*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner *
Q: Zimmer was talking about the Giants' front four. What is it about them that makes them so difficult to block?
A: I refer to him as Coach Zimmer, in a respectful manner. I guess you guys can get away without using the formal address. Their ends are outstanding. Their defensive tackles are very big. They've obviously made major changes on their defense. I think their two edge rushers can impact the game on any play.
Q: Do they do a lot of stunts, or is it just one on one?
A: I think they have as complete a defensive package as anyone in the league. They do like to let those ends rush on the tackles, but as I said, they can give you a lot of different looks.
Q: Does Jerick McKinnon seem comfortable rushing between the tackles? Is that something he's kind of working on?
A: It's interesting because he has had his biggest plays between the tackles, even two years ago when he was playing, but he's a complete runner. He can run on the edges, as we tried to do last week. We got some plays on the edge, and he is, to me, a good runner between the tackles. And I think he and – as I said last week – he and Matt [Asiata] give us a good complement.
Q: Is that patience for Jerick McKinnon when he runs between the tackles?
A: That's very observant. I think he does a good job of having patience, and sometimes he hesitates. We've seen him [hesitate], even on the long run he had a year ago against the Giants in the fourth quarter. It's almost like he came to a stop, saw a hole and hit it, and he's fast enough where he can do that.
Q: What was the biggest switch between Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford?
A: The biggest thing for Sam does come into play; I think he has got a good feel of the system and the overview of how the system works. But each week, whether it's Teddy or whether it's Sam, there's going to be different calls. There's going to be different checks. There's going to be different protections calls, and that's what's new to him, because when you're on the line – and that's why in some of these instances, we go no-huddle – when you're on the line, it has got to be engrained. It can't be a little hesitation, and I think that's where he has improved a great deal. Teddy, obviously, is very, very mobile and has made a lot of plays with his feet. We're not going to rely on that with Sam, although we did have a couple nice plays where we got him on the edge last week. We know what he is. He's a pocket passer, and he's a very, very good one.
Q: How do you gauge how much Sam Bradford can handle?
A: I think you've got to talk to him. [Quarterbacks Coach] Scott [Tuner] does a great job of communicating with him when we get late in the week, and there are things that I want to make sure we have in our front thoughts, or the things we want to lead with, I will sit with him and go through it. He talked about it yesterday, and if there's something he's not comfortable with, a veteran guy like Sam, I think, will express more opinions. And I think we've avoided negative plays by just taking some of the things out that he wasn't comfortable with.* *
Q: How much did you tweak the playbook to fit his strengths when he came in?
A: I don't think we have anything that we're running right now that we didn't have in [when he came in]. Some things get featured a little bit more, and every week since we've been here, there are new plays that go in for a team; and that comes from Scott, myself, it comes from [Tight Ends Coach] Pat [Shurmur]. Sam has had a couple good ideas of things he has done in the past. So, that to me is a group effort.
Q: When Sam first arrived, everyone talked about how he and Scott would be here until the very early hours of the morning. Is that still going on?
A: I have not been around a quarterback that doesn't come early and stay late that has had success. Sam is doing a great job. He gets in here early. He's probably one of the last guys to leave. I'll say the same thing about Teddy. I'll say the same thing about Shaun [Hill] when he was preparing to start the opening game.
Q: Are there any concerns on the offensive line? You're having some injuries. Is Alex Boone going to be OK?
A: We're fortunate that we have an extra day. We'll see when we get to Monday. [Jeremiah] Sirles went in and played, did a nice job. Obviously, we played more like we want to play in the second half. That's the most productive half we've had – 11 first downs in the second half. We need to play like we did in the second half for the entire game.
Q: How do you feel about T.J. Clemmings at left tackle?
A: T.J. really got off to a good start at left tackle, and he played well. Every week is a different change, and he has got a totally different challenge this week – different type of player. And again, I've learned no matter who is on the edge, when they go against really good players, not to take anything for granted. We just have to have a good game plan so we don't let their best players disrupt the game.
Q: You said in the second half, they we're playing like you wanted them to. What changed there?
