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Transcript: Coordinators Addressed the Media Thursday

*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur *

Q: Second game under your belt, first full week as offensive coordinator, is there more of a comfort level this week for you at all, would you say?

A: Well, we felt a little bit rust last week, certainly, and there were some things that went well in the game. Certainly, a lot of things in the game we wished had gone better. I think we've got to do better in, certainly, critical situations. We had a couple chances to get points. This game is about points, and we had a couple chances to get points, and we didn't. That helped contribute to the outcome. But, in terms of the second week, we've got a little bit more time to put the plan in, kind of be able to look at the things we're doing and try to run the plays that we feel are going to work the best.

Q: In this type of offense, how do you stay unpredictable in the short passing game when you're not able to throw it deep as much?

A: I guess I would look at it a little differently. We feel like we can throw the ball deep. I think everybody is kind of tied it to the West Coast roots, but there's a controlled passing game element to that. But there's also the ability to throw the ball deep when shots provide. We actually did throw the ball deep a couple times the other night. We just didn't connect on them. So, we're just going to try to do what we can to score points, and sometimes you're able to get the ball down the field a little better against some teams and not so much against others.

Q: You threw the ball more on first down than you had all season, and you had pretty good success doing it. What went into that decision as part of the game plan?

A: I think you've got to be somewhat multiple. The defense can't always know what you're doing. So, it's either a run, or it's a pass, and I think we were able to complete a few of them, which helped keep drives alive. We got an explosive play on a couple of them, and so, it's just trying to keep the defense off balance. I think it helps everyone, the blockers. It helps the guys running their routes, if there's a little bit of unpredictability.

Q: Laquon Treadwell didn't get any snaps in Chicago, then he got 17 last week, in your first game as offensive coordinator. How much of an expanded role do you potentially see in him?

A: I think that was initially the plan, to try to get him in there, and he has done a good job out here on the practice field. He has done an excellent job blocking. He got an opportunity to catch the ball the other night in tight coverage, which was actually a really good throw and a really good catch. So, just like any young player, you get him in there, see what they can do, and then you just kind of gradually give them more and more, hopefully, as long as the game plan calls for it.

Q: What kind of issues did you see getting into the red zone, and why didn't you cash in a little bit more?

A: I think it's fairly obvious. We got the interception. We got down there. We had a penalty, which you can't have at any time, and it's magnified, certainly, down there. And then we threw a little quick screen, and we got another penalty. You can't have that happen at any spot on the field, and then on the third down, certainly, we would have liked to check the ball down to stay relevant in order to kick the field goal. So, those are pretty obvious in that area, and then the other time we got down there, we got stopped on fourth-and-one. So, those are the two areas where it's situational football, where we need to be better.

Q: Can you talk about Stefon Diggs' value in the shorter passing game? It seems like it fits him.

A: He's a quick change of direction. He can change direction. He has got quickness. He can certainly run deep. So, yeah, we can utilize a good route runner, and you need to be able to do all those things if you're going to get open in underneath coverage.* *

Q: Have you ever had a guy catch 13 passes and gain 80 yards?

A: I don't know. I don't keep track of those things.

Q: When you do a lot of that, could that set up something deeper, or are those the kind of things that carry on week to week when they look at you the way you played one great game?

A: I don't know. I guess we all develop a blueprint, but I think we want to try to be unpredictable in some ways. But we want to use the strengths of the players we have and also try to protect the quarterback along the way. But all that being said, it's our job to score points, and we just discussed a couple areas where we didn't get that done. 

Q: What did having Rhett Ellison and Kyle Rudolph on the field at the same time, the two-tight end set, give you?

A: Well, the other night, 12 personnel was good for us. Each week, it's different. Some games, it's better than others, but certainly, having Rhett on the field, a very dependable guy that blocks extremely well. He catches the ball when you throw it to him. I don't want to jinx him now, but he catches the ball when you throw it to him. And he's one of those guys who can be multiple. He can line up attached. You've seen him in the backfield. You've seen him detached. You've seen him moving around. So, for a guy that has that flexibility allows you to do more things.

