*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner *
Q: Have you ever been part of a team that has started a month into the season with no turnovers?
A: I don't think I could tell you. First of all, I don't know. I think if it has happened like this, I would remember. I've been fortunate to be on teams that were under 15 in a year. Last year, we were fourth in the league in fewest turnovers. So, it's something … You like to think it's coaching – and we work hard at it – but I think it's players' attention to detail and taking a lot of pride in taking care of the ball. Sam [Bradford], in his history, has not thrown a lot of interceptions. Teddy [Bridgewater] threw nine last year. So, it's something we work real hard on.
Q: What goes into it for Sam? It is just decision making?
A: I think it's decision making, understanding what the defensive looks are, and he [Sam Bradford] is obviously making big plays. So, it's a bonus when you're making big plays, but to me, when you're back there and the ball's in your hand, it's a risk-reward situation. And sometimes you see these interceptions, even if it was completed, it would be a six-yard gain or an eight-yard gain. It's not worth the chance. There's more risk than there is reward. So, I think a big part of it is making good decisions.
Q: Did you guys try to help simplify the language for him early when he got here?
A: That process started when we got here, and I go way back with it, this system. Rob Chudzinski was with me at San Diego, and we always used code names like you do in two-minute. But, when he went to Carolina and they drafted Cam Newton, their big process or purpose was to make it simpler for him, and they used a lot of code names. We use a lot of the same codes names they use, and obviously Scott, 'Chud' [Rob Chudzinski] and I were in Cleveland together. When I first saw it, I said, 'What have you guys done to this offense that I've been coaching for 25 years?' And then, we've continued to use code names. It's pretty creative, and some guys are really good at coming up with different names. You want time together, but yeah, we've started using code names.
Q: Does that shorten the play call?
A: No question. If you can go out and call a play, and you call a formation, and you use a one-word name – warrior for example, dodge, warrior – you've called the protection, you've called the route for everybody. That makes everything faster. Now, it puts a burden on the players, because they have to respond to the code names. That play, warrior, that play when we ran it in San Diego, was '5-72 F9 swing.' So, it was 'gone right 5-72 H-arrow F9 swing.' So, warrior is much easier, but the numbering system and calling it tells everyone what to do. There's give and take, and our guys have really handled the names well. They've taken it on themselves to learn them and respond, and we've had very few mental errors with the names.
Q: I assume that would require more studying and learning from the other players on the team than they're used to?
A: You'd like them to know what to do when they start to hear the numbers, because they're the same plays over and over again, but no question. If you're using code names, and then, you're not using the same code names every week – or you're playing someone in your division or you're playing someone like when we played Carolina – there's a lot of the same code names, so we had to change some of them. Because you certainly don't want to tell them what you're doing.
Q: How might Zach Line factor in at tight end if you guys happen to be shorthanded, or would you scale back a bit with what you're doing at the position?
A: The great thing … When we put this together – and we've been working hard on it – when [Offensive Line Coach] Tony [Sparano] and [Tight Ends Coach] Pat [Shurmur] and then [Quarterbacks Coach] Scott [Tuner], everyone involved, [Running Backs Coach] Kevin [Stefanski], started working on this in February, one of the things you want to be, is you want to be multiple in terms of ability to use your personnel. You want to be able to give defenses problems using your different personnel groups, and then as has happened right now, if you have guys that are questionable, or if you're not sure if they're going to be in there, you can emphasize one personnel group over another. Zach, right now, would be an emergency guy.
Q: Have you figured out the balance you want between Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata?
A: To me, it's an on-going thing. I think they're both really good. There are certain things we know Jerick does better than Matt, and there are some things Matt does better. But I think it's going to be a week-to-week deal, and I think Jerick is going to be the lead guy, but there are some games that Matt may get more reps than he does in others.
Q: What are the things that Cordarrelle Patterson has done in practice this season that gave the coaches more confidence in him?
A: We all know that C.P. [Cordarrelle Patterson] has always flashed and always made plays. I think what he has really made a commitment to is being consistent and going out every day being consistent, and consistent with the mental approach, consistent with the performance, consistent with the effort. And I think that has been somewhere, not only he has grown, but a number of our guys have a good understanding, and I think they truly understand that if you do that and do it on a consistent basis, there's a trust factor that comes in and you're going to get opportunities.
