Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo
Good to see everybody. Appreciate everyone coming out. Obviously it was a great road win for us in New York on Sunday. I thought it was an awesome, awesome job by our special teams units and our defense by giving us great field position all day. That was incredible job by them. That was great to have. I thought it was our best game up front all season. I thought we played the most physical we’ve played all season which was good to see. That needs to continue and obviously, the team that is coming in here Sunday night is explosive. We are going to have to do a great job of finishing drives and be much, much better on third downs than we were to stay on the field. We are going to have to play really, really well to beat these guys. They are well coached, disciplined and they have their record for a reason.
Q: How do the Saints defense look compared to what this team saw last year?
A: I think obviously another year in that system. Dennis Allen and I worked together in Oakland. He was the head coach when I was there. They fly to the football. They get after it. I think their pass rush is better. I think you see the speed at the second level in their linebacker crew. Obviously we just have to do a great job of, again, the second week in a row, of securing the first level. Hopefully we’ll do that and have some success.
Q: Do you see similarities from when you and Dennis Allen worked together?
A: Coach Allen has changed some. He has changed some and it’s kind of like I equated to Coach [Todd] Bowles last week, is that really good coaches in this league, they develop a scheme that fits their players. There is no doubt that Coach Allen has done that.
Q: What is going on there with your long touchdowns and not a lot in the red zone?
A: You kind of answered the question for the first part in that we’ve had some long touchdowns in the air and on the ground. You have to be really careful when you look at red zone stats. Because say you take a knee to end the game, which happened this year for us against the 49ers. We didn’t take a knee but we threw the ball out of bounds on what we call the Heave-Ho play. That counts as a red zone possession. I go week-by-week. We are always looking to improve in the red zone. We need to be better in the red zone. There is no doubt. But at the same time I think you need to be looking at the straight numbers and really dive in to really how many drives ended in a two-minute drive and you kicked the field goal with time running out. There is different situations that can equate to those final red zone numbers. But to your point, we need to be better.
Q: Is there something about the offense right now that seems to work better when you have more space?
A: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just kind of the way these plays have happened. We like being explosive, obviously. Getting touchdowns, as many as you can, any way you can get them. We will take them however we can get them. Whether it be a one-yard run, a 40-yard pass, a 40-yard run. It really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we are looking to put up as many points as we can and however we can get them.
Q: Do you feel like the whole thing is becoming better as a run game?
A: I think so. Again, it is what it is. I am an “it is what it is” guy. At the same time, I think if you’re a realist, I think that new offensive coordinators, new quarterback, a little bit of new scheme, from a pass game standpoint. Obviously we’ve had a revolving door up front. I think there are a lot of factors involved. With that being said, are we looking to improve each week on running the football and our whole offensive operation? 100 percent. But at the same time I think you are starting to see the guys settling into their roles. I think you are starting to see myself really start to understand what guys do well. That takes time. No one wants to hear that but it kind of is what it is. I give our guys a lot of credit for taking the approach of getting better each week.
Q: What is your approach when going for two-point plays?
A: We get pretty specific. We have a column on our call sheet that has four or five two-point plays on it. You have to be prepared for a lot of things. It’s a situation that came up in my past. You learn from all of your experiences. When I was coaching at the Eagles last year, we were in Dallas, our kicker goes down and tries to cover a kick and Dallas returns it to the 50-yard line to open the game. [Caleb] Sturgis had a concussion. Next thing you know, we are going for two every time. We happen to put up a lot of points that day. I think we ended up with five or six two-point conversions. You go along, you have your menu of two-point plays that you like against certain things. The same time the beauty of that is as well as you have your three or four plays that you really like. You can carry those to plus-five plays as well. If you need a play on the plus-five, it’s later in the game. You say, “I really like this play.” Case in point, the play we ran against Green Bay for the two-point conversion to [Stefon] Diggs to tie it. That was actually really in our plus-five menu. That was not in our two-point play menu. We had a felling what overage we were going to get. I think that all correlates with if you think you know what coverage is going to get. If that correlate to what the defense is giving you on a two-point conversion and inside the plus-five those can go hand-in-hand.
Q: Do you wait to use your two-point plays in the plus-five or would you use one real early?
A: You can use it real early. I mean to me you got do whatever you got to do to score and obviously, that was a huge play in that football game at that time. We want to run our best play obviously to give us the best chance for success to tie that game up.
Q: Is that similar to how you’ve done it the past or is it a league wide emphasis? Did you have to expand your menu knowing that’s the way things are going?
