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Transcript: Vikings Address the Media on NFC Championship Thursday

*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer   *

Q: How has Malcolm Jenkins stood out in their run defense?

A: I think he's a terrific player. He's very active, he gets down in the box. He sees things really good, he inserts into the gaps when he needs to. I think he's a really good player.* *

Q: What has allowed them to play so much single-high coverage?

A: Well, you don't have much time to throw the ball. Makes it difficult, because you have to run into an eight-man box. I think they trust their corners. They do enough stuff in the pass rush to affect the quarterback.

Q: What goes into the decision to stick to the run when it may not be working early in a game?

A: Well, you've got to continue to stick to the run. There's an old saying, 'Might be one, might be two, might be one and then it might be 10.' You've just got to keep pounding away, that's just kind of how we do it.

Q: Is there a fine line, you don't want to get into third and long a lot, right?

A: No, I'm not saying run the ball every down. When we run the ball, we want to try to get four if we can. If you get two, come back and maybe get four the next time. Then it's third and four.

Q: Does going against a rush defense like Philadelphia's make patience more important?

A: A lot of it is dictated by the game. How the game is going, how the score is going. If it stays 0-0 for a while you can be as patient as you want. If you're down 20 to zip, then it changes.

Q: What is the environment like in Philadelphia?

A: They're loud. They're great fans. It'll be a night game so I'm sure they'll have a lot of time to get ready to yell. You don't hear them saying much, really. 

Q: How did moving Mike Remmers to right guard help the offensive line?

A: I think he's one of our five best players, so that was the number one thing. I think Mike is very aware of the things that happen inside there. He's got good quickness, good in the running game. He's been impressive in pass protection to me. So, we're just trying to get the five guys who we felt were the best on the field.

Q: What more do you want to see out of Rashod Hill?

A: He's got a good matchup over there. It's going to be a tough matchup for him. What I'd like for him to do is play like he did at the beginning of the ball game. I thought he played great the first 30-some plays. Then he kind of hit a little snag, had to get readjusted again. Just be consistent, continue to do it every time. That's really what he's been working on the entire time.

Q: What is your reaction to players claiming this is the best team they've been on?

A: I think it stems from the locker room. I think we've got a bunch of great guys in this locker room who are very competitive. They're team-first guys, they're guys that care about one another. Obviously, we've got some talent but, I don't know that they're necessarily talking about the talent. But, it's about the character of the team, I think is the biggest thing.

Q: How tough a job do the guards have this week with their interior rotation?

A: Yeah, and you've got to know each guy that is in there. Obviously, Fletcher Cox is a terrific player. They come at you in waves. They're similar to us defensively. They line up and they do what they do. Kind of what we do too. So, you're going to kind of know where they're going to be. It may be a different guy that you're going against because they're changing but they're all good and they come at you and stay fresh. So, we're going to have to suck it up and play four quarters.

Q: Do you have an update on Michael Floyd?

A: He had an illness. 

Q: Will he be okay for Sunday?

A: Yeah, I think so. It's not the 72-hour flu, I don't think.

Q: What does it say about the league that all four teams left are in the top five in defense even with the rules skewing towards the offense?

A: Well, I think it just proves to you that you can have a formula of playing really good defense and have a chance to win a lot of football games. Typically, when you're good defensively, you're going to stay in the ball games. Then you have a chance to win them at the end. Like this year, like you said, there's some pretty good defenses that are left. I'm happy that our offense has been very good this year but it's kind of the formula we've kind of dealt with the last few years here.

Q: What has allowed the quarterback situation to not be a distraction?

A: I think, again it goes back to the character of these guys. I talked to Teddy a week ago it was, 'Let's do what you feel is best for the team.' When [Sam] Bradford came back he said, 'I don't want to be a distraction, things are going good. I just want to get back out there because that's what I like to do. I like to go play and practice.' So, these guys understand the things are going pretty good so there's no real reason to rock the boat. Kind of the character of our football team.

Q: Does it surprise you at all, given the competitiveness of players?

A: Well, they want to play, there's no doubt about it. I don't think it takes away from their competitiveness. What it shows is their character that they have. Really, the other thing, I think this team has a lot of heart. This team has got a lot of heart. They've showed throughout the course of this season. We've been in a lot of situations, the character and the heart, competes, all those things that are cliché, we've talked about. They just want to go out and play.

Q: How much credit does Pat Shumur deserve for adapting the offense around the injuries that have occurred?

A: That's an unbelievable honor. I'm happy for Pat. Pat has done an outstanding job. In my opinion, he deserves to be assistant coach of the year. I think it's great, he's done outstanding with getting the players, mixing them in, using them in the right place. Done a good job of molding everything together. He's a good guy. We've worked well together and I think he works well with the rest of the staff.

Q: Does it help that he has a very steady personality?

A: Yeah, I mean, Pat's a level-headed guy, he's a smart guy, a Spartan. He's a good guy.

Q: How valuable has Terence Newman's advice been throughout the playoffs for some of the younger guys?

A: I don't think it's just now. I think it's been throughout the course of the year. He's never been to an NFC Championship game either. So, this is a great opportunity for him as well. He's helped us throughout the course of the season and not just now.

Q: Will Sam Bradford be your backup quarterback?

A: I don't know, we'll see.

Q: What has been your assessment of the recent special teams play?

A: The times we've been really good, we've done some great things. Unfortunately, last week we got the punt blocked and we missed the field goal. I think we had some missed tackles last week, we probably had a couple missed blocks here and there. Stuff happens, that's why we're a team. We go about it together, we fight together, we're going to win or lose together.

