EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is prepping for a talented quarterback Sunday afternoon to open Minnesota's postseason.
The Vikings enjoyed a first-round bye and learned their opponent for the Divisional round game when Drew Brees led the Saints to a Wild Card win over the Panthers.
Zimmer told Twin Cities media that Brees, who has started 248 career regular-season games and another dozen playoff contests, has played at a consistently high level over the years.
"Drew Brees has played pretty good for a long time. He's won a Super Bowl, he's been MVP, he's thrown for millions of yards," quipped Zimmer. "So I think all those things kind of sum up what he does."
And while Brees may not have actually reached 1 million passing yards, he does have more than 70,000. Zimmer believes that a consistent Saints offensive scheme, combined with Brees' competitive nature, have produced such a successful career for the quarterback who will turn 39 the day after his matchup with the Vikings.
Zimmer added that his son, Adam, who currently serves as the Vikings linebackers coach, got to know Brees in his four seasons (2006-09) of coaching in New Orleans.
"I don't know [Brees] very well, [but] Adam was with him down there in New Orleans, and he said he's one of the most competitive guys there is. He'll compete at anything," Zimmer said. "And I think that's kind of what drives him – the way he works, the way he studies. Obviously he has the talent and ability to do it, but the intangible things are really what makes Drew Brees him."
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered during his Monday podium session:
1. Preparing for Payton's play-calling
Zimmer is also preparing to face a former co-worker in Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
The two coaches' careers overlapped in Dallas from 2003-05: Zimmer during his time as the Cowboys defensive coordinator, and Payton as the Cowboys assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach.
"I used to practice against him every day," Zimmer said. "You see some of the same concepts, you see some of the same things, but you see variations. You don't know when they're going to call the plays, and Sean's a very good play caller. It could be second-and-1 and he's calling a bomb, or it could be third-and-8 and he's calling a run. So you know, that's just the way it is with this team and the way you have to prepare for everything."
When asked if Payton is one of the league's "biggest risk-takers" at head coach, Zimmer acknowledged that Payton is "a gambler, yeah."
"That's his mentality," Zimmer said. "You just have to be ready for fourth downs. There's a team across the river over there that does a lot of the same stuff."
2. A coach's perspective on Cam Jordan
The Vikings will also have to be on their toes for the Saints defense, particularly defensive end Cameron Jordan.
Jordan, the son of former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan, totaled 13 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown this season. Jordan had a sack and broke up a pass in Week 1.
"He's a good player. He's one of the best defensive players in the league — tough matchup," Zimmer said. "He's as good a defensive end as there is in the league."
Zimmer said that Jordan plays with "good instinct to get his hands up on time," which has allowed for batted-down passes and the pick-six against the Lions.
"He's just a heck of an athlete that has an opportunity to, you know, he can rush the passer, but also I think he's got great vision with the ball, with the quarterback," Zimmer said.
"And they all [move around]," Zimmer added of the Saints. "They've got a lot of different looks, variations of what they do defensively."
3. Maintaining a focused mentality
There's more on the line with the upcoming game than for regular-season contests, but Zimmer said he isn't concerned about his players losing focus or taking their preparation lightly.
Zimmer said that the team had a quick practice Monday morning and that he planned to talk to them more after Wednesday's practice about "things we have to do to win" and reiterate the team's situation.
"But I think they understand the magnitude of where we're at in the playoffs and that New Orleans is a heck of a football team," Zimmer said. "But, I really think being able to play at U.S. Bank Stadium with our fans and the crowd noise, and Brees trying to change the protections, and the audibles he makes at the line of scrimmage, I think that will play well into our hands."
4. A rematch of 2009? Not really.
While fans may sense a sort of postseason rematch of the Vikings loss to the Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game, Zimmer said it's irrelevant to the current team's goals.
Zimmer told media that he attended that game as a fan, since Adam Zimmer was part of the Saints coaching staff.
"I was actually at the game, but we don't think about 2009," Zimmer said. "We don't think about anything but 2017, now '18."