Q: Talk about Rhett's touchdown late in the game. Would you agree that was a pretty gutsy call? That's what most people seem to think.

A: Well, we liked it as a staff. It was one of the plays we had going in, and it was just, you have a handful for goal line plays, and you've just got to try to get them called at the right time. And we certainly felt that was the right time, and then the players executed it well. Rudy did a good job blocking. There was enough deception with the play, and then, that was actually a ball security issue. Fortunately, we got it across, but yeah, it worked. So, it was a good call.

Q: The running backs catching the ball out of the backfield, how much can that open the run game?

A: Some of the short passes actually kind of fit into the run-game mode. The ball gets put out on the perimeter, sort of like a sweep play. It's, I guess, how you want to look at it, but yeah, it's important for running backs to be able to catch. Fortunately, we have a group of backs here that do a nice job catching the ball.

*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards *

Another tough opponent this week in Washington playing them down in the D.C. and Maryland area. Offensively, they've got a lot of weapons at their skill positions. They use three backs that they've been working with all year. Statistically, they're averaging like 112 yards rushing a game. They're throwing the ball for like 300 (yards) a game and on third down they've been very efficient into the mid 40's. So, we'll have our work cut out for us this weekend.

Q: Do you expect to see more of the quick passing game this week?

A: Yeah, it's been very efficient for them throughout the course of the year. So, I would look for them to continue to build on that and get the ball out of his hands. He hasn't been sacked very much. He's only been sacked 11 times. So, that's a formula that's been working for them throughout. I would expect to see the same thing.

Q: When teams throw the ball that quick, is that something that you can beat with a pass rush?

A: That's why we always say coverage and pass rush go hand and hand. It just depends on the leverage that you have on the routes. Whether he's got to hold it or if he's just going to go ahead and throw it out there right now. But, you can still affect the quarterback. You may not sack him, but you're still going to affect the quarterback in those situations.

Q: What have you seen from Danielle Hunter?

A: Yeah, there's no doubt. He's been consistent and his work ethic. And from week-to-week you can still see him getting better. You can still see him working on his craft, working on his toolbox and his pass rush. He does a good job against the run also. We're just looking for him to continue to get better as we keep progressing down the road.

Q: What makes Jordan Reed so effective for them?

A: I think his ability to get in and out of cuts. He does a lot of things as far as stemming on his route where you've really got to be disciplined with the leverage on him. Whether it's in the short area or if it's down the field, he does a good job of stemming players and breaking out of the cut the opposite way. So, it's going to require us to really be disciplined on him. He's their leading receiver right now, so we're going to have to do a good job on him.  

Q: Is he one of those tight ends that's a matchup problem whether it's a linebacker or a defensive back?

A: Yeah, he definitely presents a matchup especially if you're in man coverage on who you're going to cover him up with and those of deals.   

Q: Are you concerned about only getting three sacks during this three-game losing streak?

A: It's not what we emphasized the most. Our biggest thing is we know that they're tied together. We've got to do a good job in coverage and those numbers will come as you keep increasing. But, the last couple of quarterbacks have gotten the ball out quick and those types of deals. That's a part of it. From our aspect of it, we just don't focus on the stats of sacks and those kinds of deals. We talk about everything we need to achieve as a unit.

Q: Jamison Crowder is not a very big guy, what makes him so efficient?

A: In the slot, he's another that does a great job with his short-area quickness, getting in and out of breaks. Again they get the ball out quick, so when he's coming out of his break that ball is coming out. He's done a good job of run after the catch. That's been a big thing that we've tried to emphasize this week, is run after the catch. As a slot receiver, he does an excellent job of that. Where he gets free off of the leverage and then the next thing you know if you miss a tackle, he's getting a big play out of it.

