Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo
It’s great to see everybody. Appreciate everyone coming out. It will be great for us to get back home in our home stadium in front of our home fans for the first time in a while. We are looking forward to the opportunity. Obviously, it was a great win for our football team the other day in Philadelphia. I was proud of the way our guys finished. It got tough there at the end. We had to move the ball down the field. Like that last drive we had I think covered six minutes and change. It was good for us to be able to run the football there at the end a little bit. Throw it, had a big play to Rudy [Kyle Rudolph] and to kind of seal the game and obviously get in position to kick the field goal that made it a two score football game.
Q: Do you go into that six minute drive thinking you wanted to kill that much time?
A: Yes. That and we want to score. We are looking to score a touchdown. We slowed it down a little bit. I wouldn’t say we slowed it down a ton. I went back and looked at it. There were certain plays that we snapped the ball with fourteen seconds to go on the play clock. There were certain times we got inside five. We slowed it down a little bit but not a ton. Obviously, we want to make sure that we called our best plays to give us a chance to at least at worse have an opportunity to kick a field goal.
Q: When you are trying to use the clock, is there a benefit to varying when you snap the ball so you don’t become predictable.
A: Yes, there can be. Obviously we want to take some time off but there were still, I don’t know the exact time, but when we got the ball there was a solid, I want to say, eight and a half minutes in the football game. You are not at the point in the game to me where with a six point lead where you are just kind of sitting on the football. That wasn’t our mindset at all. Coach [Mike] Zimmer didn’t tell me to do that. That wasn’t my mind set. So we were trying to move the ball down the field. Luckily our guys did a great job of executing the plays that were called. They did a great job.
Q: What were some of your struggles in the red zone to put the ball in the end zone on Sunday?
A: We knew going in they were a really good red zone defense. They did a really nice job of passing two plays off. We tried to get their eyes in another spot and go back to the other side. It worked. It got their eyes in another spot but they did a really nice job of passing the play off. Obviously, Jim Schwartz does a great job. I’ve worked with the guy for two years. He is a fantastic coach. He had those guys schooled up the amount of pick plays that we like to run. Pick is the wrong word. We don’t run pick plays. Rub plays. I’m sure he had those guys well versed on some of those things that we like to do down there.
Q: With analytics, how have you seen through the years decision making change by coaches throughout the league on fourth-and-short situations?
A: Great question. I think each situation is very unique and very different. I’ve been at places where it was just totally not used at all. I’ve been at places where you kind of dip your toe in the water a little bit and read it. I’ve been at places where it’s pretty heavily used. The thing with analytics is it’s very, very useful. It really is. It’s useful but it’s like anything. It’s a piece of what you do. You don’t go all in on anything in this league in my opinion because I just think that a lot of it is your gut. I think a lot of it is how your offense is playing, how your defense is playing, what is the weather like, what is the wind like, if you have to kick a winning field goal, are you going into the wind, are you not into the wind. There are a lot of factors involved outside of analytics that factor into the game. The other things that analytics doesn’t factor in are these are actual people, not numbers. The way I talk about analytics is I like it. I read everything that is given to me. I use it. The way I look at it is if you are standing away from a dart board at 10 feet and try to throw a bullseye, it allows you to be at nine-and-a-half feet.
Q: Do you think the percentages being up noticeably the last two to three years with a lot of teams going for it on fourth down contribute to it a lot?
A: I don’t know. The last place I was at, we used that information a lot. I don’t want to speak for Coach [Doug] Pederson and his mindset at all. I am not trying to speak for him at all but I know he really used that information and came to his own conclusions on how to use that information. We went for it on fourth downs some at the last place I was at. How much of it was analytics-based? I really never asked Coach. How much of that was Coach’s gut? I’m not sure.
Q: Have you and Coach Zimmer discussed the numbers on two-point conversions and thinking about going for two more often if the numbers said it was correct?
A: Yes. We follow a chart but at the same time Coach has a great feel for the game. He really does. He has been doing it a long time at an elite level. Coach is one of those guys that have been there, done that, seen it all type guys. He has a tremendous feel for the game as the game is going on. How everyone is playing, field position. It’s been really great for me to be around him and watch him and observe him. How he sees the game because I’ve learned a lot. We’ve talked about it, sure .We’ve talked about it, sure. But Coach has a great feel for the game and like I said, I think he does a great job on gameday.
Q: Have you seen any change over the years with teams valuing possession of the ball over field position?
