EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo was with an Eagles squad that had two weeks of preparation for the Patriots before Super Bowl LII.
Philadelphia emerged with a 41-33 win over New England by scoring on eight of 10 possessions in a game with four lead changes.
Will any of that prep work help in half the time before the Vikings (6-4-1) visit the Patriots (8-3) on Sunday?
DeFilippo said he thinks comparing years is “a little overrated” because he discovered in a study he conducted that an NFL team changes between 33 and 38 percent each offseason.
DeFilippo noted that the Patriots focus on eliminating an offense’s strengths and are pliable enough to shift and account for different opponents, which Head Coach Mike Zimmer described as forcing teams to play left-handed.
“You really don’t know what you’re getting until you really get to the game,” DeFilippo said. “Obviously, you watch their game tapes as they go along through the season, and they play each team a little bit differently to how they perceive what you do well, like man coverage, bracket coverage, Cover 2. So they change it up to stop what you do well. We have a feeling on how they’re going to play us; we don’t know for sure. That’s what he’s going to do. I think we’ll have enough to hopefully counter-punch it.”
DeFilippo said facing Bill Belichick’s squad recently “absolutely” will be helpful in terms of making adjustments within the game.
“That was a very high offensive game in that Super Bowl,” DeFilippo said. “There was a lot of balls in the air, guys running around, if you like offense, it was a really good game. Yeah, it does [help]. It just kind of gives you a flow of the game in terms of the way he views the game and the flow and how they change things up. Like I said, we’re obviously looking at this year’s tape much more than the Super Bowl.”
Here are other topics covered by DeFilippo, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer:
DeFilippo on how he wants Cousins scrambling for yards:
Quarterback Kirk Cousins netted 17 yards on six carries (includes two kneel-downs for minus-2 yards) last week against the Packers.
The night included a long of 11 yards on a third-and-13 late in the game as well as a 3-yard gain to move the chains on a second-and-1 during Minnesota’s first touchdown drive of the game.
The use of his legs contrasted several other games for Cousins this season. In Minnesota’s four games before hosting Green Bay, Cousins totaled 10 yards on seven rush attempts.
The quarterback said this week that he missed an opportunity to pick up a first down by running against the Bears in Week 11.
DeFilippo was asked about the Vikings goals for Cousins’ contributions in the ground game.
“Lowering his shoulder is one approach I don’t want him to do, but at least it was his left shoulder,” DeFilippo said. “Our goal in the quarterback room is to get one a game, get one [first down by rushing] a game, however that is, whether it be a QB sneak, a third-down-and-6 run up the middle. Our goal is to get one a game, so Kirk did a great job of doing that last week.”
Edwards on how difficult it is for a pass rush to affect Brady:
Tom Brady has significantly reduced the number of sacks in even-numbered seasons from the odd seasons since 2012:
2013: 40 sacks, (6.0 percent)
2014: 21 sacks, (3.5 percent)
2015: 38 sacks, (5.7 percent)
2016: 15 sacks, (3.4 percent)
2017: 35 sacks, (5.7 percent)
2018: 16 sacks, (3.8 percent)
With it being a less frequent season for sacks, how does a team affect Brady?
“He does a good job of getting rid of the football,” Edwards said. “That’s one thing that we talk to our guys up front [about]. We’ve got to do a good job with our rush plan and our rush lanes, but also, he’s going to get the ball out of his hand, so we’ve got to do a good job of being prepared for those and being able to hopefully get our hands up and get our hands on some balls, and do a good job of getting underneath in coverage and down the field in coverage.”
Edwards on the challenge of New England’s effectiveness at play-action passes:
Offenses use play-action passes to draw linebackers up to the line of scrimmage, but some teams are better than others.
Edwards said the Patriots “do a great job of selling” the play as a run before seamlessly shifting into their pass blocking.
“They do a great job of coming off [the line of scrimmage] real hard and getting into the protection mode off of it,” Edwards said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us diagnosing run and play action against this team. And their ability to run the football, this team is what, 113 [rushing yards] a game? They run the football, so it plays right into it.”
The Patriots are averaging 118.2 rush yards per game, which ranks 12th in the NFL, and 6-0 when they run for 100 or more yards in 2018.
Priefer on former core special teams players contributing to the offense or defense:
Priefer often works with some of the younger players on the roster to fill out the punt return, punt coverage, kickoff return, kickoff coverage, field goal and field goal block units.
An injury like the season-ending one suffered by Andrew Sendejo in Week 5 has led to Anthony Harris becoming the Vikings starter at safety alongside Harrison Smith.
Harris has all three of his career interceptions this season and is just one example of a core special teamer helping out the team in a more visible capacity. Priefer beams with pride when those moments happen.
“About three or four weeks ago in a special teams meeting, I said, ‘The fun thing for me as a coach is to see these young men develop as special teams players and they last in the league and they’re contributing on special teams and they play at a high level and then they contribute on offense and defense,’ ” Priefer said. “When C.J. Ham catches that ball on the flat the other day against Green Bay, I’m like, ‘That’s a teamer.’
“Anthony Harris has two picks against Chicago, ‘That’s a teamer.’ Adam Thielen had been a teamer for a long time,” Priefer added. “Harrison Smith played special teams back in the day. Trae Waynes, like I’ve mentioned before, was our leading tackler about three years ago in his rookie year. I think he had  special teams tackles that year. For me, it’s very rewarding to see those guys that last in the league five, six, seven, eight, nine years and contribute on special teams when they are called upon in certain phases, but still do a great job for us on offense and defense. That’s fun.”
Priefer on Bailey’s calm disposition:
Dan Bailey didn’t have a great first half against the Packers. He was wide left on a 48-yard field goal before hitting a 51-yarder that was negated by a penalty.
Bailey tried on the next snap from 56 yards and was just wide to the right. He also was knocked to the turf by a defender, but he was not compensated with a 5- or 15-yard penalty against Green Bay.
Priefer said he “absolutely” thought the Vikings “were going to get a flag there.”
Priefer said Zimmer asked if Bailey was OK before the kicker netted a 37-yard field goal.
“My only concern with Dan at halftime was if he was OK because he got drilled. At the end of the 56-yarder, he got hit pretty hard and went down pretty hard. That was my only concern, and we talked briefly about the 48-yarder and he knows he has to make that kick. But he came back and made the 37-yarder, made his PATs and kicked off well for us.
“He wasn’t rattled at all,” Priefer said. “He’s got that personality that he just goes with the flow and he understands what he has to do to improve and get better.”