*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *

I wanted to start off by saying that, obviously, Sunday's game was a very difficult one because, at the end of the day, it's one that kind of got away from us. On special teams, the way I look at it is we did a really good job on field position the whole day. I think every drive started at the 25 or inside the 25 including four inside the 20 with the exception of the blocked field goal. That's our goal, complementary football, help the offense, help the defense with field position. I thought we did a really nice job with that. A lot of times people look at special teams and say it's just the kicker or just the punter or just the returner or whatever. It's encompassing everybody, it's six different phases. The only reason I say that is because I want to give credit to the guys who played really well for us in the coverage phases and in the return phases. I know because most of the questions are now going to come about the kicker, I would imagine. At the end of the day, we are doing some really good things. We have to get Blair [Walsh] straightened out. He's got to straighten himself out. He's got to make those kicks for us. He's got to kick off how we want him to kick off. We need to go help our team win games.

Q: How did the kicker work outs go?

A: First of all, the work out went very well. All six guys came in and did a good job for us. Secondly, I'm a glass half-full guy, so going forward I'm thinking that Blair is going to be the guy the rest of the season. We have our list together if he has an injury or if we want to bring in a guy to compete with him next year, whatever the case may be. At the end of the day, Blair is our kicker. He needs to perform like we know he can perform. Like he has performed in the past.

Q: How do you expect him to handle seeing other guys come in?

A: I knew how he would react because I've known him now for five-plus years. It kind of lit a fire under him. He was a little bit, got ticked off in a good way I think. Because he's a competitive young man. When you bring in guys that are potentially going to take your job, guys that want your job. He's a competitive guy and that's the way you want him to react. If he didn't react that way I would be really worried and then we probably would be looking for another guy. He got, I don't want to say angry, but he got a little fired up in a very respectful way. Just like he is, he always is. I expect him to go out and kick well for us this weekend and the rest of the year.  

Q: Where have his issues come from?

A: I think a lot of it is probably mental. He is a confident guy but sometimes if he is not kicking exactly right in pregame or maybe his practice week wasn't great, then that'll be in the back of his mind. What I've tried to preach to him the last couple weeks especially is, 'Hey, just relax. It's like your rookie year again, you're just going out and having fun, you're in the NFL.' He's a fine, fine kicker. We all know that because his track record has shown that he is a very good kicker. I think he needs to relax and be confident. Every kick is a new kick, every kick is a new opportunity. He needs to go out and make them.      

Q: Do you worry that bringing other guys in could affect his confidence?

A: That's a good question. At the end of the day, when you do bring these guys in you react in one of two ways. It's going to be, 'Hey, I'm fired up.' Or 'I'm in the tank, they don't love me anymore, I'm going to get cut.' If he's going to feel sorry for himself then he's not the guy that we want. Like I said, we knew the type of guy Blair was and is. We knew that he would react in that way. That he'd be fired up and ready to go.

Q: Do you think any of this is stemming from his playoff miss?

A: I wouldn't think so. I honestly thought in the spring when he came back and was stronger. He had a really good spring and a good training camp for us. I honestly think those issues are hopefully behind him. I hope that's not in the back of his mind. I wouldn't think that it's in the back of his mind when he's going out there for a kick in a game.

Q: Does his tough senior year in college help him in this situation?

A: Probably, that's one of the things that I brought up to him his rookie year. Basically, his problems as a senior in college were he was going way too fast. The guys that have covered us for many years know that. The first thing we did was slow him down. Then we made other tweaks to his technique since he's been here, or he's made them. He hit a really good ball. The best combine I've ever seen in the 15 combines I've been to. The talent is there, he's got to put it together. Go out there and be a confident young man that we know he is. We've got his back, the team has his back. The head coach and general manager have his back. It's on him now, he's got to go out and perform.

Q: Didn't you expect him to have that fire earlier?

