Vikings Interim Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski
Big challenge going to Detroit this week. I have a lot of respect for Coach [Matt] Patricia and Coach [Paul] Pasqualoni. The scheme is really sound. It’s really good. They’re going to make us work. They have the players. Their personnel matches their scheme. They have some really stout, big, physical guys up front. In the back end, they have a lot of defensive backs and all of them can play. Darius Slay is a really good player. Everybody around here has known him for the past few years. I have a lot of respect for their safeties. Those guys can run and cover ground and they’ll hit you. We have our work cut out for us. It’s a division game on the road. I think our guys as we just finished day two of our preparation. I think our guys will be ready to roll. Going back to last week, pleased with the effort versus Miami. Anytime you can run the ball like we did, it helps everything. Special credit to the offensive line. I commend them. Those guys really came off the ball. Anytime you’re running with that type of success, it’s the tight ends, it’s the running backs, it’s the wide receivers. Nice job but we are moving onto Detroit.
Q: Is there a little more normalcy for you with a full week?
A: Yes, I think last week was a short week and that was probably the hardest part about last week. But now having a normal week and a normal amount of preparation is good for us. I think the players are kind of understanding the rhythm and flow of how we are going to install some things. So yes, having a normal week is better than a short week for sure.
Q: What were some of the things you did to prepare for play calling?
A: Coach [Mike] Zimmer had a good tip, something that he does and has done for a long time, is just putting, basically you run the play and you say what you may have called there. Then you watch the play and you say would that play had been good or not. It’s just taking yourself through the rhythm of a game and how you are going to call it, both in the run and the pass.
Q: What is the biggest benefit to staying in the same personnel grouping and running multiple plays out of that?
A: I think we are trying to put a plan together where you’re unpredictable. Certainly if you’re staying in one personnel grouping at times and you’re running it and you’re throwing it, I think that can make yourself unpredictable to the defense. On the other hand, you like to mix in personnel so that they have different people running on the field and they have to defend against different people. I think you try to find that balance of staying in one personnel grouping, and there are some teams that stay exclusively in one personnel grouping. There is some thought to that, too. And making yourself difficult to defend and throw out multiple tight ends then throw multiple wide receivers out.
Q: How beneficial was some of the heavier personnel being able to get those tight ends in there to affect what you did in the run?
A: They did a great job. That is what last week’s game plan called for. Again, I commend the tight ends and the running backs. Those guys did a great job, the fullback. But that was last week and this week it might be different or it’s the same. We kind of look at it on a week-to-week basis.
Q: What do you see the test the Lions defense will give you against the run game?
A: They are big people up there and we are going to have to win some one-on-one battles. Again, across the board they are just big space-eating, two-gap, attack you type defense. That is a challenge for the offensive line. Last week is last week. The scheme was a little bit difference. We are ready for the challenge this week to look at those guys and the guys across from them. The nice part is we’ve played them one time so we kind of have a feel for how they play and they have a feel for how we play.
Q: Are there other ways to scheme when Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are doubled or do other guys need to step up?
A: We spend a lot of time talking about that. The answer is never, it’s complicated. At times you are going to try to get them open. At times you are going to say, “Listen, there’s one football and someone else is going to win.” There is a bunch of different aspects and a bunch of different ways to attack that and certainly when we have the skill guys when we have, I understand defense that try to do that, but then it’s our job to get in the meeting room upstairs and draw up some plays that don’t completely take our guys out of it but that allow us to have some success, particularly on third down.
Q: How difference did last week feel with the flow of the game for you calling plays?
A: I hadn’t done it before. It was different. I had a lot of confidence because of the players and the coaches that were helping me. It was different but once I got through that first series and figured out you press a button to talk to the quarterback, it was, I don’t want to say easy. I told Zimmer if I can’t figure that out we have some problems. After the first drive I felt pretty comfortable.
Q: It couldn’t have gone much better, right?
A: Yes. Again, it was our goal to start fast. It’s going to be our goal to start fast every week. I was pleased to see the guys come out really in attack mode throughout. Certainly, early to score some of those touchdowns, that is going to be our goal every week.
Q: Is 21 touches a happy medium for a guy like Dalvin Cook?
A: I don’t know. I think every game is different. That is why I rely on Kennedy Polamalu. Kennedy has a great feel for the backs and when he has to roll Latavius [Murray] in there and get Dalvin in there. I kind of lean on and talk to Kennedy throughout the game, but I don’t think we have a specific number in mind.