A: As an offensive coach, I’d love to get the ball on the plus 40 every time we have it and have shorter drives. But that is selfish for the football team. Our goal is when we get great field position like we did the other night right before halftime, we went down and scored a touchdown. Adam [Thielen] and Kirk [Cousins] made a great play. At the same time, we want to win. That is one of our goals is to win the time of possession each week. That means you are running more plays, you are staying on schedule, you are converting third downs. I think both kind of play into each other. We like to win both of those battles each week, sure.
Q: What went into some of those perimeter runs that you were able to use to get the running game going?
A: I don’t like to talk too much scheme up here just because you never know if you are going to play a certain team again or whatever. But I just knew something had to change. I knew something had to change. We all know the definition of insanity. I thought Clancy [Barone] and Andrew Janocko did a fantastic job. Kennedy Polamalu did a fantastic job in trying some new things out. As an offensive coaching staff last week, we just knew we needed to try something different. Obviously, the yardage wasn’t there but there were some effective runs when we needed it. Everyone wants to talk about yards-per-carry, this and that. Can you run it when they know you’re going to run it? Can you finish out games? We did that. We did that Sunday. We are going to continue doing that moving forward.
Q: How do the different personnel groupings get you in the flow of your game and get the rest of the offense in the flow of the game and give the defense more to worry about?
A: You want to keep the defense off balance. It accomplishes a couple things. Number one, it tells you kind of how are they going to play each personnel grouping. Now it doesn’t mean they have to stay that way the whole game. But how are they going to handle 20 personnel. How are they going to handle 11 when we have a certain tight end on the field, those things. It gives you information for hopefully later in the game when you have other plays out of those personnel groupings. The other thing it does is I think it gets a lot of our players on offense get going early and knowing they have a chance to get the football or a chance to run the football and those things. I like to get everyone involved. I think everyone in five games in I guess, I think everyone sees offensively we spread the ball around. We like to get everybody involved. I think that helps us overall because you can’t just hone in on one person or one concept that we’re running.
Q: What effect would having Dalvin Cook back have on an offense that already has been moving the ball well?
A: Another piece that is an explosive guy. Obviously, Dalvin is a very, very gifted guy. We’ve all seen that. Earlier this season, you saw that against the 49ers. First play of the game we basically throw him the ball, but it’s basically tossed. We basically just tossed the ball out there and nine yards. That one he had where he made eight guys miss or whatever, that was incredible. I think it just adds another dynamic piece and a guy you can move around a lot and do some things with, unique things with and get creative. We are excited that he is back.
Q: Is it important to not be scared to take shots when you’re deep in your own territory?
A: Yes. I trust our guys. I trust our guys. I trust our quarterback. I trust all 11 guys that are on that field. Yes. We are in attack mode all the time. We are staying aggressive and staying in attack. But at the same time, being smart about it. If you notice the protection in that, that was a max protection play. We were being aggressive but at the same time, we gave ourselves the best chance to have that play have success at that part of the field. So yeah. Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs. You let those guys roll. Let’s go. What do we do? We came right back and got down to the two-yard line with another deep pass. We’ve covered, I’m not very good at math, but that’s 93 yards in two plays. It gives our team a lot of confidence in my opinion.
Q: What is the key to getting the short passing game going?
A: I think when you know you are getting free access by a team, that is when you know you can really kind of get it going and get it started early. If you look at the way we formatted that, we kind of protected those plays with a blocker in front of what we call smoke, the smoke runner. We kind of protected the play. The way the Eagles were playing it they were pressing the point, the second corner was over the top so we knew we had a chance at a little catch and run afterwards. They did a good job of adjusting to that later in the game, which we knew they would because Jim Schwartz is a really good football coach. Early on we thought, “Hey, this is a way we can accomplish a couple things.” Number one, get the ball on the perimeter. So get the ball on the outside of the numbers. Number two, get the ball in one of our best playmaker’s hands. Number three, get the ball out of Kirk’s hands quickly to alleviate that pass rush when those guys are all greased up and ready to roll at the beginning of the game.
Q: Referring to fourth-and-short, is there an actual sheet and who keeps that?
A: There is. It depends on where you go. It depends on what team you are with. There are some guys that have fourth down charts and this and that. It’s been heavily researched, going back years and years and years of teams going for it on fourth down. Like I said, you’d have to ask Coach that because I am not trying to pass the ball cap but he is the one that makes the decisions on whether to go for it on fourth-and-one so you would have to ask him about what is thought process is.
Q: How is Stefon Diggs able to generate yards after the catch on the screen and be effective?