A: We have, yes. We have. Back when I was coordinating the Browns in ’15, I mean that wasn’t very long ago, but in football years that’s awhile. I think we carried probably two plays and now we have five and the other thing we have is a safe two-point play because when they changed the rule that you can return it now for two-points. We have a situation to where say you’re up a few scores, but the chart says instead of going up a third score you want to go for two. We have a safe two-point play that has certain guys covering in certain areas of the field where we know the balls going to be thrown. It’s not a full field read for the quarterback, just in case something bad happens.
Q: If you are Drew Brees’ quarterback coach, do you do much or are you working with Teddy Bridgewater and the other guys?
A: Here’s what I found out about all great players and obviously, Drew Brees is a great player. All great players strive to get better every day and great players are coachable. I’ll never forget the story, I’m a big Bill Walsh guy. I’ve read all of Coach Walsh’s books and he tells a story in one of his books about I think it was Joe Montana’s 12th year in San Francisco and he’s describing 22-Hank which is the number one play in the old school West Coast offense. Everyone still has a form of it in their offense. There was Joe Montana in the front row taking two pages of notes on that play. It’s like his 12th year with the Niners. Usually great players have that stuff in common where they just love football, dive into it. I think to me and I don’t want to speak for Drew or for anybody, but I would assume that Drew being the great player that he is, is always looking to get better every day.
Q: Is Kirk Cousins that way?
A: Absolutely. Absolutely and very coachable. Was really open to new ideas when he came here. Had been in Washington and had success in Washington doing things a different way and he was always, “Hey if there’s a better way to do something whether it be my footwork, whether it be my arm placement, whatever, cadence all those things.” He was really open to new ideas and he’s really bought in and done a nice job.
Q: Is there a way to keep Kirk Cousins aggressive but slow the game down a little bit so Drew Brees doesn’t touch the ball as much?
A: Sure. Yeah, I mean obviously your quick game and higher completion plays come into play, maybe some of your screen game. We want to get our running game going. This team happens to be number one in the NFL against the run. We have a challenge on Sunday night that hopefully we can meet. There’s definitely plays that you have in your offense that you know are what we call layups. You try do the layups where you give the quarterback six or seven layups a game. The other way you could do it is on 3rd-and-long and you just put the ball in play and those things and if you break a tackle and get the first down. I’m talking 3rd-and-16, 3rd-and-17. I’m not talking 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-9 and you’re always trying to get the first down. You know what I’m trying to say. You put the ball in play and now take another 45 seconds off the clock. Those are sneaky ways and hidden ways to kind of control the clock a little bit, obviously all those factors are going to come into play when you play whenever you play a team like the Saints and a quarterback like Drew Brees.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Good to be back home against the Saints this weekend. Very explosive offense, they’ve got a lot of good players at different levels, so we got to do a good job in the situational things that we’re trying to get accomplished this weekend. But we’re excited about being home and looking forward to the game coming up on Sunday.
Q: Can you game plan for a quarterback, or do you have to game plan for the entire offense?
A: You kind of got to know the skill set of the quarterback that you’re playing against, especially when you’re talking about rushing him and how you need to make sure you’re smart with your rush lanes, if you’re going to pressure him, what you need to do as far as pressures to make sure you keep him in the pocket. Each week varies on the skill set of the quarterback that we’re facing, how much they run and those types of deals.
Q: How do you game plan for one of the best like Drew Brees?
A: He’s one of the best, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a first ballot [Hall of Famer], no question about it. He’s throwing the ball extremely well, they’re doing a good job with protection up front, receivers are doing a good job of recognizing leverage on the coverages and getting open. They do a lot of things offensively to attack certain things that you try to do to them to take away things, so our plate is going to be full. You look at them, they’re leading in a lot of categories in the league offensively, and have been consistent throughout Sean’s [Head Coach Sean Payton] time there.
Q: What kind of strain is put on the defense when they have two quarterbacks on the field at the same time?
A: Well you just got to be prepared for what they’re capable of doing within that personnel groupings. Of course we’ve seen [Taysom] Hill is out there, and then other times he’s a tight end, other times he’s a receiver. His variance as far as his skill set, they’ve been doing a lot of different things to use it, so we just got to be prepared with the scheme that we’re going against them.
Q: Has it looked like they have expanded Taysom Hill’s role?
A: No doubt. It’s grown from week to week. It seems like anything they ask him to do, he can do, whether it’s on the punt team, you hear about him on the punt team and you see what he’s capable of there. Definitely offensively, whether he’s blocking, whether he’s a quarterback, whether he’s a receiver. With his skill set there, they’re making the most of opportunities.
