole stadium was pretty excited. I'm sure we could have drawn it up a little bit different, but it doesn't matter. The fact that he's out there throwing the ball and doing his thing is unbelievable and a tribute to him.
Q: What did it mean to you to have so many of the reserves play today without being forced in because of injuries?
A: You have to have depth in this league. Injuries happen every week, all the time. It's good to get some experience and get those guys out there.
Q: The crowd was revved up and you were teeing off on the quarterback. What's that like?
A: It's awesome. We feed off of them and they feed off of us. It feels like we're all a part of the Vikings.
Q: What does it say about a guy like Terence Newman, who's still making plays?
A: It's no surprise. He's been doing that for his whole career. The number one thing is that he's a smart football player. He's always studying, always on things. When the lights come on, he uses that knowledge to go make plays and still can run with anybody. He still has the incredible hand eye coordination to finish that catch. He has the whole package.
Q: Is he a leader on this team?
A: No question. A guy like that commands respect.
Vikings Middle Linebacker Eric Kendricks
Q: As good as the defense has been, it hasn't scored a lot of points. Is that something you think the defense can do towards the end of the season?
A: Yeah, it's always great when guys on defense go out and make a play.
Q: Do you feel like the team played a complete game?
A: It was pretty good. I don't want to say complete because we still left some stuff out there. Little mistakes here and there, but we will correct that. I was happy with how we responded and won this game.
Q: How much of an effect did last week's game have on the team?
A: The game last week was important to us, but you can't count this team out. We fight no matter what. We know what we want and we are willing to work to get it.
Vikings Defensive End Danielle Hunter
Q: Why were you guys able to dominate the Bengal's offense?
A: Because we focused. We went out there and we stuck with the game plan. We had to work together on defense and offense, and everything came through.
Q: Was there a team reset, after the loss against the Panthers in Charlotte?
A: Definitely. We just had to go back in there and refocus on what we had to do.
Q: Was it nice to get that pressure back on the quarterback?
A: Definitely. We had a rush pattern. We decided to go out there and do what we needed to do because we realized that if we got the tackles and the guards onto his feet, he would be able to hold the ball.
Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr
Q: What did you see in Eric Kendrick's interception play, as it unfolded?
A: We were patient, let it unfold. And he made a good play. Threw the ball to him, and he caught it. He was able to set the return I guess, hit the sideline and score. Hopefully Dejo [Andrew Sendejo] can learn from that, because we could have used that last week.
*Q: It looked like you jumped up to be the lead blocker. You were behind Kendricks when he caught the ball and all the sudden you were in front of him. *
A: Yeah, I got a couple guys. But we needed it, we needed to score on defense sometime. It's been all year and we were due. I'm happy it was one of the linebackers and I'm happy it was him and I'm happy we got the win.
Q: What made you so effective today on three-and-outs?
A: We were just locked in. We didn't play very well last week; we had to kind of redeem ourselves for that outing. All week, we focused on getting lined up and doing our job. We executed well today.
Q: Did you feel good about bouncing back strong defensively today after last week?
A: Absolutely. I think it was good losing honestly. It got us all back on track and focused up and more locked in to try to make this final push. You never want to lose, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. We got refocused and came out and played well today.
Q: Were you surprised Andy Dalton threw the ball Eric picked off?
A: I don't know man; I couldn't play quarterback. I can't say it's a bad play because I probably would have been throwing a couple picks before that. You make mistakes, you move on. That's life.
Q: How are you feeling looking ahead to Green Bay?
A: It's a big game for us. Now we're in the playoffs and in terms of seeding, you want to be as high as possible and I think the team will see it that way as well. I think we will go in and hopefully play effectively, after today.
Q: Do you see the focus being for next week just going in and doing your job?
A: That's football at the end of the day. I'm not going to change too much. I just need to go out there are do my job.
Q: What was the ovation for Teddy like from your perspective?
