*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner *
Q: You guys have lost only four fumbles in 21 games since last year. Is that something that you teach or do you credit the players you have?
A: I think when you have a stat like that, it's a combination of a number of things and to me it always starts with the players. They do a great job, they understand the importance of taking care of the ball. I think [Running Backs Coach] Kirby Wilson teaches it and emphasizes it and coaches it as hard as anyone I've been around. Obviously we understand the importance for our entire team of ball security, so I think it's a combination of the approach, the importance Coach Zimmer puts on it and then the way we coach it and then our players understanding the importance.
Q: What do you think has contributed to some of Teddy Bridgewater's passes sailing in the last few weeks?
A: I don't refer to it as sailing a ball. I look at Teddy and I think he's gotten better each week we've played through the season. I think he understands, he's got great maturity in terms of understanding what we have to do, how we have to go about playing the game to win. He's thrown a couple of balls high. I've been around some really good players that miss a throw now or then. He's thrown some balls to his left that he's hit the guy right in the chin, so anything where we have a situation where we're not completing balls, we look at it and we look at the protection, we look at the route and then we look at the throw. So I'm really excited about the way Teddy [Bridgewater] is playing. I think he has a great understanding of what we have to do on offense to win and he's really doing a good job of it. The thing that's exciting to me is we've got very good balance in the passing game, we're getting big plays – I think we had a 52-yarder on the first drive, we're consistently getting plays over 20 yards, we're still throwing at a high percentage, and obviously at home, we've done a great job of protecting the quarterback. We've got to carry that over starting this week to when we go on the road.
Q: Are there still things mechanically that Teddy Bridgewater needs to clean up on?
A: If you ask me that question 10 years from now if I'm still around, I would probably say yes. Like anybody I always use the analogy of when Tiger Woods was going good and playing at such a high level and they used to talk about him finishing a round. The first thing he'd do is go over to the driving range and hit balls with his coach. There's always something you can get better at, always something you can work at.
Q: What are some of the finer elements that go into reducing your penalties on offense?
A: The number one thing is concentration and how you practice and again, as I said, Coach Zimmer sets the tone for our guys that we can't have our own plays defeat ourselves, the penalties, the self-imposed penalties. And then I think the biggest area where you usually get penalized and you have trouble overcoming them is holding and I think [Offensive Line Coach] Jeff Davidson does as good job a anyone I've been around at coaching the technique and not getting yourself in the position where you have to hold. And it's been impressive to me because obviously over the last couple weeks and going into this week, it's the same thing every week. We've played as good of pass rushers as you're going to see – the Denver group and Kansas City group. That's as challenging as it gets because those four outside linebackers are as good of rushers as there are in the league.
Q: How do you prepare for going on the road in a dome?
A: We've pumped up our crowd noise pretty loud. I think we've played good inside. I think we played at a really high level in Detroit last year. We kind of made a couple mistakes that kept us – we had a field goal blocked and had a couple other plays that kept us from winning the game. Most of our guys or all our guys have played in that environment and you just have to emphasize the things that are important and we practice it during the week.
Q: When did you first realize that Stefon Diggs could be this good?
A: Diggs has been impressive since he got here. I'm going to slow that down; he's got a lot of work to do. We went in and played a man team and put in a couple of routes that they've never seen us run and he did a great job running them. He caught I think four balls in the first quarter. He's going to be a really good player, he just has a lot of work to do. The good thing about him, he understands that and that's the way he approaches it. He comes in here every day with a mindset that he's going to get better.
Q: Did you have a chance to go scout him during the pre-draft process?
A: We went through the same process with him that we do with most guys in the draft. There's very few guys that we'll have some contact with, obviously interviews at the combine. Our scouts were well aware of him all through the process when he declared he was coming out. You just do your study and there's a reason he went in the 5th round. He had injuries in college this last year, he had some inconsistencies and one of the things when we got him here is we made it clear to him he needed to overcome those inconsistencies if he's going to make it and he's worked hard to do that.
Q: What is the biggest thing he has to work on you think?
A: He's played in two games. Everything. He needs to work on his route running, he needs to work on recognition of defenses, he needs to continue to emphasize ball security. There's a lot of things he can get better at. Obviously we're excited about having him here and like the upside he has. As I said, we have six receivers that I am very comfortable with going in and playing. He got an opportunity through an injury. He's made the most of it.
Q: When you have so many receivers you are trying to get involved, is that an extra challenge for you or do you embrace that?