Q: Have you seen a guy like Taysom Hill? Does he compare to anybody?
A: It’s been different guys throughout the league that they use as a running back, but not really as a quarterback, and been able to do it. I can think back to when the wildcat was very popular, Ronnie Brown, they used him in a lot of situations where he was a quarterback, he was a running back, he could be the jet sweep guy. Yeah, I mean there’s been some guys in the past that teams have used that way, but Hill is special. You can just tell how special he is when he comes in the game. They look like they get fired up when he comes in, because he’s been so productive when he’s been in the game.
Q: With Drew Brees’ accuracy, do you ask the defensive backs to cover any differently?
A: Most of the things we ask them to do coverage wise is based off of what the receivers are doing off their routes, off their stem, different things like that that we see coming into the game. From that aspect of it, a lot of things that we do in coverage, you just got to know what we’re asking them to do systematically, whether they’re playing cloud or whether they’re playing man or whether they got help or don’t have help. Just understanding what we’re trying to do technically and fundamentally from call to call.
Q: How is Holton Hill doing?
A: He’s doing good. Sparingly through the course of the first part of the season he’s come in, and he’s taken reps and it hasn’t been too big for him. We’re excited about him making the most of these opportunities and just look forward to him to keep being consistent and keep working and keep learning, those types of deals.
Q: How nerve racking is it if Holton Hill has to play against Drew Brees?
A: Like I said, I don’t think it’s too big for him. I think Holton has been in a lot of big games in his life and through his college career. He’s played in games for us through the course of the year, and the biggest thing is just staying focused on what we’re asking him to do technique and fundamental wise from different packages that we’ve got him involved in.
Q: If Holton Hill plays, do you want him to play safe so that he doesn’t get beat?
A: I can’t tell you what we’re going to do in the game plan. When he’s in the game, I can tell you we’re going to ask him to do specific things and expect him to go out there and accomplish whatever we got set up for him to do.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: Was Sunday against the Jets one of Matt Wile’s better games?
A: Yeah, since he’s been here. Probably in his NFL career, because I’ve seen all his games. I thought he did a really good job. It started in the week of practice, because we had a lot of wind if you guys remember during the week last week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it was really windy. He and Dan [Bailey] and Kevin [McDermott], and the returners for that matter, did a great job of getting some work in in the windy conditions. I think it gave him a lot of confidence. Sunday morning we go out there and it was crazy, you saw the goal posts and you saw the flags on the goal posts in the wind, if you guys were down there at field level at all before the game, it was extremely windy and gusting and not being very predictable. Both guys, and the returners for that matter, had great pregames, and it got them ready for the ballgame, so it was good.
Q: What is the difference in how you should hit the ball without wind, with wind, or with a cross wind?
A: When you don’t have any wind, like this Sunday at home we won’t have any wind, you’re able to directionally kick off and directionally punt much more effectively, because you know there is no conditions, no poor weather conditions. When it’s really windy, you just really want to focus on hitting a true ball. What I mean by that is that you want to hit a ball [and have] good follow through, good contact, good foot-to-ball contact, and really focus on those type of things and not worry about the crosswind as much, because you can’t control it. So if you hit a true ball, that’s what Matt [Wile] did and that’s what Dan did for the most part. Even the field goal he [Dan Bailey] missed, he hit a really true ball, and if you’re a betting man and you freeze the film halfway to the goal post, if you freeze it it’s going right down the middle, and the next thing you know it drops hard left. On the film it was from this endzone camera, so it dropped hard in that view. That was crazy, I’ve never seen anything quite like that in a game that wasn’t incredibly windy, like I remember San Francisco and Chicago maybe ten years ago, you guys remember that game. One of the kickers kicked the ball and it was coming this way towards the end zone camera, and it ended up off of the camera, it was such a bad weather day. It wasn’t like that, but it was kind of a crazy day. Our guys adjusted well, I think he [Bailey] was seven-of-eight on kicks, including PATs, and that’s hard to do. Like you said, Matt had a great game, and our returners did a much better job than their returners in terms of catching the ball and controlling the ball and getting there and not giving that extra yardage up that those guys gave up. It really helped our defense with field position, especially our punt team.
Q: Have you settled in on having Holton Hill as your primary kickoff returner?
A: Holton did a really good job the other day. I think experience is really going to help him the more he does it. He’s going to be playing a lot more corner this week so I’m not sure how available he’ll be, but he’ll be ready when we need him. If not, we’ve got Marcus [Sherels] and we’ve got some other young guys that we’re training. We’re always constantly training guys to have them be ready because you really never know.
Q: Who else do you train?