Q: Do you feel like your run game is able to get into the edges a little bit more with Jerick McKinnon, even more than with Adrian Peterson?
A: Some of it has to do with who we're playing, and when we played the Giants a year ago, we got to the edges; and we got to the edges with Adrian [Peterson] and with Jerick. The one play he broke out to the outside, that was about a 30-yard gain, was the same play we ran against them out of a different personnel group and different formation. So, we want get to the edges if teams give you those opportunities, and Jerick and certainly can [get to the edge]. He's as fast … He is really fast. He's as fast of a running back as, probably, I've been around.
Q: How does Vince Wilfork look?
A: He really looks good, and they list him at 325 [pounds]. I don't think he has been 325 since he was in the eighth grade. He is big and it takes a lot to move him. You're not going to move him. We had to – obviously, when I was in San Diego – we played New England a number of times. I'm very familiar with him. We had a chance to coach him in the Pro Bowl, and he's really a unique person, and he's a lot of fun to be around. But, he's really playing well in the middle, and he occupies a lot of space and you have to work to move him.* *
Q: Is it a bigger challenge to face a bigger guy you can't move or a quicker guy?
A: They both present different challenges. Vince does a good job of moving from tackle to tackle, and he makes a lot plays. He helps keep those backers from getting blocked, so they can make plays.* *
Q: Who is the biggest nose tackles you've gone against?
A: Vince is up there. Ted Washington, at the end of his career, he was a big man inside, too. That's the style of defense they want to play, and they want that big nose, whether it be New England or now, with what Houston is doing.
Q: Were you able to take more chances on first downs with deep shots to Charles Johnson and give Sam Bradford more of a green light with deep balls?
A: I don't think so. The first play that we threw the fade was really designed to go to the curl, and it has got a built-in deep option if they press it up. They pressed Charles, so Sam took it, but it's a play that we threw that ball in training camp and threw the fade; it wasn't Sam. So, it's just part of the read of the play, and you like to have some explosive things built in to high-percentage plays if you get the look. We got a great look, and C.J. [Charles Johnson] did a great job of blowing by him. We haven't thrown a lot of deep balls on first and second down, so I'm sure that was part of it, too.
Q: Why do you think he had such success on first down?
A: Like I said, we've got some explosive plays, and once you get explosive plays, I think you spread them out a little bit, and you can have some success running the ball.
Q: There are a lot of moving parts on the offensive line, but though four weeks, how are you feeling about that unit?
A: I'm excited about it, and the biggest thing offensively – and it's kind of once we started getting guys hurt – it has been a theme. Someone has got to step up and play well, and T.J. [Clemmings] has done that over there. [Jeremiah] Sirles did it at left guard. Sirles did it at right tackle back-to-back weeks. We just, we're in that mindset where if someone isn't available, whoever goes in for them, they've got a job to do; and they can't let the other 10 guys down. And that has kind of been our approach.
*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *
Good to be back for another home game this week. It's a shorter week this week. Guys are have really been focusing in here yesterday and we got to get a lot of work done here today as far as preparation going into this ball game. We have another tough opponent offensively this week. A good quarterback in (Brock) Osweiler. I think schematically for what they're getting accomplished with him. Another good set of receivers. You've got two receivers that are at the top of their game right now and a running back in (Lamar) Miller who's done a good job running the ball. I think he's fourth in the league in rushing. He does a good job in protection. He does a good job in what they're trying to accomplish in the run game.
Q: What differences did you see with Bill O'Brien calling the plays?
A: There was a difference, but to be honest with you they've kind of been different each week. When you look at them through the course of the season offensively it's kind of been a different schematic for every defensive scheme that they've faced. It's sort of a culmination of different concepts that they've shown each week in the passing game, selective runs from week-to-week and what they deem possible. So, it's been a little bit different for them in each ball game. I don't just think it's because Coach O'Brien is calling the plays. They're very flexible and present a lot of problems offensively as far as the matchups and leverage and those types of deals. So, they're a good offensive unit.