A: It's not challenging at all because you can only play so many guys. And I tell them, "When you're in there, you're the guy." And when someone else is in there, he's the guy. I think the best thing we have going on offense is our guys understand they are very unselfish, they know right now that the best way to play the game is the way we're playing it. We're playing awfully good defense, we're playing great special teams, we're taking advantage of when he have good field position, we're getting first downs, we're changing the field position, we're having success in terms of when he have opportunities to score and we're playing a team game that gives us a chance to win. The receivers, I think they would love to have it be the second half in Denver where you throw for 160 yards or the first half in Kansas City where you throw for 170 yards, they'd love to see us do that – both halves. But they understand who we are and Adrian [Peterson] and our offensive line, we need to give them opportunities to do some things. We're growing as an offense. Obviously, we can get a lot better, we need to continue to get better and if we keep working the way we're working, we can be very productive through the entire year.
Q: With so many defenses keying in on Adrian Peterson and trying to stop him, how do you find success in the running game?
A: You've got to have an attitude about it. We've got to keep getting better. When we get the opportunity, the upper hand, we have to take advantage of it. And then we have to do what we did in the first half. If a defense is going to play blitzing, eight-man scheme, we've got to be able to be productive and obviously we had a turnover in the red zone. We should have had 13 or 17 points at halftime. As I said, we threw for 170 yards in the first half and I think defenses are aware of that. I don't think defenses look at statistics for the season that says they're averaging 160 yards per game passing; they look at what's on tape and I think they see us as being a team that can make explosive plays in the pass and you better be careful because we're going to take advantage of those matchups if you give them to us.
*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
It's good to come back in after a win last week. We have got another tough opponent within the division this week, who is also coming off an overtime win. We've got a big challenge this week, as far as guys are working hard to get down the game plan and what we're trying to go out and execute against them. We're excited about the opportunity.
Q: What kind of role do you envision for Josh Robinson?
A: Yesterday was his first day, so we're just working through the process right now. We'll see where we're at, see how the matchup and things as we go through the different situations within the game plan this week. He's working hard, he looks good moving around, we're excited to have him back.
Q: Did it seem difficult for him to acclimate back into practice?
A: I think it always helps being around, being in meetings, the biggest thing is you're not able to practice. Not getting the live reps of things and those kind of things, we wished we could have got those things done with him also. I think he's ahead of it because last year, going through the system, understanding the ins-and-outs of different things and then applying what he was able to apply this offseason. We're excited about having him back, we've just got to work through the process and see where we're at.
Q: Do you notice anything different about the Lions offense from when you faced it in Week 2?
A: Yeah, I mean you do, they've been more explosive, the quarterback has pulled the ball down and run a lot more, especially in the last couple of weeks. They've got some different matchups, they're moving 81 [Calvin Johnson] around quite a bit, the running game got going last week for them. From that part of it, there are some things there matchup-wise that we've got to look at.
Q: Do you see Eric Kendricks feeling more comfortable within the scheme?
A: I think that the more experience that he gains the more comfortable he's going to be. You can just see him continuing to improve. We're just looking for guys to come in here and compete every day and just want to see his improvement every day, not make the same mistakes, do a good job with the communication, understanding the different concepts and techniques that we're teaching within the scheme. Adam [Zimmer] has done a great job with getting him adjusted to all of those things, from that aspect of it, we're pleased where he is, but we know we've got to continue to work to get better.
Q: Have you seen Eric Kendricks slow down in his role as middle linebacker?
A: I think any time you make the jump to this league from college, you're going to be moving pretty fast initially until you can see what the pace of the game is and how the different things are doing, I also think he was thinking a lot earlier. It's the first time within this defensive scheme, coming from college being in a 3-4, now all of the sudden he's in a 4-3, a lot more communication expected out of the Mike, all of those different things. I think it's been an adjustment period. I think he's still got a lot to learn, but the intriguing thing about it, he comes to work every day, he's a true pro, he pays attention to the detail. He's able to transfer from the meeting room out to the practice field and he's able to perform on Sundays. We're just looking for more continuing to be consistent throughout the course of this year.
Q: Do you see Eric Kendricks thinking less more as the season progresses?
A: I think he's a lot more comfortable with a lot of the concepts that we're running now, just because he's seen it so many times from week-to-week and in these first couple of games there has been some carry over. From that aspect of it, it's been good.
Q: With moving Calvin Johnson around, how does that impact the way you matchup with Xavier Rhodes?
A: Right now, we're just going through looking at the different situations, what our best matchup is this week. Every week is different that guys try to create mismatches to get you out of what it is you're doing. We're just trying to concentrate on us and what we're asking our guys to do and make sure they have a good understanding of what we're trying to accomplish off of what they're trying to do to us schematically. Moving him around, they did it some really in the first game, where he was inside playing the slot, he was inside in trips. They have moved him around throughout the course of the year, so that's not something that foreign to us. We've just got to adjust what we're doing, whether it's pressure-wise, matchup-wise to him.