A: Well, I think the running backs, the young running backs – [Mike] Boone, Roc [Thomas]. I think they’re always an option. Marcus is always an option because he’s done it so many times and done it so well. For me, for our team you got to have a guy you can trust back there that’s going to do his job and make good decisions and catch the ball going forward and not catch it three-deep and then stutter step and then bring it out. Like some of these young returners do, you’ll see around the league. We’ll prepare as many guys as we need to and get them ready for Sunday.
Q: How much is the kick return position marginalized by the rules and increased strength of the kickers?
A: I think the touchback percentage is probably close to 65, 75 percent right now. It has decreased for many years it was right around 50 percent and I think those numbers will go down. I think the returns will go up as the year goes on because of bad weather, not so much for us at home. This week will play Will Lutz whose got a big time leg. If he wants to kick a touchback and he hits a good ball he’ll kick a touchback. Last year we were pretty aggressive against him. We had Jerick McKinnon in the first game and Marcus [Sherels] in the second game when we played them in the playoff game. He’s got a strong enough leg if they want to challenge us they may challenge us. That’s what we need to prepare for. We need to defend the whole field, defend against the type of trick kicks I know coach Payton is famous for and we got to do a great job being alert for all that type of stuff. Going forward going into this game we’re going to be prepared for all types of kicks and if they kick them to us we’re going to return them and if not we’ll take a knee.
Q: Does this feel more like a divisional game?
A: Yeah, kind of I never really thought about it. That’s a good way to look at it. We know this team well. They are probably better than they even were a year ago and they were very good on special teams. What I mean by that is number seven, [Taysom] Hill is much more experienced now. He’s kind of the, I think John Holler said yesterday, he’s kind of the Swiss Army knife for them because he plays on five phases including field goal block. He’s basically on their defense stay against their punt team in fourth-and-short situations and he’s on kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, he’s their kickoff returner, he’s on field goal block like I said. He does so many things and now he’s doing them even better than he was a year ago with the experience he has, and he’s a fake threat. As a personal protector on their punt team. They’ve already run two successful fake punts with him one throwing and one running, so we know we’ve got to be prepared for all those types of things.
Q: Do you have any stories surrounding Stefon Diggs’ catch last year and what you were doing at the time?
A: As he caught the ball, I was yelling, “Get out of bounds”, obviously like most people were thinking to kick the field goal because we had time. I think I reacted like our fans did. I was just in shock like anybody else. Nobody sees anything like that. It was a miracle play, as the immaculate reception back with Pittsburgh, Oakland back in the day. You just don’t see that stuff very often in the NFL. It was pretty special to be a part of and to be on the sideline and seeing that reaction. It was a great win for our football team.
Q: What coaches in the league would you say they have no fear of calling fake plays?
A: Obviously, Coach [Sean] Payton is one of them. Coach [Mike] Zimmer is pretty aggressive that way, too. We have fakes in every week. At times we’ve called them this year and we’ve gotten out of them because we didn’t like the look. I think Coach Zimmer is a guy that is aggressive that way as well and try to keep people off balance. He’s always asking me to have things prepared and we do. We are always going to have those types of things prepared in case the situation arises. Who is the old Rams coach before, the last one before their current head coach. Coach [Jeff] Fisher was really big on that. He did stuff all the time. Every time we played him, we knew something was coming. I think that has carried over with the special teams coordinator, like we stopped that fake against the Rams earlier this year. Our guys did a great job of doing that. Those types of coaches are difficult to prepare for. You have to be on your toes and fourth-and-three is not a normal fourth-and-three. Fourth-and-three could be a fake so you have to prepare for all of those types of things.
Q: Is that more dreadful for you going into the games?
A: No, I love it. I love it. The fact that the Rams ran that fake against us and we stopped it. That, to me, I know we lost that game and it’s a game we hope we won. We outplayed them on special teams and we stopped the fake. But I love that stuff. I love the challenge. Does my heart beat faster? Absolutely. Do I get as much sleep the night before? Probably not. Like I told you guys last week about the Jets returner and obviously that came to fruition a little bit. I love the challenge of defending that type of stuff.
Q: Do you have any good Teddy Bridgewater stories?
A: I like Teddy. Teddy was good for our locker room. I admire Teddy Bridgewater for how he handled his situation, his injury. He is a very mature young man that was an inspiration to me and to a lot of other people how he handled his injury, how he dealt with the recovery and the rehabilitation. It will be nice to see him and say hello. I didn’t deal with him on a football basis all the time. He knows how I feel about him. He was great for our locker room. He was great. He is a fine young man and a fine leader. I wish him the best.