A: I think it all starts at the point of attack. I thought [Laquon] Treadwell really had a so-so one and the other couple were really, really good. When you have a man at the point of attack that can get the play started, that is the key to it. You want to get the play started. Treddy did a really nice job of just getting the play started and you use Digg’s God-given ability that he can change direction the way he can, dip his hips the way he can, catch the football the way he can. It’s just another way to get the ball out of Kirk’s hands really quickly into one of our most dynamic playmakers.
Q: What was the key to making the throw from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen for the touchdown with pressure as effective as it was?
A: That was an incredible throw. That was an absolutely incredible throw. Ronald Darby was covering. Now I know there was a holding penalty on it so that was part of the reason why it was covered. That was not bad coverage. There was about probably a two-by-two yard box that that box could have dropped and Kirk dropped it in there with a guy in his face. Obviously, Adam did a great job of flipping Ronald’s hips and going to the back pylon. That is just sheer accuracy, God-given talent, will to get that ball there. All of those things that make Kirk great. He displayed that on that play.
Q: Are you surprised that the separation Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can be as big on a couple of plays or do you know they have the skills to do that?
A: It depends on the play, sure. Depending on what route we’re running, you know if you are running a vertical double move, you need speed and be able to drop your hips. When you are running a double move, it’s not the first move that is most important. It is the move coming out of the double move. You have to drop your hips. If you watch Adam on that play, you have to drop your hips. But then you have to get that speed going back vertical again to create that separation to answer your question. It’s the second move in double moves are the most important. Our guys showed the ability to be able to do that. With that being said, we line up our guys everywhere so we try to scheme them open as well. I think it’s a combination of both. I think it’s a combination of both. When you have guys that are talented as those two guys, it makes it fun to be able to be creative.
Q: How much of being able to get out of their breaks to get into that second move can be coached to get better?
A: To me, you are either born with that or you’re not. There are some elite receivers in this league that really struggle with those types of routes. I was doing an interview the other day with somebody from USA Today about Adam Thielen and they were talking to me about how versatile he is. I said, “He has the traits of an elite slot receiver and an elite outside receiver.” You just don’t find that very often. A lot of guys are either one or the other. I am either a really good inside player and I’m just a so-so outside player or vice versa. He has elite traits that both of those spots on the field. We are just really, really glad he is on our football team.
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
Obviously coming off a great team win in Philly on Sunday. Our focus has been this week of getting back to another great week of work, having a sense of urgency, understanding that this football team that’s coming on Sunday had a great win last Sunday of their own. They’re very talented, they’re very fast, they play hard, they’re well coached, and we’ve got to understand that we’ve got to match their speed, we’ve got to play as physical as Arizona will on Sunday and we’ve got our work cut out for us. I know I saw that a lot, but these guys are good. They’ve got older specialist. They’ve got a lot of young, a lot of college free agents, rookies that play hard, and then they’ve sprinkled in some veterans that play hard. We’ve got to match that speed and intensity on Sunday. We got to have a great sense of urgency on Sunday in order to win this game on Sunday.
Q: What is the key for someone like Phil Dawson for having a career that long?
A: He’s stayed healthy. He has been, obviously, very effective and stayed strong enough with his kickoffs. They didn’t have to bring in a punter that could also kickoff, like some other older kickers have. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just think he has enough pride in his kickoffs that he understands the importance of that, along with his PATs and field goals. I’m very impressed by him and what he’s done in his career. I’ve gone against him many times and the thing that makes him special is that on kickoffs he can put the ball anywhere he wants to, especially when he was in Cleveland. It’s ridiculous he can just place the ball wherever he wants to and with these new rules you got to make sure we’re defending the whole field and we’re seeing the ball off his foot and that’s been the emphasis this week and it will continue the emphasis the rest of the week going into the game Sunday.
Q: How much do you see teams kick the ball in certain places to keep teams off guard?
A: As coaches we're all trying to figure out the best time to do it. I think it’s more situational than anything else, unless you’re facing a great return man – like a Cordarrelle Patterson or something like that and doing something different. As coaches we’re trying to figure out do we challenge them here, do we kick a touchback, do we kick it high and short, with 18 seconds to go in the second half what do we do? Like last week against Philly Coach Zimmer wanted some time knocked off the clock so we went with our liner, our liner middle – great kick, great coverage, and essentially ended the half. I call that an end the half kickoff. It’s like an end of half punt when you pin a team deep and they have to take a knee at the end of the half. Those are huge plays for us that a lot of people don’t understand the importance of it, but it’s really important.