Q: Do you see similarities from what the Patriots do?
A: I was in that division when he was in New England, so there are some similar concepts. There are some similar situations where they do look a lot alike from in the past. But, I think they're doing a good job of getting the most ability out of the players that they have being able to stretch the ball down the field and getting their running game going. I think it's a culmination of those two things. It'll be a big challenge for us this week.
Q: Why do you think Lamar Miller has been so good for them?
A: I was with Miller in Miami and he's always been a tough grinding running back. He can run in between the tackles, has the speed to get out on the corner and good vision being able to see when to bounce or when to cut back. He's a good receiver out of the backfield. He's done a good job in protection. So, all-around he's a good back. I mean he can handle all of the things they're asking him to do. I think he's done good behind that offensive line. They've done a good job of creating space for him being able to explode through the hole and cut and accelerate up the field. I think they're doing a good job offensively using his skill set and it'll be a tough challenge for us this week.
Q: Is this the best offensive weapon you've seen this year?
A: I'm not into comparing guys, but right now he's the toughest one we've have to face this week.
Q: Is he the most versatile?
A: Yeah, he's very versatile, very versatile.
Q: How good is it to be able to rotate the corners on the outside to keep those guys fresh?
A: I think that's beneficial to us using their skill sets in the different packages that we use in different matchups that we face from week-to-week. Having three guys that can go out there and play at a high level and be able to compete and to match, it is good for us. Those guys are working their butts off understanding what we are trying to get done schematically, fundamentally and technique-wise. They're doing a good job. Coach (Mike) Zimmer has always said, guys that go out and work hard, practice hard, we're going to find a way to use their skill set on Sunday. That's what we've done.
Q: What has Will Fuller done to have such good success in the NFL?
A: They've got two good receivers. Fuller has been able to take the top off. A lot of people have really been concerned with 10 (DeAndre Hopkins) on their backside and just taking him away from out of the game. He's been able to win his one-on-one matches down the field. He's really outrun some guys. So, we have to do a good job of being disciplined as far as the leverage of what we're trying to get done coverage-wise this week and understanding that he is a viable threat down the field. He's a viable threat catching the ball in the short area. You saw him last week take a screen and run with it. You saw him return a punt for a touchdown. So, very versatile in his skill set and he'll be a challenge for us this week.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
Hope everybody is doing well. Coming off a huge Monday night win. We're excited about this opportunity. Houston poses a lot of problems. They're a playoff team from a year ago. They're 3-1, they're playing good football. They have outstanding special teams. They scored a touchdown on a punt return the other day. The guys first career punt return, he returns it for a score. It's going to be a difficult matchup for us. Our big emphasis this week is obviously in our kickoff and punt team covering well. They've got that little returner, No. 34, coming out of San Jose State. He's very, very good, we had a lot of good things to say about him in our draft room last year. So,he poses a big time threat for us. So that's going to be our focus going forward here this week.
Q: Are there any other roles that Cordarrelle Patterson may be able to fill?
A: Cordarrelle could pretty much do about anything athletically. I've always in the back of my mind wished he could be a punt returner. He does work on it and obviously I have a very good punt returner, Marcus (Sherels) is an outstanding return man. Putting Cordarrelle back there, he can catch them, he doesn't seem as comfortable as some other guys do catching punts. I wouldn't put anything past that guy. He could probably play on kickoff as well if we really needed him to.
Q: How do you think Laquon Treadwell faired on special teams on the punt team?
A: He did okay. The one was a plus-50 and he did fine, I think both of them were. He's a guy that's a very good athlete, he's itching to get on the field. He's had a really good attitude, especially the last few weeks because he's seen the success that Cordarrelle has had at gunner. He sees the success some of our younger players that are around him that are going out on the field and performing for us on special teams. That's why I love our locker room. Even the guys like Andrew Sendejo who is a starter on defense, plays two phases for us. Adam Thielen starts now on offense, he's playing two phases for us. They look around and see that kind of leadership that we have in our locker room, it's been outstanding. That's the kind of guys that Rick (Spielman) and Coach (Mike) Zimmer have brought in and that really helps me do my job better and more effectively. The young guys look around and kind of feed off that enthusiasm from the older guys, then they go out and respond well on special teams. So, it's been exciting so far. We have our work cut out for us. We didn't cover kickoffs, the one kickoff very well the other day. I was disappointed in that. We've absolutely got to fix that. We're going to do that.
