*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
Returning home this weekend. It's good to be home. Hopefully our crowd will be loud, for us defensively, to help us out. This team, offensively, has really had a lot of success this year. Scored a lot of points. Very efficient in all the special areas that you look for in a game. We'll have our work cut out for us this weekend in competing and stopping this offense.
Q: Coach Zimmer hit on it a little about the Washington offense factor. Do you see a little bit of those elements?
A: No doubt about it, very similar. We played them a year ago when [Coach McVay] was there. There is a lot of carry-over, a lot of similarities and some of the concepts that we will see out of them offensively. Especially when you start looking at certain areas, whether it's third down, red zone, two minute, those kind of things. There's definitely some similarities. This team's personnel-wise is really good. They've got a really good back in [Todd] Gurley, the receivers are doing a great job. [Jared] Goff is doing a great job of getting the ball out to those guys in those situations. He seems to be reading the defenses pretty good and getting the ball out.
Q: What do you think acquiring Sammy Watkins did for their receiver room, their depth and their amount to always attack?
A: I think they added a veteran receiver who is definitely a deep threat. He does a good job running the route concepts that they ask him to run. You can just tell he's a tough competitor. Good skill, good blocker. He brings a lot to their room.
Q: How much does the versatility of both Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks help against a back like Todd Gurley?
A: Gurley has done an exceptional job catching the ball out of the backfield this year. I think he has over 400 yards. You can see him on screens, or he's taking it to the house, or checkdowns and critical third down situations where he is able to pick up the first down. We'll have to do a good job of leveraging him in coverage underneath. We'll have to do a good job of tackling him in the open field. He's got a tendency to break tackles after the catch.
Q: When you watch L.A. on film, is there anything unique about their offense that stands out to you, or is it that they just do it well?
A: I think their efficiency through the situations and how well the quarterback has been playing and distributing the ball. It's not just one guy. [Goff] is doing a good job of distribution of the football and taking what defenses are giving him. It's a lot of problems with the matchup personnel-wise and schematically the things they do in different situations. We'll have to do a good job of leveraging in coverage and do a good job of tackling in the open field.
Q: What has Jared Goff improved upon from last year?
A: He has improved in a lot of areas. Look at his efficiency. Look at his quarterback rating. Situational football, understanding what people are trying to do to him. The offensive line is protecting him and he's able to get the ball out quick. That's the thing that you see. When they come up to the line, you better be ready. They're snapping it and he's unloading the ball. We have to do a good job of being on our P's and Q's in those situations.
Q: What do you remember from when Linval Joseph played the Rams last time?
A: Linval [Joseph] is a pretty consistent player. It doesn't really matter who you're playing. But one thing you do remember is his big plays. He made a lot of tackles in the run game. He's done that pretty much throughout the year, you can see him. Hopefully we'll continue that this Sunday. I know he's looking forward to getting an opportunity this Sunday to go out and compete.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Obviously, a big game for us. An outstanding team coming into our stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium, on Sunday afternoon. They're very, very good on special teams. I've got a lot of worries, I'm not getting much sleep this week, not that you guys care. At the end of the day, we've got to go out and play our game and help our football team win this thing.
Q: What have you seen in Kai Forbath's demeanor recently?
A: I was talking to the field goal unit today, we had our meeting this morning. We talked about game-winning field goals, field goals when the clock runs out or in overtime, I felt that one with 7:50 to go in the fourth quarter of an eight point game, I thought that was really a game-winning type of clinching field goal. I felt real good about the way he kicked and the way we protected, much better than we did a couple weeks ago in London. Kai is having a very good year, he's confident. He had a really good pregame. He had been there before, he had kicked in that stadium many times, obviously, when he was with the Redskins. His confidence is really good right now. We've just got to keep protecting, keep snapping and holding like we're doing and hopefully keep making kicks.
*Q: What are your thoughts on Greg Zuerlein? *
A: Greg's always been an outstanding talent. I remember working him out when he came out the year that we drafted Blair [Walsh], he was drafted before, we drafted Blair. He's still with the same team, he's had an outstanding career, I think he had one rough year and he's come back. This year he's been automatic other than one miss. I think he's 58-of-59 including PATs and field goals, which is just unheard of, especially only after nine games. Greg is an outstanding kickoff specialist, he's an outstanding field goal kicker and hopefully we can win the field position battle so that they're not in great field goal position every time. Because if they cross the 40, he's almost automatic.
Q: How do you reinforce the importance of field position to the coverage teams?
A: The thing about the Rams is they're good in every phase. Pharoh Cooper has done a phenomenal job as a punt and kickoff returner. Their kickoff cover team is one of the best in the league. Their punts they don't give up a lot of yards, there's not a lot of returns against them because people are always concerned about their fakes. Which, obviously, we're working on all week. Talking about it, emphasizing it, our gameplan is geared towards that. Because of that, you don't get as many opportunities to return the ball which is by intent for them. In order for us to win the field position battle, we have to take advantage of any opportunities that may be there. Whether he mis-hits a kickoff, whether he line drives a punt, we have to do a great job pinning them deep when we're punting plus-50. We've got to do a great job as a weapon for our football team when we're punting from our field, punts to flip the field. Our kickoff coverage has to be outstanding like it has been all but two reps this year. So, that's what we're looking for and that's what we're emphasizing this week. We look forward to the challenge. Our guys were up to the challenge against Baltimore and I know they're very well coached and a very good football team, that was probably our best game of the year. We need to follow it up against the Rams, another great special teams unit, we need to do as well or better than we did against Baltimore.