A: We played better. I think we played better. The protection was good. We ran the ball, particularly in the third quarter, the best we've run it. We didn't have a breakdown where one guy got beat, or we had no mental errors, those types of things. Sam in the first drive was, obviously, six-of-six [passing]. He was 14-of-17 [in the second half]. So, we obviously protected him well, and guys got open.
Q: You guys played in the heat in Charlotte. You play in the climate-controlled environment at home. Did the heat effect you, and how much of a difference is it to play inside at home?
A: I really believe our guys responded well to the heat, and we were playing fast in the fourth quarter; we played fast in the second half. I think our guys are in very good condition, and in some positions, we rotated guys. But, for the most part, they played, and our guys played fast. You talk about it being home; we have one regular season experience in our stadium. It was unbelievable. The crowd was awesome. I think it was a big part of the way we played. So, it's exciting to get back home on a Monday night. Our group is going to be geared up. Our fans are going to be geared up. We're playing a really good football team. So, I think everyone understands what it is.
*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
Good week of preparation going so far. We still have a lot of work on here through the rest of the weekend. We're excited about being back home in front of our fans with the enthusiasm, the noise and just the cheering stuff that affected us the last time we were at home. So, we're excited to be back home. We're playing another tough opponent in the New York Giants offensively. They've got a lot of weapons, a great quarterback and we'll have our work cut out for us.
Q: The defense has been playing well, but has been starting off slow. What do you think accounts for that?
A: I think we'll approach each game the same way. Every intention is to go out and start fast. In the first 15, a lot of the times you're adjusting to some of the things that you see. That's an emphasis, to start fast and finish strong. So, we're aware that we have to start out fast and now let them get a lead. But, to finish strong, be able to adjust to it and be able to finish strong. So, we're really just concentrating and focusing on the job at hand, the task at hand and being able to adjust to what teams are giving us and from week-to-week that's going to be different as far as matchups.
Q: Do offenses maybe have an advantage earlier on in games with their fifteen scripted plays?
A: I mean that's a common practice within in the NFL. I don't know if it's an advantage or not an advantage. I know they kind of know exactly what they are going out to do as far executing. But, for us all we can do is focus and concentrate on one play at a time, handle a situation. We always talk about situational football, and that's one of the situations. We've got to focus in and be ready to adjust, do a great job at communication and do a good job with the fundamentals of tackling.
Q: What does continuity do for a defense?
A: I think it does help us a lot. I think guys are comfortable with the thought process and what we're expecting from week-to-week preparation-wise. Execution-wise I know they're not thinking about alignment, assignments and those type of deals. From a technique and fundamental part a lot of the guys have been through it enough to know this is how we want it done and when it's not getting done, what do we need to do to make sure we get it corrected. My hat goes off and a lot of credit goes to them because they make sure that their doing what we're trying to get accomplished and understand all the variables involved of getting done what we need to get done.
Q: How do you build that continuity with all the player movement going on in the NFL?
A: I think every team is a little bit different, but I really like the guys in this room because they take it personally upon themselves to make sure that they're going out and executing the way we know we're capable of playing. Every week is different. Every Sunday is different whether you start fast or you've got things that you have to adjust to. Coming in from week-to-week, I think the biggest thing that they understand is that we're going to get in this game, we're going to give it our best, we're going to play the right fundamentals and we're just going to keep playing. That's their attitude and that's what they've shown so far. They're coming to work and no matter what they're going to keep working. Our hats go off to them with the effort that they're playing with and just a concentration to detail that they've maintained from week-to-week.
Q: With the Giants receiver corps coming into town, how important is the secondary emphasis going into Monday night?
A: It's critical, but we always talk to our defense about a good pass rush and good coverage go together. But with these three receivers, we definitely have to be disciplined as far as our leverage. We've got to be disciplined with our footwork, the technique and the fundamentals from call-to-call of what we're trying to get executed. That's been a point of emphasis. I think they realize that and realize what we've got to be able to do handle the things that we need to be able to do as far as matchups on these receivers. They have an excellent corps and all three guys have big play capabilities. We've got to focus and concentrate on the things that we need to get accomplished within the situations of the game.