Q: Did the onside kick go to the side you wanted it to?
A: Well, we got Kyle on the other side and he’s over there for a reason. I honestly thought that they were going to kick it to our left. That’s where [Jake] Elliot, the only one they had last year kicked to our left actually, no, it kicked to our right. We practiced for both and being a young kicker you didn’t have a lot of tape on him throughout the preseason tape from the year before and obviously the only regular season one they had was at Kansas City a year ago and they got it. It was a nice kick by Jake, but Jake did a nice job that thing was hard to handle. That think was spinning off his foot and hit the ground and was still spinning, but the great thing about Adam [Thielen] and the great thing about Kyle [Rudolph] and the other guys is the hands thing. We practice that stuff. We keep guys after practice and we have our kicker [Dan Bailey] kick nasty kicks to them and just let them react and that’s usually where you go to a knee, knock it down, and then grab it. that’s exactly what happened because he say it come off his foot how much it was spinning and it wasn’t going to be routine catch, so our guys did a good job.
Q: How much confidence does it bring to you and Dan Bailey to have him make that last field goal?
A: Glad Dan was our kicker at the end of the game where when Coach Zimmer asked me, “Hey, can he make it?” We got it. It was a great call by Coach [John] DeFilippo how we got third and long, we got it to fourth and manageable where we got a 52-yard field goal instead of 58-yard field goal. I would not have recommended a 58-yarder there just because it was a six point game, but the 52 he’s got to go out and make it and I was fully confident that he would go out and do that. I thought we protected well all day. For the most part the snap and hold were good, on the first one it was not, which is one of the reasons why he missed it. Now, if you ask Dan [Bailey] he knows he should of made that. The second one he missed he pushed it right and hopefully that’s out of our system. We can came back yesterday in practice and he was 22-of-22. I mean the guy’s a pro and knowing him and his mentality and the way he handles adversity now. I’m getting to know him more and more and of course I followed his career as well, but he’s very focused and he just came back and he stroked it. It was great protection, great kick, great snap, great hold, and helped us win that game.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Good to be back home, looking forward to playing this weekend against Arizona, who offensively changed quarterbacks and are doing a good job balancing between the run, play action, and the third down stuff. It’ll be a good challenge for us this weekend, but we’re excited about being home and having an opportunity.
Q: What has Josh Rosen shown you on tape?
A: He’s shown the arm to be able to make all the throws. He’s very smart, you can see with his communication while getting guys lined up, getting the protection set. As a rookie he’s doing a lot of things, and doing a good job with them. He’s shown the ability to scramble and get out of situations, but he’s always looking down the field and been able to complete balls down the field.
Q: When Rosen has missed, it looks like he’s overthrown receivers. Can you make your secondary aware of that and incorporate that into a game plan?
A: I think if you look at the situations where he has overthrown, it’s usually due to pressure at his feet. He’s kind of had to force the ball out. We got to do a good job with our rush lanes up front to hopefully get him in some of those situations to where the ball can float out.
Q: What kind of challenges does David Johnson present to your defense?
A: A big challenge. He’s an excellent runner, he’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield, so those are two things we really got to be conscientious of as we’re in preparation this week, and then go out and execute it on Sunday.
Q: What has Jalyn Holmes shown you in the reps he’s had at defensive end?
A: You know we kind of got him some reps in between as we worked through the offseason stuff, but he’s stepped in, he’s got good awareness, he takes coaching, and he’s working hard every day. His move out there has been good. We can see flashes, and the more he keeps repping it, the more he gets comfortable at it.
Q: For a guy like Holmes that only gets limited reps during games, how long can it take to get a set of moves that they’re comfortable with using in real time?
A: With the experience part of it, game experience is the hardest thing. But they get a lot of reps out here at practice as we go through the offseason and as we go through training camp, so hopefully we can just see that transfer from practice to the game. That’s the biggest thing, trying to get him in all situations to where he doesn’t have to be thinking and he can line up and use his athleticism and play.
Q: Do you think Arizona’s offensive approach has changed from Sam Bradford to Rosen?
A: There are a lot of similarities, but there are some differences. His skill set, he’s [Rosen] a lot more active moving in the pocket, a lot more bootleg in their play-action stuff, getting him on the move. There are some changes, but there’s also a lot of similarities with it.
Q: When you’re playing a rookie quarterback, is there a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of being able to put pressure on them and knowing it will work, or do you have to consider each different guy?
A: Each situation is different in relation to their experience, their play experience, their skill set. All of those things become variables when you’re making a game plan against a rookie quarterback.