Q: Do you hope to see more of Dalvin Cook in the passing game providing a spark at the goal line in the future?
A: Sure and I just go back to Dalvin, who everybody knows is a really good football player, one of our best. Any way we can get him the football we’re going to try to do it both in the run and the pass and certainly down toward the goal line.
Q: What has it been like for you personally with people reaching out?
A: Again, I appreciate the texts. That was a one-time deal for me, then it’s we’re moving on. Last week we enjoyed it, I am already breaking my 24-hour rule. I am going to be in trouble here with the offensive line. I am getting a fine but I am trying to move on from last week. Again, we are ready, we recognize the effort last week was good but it’s required again this week.
Q: What is your thing with the offensive line?
A: You just have to be careful with the offensive line. They’ll fine you for just about anything.
Q: For talking about the Miami game?
A: I’m not even going to talk about it.
Q: What is going to be the challenge when you start putting tendencies on tape and how you do things and maintaining the consistency?
A: I think that is just part of the game plan when you’re putting together. It’s important to know yourself and I am talking about our staff and knowing our scheme and knowing our plays. We try to know ourselves as well as the opponent does because that informs us in our decisions and in our scheming and in our game planning.
Q: Is that less of a concern that you’ve only been calling plays for one week?
A: I don’t know. Again, the fun part of this business is you get in on Monday and you erase the board and then you say, “How are we going to put a plan together to win this game?” Will there be some carryover? Sure, but I hope it’s not exactly the same.
Q: How did you land with the Vikings in 2006?
A: I am just fortunate to be here and have been here for so long. We have a great ownership group. I came out here a long, long time ago. I came out here with Brad Childress when he came from Philadelphia. I interned with those guys in Philadelphia and kind of stuck around and just tried to keep my nose down and do some work.
Q: How was the process to retain you when Mike Zimmer got hired?
A: To go back and try to remember all of that, I don’t remember all of the details. Obviously, since Coach Zimmer has been here, he’s been awesome. Particularly with me working with the tight ends, with the running backs, with the quarterbacks has really helped shaped and formed me as a coach. Again, he is always going to be a resource for me, especially now as we are putting together some game plans.
Q: What do you remember the relationship you had with Brett Favre?
A: We don’t have enough time for Favre stories. Brett was a great player here for a couple years. Was great for me as a young coach being in that room, the quarterback room, for the first time and seeing how he operates. But what I appreciate most about Brett, and I’ve told our quarterbacks this, is he was a great teammate. He was a great to his teammates, both by just being himself and then on game day you just saw how important it was to him, how hard he works. That was one thing I will always take with me just about how you lead a team and how you are a great teammate to the guys around you.
Q: How does having Kirk Cousins under center instead of shotgun benefit him?
A: I think there are pluses and minuses to both being in the gun and under center. I think that week-to-week it may vary. I just go back to Detroit, we ripped off that long run to Dalvin that was out of the gun. I don’t think it’s an exclusive thing. We are just trying to be as difficult as we can to defend.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Headed to Detroit to face a division foe, we know already that it’s going to be a tough, competitive matchup. We’ve had some close matchups over the past. They do a good job offensively and have played against some really tough defenses the last couple of weeks. We’ll have our work cut out for us, going in and trying to stop the run and be able to contain the pass.
Q: Against Detroit in Week 9, could you see a specific point where the pass rush was really wearing them down?
A: I think it was a combination of things. Again, I think our guys do a great job on the back end with what we’re doing coverage wise. We sort of had him uncomfortable, they had just lost [Golden] Tate, who had been a go-to guy for [Matthew] Stafford. I think that was also a part of the equation, but credit goes to our front being disciplined in their rush lanes, not getting too high in their rush and not allowing him to escape out of the pocket. We kind of had success that way, and they did a great job of rushing up front.
Q: How has Detroit tried to move Kenny Golladay around in wake of losing other offensive weapons?
A: They’ve done a great job of moving him around. You’ve seen his statistics have really jumped up, and he’s got a very good catch radius. I think they trust him in the passing game and are going to him quite a bit. He and 25 [Zach Zenner] both are catching a lot of balls right now.
Q: Why do you think that you’ve had so much success sacking Matthew Stafford over the years?