Q: Do you think this has been a reality check of sorts for Cordarrelle Patterson and Laquon Treadwell?
A: Yeah I think so. With Cordarrelle he was a great returner coming in and that's where he was used and he obviously made the Pro Bowl his rookie year. I think he's been All-Pro two out of the three years he's been here. He accepted that role and went after it right away. A guy like Laquon is not a return man but now he's got to cover kicks and cover punts and be a backup on punt return and kickoff return and be involved that way. I don't know if it's a reality check. Laquon is a fine young man and he's very smart. He understands the game of football and until he becomes a starter or a full-time player on offense I'm going to try to use the best athletes that I can like we've always have done here. When I say I was a naval officer, I use the resources at my disposal to do my job. Well, I'm a Special Teams Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, I've got to use the resources at my disposal to do my job the best that I can.
Q: Are you working on anything mechanically with Blair Walsh this week?
A: The one thing about Blair is that I was very proud of the way that he came back and then drilled the next field goal. I was happy that he had that opportunity. Because when he goes out there I expect him to make every kick. A 46-yarder is not a gimme and I'm not going to make excuses for him, he shouldn't miss those kicks. He's too good to miss those kicks and he knows that. But there's a couple things we're working on. Maybe try to re-emphasize and go back and look at what he's done before successfully. Go back and watch tape when he's really hitting the ball well. In pre-game he was 20-of-22, he was really hitting the ball well and we felt confident going in. He made four-of-five and he kicked off extremely well but that one kick. That's the kick that everybody talks about and I can understand why because that's the National Football League. At the end of the day, that may cost us someday. So we're hoping to rectify that situation and help him go out and make all his kicks.
Q: Was there a discussion about attempting the 56-yarder?
A: I don't like to talk about the conversations that Coach Zimmer and I have, but we did think about it. But it was 17-3 and you don't want to give a team like that with Eli Manning at quarterback great field position by the maybe 50-50 chance that he misses that kick. If it's 10-10 or 7-3 or 10-7 maybe you do try that kick. But I think situationally, to me, it was a great call by the Head Coach and Jeff [Locke] went out and did a great job and we pinned them at the seven or eight yard line, whatever it was.
Q: Do you think Blair is feeling more pressure?
A: No, I don't think so. Because the thing about Blair is he cares so much, he wants to make those kicks as much or more than anybody on our team wants him to make those kicks. He understands how important he is to our football team and the success of this football team. He's already performed well in spots this year, he's just got to be more consistent. So, I don't know if it's any more pressure than usual but it's probably the normal pressure that goes along with being a field goal kicker in the National Football League.
Q: Do you think Jeff Locke is thinking less and just going out and punting?
A: As long as when you guys ask him questions he's not thinking a whole lot. Make sure you keep it simple for him because when he's not thinking he's a very good punter. When he starts to overanalyze stuff he's like any other young punter, he starts to go haywire. Jeff is hitting the ball very well right now. We're protecting better the last couple games. I know we had that glitch against Green Bay that we've corrected and we can't have that happen again. Going forward, we need to make sure that we protect that launch spot for Jeff and let him do his thing because he's pretty hot right now and hopefully we'll keep that going.
Q: Is he doing anything differently to get greater distance while maintaining solid hang time?
A: Again, we're not kicking in crazy wind situations. He's still going to have to prove that he can do that in a tough weather game. This will give him confidence in order to do so. He has worked extremely hard on his technique and the things he and I talked about back in January after the season. He's done a very good job working on his drop, working on his leg swing, being more consistent with his line. All the little things that he continually works on. He's worked harder now, I think I said this last week, not that he wasn't a harder worker before, but he's working harder now on the little things that are helping him be more successful. He's starting to believe that's why he's successful. I've been telling him for four years that's what it's going to take. He's responded well this year.