A: Absolutely, I think he did. But when it hits you in the face like, 'Wow. Okay, that's kind of reality.' It's always in the back of anybody's mind. It's in the back of my mind. I've got a chip on my shoulder as a coach because I know that I've got to out work everybody else that's out there. I want to keep my job. I want to support my family. He wants to keep his job. Having that fire in your belly is kind of always there. When reality sets in and there's six guys that come in who want to take your job, I think it's a different story. Kind of grows exponentially at that point.

Q: What happened on the kickoff from the 50-yard line? Were you hoping to land it inside the 10?

A: That wasn't the hope, that was the expectation. He absolutely should have gone between the five and 10-yard line, close to the numbers. Pop it up, he's got a three-step approach. We've done it many times in games, any time we kick from the 50, or almost any time. We want to give our coverage an opportunity to pin them insides the 20. But not only that, with 23 seconds left and they have no time left we waste five or six seconds, I think the ball game is over. So to me, that was a huge mistake on our part.

Q: Have you seen a visual difference in Blair this week?

A: He came out focused, he hit the ball well yesterday. He hit the ball really well today. He was 8-for-8 today out here when we backed him up, I think, to about 48 yards. A little bit of wind, not bad, beautiful day. I thought he did a really nice job that past two days, kicked off well today. Now he just has to go out and do it on game day. He's had plenty of practice weeks where he has been phenomenal and he's had plenty of games where he has been phenomenal. We just have to put a bunch of kicks together. Not just one game but each kick, put a game together. Then put the next week, each kick in that game together. Really kind of get out of his funk here to help our team win games.

Q: Was there consideration in having Jeff Locke kickoff after Blair was knocked down?

A: He did, I saw it. I looked at him in the eyes to make sure he was okay. Not that I am a doctor but it looked like he was okay. Went out and didn't kick it exactly how we wanted but he understood what we wanted from him. 

Q: Do you think him being knocked down affected him?

A: Maybe, but like I said, we checked him right away. I'm looking at him cause I saw it. In fact, Coach [Ryan] Ficken had the kick off team, was going over the situation with them and they knew it was coming because we've talked about it, we've practiced it a bunch of times. But I wanted to make sure, I spent a lot of time with Blair, which I normally don't do. Usually I tell him, 'Hey, the call is more to the right.' 'Got it, Prief.' But I spent at least 35-40 seconds with him to make sure he was okay.

Q: How much do you personally feel invested in seeing him through this?

A: Yeah, he's our guy. He's been our guy for five years. He's won a bunch of games for us. Like any kicker you're going to have some struggles. It just hit at a bad time on Sunday. No kicker is going to be perfect, there's are no gimme field goals, there's no gimme PATs in this league. At the end of the day, yeah he's my guy but he's our guy. He's a Minnesota Viking, has been for five seasons now.

Q: How do you feel about punt returns in Marcus Sherels can't play?

A: I feel good. Stefon [Diggs] did a really nice job the other day he almost popped one. Adam Thielen is a guy who is a very good returner as well. So we got a couple different options back there.  

Q: Was the blocked field goal due to a low kick or protection issues?

A: It was a combination of a low kick and we did not do a good enough job on the left side in protection. Like I told the guys in the meeting today, I've seen plenty of lower kicks go through the uprights because protection has been perfect and I've seen plenty of kicks that were high enough that got blocked because protection was so bad. It was a combination of the two.

Q: Did he miss he that or was he trying to line drive it?

A: Yeah, he probably line drived a little bit too much. 48-yarder indoors, he makes those in his sleep. He made a 48-yarder in Chicago the week before. At the end of the day it was not a good play all around. Good reaction by our guys and our defense forced them to a three-and-out. But they got three points, it was a six-point swing as far as I am concerned.

Q: Do you have a guy in mind to replace Blair if things continue to go this way?

A: It depends. It depends on if any of those guys get signed here in the next few weeks, if that happens. We've got our list together though.  

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