A: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Our guys paying attention to the details of what we’re trying to do, not only just from a rush plan each week, those guys are exceptional in working together in the rush and what we’re doing coverage wise, which is giving them hopefully a little bit more time to get there. I think it’s a combination of those things and a tribute to them as far as the preparation going into the game of what they’re doing in situation football.
Q: Has he been getting the ball out quicker?
A: Yeah, he has. He really has. They’re throwing a lot more hots and things like that right now.
Q: What have you seen and what has been the difference with Anthony Barr taking his game to the next level?
A: I think he came back off of that injury and I think he’s really healthy right now. I think he’s always been a pro and paid attention to the details of things. But I think missing that time, again, I say that any time you miss time in football, it’s not like you come back and just jump right back on the bike and it’s hunky dory. He fought through that and prepared the same way mentally, and I think right now he’s really playing at a high level. You can see that from week to week.
Q: Why is pass rushing such an important part of Anthony Barr’s game?
A: He’s done it pretty much his whole career. He did it a lot when he was in college, and I think any time you can get him matched up with some of the things that they do in protection, I think that’s a benefit to us, especially last week against Miami and as we go through the season and see what different teams are doing protection wise. If we got a chance to get him in a matchup where he’s going to have an advantage, it’s beneficial to us. A lot of teams counter it because they go to him with the protection and things like that, so a lot of times he doesn’t get that. I think that was a part of it early in the season, and I think just as we’ve progressed different things have happened from week to week and he’s been able to take advantage of it. He gets the opportunity, he makes the most of it.
Q: How common is it to have a guy like Harrison Smith can play multiple roles?
A: That’s a credit to Harrison, because he really has a good skill set and is able to do it around the line of scrimmage, he’s able to do it in the middle of the field if we need him there, or if we need him in the half-field. Harrison is another one that gets the most out of his opportunity, does a great job as far as preparation, allows us to use him within the different packages and use his skill set in different ways. That’s a benefit to us and it’s also a benefit to him the way he gets ready each week going into each contest.
Q: What has made Mackensie Alexander good on the blitz?
A: I think it’s a combination of things. I do think Mackensie has played well down the stretch and continues to get better. He’s not perfect yet, but he continues to get better. You can tell that with his coverage and the things that we ask him to do. But a lot of times, the four sacks that he’s got, he’s really been a free runner at it. But we’ve seen guys miss layups in games where they’ve come back there and missed it. To his credit, he’s been able to take advantage of the opportunity that he’s had, and we just look for him to keep continuing to grow with that.
Q: How has Terence Newman adjusted to coaching?
A: I can’t speak for Terence, you’d have to ask him that one. But I will say this; he’s approached it just like he did as a player. He’s been a true pro, he’s been able to pick things up and been able to help. Been able to help our players get adjusted to the game plan from week to week and has done a tremendous job helping us defensively, especially with the defensive backs and the nickel backs, specializing in that. He’s really done a great job. Just looking at it, he’s got a big picture. He can see the big picture schematically of what we’re trying to get accomplished from week to week.
Q: How has Jaleel Johnson improved?
A: He’s done good. You can tell, he’s always been a strong guy at the point of attack, but maintaining leverage now, even the push that he’s getting in the pocket in the pass rush, he’s improved on that quite a bit. We just look for him to keep gaining experience and keep getting better as we keep progressing.
Q: Do you think your defensive linemen are a little fresher at this point due to the rotation?
A: That’s one of the things we try to do throughout the course of the year. Hopefully towards the end you still got guys that are fresh. But with injuries from week to week, you may be short at the position, and guys have had to play more reps. A credit to Coach Patterson and all those guys that we are able to get to the game come in and help us. They come in and there’s not a big drop off, they understand schematically what we’re trying to do in the rush. You look at [Stephen] Weatherly and you look at Jaleel [Johnson], all those guys have come to games and been able to help us. From that aspect of it, that’s a credit to them and their preparation and what they get done up front.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Coming off a big home win last Sunday in front of our crowd. Obviously, nice to be back in our stadium with our guys and our crowd cheering for us. Big win for us, we played well. It was probably overall our best special performance of the year, which we really needed, our team really needed. We’ve had bits and pieces where we’ve played well on this phase or the other, but I think we put together a pretty good game Sunday and we need to build that momentum and keep going for this Sunday at Detroit.