A: It was awesome; well deserved. I don't think coach is too happy because I don't think Teddy could hear the play. That guy, all he's been through and just the person he is and what he means to this team and this organization. It was good to see him get out there. Too bad it was a pick, but he just went for it.
Q: The Packers lost today and now are on the brink of missing out on the playoffs. What do you expect to get from them on Saturday?
A: Their best shot. They still have a chance to get in to the playoffs, right? They're going to come out guns blazing and trying to put up a lot of points and try to stop us on defense and offense and try to win the game. I expect it to be the Packers.
Q: Will you say anything next weekend to Aaron Rodgers?
A: I don't know, I haven't really thought about it. I'll see him on the field and whatever happens, happens.
Q: How does this division title today feel, compared to the one from a couple years ago?
A: They're all sweet. The situation is a little different than two years ago, I think we won in Green Bay in the last game of the season, I think it was? We have a couple more games coming up this year, but I think it's just as sweet and it feels just as great. I'm glad to do it with this group of guys, who I really appreciate and who I've gotten really close with lately. It's always a blessing to get to this point.
Q: Was it a big celebration in the locker room about winning the NFC North or do you guys have bigger goals?
A: We're happy, we're proud of ourselves. We haven't really done much yet except get to the playoffs. We have a long way ahead.
Q: There was a lot of energy tonight – how does that feel when the crowd is going crazy out there?
A: It's fun, man. Playing football with this group of guys is awesome, no matter where we are. It's especially fun to do it here, like you said, with the great support we have, but put us anywhere and we'll have fun.
Vikings Wide Receiver Adam Thielen
Q: How does that one feel?
A: It feels good. Obviously anytime you can win this division, it's a tough division with a lot of good teams. It's definitely a good start and we have a lot more boxes to check as coach would say.
Q: Was it important to rebound from last week?
A: Yeah for sure. I think we've talked about it every week. Every time you can win in this league, it's tough to do it doesn't matter who you're playing, what their record is, it's tough to win but it was obviously great to be at home.
Q: Can you talk about the emotions in this building for Teddy Bridgewater returning?
A: Man, my emotions, it was tough to hold it in. There were a few guys on the sideline that said the same thing. Obviously, what a class act, what a great guy and what a great football player. I was so excited to see him get the opportunity to get back on the field.
Q: What does it mean to close out the division?
A: It's a good step, it's a step in the right direction. It's a something that we talked about before the season even started. It was kind of the first box that we wanted to check. Win the division and then now moving forward we have to win some more games to get that first round bye.
Q: Was it pretty gratifying winning as decisively as you did?
A: Yeah, we knew that if we could start fast and jump on them early that we'd have a good chance at closing them out. I think that's something that we've been talking about all year. Starting fast and just keeping the pressure on teams.
Q: Was it a big celebration when you get in the locker room or did you restrain because there's still more ahead of you?
A: Yeah, I think it was a little bit of both. I think it's a great feeling and it's something you should celebrate because it's so tough to do in this league, especially in the division that we're in. There's always good teams and it's always a tough battle so it feels good but like you said I think there's a little bit of restrain because we have a lot of work to do.
Q: What's a good description of what the locker room was like post-game?
A: It wasn't anything too crazy. Like I said we were pretty refrained from getting too excited but like I said its still exciting. I think we should celebrate and enjoy this moment for a little bit and then tomorrow get back to work.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to Teddy Bridgewater?
A: No, I couldn't talk to him I was too emotional. I would have lost it if I would have talked to him. I tried to just hold it in.
Q: When did you find out that Teddy Bridgewater was going out there?
A: When he ran out there and the crowd went nuts. We didn't really know what was going to happen. We figured it would happen at some point if we were ahead but it was cool.* *
Q: How much are you guys paying attention to playoffs?
A: We're paying attention. Obviously, we're trying to take care of our job and once we do that then we can look at the scores and see what happened around the league. As long as we just keep taking care of our business everything will work itself out.