Q: What has been the key to limiting big plays?
A: Again, I think it goes back to a group effort, whether it's been in the run game being able to tackle, in the passing game being able to keep leverage on routes, being able to rush and affect the quarterback. So, I think it's been a combination of all those things and guys just paying attention to the details of those things, and realize that everybody is accountable to each other to get the job done.
Q: On the long gain that was called back, did somebody see that penalty and let the refs know?
A: I have no idea. I'm just glad they called the penalty and it came back. To be honest with you, I'm thinking and I know which play you're talking about now. I don't think so, I don't know that for sure. I just know we weren't in a very good leverage stand point, as far as tackling in the open field, and that's one thing we've got to make sure we're in good shape on in the future.
Q: How much more diverse is your blitz package know than a few years ago?
A: I think it's sort of been a steady increase from year-to-year. Knowing our personnel better, the players that we've added – trying to use their skill sets within the different packages. I think it's a culmination of all those things coming together. Where we're just trying to get guys in the right position and be able to use the skill sets that they've got between the different packages that we use.
Q: What have you seen from Xavier Rhodes this week coming off the knee injury?
A: Xavier has done a good job, he's been working good all week. We're excited to have him back, last week was his first week coming back and he's been progressing well this week. We're excited about where he's at right now and look forward to him keep progressing through the week.
Q: How nice is it to have cornerback depth?
A: The one thing we've always said, if guys are working hard and deserve playing time, they're going to play. We have different packages, we have different things where we try to utilize their skill sets and matchups from week-to-week. That's a thing that they all understand and they're all not caught up in selfish motives. They're concentrating and focusing on when an opportunity comes you go out and get your job done.
Q: For at least this week, is the plan to continue that shuffle you had going on against Carolina?
A: Again, it's going to be week-to-week, how we see things are going through the week, how we practice during the course of the week, how the matchups are from week-to-week. So, like I said, guys that deserve to play, we're going to find a way to get them on the football field.
Q: Danielle Hunter has been pretty good through three games?
A: Yeah, he has really [been good]. You can see all the hard work that he put in this offseason. You can see it transferring to the games on Sunday, and he seems to be getting better from week-to-week, understanding the different things in the pass-rush game, understanding the different things as far as the run. So, we're excited where he's at right now, and we look forward to him continuing the progress.
Q: Was that a guy when you draft him, you kind of looked at and say, 'He's still a little bit raw,' but you see some things that fit in the system particularly well?
A: Yeah, I think Rick [Spielman] and his staff did a great job of identifying his skill set, and I think we've been able to increase his toolbox. I think [Defensive Line] Coach [Andre] Patterson has done an excellent job as far as his pass rush and his tool box, getting him acclimated to what he's going to see from week-to-week and what we need him to do schematically to go out and execute. And credit to him for the hard work that he has put in to understand that, and to work as hard as he has with his hands, to work as hard as he has coming off the ball, just a lot of different things that I think he has learned since he has been in this league. And that's a good room to be in, because you've got a lot of guys that hard workers, that set an example right there, and you go into that room, you've got hard working guys that are going to work at their craft to get better for week-to-week and not be selfish at what we're trying to get accomplished. So, I think it's a culmination of all those things.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
It's obviously a big game, Monday night at home in front of our great crowd in that new awesome stadium. We're really excited about the opportunity to play New York. They're a great football team, well coached. They're a different team than they were a year ago. They're a better team than they were a year ago when we played them last December. They got 17 [Dwayne Harris] back, their excellent returner. Their punter is hitting the ball well. Josh Brown is doing a great job as he normally does kicking off and kicking field goals. They've got very good specialists and core special teams players, we've got our work cut out for us.
Q: Have you seen Jeff Locke trying to overthink things less and have more fun?