Q: Are there cornerbacks that are able to shadow a player in the slot even if they typically play an outside cornerback position?
A: Yeah, it just depends on the call, it depends on your coverage and what you've got game planned for that week. Depending by call or matchup you can devise it however you need to. It just depends on if you're in a man, if you're in a zone or whatever concept you have got called for wherever they've got him located.
Q: Did you see Calvin Johnson return to typical form against the Bears?
A: Yeah, he caught a lot of deep passes, really got going. The quarterback trusts him, threw the ball down the field. He's making plays, guys got him double-covered and he's still going up and catching the ball. He was, like you said, that's what he's known to do. Get the ball, locate the ball, being able to stay inbounds over there on the sideline, those type of deals. He's an extremely talented receiver.
Q: Have you seen Xavier Rhodes respond since doing some individual drills in boxing gloves a few weeks ago?
A: I think the thing we're trying to do is just keep refining his technique and get him to understand what it looks like for the referee as he's coming off of a block. If he pulls or he disrupts the receiver out of the route a certain way, it's going to get called. Just making him conscious of that as we're working through the drills. Xavier is doing a good job paying attention to the details and keeps working on the techniques and fundamentals and that's all we're trying to do is just reiterate to him what we're trying to get accomplished as far as the fundamentals and techniques we're working with.
Q: Have you used boxing gloves as a teaching tool before?
A: In the past, it has been used. Different teams have used it, it's not something that's foreign, it's just a way to make him conscious of not being able to grab.
Q: Do you feel comfortable with the depth on the defensive line even with some injuries?
A: Again, we'll have to see how the week goes, see who we've got available and as you work through the process you get the best guys out there for the best matchups for this week. Right now we're going through the process and we're preparing everybody that we can, that we have on the roster to get prepared for this week. That's what we do each week, we try to prepare who we've got and who's ever there, we try to find the roles of what they can and they can't do, hopefully it works out for us on Sunday.
Q: Are you expecting Everson Griffen on Sunday?
A: Again, I know he's here this morning, so we'll have to follow that throughout the course of the week. I think Coach was very positive that he was fine, we'll see as we progress through the week.
Q: Can you remember a receiver that you've had to give as much attention to as you do Calvin Johnson?
A: Oh yeah. I mean a guy that used to play here, Randy Moss. When he was here and you were coaching against him, it was the same thing. You better know where he's located and what they're trying to do with him as far as the matchup. There's been numerous receivers across the league that we've had to do that to. It's just dependent on who you've got covering him and the matchup from week-to-week.
Q: Are you happy with what you saw from Andrew Sendejo last week?
A: [Andrew] Sendejo, again, towards the end of the latter part of the week, he got more healthy, we felt like we could go with him. One thing about Sendejo, he's a true pro, he pays attention to detail, he does a great job of communication, he did a good job of tackling in the game, did a lot better job with his angles. He's going to work to improve at those things from week-to-week. You know what you're getting every day from Sendejo when he comes to work. We were pleased to have him back last week and in the line-up, he did a nice job for us.
Q: Last time you played the Lions you hit Matthew Stafford a lot, are you hoping some of that lingers in his memory?
A: We hope we always get a chance to disrupt the ball with the quarterback. That's one thing, like you said, we've done a pretty decent job of. I know it's not big in the number of sacks, but getting quarterback off of the spot and making him feel you in the pocket, not setting up, not setting his feet, trying to get the ball out quicker, it gives you a lot better chance to cover. Pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand together and I think our guys understand that, everybody is working to help each other out for that situation.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
Obviously, the focus this week will be a road game, we haven't won a road game yet. It's a divisional game, NFC game, all of those things are extremely important to the success of our football team and this season. We've been harping on that a lot this week. Going through our game plan on special teams, we know that playing indoors, a little bit different than we've had so far this year and even though our philosophy on special teams doesn't change a whole lot, it's how we approach the game with the specialists, the returners, the punter, the kicker, snapper, changes a little bit. We're excited to play a divisional opponent, hope we go get a win.
Q: Did you see something different from Blair Walsh last week? He didn't miss a kick.
A: Yeah, he put them all through the uprights, that was the big difference. No, when you look at it, he's 9-of-11 on field goals, I think he's 9-of-10 on PATs if I'm not mistaken, so what's that math, 18-of-21. He's hitting the ball well. He had a good two weeks of practice. He had a good two days of practice during the bye week and he had a good week of practice last week. He's starting to get his confidence back, I think he felt really good about the game and obviously he kicked well, he kicked off well and he was a huge factor in that win.