Q: How deep can Kai Forbath kick from?
A: Normally you want to say the 35-yard line, you cross the 35 and that's a 53-yarder like he made the other day in Washington. At the end of the half or the end of the game, you've got to go as far as you can. I'm not into predictions or guessing but he's got the ability to hit one from 60, 61. I think he's got a good enough leg to do that, as long as he gets good enough elevation and we protect well, he's got a chance to make those kicks.
Q: They overhauled the offense and defense but not the special teams, why do you think that is?
A: Yeah, they did. It was a wise move by their new head coach. He did a great job of keeping Coach [John] Fassel around and he's done a phenomenal job over the years of keeping people off balance with the fakes and to be quite honest, they're really good in every phase. They're well coached, they do a great job with heir techniques. They're a highly penalized team on punt returns. They block in the back and hold a lot, hopefully we can take advantage of that by playing faster than them. They're trying to take chances and they're very, very impressive in everything that they do. So, we need to be up to the challenge.
*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur *
Q: Is Case Keenum taking steps every week or has he been the same guy all along?
A: No, I think he's making improvements each week. That's what happens when you get a guy that plays game, after game, after game. He's earned the trust of players he plays with, the team, the coaches, and we're looking forward to him going out this week and even playing better.
Q: You were able to get some nice runs last week with an unbalanced offensive line. What did that give you? How do you know when to go with that?
A: It's just a strategy that we used against the Redskins. We went unbalanced on a handful of runs and we were able to pop some. Teams you play respond to it differently and we felt like that was good against Washington.
Q: Where do you look for inspiration for new offensive ideas?
A: Well, my mindset is I try to learn something every day. I'm always watching film, not only of ourselves and our opponents, but other teams. It's very easy to do with technology the way it is. Then you just take the things from your background and it's been documented many times. I have West Coast background in terms of what you tell the quarterbacks and there's many different definitions of that. Then I went off on my own and incorporated some other things. Keeping that background, in terms of the quarterback and then I had the experience of being with Chip [Kelly] in Philadelphia. A lot of new things that were coming into the NFL from the college game. To be able to work with him and be able to kind of build the Eagles offense at that time. We did somethings that helped us be pretty explosive on offense, so you kind of lean on the experience of your past. I certainly lean on our offensive staff who has good ideas. And then as you build a system there are a lot of good ideas, but it has to be a good idea that fits with what you do and what your players can do. And how do you call it? How do you execute it? What do you tell the quarterback to do? What if they don't line up that way? So, there's all those things that you think through so you're not a play behind.
Q: How do you make sure your personnel can handle that?
A: I think we meet each other right in the middle. Fortunately, we have some very smart players that have a feel for conceptual football and then you start really teaching it in the offseason and you build a foundation of how you function from cadence to how you line up. And I'm constantly looking for ways to say what we do in fewer words, so you can execute it quicker. It's easier for me to say, it's easier for the players, and then they can go out. If you knockout a layer of learning then the players can get lined up quicker and they actually play faster and that's what you're looking for.
Q: What does it say about Case Keenum to come in and pick up things quickly?
A: Well I think quarterbacks, most quarterbacks have been in different systems and by the nature of the position, they're smart, instinctive guys. They're used to learning new offenses and new ways to say things and they're kind of conceptual in how they approach it. And that's helped Case and served him well having been other places. Then it's just a matter of committing yourself and devoting yourself to what we do and how we call it and how we want to function and he's done all that as well.
Q: Are you further along with reducing the language than you were a year ago?
A: It's constantly evolving, constantly evolving. The longer you are with a group of players the better they can hear it and get lined up. It evolves. I think offenses evolve. You have your core set of plays that you run, each week you look at your opponent and you have your core set of game plan plays that kind of go parallel to the ones that you're going to run most of the time. Then you have your adjustments that you make and then you try and give the players the best things that they can use to execute well.
Q: Has there been some personal validation for you with how well things are going?
A: It's a credit to the players. I tell them all time and I really believe this. It's not the plays, it's the players and we've got a really good group here. We don't make injuries a part of our daily conversation. We don't make excuses for who's in there, who's not in there. We don't let other people do it for us and we trust every guy on our offensive roster that he's going to go into the game and help us win the game. They demand that from themselves and that's our approach. We've played many different players. To their credit they've gone in and done a good job.
Q: What do you see when you prepare for the Rams defense?
A: This is a classic Wade Phillips defense. They're very tough to attack. They've got really good players. They play five on the line quite a bit, but they will play nickel. They got good coverage in the backend, so they'll play as much man as they like they want to against you. They're a team that gets negative factor plays for the offense. You see it in lots of sacks, turnovers, lots of bad stuff for the offense. We've got to try to minimize or eliminate those kind of plays so we can stay on schedule.