A: I've definitely seen that. Jeff is a smart guy, like a lot of kickers and punters and snappers, they like to overanalyze and overthink stuff. Jeff's biggest issue I think a year ago, especially at the old stadium – an outdoor stadium - is he would overthink the winds a lot of times. One of the things we worked on this offseason is just going back to basics, going back to fundamentals. Working a little bit more during the week than he has in the past, not that he hasn't been a hard worker, but just working on the fundamental aspect of the punting. The drop, the angle of his approach, his step pattern, everything. All the basic stuff that he needs to do consistently to be a good punter. He's gone back and done that and he's done that since the spring. We've definitely noticed a difference there and I think when you're punting the ball well and you're helping your team win, you are going to have a lot more fun. I think we're headed in the right direction there.
Q: Is that one of the better games that Jeff has had?
A: Absolutely, he had the first punt was not very good and we survived it but it wasn't a very good net, I think it was 34 yards. After that he really hit the ball well. We pinned them inside the 20 three more times. The end of the game punt, we're trying to drive that punt. I didn't mind the touchback. [Ted] Ginn is back there and he's ready to return that thing. He got it out there, he two-stepped it and got it in less than 1.8 seconds and it was an ideal punt for that situation. So, I thought after the first punt the other six punts were really, really good.
Q: When did the idea of Cordarrelle Patterson as a gunner come across your mind?
A: Probably a year ago when he wasn't playing as much offense. He's such a great athlete that there's no reason not to put him out there. I wasn't sure if he was very comfortable with that idea a year ago although he did work some of the drill work with Coach [Ryan] Ficken. Ryan runs our gunner stuff. He had such a good week of practice last week and I figured we're going to have a short leash, we didn't do a good enough job on that first punt that we had a double vice on. So I told Ryan, let's put him in. We put him out there and he did a great job. Obviously had two really, really good plays and Jeff punted the ball well. Cordarrelle is a guy that we wanted to work in the spring and the summer and then Training Camp he had the shoulder injury so we kind of shelved him. We've kind of been working him back in since he's been healthy the last three or four weeks and he's responded well.
Q: Do you expect teams to double team him?
A: Well he's going to be a hard guy to block one-on-one. Depends on who the corner is and you're going to have to have a bigger player out there, so I'm sure teams will have to vice him if they're going to slow him down.
Q: What was the key on Marcus Sherels' punt return touchdown?
A: Well the first key was we pinned them deep with the punt. The second key was our defense forced a three-and-out. So, now they're backed up, very hard to directional part in that area of the field. Andy [Lee] actually punted the ball well, it was a good punt, I think it was 48 yards, maybe 4.6-4.7 hang time, solid punt. We slowed the gunners down. We knew going in that they had great gunners in Carolina and we knew going in we had to slow them down and that's what we did. We slowed the gunners down, did a good job at the line of scrimmage and we had really two or three key blocks at the point of attack. Marcus when he found that seem, it's not always perfect, it's not always exactly how I draw it up. But, he did find that seam and bounced it to the outside. It was a wall-left type of return and he hit the seam well.
Q: What is it about extra points that Blair Walsh seems to be having trouble with?
A: He's three-for-five, that's probably the biggest problem. I don't know, I think he needs to approach it like it's just a short field goal. It's what it is. His mindset needs to be the same for an extra point as it is for any type of field goal. Physically, he's got all the tools. I think it's between the ears right now and it's something that we've talked about again this week. I think at the end of the day, I feel very confident with him going forward, he's just got to go out and make those kicks. I don't know what else to tell you to be honest with you.
Q: In Marcus' case, does recognizing those seams just come with maturity?
A: It comes with maturity and experience. I think he's taken every punt in the last six years, knock on wood. He's been a guy that is very reliable. He's always been out there and he's willing to learn, he's willing to listen. He's willing to study the opposing team punter, their gunners, how they cover, what our objectives are with that return or the returns that we have in that week. There's little nuances that are a little different every week that we're trying to take advantage of what we do well and what they don't do as well or try to take their best player out of the game. Because he understands all that, he's not just catching it and running it. He's got all that information. He's not a guy that's going to overthink it but it's where do we align him on the punts, what yard-line do we put him on. What are his rules in certain situations, when can he take a ball and when can he not take a ball and just fair catch it. So, those are the things that he's continued to mature and gained experience over the years. Made him a better punt returner.