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Transcript: Coordinators Address the Media Thursday

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur

Q: How helpful is it for you to be able to use so different personnel groupings to run similar plays?

A: I think you hit on what we try to do. Two things, number one, we want to use the whole roster. Everybody that is active on offense, we want to get them involved. So, we try to get everybody involved. Secondly, to be able to change the groupings, go from 11 to 12 to 13 to 22 and then run similar run plays. Then obviously, the play-actions and the dropbacks off of it. You're always trying to fool the defense to some degree. Being able to do that helps you.

Q: How has Mike Zimmer's involvement in the offense been different this season?

A: I think Coach Zimmer and I have a healthy flow in terms of how we talk. Each week we'll both kind of watch our sides of the ball and then we'll kind of compare notes. I wouldn't say it's really defined throughout the day. I kind of walk by the office and we'll sit down and talk. I'll let him know what we're doing. Every once in awhile he'll say, 'You know, against this coverage, this is a tough concept.' But, it's nothing really specific other than just two guys talking.

*Q: Has he become a better delegator? *

A: It's not for me to judge the head coach, first off. I think he does a terrific job with the team. He's obviously established himself as an outstanding defensive coordinator. He's an outstanding head coach. I think our players are really playing hard. I don't like the phrase 'buying-in', our guys are totally committed, they're playing hard, and fortunately we're making enough plays on Sunday to win some games.  

Q: What do you see when you compare this year's Falcons team to last year and their team earlier in the year to this point?

A: Well, specifically, the scheme on defense is exactly the same. It's the Seattle mold, the 4-3 defense, they play a lot of three deep zone, one deep man on third down. They're very fast, they're very active. They don't have to blitz much and they still get a ton of pressure on the quarterback. So, I'm seeing the same defense. I'm seeing the same guys playing as hard as they did a year ago, very similar model.  

Q: What factors go into when you decide to go no-huddle?

A: It's just a feel, I feel like I'm just working the throttle. We feel good about our plan each week. As the flow of the game goes, kind of speed it up, slow it down. Sometimes you have to slow it down to get the groupings in that we were talking about earlier. Then, every once in awhile, if you get the defense reeling, a fast play can help create maybe a big play.   

Q: So it is as much momentum as it is seeing a certain personnel grouping?

A: It could be, could be. One of the great advantages to tempo is if you can catch them with 12 on the field. That would be a great thing. But, no, it's just a feel, flow of the game. You don't always know how things are going to play out. I couldn't tell you when we started the second half of the Lions game that we were going to run four straight run plays and score a touchdown. Then there's other times where you've got six or seven good pass plays that you think are going to get you down the field and you don't gain a yard. So, you've got ideas of how you want to play things, the players go out and execute them and you just try to keep them rolling.

Q: How much does the ability of the receivers to play at multiple spots help with the tempo?

A: Well, it's primary to tempo. Because it's conceptual. They're all skill players and they get lined up quickly. To their credit, they've trained themselves to function that way. It kind of gives us some advantages on offense.  

Q: How much of the success on third downs in the red zone is due to adjustments you made during the bye week?

A: Halftime adjustments, bye week adjustments, we talk about that a lot, adjustments are happening constantly. We did some things during the bye week that I think helped us. But, I think we're adjusting constantly.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Good afternoon. So about last Thursday's game, the one thing I want to say is we didn't play our best game. That's probably one of the poorest games we've played in a long time. So this week the focus has not been on anything negative, but we have to correct the mistakes. Going forward and trying to help this team win games like we are accustomed to doing. That has been our focus. The last two days of practice will be tomorrow and through the weekend and hopefully on Sunday we get the job done for our football team.

Q: What did you think of the two legal blocks?

A: The first one, Kevin [McDermott] got ejected out of there. We thought he was hit in the side of the head and neck area, which is illegal. We still should've protected a little better than we did. So they got a guy in there clean. The second one, we dropped, we mishandled the snap so it wasn't anybody's fault. Neither one of them were Kai [Forbath's] fault. We have to do a better job there. The last one, they were way offside. It was a very unclean game for our field goal team. Obviously, we need to do a much better job there. But it didn't stop there. We didn't cover a kickoff well. We had a penalty on kickoff return, which we haven't had a penalty on kickoff return in maybe over a year. We had two great punts, but two of the other punts weren't very good and one of them we didn't cover great. It was just a sloppy game and a game that in years past we probably would have lost because we needed to better on special teams. Offense and defense did a great job and picked us up. We need to get back to playing good, clean, hard-nosed Vikings special teams football to help us win.

Q: When you're evaluating those kicks and there's a penalty on one and probably a play that should've been a penalty, does it help anybody when you're evaluating and you can still see things that went wrong on those plays?

A: That's a really good question. I always want to take it from what can we improve upon. We still need to do a better job of protecting the "A" gaps. We need to do a better job of getting the ball up in the air, as the kicker if you have an opportunity to do that. I'm never making excuses. I'll never make an excuse. I'm always going to own it. We're going to own the mistakes that we made and quite frankly, we have to do a better job.

Q: What did you see that happened there on the kick return held last week?

A: He grabbed him. He stopped his feet. Our fullback stopped his feet. He grabbed them. We always talk about it. You've heard me say this before, "don't give the official an excuse to throw a flag." We gave them an excuse to throw a flag. We stopped our feet. We grabbed him. We restricted his movement going to the outside. All we had to do was pin him inside. Marcus [Sherels] did a great job of getting outside. The one on Blake [Bell] was very questionable. The one on Stephen [Weatherly] was definitely a hold. We can't have that. That's unacceptable to me. We don't get penalized a lot. We need to keep it that way. That game we had three, two on one play and then the offside on kickoff which is totally inexcusable. This was a sloppy game but I'm glad it's over. We have to move on and we have to help our team win against a great Atlanta football team. They're good on all three phases. They're well coached. They play hard. They have good players. They have a good returner, kicker, punter. We have our work cut out for us and we have to go win. We have to go help our team win this week. 