Q: How did Marcus Sherels rip that run off?
A: Well, I’ll tell you what, he did a great job getting back to that ball. Matt [Haack], the punter for Miami, out kicked his coverage a little bit and he’s got a big time leg. We had Marcus at 45 probably 47 yards and he did a great job tracking that ball, which we had worked on because we knew that punter had the capability to do that. Caught it about the 9-yard line, Jayron Kearse had a nice break block at the point-of-attack, Brandon Zylstra had a great block at the point-of-attack, and then really we did a good job finishing blocks. I think the one block we didn’t get was Ameer Abdullah who doesn’t have a ton of experience on that unit. He says to me, “I thought Marcus was going to be knocked out of bounds.” So I guess his eyes were about this big Marcus said as he came around the corner and knew he had to try to get to punter and knew he couldn’t get to him. I think if we can seal the punter inside Marcus would go down the sideline the whole way and possibly score. It was a huge momentum swing for our football team and big time momentum boost. I think it was what, 70 yards and flipped the field for us and then ended up setting up the field goal that got us up by 7. I think it was 21-17 at the time, so it was a big play for our football team.
Q: To have more explosive plays on special teams is it just as much about what Marcus Sherels is doing as far as the blocking?
A: Yeah, it’s a lot do with the blocking. It’s also a lot to do with how Marcus sets up his blocks, he’s very good at that, he’s gotten better. He’s very experienced as we all know and he’s gotten better over the years at doing that. When he caught the ball he was patient, waited for blockers to set up, and then went down the sideline. It was a great play all the way around.
Q: Have there been a number of times where Marcus Sherels has been close but couldn’t get that last block?
A: Yeah, I read somewhere the other day that he’s got 29 explosive returns and explosive returns is defined as 20 or more yards in punt returns, and he’s got six of those this year. Quietly had six of them, he had two on Sunday, which were two big plays – the first one and then the 70-yarder. He’s got four other ones that really helped in games. We haven’t had the 70-yarders but we’ve had several in the 20s which have really done a great job. He’s done a great job helping flip the field position that we talk about all the time.
Q: Quietly is the only way Marcus Sherels does things?
A: Yeah, he’s unbelievable. I said, “If you had scored would you have spiked the ball?” He goes, “Nope, I would of handed the ball to the official.” I said, “That’s what I would of expected.” And I didn’t expect anything else. He’s a great guy to coach, obviously he does a great job on kickoff, does a great job on punt. He’s helped us on kickoff return either as an off returner and you guys all know what he’s done as a punt returner. He’s a joy to coach.
Q: What did you see on the explosive play and Marcus Sherels being more aggressive?
A: We’re typically pretty aggressive anyway. I just think Coach Zimmer talked about the spark our football team needed and talking to Marcus about being maybe a little bit more aggressive. That one there was an easy one, there was no one in his face. What we’ve talked about is some of the fair catches have been close where maybe you could of made that guy miss, maybe not. Ball possession is still the number one thing we’re supposed to do on kickoff and punt return and when he makes decisions on punt return to fair catch the ball that’s going to be close rather than taking a shot and maybe possibly losing the ball. If he airs on the side of caution sometimes I’m okay with that as well. I’m pretty aggressive by nature anyway, as is Marcus. We put it all together last Sunday, it was good game for us.
Q: When you compile all the statistics together is there an obvious improvement on gains when you go indoors?
A: I think the indoors helps. Although, the punting can be improved as well. I think the thing that really helped us Sunday that a lot of people overlook is our defense did such a good job pinning our opponent deep, so now they’re 4th-and-18, they’re 4th-and-20, they’re 4th-and-22, and that allows us to make a call where you can double both gunners and when you can double both gunners in this league you’ve got a chance. You’ve got chance to at least get Marcus [Sherels] going. Who knows from there to be honest with you. Where we get the fair catches is that we’re not allowed to be as aggressive is when we just single press on one gunner, we have to have 7 or 8 in the box because it’s 4th-and-4 instead of 4th-and-20. I have to be more conservative with our calls, obviously, so we don’t give up a fake. So, because it was great complimentary football I know we talk about that a lot. Our offense did a great job moving the ball, we’d punt them deep or whatever, our defense would get a sack or two, now it’s 4th-and-20, we’d go double vice and get a get a big play. So that’s a great formula for success for our football team.