Q: Do you think having the bye week helped him?
A: We kind of mentioned that last week, that the bye week came at a good time for us. We had the five preseason games, four games, so it was a nine-game deal. It was a good break and our guys came back refreshed, including Blair, it turned out well for us.* *
Q: What is Detroit like on special teams?
A: They're good. I think their punter is outstanding, especially indoors. Their kicker, I coached Matt [Prater] in Denver, I think he's an excellent field goal kicker. Sam Martin, he can kick off as well. [Ameer] Abdullah scares me, he's a really good return man. He's got great feet. He was one of the top returners coming out last year that I evaluated. He gave an excellent report on him because he's so good at what he does. I know he's had some ball security issues. If he gets his confidence and he gets going, he's going to be a really good returner in this league. We've got to hope to slow him down.
Q: When a team hits a fake punt does that heighten your awareness or do you figure that no team does it two weeks in a row?
A: No, no. There's heightened awareness. We have heightened awareness every week and every time we put our punt return team out there, we're alert for the fake. We don't run a lot of six-box looks, anyway, which is easier to run the fakes against. Chicago was in an eight-box look and they were ready for a fake that that coach there has run before when he was in Houston. It was more of an up-the-middle fake and they ran it to the outside. It was well designed, Chicago had a guy that almost made the play. Obviously, if he makes that play they might have won the game. There's a lot of heightened awareness, absolutely.
Q: Do you recall ever seeing a team do a fake punt two weeks in a row?
A: I don't recall, but maybe St. Louis. I mean the Rams fake it, it seems like they have something in the game plan every other week, or they have something in the game plan every week that you have to be prepared for. I think different coaches have different philosophies and Coach Caldwell called it for his team last week and it worked out from him.
Q: Could you make sense of what the Colts were trying to do against the Patriots?
A: No. I don't want to get into that. I have my own issues to be concerned about. I didn't even see that play until yesterday, to be honest with you. We were trying to get a game plan going. I think Coach [Tom] McMahon does a great job in Indianapolis. I think he's an outstanding special teams coordinator and it was an unfortunate situation where they had a substitute go in that was not versed in what he was supposed to do, from what I gathered. I don't want to get into all of that stuff. I think if you start judging the way other people are coaching then something is going to come and bite you. Like I said, I've got my own issues that we have to deal with here.
Q: With an increased role for Stefon Diggs are you still going to be able to use him a lot on special teams?
A: We weren't using him a whole lot. He was on the punt return team last week, a couple of reps. Then he was playing so much offense that we needed to take him off and put a sub in. He's a fine young man that wants to be on the field, so if he's involved more on offense then we will decrease his role on special teams and vice-versa. If they're not using him as much on offense one week, I'd love to get him out there, whether it's covering a kickoff or a punt as a gunner. Punt return, we had him on the interior last week for a couple plays. He's such a talented athlete that you'd love to have him out there.* *
Q: When do you know who's going to be inactive?
A: We have an idea early in the week based on injuries and then as the week goes on, in our staff meeting, the head coach goes over it with our staff. Coach Zimmer does a great job of understanding the importance of special teams so he lets me know early enough in the week that – hey, this is what we think, plan accordingly. Then if there's changes like there was on Sunday, we always have to have guys ready. Like today, we practiced our kickoff team in the walk-thru and kickoff return, as well, we're subbing guys in and out just in case guys are playing more on offense, more on defense. I always have to have guys ready just in case that situation arises, whether they be involved in their respective sides of the ball or if there's an injury.
Q: After Blair Walsh missed a kick in Denver, Adrian Peterson pulled him aside, do you know what he was telling him?
A: He threatened him, no I'm just kidding. I really don't know what he said. That's a private conversation between those guys. Right after the miss, I think it happened and I was walking the other way because I was afraid of what I might say to Blair. I've got to give myself a couple minutes to relax because I'm kind of an emotional guy. I'm real proud of Blair and all of his hard work. He's come back with a great mental make-up after the bye and hopefully the sky is the limit for him and our football team.
Q: How do you evaluate Kevin McDermott so far?
A: I think Kevin [McDermott] has done a great job. He's very conscientious, he's gotten a lot better with his footwork since this spring. He was never taught some of the things that we do with our center, with our snapper. He's a good enough athlete to do that. We're not asking him to do a whole lot in coverage, except to be over the ball if that happens. He can really snap the ball. I'm very pleased with where he is at and where he's going.