EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer was unhappy with his unit's overall performance last week at Philadelphia, but it hasn't changed his level of confidence in Minnesota's special teams or his approach to upcoming games.
"Going forward, I think we want to be an aggressive football team; and we are aggressive," Priefer said. "We're not going to coach scared, and I've never coached scared. I'm not going to do it."
The Vikings allowed a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Eagles last week, but Minnesota will continue trying to pin opponents deep with certain kicks.
Priefer, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards spoke to members of the media on Friday as the Vikings prepare to face the Bears in Chicago for Monday Night Football.
Priefer acknowledged that things would need to change if the coverage doesn't improve, but he believes in his players' ability to tackle returners rather than accepting touchbacks.
"We want to challenge people whenever we can, because I think we're pretty good," Priefer said. "But we can't make mistakes like that and hurt our football team."
Here are two additional topics covered by Priefer:
Focusing on the positive
After a strong first five games for special teams followed by a shaky performance in Philadelphia, Priefer said it's important to focus on the positive and be able to learn from the negative while also moving on.
"If you have something positive happen, you want to build on that; you've got a good foundation," Priefer said. "Anything negative that happens, you need to correct it quickly and then kind of move on. Although we've been talking about the mistake that we made, I think the guys have moved on from it.
"When you game plan for your next opponent or you know that your opponent is watching that tape, you've got to prepare for the things that hurt you," Priefer continued. "And we need to take away the things that hurt us and kind of move on from there."
Bears return game
For several seasons, the Vikings prepared to face Devin Hester, a long-successful returner. Priefer said he's relieved they no longer have to game plan for Hester, but that doesn't make Chicago's special teams a walk in the park.
"I think [Deonte] Thompson, number 14, is phenomenal," Priefer said. "He's strong, he's fast, he's quick, he has got good vision. I think he's a very, very good kickoff returner."
The Bears have been using Eddie Royal as a punt returner. Priefer has previous experience with Royal, as he coached him during his time in Denver.
"I'm not sure if he's going to play, but when Eddie's back there, he's always a threat to score," Priefer said. "He has already got a touchdown this year."
Here are two topics covered by Turner:
Run game a work in progress
One of the questions Turner fielded during his podium session was in regards to the Vikings current run game without Adrian Peterson compared to their performance in 2014, during which they played all but one game without Peterson. Minnesota averaged 4.4 yards per attempt in 2014 to its current average of 2.6 yards per attempt.
"We've had a lot of changes up front," Turner said.
He pointed to the Philadelphia game and said he thought the Vikings had more consistency on the ground but were in a point of playing catch-up.
"I think if we had managed it in the early part of the game, we probably would have ended up having a good day running the football," Turner said. "I expect us to continue to get better running the ball. As you know and we all saw, that line has moved around quite a bit. A big part of being successful is the offensive line and having continuity running the ball, that's a big part of it."
A look at Jake Long
After Jake Long's performance against the Eagles last week, during which he was rotated in at left tackle, Turner said he thinks the biggest issue was acclimating to game speed. Turner said he has no doubts that Long will continue to improve.
"Well there's no question, last week and then getting in the game and coming back and being evaluated, getting a full week of practice and a good practice yesterday in pads, his second padded practice," Turner said. "That's what you expect, and I think he's getting more and more comfortable."
When asked if Long would continue to be worked in this week, Turner responded with the following:
"That's a question for [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer]. We're going to get those guys ready and get them all ready to play."
Cleaning up the red zone
When asked if rookie Laquon Treadwell could be an asset as a bigger-bodied receiver in red zone situations, Turner said there are other issues that need to be fixed before looking at the receivers.
"The red zone, it always ends up coming down to thinking that you need a big receiver," Turner said. "We false started. We gave up a sack, tackle got beat quick, we gave up a sack.
"Those things we have to fix before we have to worry about who is running the routes," he added. "If you false start on the 1 and give up a sack on the 5, you're not going to be as good down there as you'd like to be."
Here are three topics covered by Edwards:
Cutler back in the huddle
After being sidelined with an injured thumb in Week 2, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will make his return to the field against Minnesota.
"I'm sure they feel comfortable being able to execute their game plan with him in the game and being in those different situations that come up that he's proven over the test of time he's been good with," Edwards said.
Edwards said the Vikings defense has always had its work cut out for it against Cutler, and even more so on the Bears home field.
"The thing about Cutler is, he can move in the pocket, he can read the coverages well, he can get the ball down the field, he can make all the throws," Edwards said. "We're going to have to do a good job with the leverage and the coverage, understand concept-wise what they're going to try to do to us, and be smart in our rush lanes, because he does enable himself to move around in the pocket to be able to execute plays down the field."
The Jeffery job
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery has recorded 32 catches for 520 yards thus far but has yet to make it into the end zone. The Vikings hope to keep it that way.
Although Jeffery hasn't snagged a touchdown yet, Edwards said he's always an ever-present offensive threat.
"They've struggled some in the red zone, and we know that [he's one of Cutler's] favorite guys, so we'll see as we get down there," Edwards said. "Last year when we played them here, he ended up catching a pass on us in the end zone, so we're preparing as we go through the week and working through the different situations that come up in the game, that he's definitely a point of attention for us this week."
Linebacker Anthony Barr hasn't delivered a bevy of splash plays that were part of his first two seasons, but Edwards assured that he's continued to play a significant role in the Vikings defense even as he flies under the radar.
"Anthony's done a great job of what we've asked him to do from week to week," Edwards said of Barr, who has 28 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries (by coaches' tally) through six games. "I think he's been effective in games, I think communication-wise getting us lined up and executing what we're asking him to execute.
"There are certain things that happen during the course of a game, whether it's protection-wise or something like that, where he's not involved in it," Edwards continued. "But for what we've asked him to do and what he brings to us defensively, we're pleased where we're at. We've got an unselfish group."