Q: Do you coach kickers and punters how to tackle people?

A: We work on tackling. We talk about tackling. By nature, they're not great tacklers as you can imagine. They just want to be a speed bump. You want to get in the way and slow them down a little bit so everybody else can rally to the ball. That's what we talk about.

Q: So that is the strategy, just do whatever you can to get in the way? You don't teach them the exact technique?

A: Well we teach them the technique, but when they have those returners coming at them fast, technique goes out the window. Let me assure you of that. That's usually what happens.

Q: Self-preservation?

A: Exactly right. Self-preservation, "I don't want to get my legs hurt. This is how I make my money and do well for my team."

Q: What do you see from Atlanta's special teams as a whole?

A: They're very good. They're sound. They're not real fancy. They just line up and play. They play hard, they play fast. They play like how our guys play. That's playing faster and longer than your opponent. Matt Bosher has been a very good punter in this league and he kicks off for them. Matt Bryant is an outstanding field goal kicker. They've got a good snapper in [Josh] Harris. They've got a returner they got from the Lions from last year. Andre Roberts, I think this is his eighth year. He does a great job. He may not be the fastest guy, but he's quick and he's strong. Quick like a little guy and strong like a big guy. That's how I've described him this week. I have a lot of respect for him. We have to punt and cover. We have to kick and cover and we have to get after these guys. 

Q: Is there much similarity from the 2015 team that you can go back and compare?

A: Very similar. They're still coached by the same special teams coordinator. But I think a lot of the personnel is different. We're different, they're different. Obviously, I already watched that game and learned from it. There weren't a whole lot of plays. I think there were only 18 or 19 special teams in that game. Usually there are 25-30, so it was a low special teams impact game but we have to be ready for everything and anything. That's our quest this week.

Q: What would the strategy be if Kai Forbath got hurt during a game, would you have the punter kick?

A: Yes, Ryan [Quigley] would kick. He's kicked before in preseason games and in the NFL.

*Q: So there's no defensive tackle that is secretly good at kicking? *

A: No. Not for us. 

Q: What if they both get hurt?

A: Then I hope we go for two and go for it on fourth down.

*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards    *

Tough opponent this week. Matching up against Atlanta's offense, very productive. They had Player of the Year, MVP of the league last year at quarterback and Julio's coming off of one of his better games of not only this season, but of his career. Health wise I think they're getting everyone back so we'll have our work cut out for us in trying to slow them down this week.

Q: What was the biggest difference between their offense at the beginning of last year and the beginning of this year? How have they been able to turn things around?

A: I think it was an adjustment period for them offensively, they got a new coordinator in. I read some of Coach Quinn's comments about how they were adjusting, getting to know each other, and those kinds of things. But they've been very productive throughout the course of the season, if you look at them statistically now they're pretty much in the top five or six around the league, as far as offense and what they're doing in the different situations. It'll be a tough matchup for us this week.

Q: With their game last week, do you feel like you're seeing what you saw last year?

A: Yes, I thought they were clicking on all cylinders last week. Their one running back wasn't out there last week, who should be back from concussion protocol. He practiced this week, so that's another bullet in their holster. We'll have our work cut out. We've got to do a good job stopping the run versus them. We've got to do a good job in a situational things that we do defensively and things that come up in the game.  

Q: What's the key to stopping those toss plays?

A: Well, things that we always talk to our guys is pursuit to the football, it's a big thing that we emphasize, and then nobody taking the easy way. Those are the things we emphasize in that certain aspect of that particular play. As far as guys making sure they play through the blocks the proper way, nobody takes the easy way, and then all out pursuit to the ball. That's one thing consistently we try to echo no matter what we're doing from week to week.

Q: Did you reinforce Barr's takeaway from two years ago?

A: Turnovers are something that we always want to emphasize. That was a great hustle play by him to get down there, locate the ball to get it out for us to recover. It sort of was a good momentum break for us. That's one thing that we've tried to emphasize throughout the course of the season and I think our guys are very they are also conscientious, too – when they get a chance to go after the football, they go after the football.  

Q: They say the longer you are around somebody, the more likely you are to adapt their personality. How have the guys adapted Mike Zimmer's personality?

A: I think each and every week is a learning experience for us as we go through the preparation and then we finally get to the game. I think when you've been here for the three almost four seasons now, I think we've been fortunate to get a lot of the guys and to keep them together. I think they share in those experiences we've gone through, whether it's from day-to-day or whether it's been from game-to-game. But, I think that they can draw on those things that when we get in situations everybody is familiar with how we're going to react, how we're going to respond, what we need to do to be successful. I think that's a big part of it, it's the familiarity with the players of what's the plan going to be if certain things happen.

Q: Who would you say is your best defensive tackle is on the team?

A: Our best defensive tackle? I wouldn't trade any of them. I think you look at Linval [Joseph] and the success he's had inside, very conscientious player as far as the run, as far as the pass, as far as pursuit. You look at Shamar [Stephen] with his role when he comes in and can play the run very well, understands what we're trying to get done from a schematic stand point. You look at [Tom] Johnson he does a great job also. And we rotate those guys. And when you look at the numbers of stats that come through a course of a game, all those guys play an important role for what we're trying to accomplish inside. And there will be no game more important than this week for what they do blocking scheme-wise. You might not hear their number called a lot statically, but I think if you ask in the room everybody is appreciative of the work that they have to do from week-to-week. 

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