*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur *
Q: With Carolina's defense, what stands out to you about what they've been able to do against opponents' running game?
A: They're a good defense. I think the stars of the show are probably in the front. They have a really, really solid front. They've got four good defensive linemen. We've talked about how good their linebackers are. They're solid in the backend. So if a run does break out, they're pretty good at getting you on the ground. They're a good team defense. They put pressure on the quarterback without pressuring. Although they pressure much more than the team we played last week, so it's going to be a challenge.
Q: Is the pressure package going to be much different from what you've seen recently?
A: They're similar concepts in terms of how they pressure. It's just they do it quite a bit. Actually probably two or three times more than say, Atlanta, did in the breakdown. We have to be ready for it. Our guys up front have to be good at getting on the right guys. Our running backs have to be good. Case [Keenum] has to be really sharp about getting rid of the ball if we have a free rusher.
Q: What is it like to go against Luke Kuechly and how do you try to keep him and the rest of Carolina's defense off guard?
A: He's super instinctive. You can tell by the way he plays that if you've got a formation tendency, or there's a down and distance you're going to do certain things most of the time, he gets a bead on it. It's important that we try to change some of that up. It's also very important that we just get a hat on him in the run game. He does a really good job of penetrating at times. He does a really good job of running sideline to sideline. He's a good player. It's obvious by the way he plays that he is very productive. He gets a lot of tackles. He's picked up fumbles and returned them for touchdowns. He's got interceptions. I don't know what there's not to like about him.
Q: Can you talk about how they're getting so much out of Julius Peppers still?
A: He seemed to have stood the test of time. I can remember him back there in his first go around before he left. He is a really good player. He has good size. He shows up in the run game and certainly when it is time to throw the ball, he can still pass rush. He is a legitimate top level defensive end.
Q: What in particular has Kyle Rudolph provided for you in the red zone?
A: Well his size, certainly. As you get closer to the goal line, size matters. So you can throw the ball high to the big guy. That's what we try to do. It's become a matchup issue. Most people aren't as tall as him. We just try to use him in ways that make sense based on the coverages we are going to face. He's done a good job of converting for us.
Q: What role do you play seeing where Case Keenum plays within himself and seeing where his mentality is at?
A: It's constant communication. We put together a plan that we think is going to work, with the idea that he can go out and execute it. Through the game, you just caddy for him and help keep him in the moment. Case is good at that. But he gets amped up like all good players and it's just a matter of keep communicating with him. He doesn't need much of that. He's done a really good job and to be commended. He's had an outstanding year and we're hopeful he can just stay on this same path.
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards
Alright, going to North Carolina, another tough NFC opponent. Offensively, they've been very successful in a lot of categories as we've been working through the week and studying them on tape. Of course, their quarterback, everybody knows and knows what to expect from him week-to-week. Seems like they're getting a lot of their guys back into the fold this week practicing. It'll be a tough matchup for us this weekend.
Q: What kind of dimension does Christian McCaffrey give their offense?
A: Tremendous, him being able to run the ball and also in the passing game, he's a tough matchup for linebackers, safeties, he's a tough matchup. That'll be interesting this weekend for our guys to be disciplined as far as leverage on him in coverage, being able to tackle him in the open field and those type of deals.
Q: Does he give Cam Newton an outlet that they haven't had before?
A: They've had an outlet, like last year, they still had #43 [Fozzy Whittaker], he came in and did pretty much the same role, he's playing some for them now but not quite as much. McCaffrey, he adds another dimension to them offensively, without a doubt.
Q: What has been the key to getting sacks on Newton?
A: I think this is a total different year, the matchups we had the year before, that you kind of have to go about our wayside with that. Of course, you look at it. But at the end of the day, this is a new matchup. Like I said, they're getting their offensive line, their center, I know he's practicing some this week. We're going to get a full dose of them this week. Protection wise, they've been good, he hasn't been sacked that many times this year. I know last week they got after him and blitzed him quite a bit. We'll have to see how the matchups come Sunday, what they're doing protection wise and those types of deals.
Q: How does your familiarity with their offensive line change your approach?
A: It really doesn't, like you say, every week is a new week. When we play opponents twice during the course of the year, it's a new game, it's new week. You've got new adjustments, you've got new matchups. In preparation, our guys have done a good job of that from week-to-week. Attacking it that way and concentrating on this Sunday and trying to go out and win their matchups this Sunday.
Q: What have you seen from Matt Kalil this year?
A: He's done a good job, he's been consistent for them all year, he's been there for them playing all year. You can tell his technique and fundamentals, he's doing a good job for them protecting over there at the left tackle.
Q: What was it like for you to see the offense take the ball with five minutes and not give it back?
A: I had my pom-poms out, anytime that happens we're excited. But no, they did an excellent job of ball control. You look at that last five minutes of just grinding it out, picking up critical first downs. Our offense has really done a nice job of that throughout the year.
*Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer *
Q: Did you like what you saw out of Ryan Quigley?
A: Other than the first one, it was high, shorter punt, and it was right at the 22. You want that one at the 15, maybe 10-yard line. He was little bit short, but after that he was fantastic. He probably had his best game after that. He's had some really good games this year, but the next four punts, that stretch of punts was really important for us and helped out field position.
Q: When you look at other kickoff returns, what do you guys have to do to get more out of those?
A: The one that we had the other day was really good. We got out to the 30 and it was very, very close to going all the way and I think if we were to hit it exactly right – it was hard because the timing was a little bit off. We're just going to keep going and keep working at it. Most teams are kicking touchbacks now, so we're not getting a lot of reps at it. It's hard to get real good at something, but no excuses. We're just going to keep working it and hopefully continue to have success.
Q: How to do balance practicing something that does have much effectiveness on the game?
A: We spend the same amount of meeting time and walk-thru time on it, maybe not as much practice time with the guys running around. But I think anytime you have the opportunity to return a kickoff or when they challenge you, like Atlanta did early in the game, I think we have to take advantage of those opportunities and we're always going to be ready. We're going to get to the point where people are saying 'You know what? We're not going to kick it short to Minnesota because we're worried about it' and if we get to that point that's okay, we'll take the ball at the 25. But until that point, if they're going to challenge us we got to take advantage of it. Therefore, we got to be ready for those challenges.
Q: Special teams has played a crucial role in previous Vikings/Panthers matchups. Why do you think your unit has been able to deliver those plays?
A: Our guys have showed up and they've prepared well. Carolina is always a challenge because they have really, really good players, they're well coached and our guys have responded. They always tell me that great players make great plays and it's not always about the schemes, but it is about technique, it is about playing fast. We've had success because our guys have played well and taken advantage of the opportunities we were given.
Q: Any success you can take from last year's punt return for a touchdown?
A: I think anytime a team punts from backed up, that's where we got to think score. Last week we had a situation where the kid had a high hang time punt, but we still got the ball at mid-field and we went down and scored. That was after Ryan's punt to the 2-yard line. Our defense forced a three-and-out. We gave our offense the ball at mid-field, we went down and scored and that was one of our touchdowns and to me that's complimentary football at its finest. Last year at Carolina we pinned them down a couple times, once we got a safety from our defense, and Danielle [Hunter] had that sack. We forced another three-and-out and we returned a punt for a touchdown. Those are opportunities we have to take advantage of and hopefully we continue to do so as we go down the road.