Q: Can you imagine a scenario where you would have three quarterbacks active?

A: Yeah, I've thought about it.

Q: Still thinking about it?

A: Yeah, I'm still thinking.

Q: What do you think of Lane Johnson?

A: Lane Johnson is a great player. Not just a good player, he's a great player. Physical, tough, competitive, athletic, strong, I mean, he's an outstanding player. I don't know who they had go to the Pro Bowl, but if he didn't go, something is wrong.

*Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur *

It's kind of a big week, huh?

Q: Just like any other game, right?

A: It is. It is. 

Q: You've been named the 2017 NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. What does that mean?

A: Yes, I was made aware of that as I was walking out here. That's certainly a tremendous honor. Those types of awards really are team awards. I think Rick [Spielman] and coach [Mike] Zimmer have put together a group of players and coaches that are outstanding and certainly our owners support our efforts. We really have a lot of guys on our team that have done their jobs week-in and week-out. I can speak for the offense; we have a staff of guys where we are constantly communicating so all of the good ideas can flow to the top and my role as a coordinator is to steer the ship and provide some vision and help the quarterback function on game day. It's a great honor, but I think it's something that really is the team.

Q: Can you take pride in the way that the quarterbacks have played this year?

A: I think it's primary. If you're going to win football games and play good offense, your quarterback functions well, and we have a really good quarterback culture here. Kevin [Stefanski] does a great job with them, we stay on the same page, which I think is hugely important. No matter how many layers you have coaching the quarterback, you have to stay on the same page so the quarterback is hearing the same message and so we do that, and then they play good football. They've done the things we've asked them to do, they've made plays, they've created, they get us in and out of runs, from run-to-pass and pass-to-run. They've functioned well, and it's really helped us win games.

Q: What did you think when you first encountered Case, and could you imagine it unfolding the way it has?

A: We certainly didn't know as much about him then as we know now. We knew he was a good player, we knew he had won games in this league. We were looking for a backup quarterback at the time and you never know that a guy's going to come in as a starter and have the success he's had. I've grown to really appreciate him over the season because of all of the things that he's done, and it's really all the things that the world doesn't see; the way he prepares, the way he leads, the way he stays in the moment, the way every Monday is the same, after a win, after a loss, how he approaches Thursday, and so those are the things I really gained an appreciation for.

Q: Do you ever shake your head and ask yourself, "how did this guy go undrafted?"

A: No. I shake my head about a lot of things, but not that. I think we've seen it a lot where you get a quarterback in a system and a place, the stars all cross, and a guy has a chance to have success. Hopefully this is the first of many years going forward for Case. I know that's what we're hoping.

Q: When you start working with a new quarterback, such as Case, how do you form a connection and implement an offense that is going to produce success?

A: We're educators and I think that they don't work for us; we work together, so we start by talking. We start by talking about our background, we talk about the things that we've done in the past, we talk about the things that we like, and what you try to do is build a system around the things that the quarterback can do. We all have plays. We all run curl, flat, and verticals, we just have to find the things that the player can do well. It really comes down to a lot of communicating, like all of us would do as educators.

Q: How much do you think Sam Bradford's experience in Philadelphia and against this defense can benefit the team?

A: I was there 13 years, I'm pretty familiar with their operation. Sam was certainly there for a short period of time. We both have a great amount of respect for what they've accomplished, and I think we can minimize the effect of that. They're a different team than when Sam was there. They're playing extremely well. They're doing it now with their backup quarterback, and so it's going to be Vikings versus Eagles. What Sam and I know about the operation, probably won't have much to do with the game.

Q: What about personnel? There's still some guys who are there who were when you were?

A: Oh yes, personnel for sure. We certainly are familiar with a lot of the players and we've got great respect for them. It's amazing what they've accomplished, and they've done it a long time there. I was just thinking back; this is my sixth NFC Championship game. Five of them were with the Eagles, so they've done a lot of winning for a very long time. They do things right there and their operation is very impressive.

Q: There is a lot of talk about Eagles fans and the atmosphere they can create for opponents. What was your experience with them in your time there?

A: They're passionate, educated fans. They love their football team, and they're there to watch the game and contribute in a way to help their team win, so I get it. I lived it for 13 years on that side of it and it's going to be a great environment for a game. We have to approach it as we do any road environment where it's the noise that we have to deal with and then keep the rest of it out of it.

Q: How much of a whirlwind was the past week and a half with interviews, preparing for New Orleans, and what came out of the New Orleans game with all of the dramatics there? It almost seems like you guys are settling back into normalcy now.

A: I think every day becomes a new normal. I've always sort of felt that. We as coaches find a way to compartmentalize things, like we just finished practice, we're visiting here, and then we're quickly going to go upstairs and watch the tape. We just move on from one thing to the other, and we don't let things that are happening around us distract us and this week is no different.

Q: When you look at how the Eagles defense has been successful against the run, what's enabled that? Can you address the depth on their defensive line?

A: You led in to why they're so good. They're really a tremendous front seven. It starts with the front four and relays the front eight. They play lots of players, so the ones that are in there, they're rotating them like hockey lines, so they go in there and they sell out, and they get a rest. They really trust their guys to be in critical situations. Sometimes when defensive lines rotate, you get to what would be considered a critical third-down, and they make sure they just put the front-liner, but they play their guys. Front to back, they're a challenge to block. They're a solid scheme, they don't give up many big plays, and they've got typically an extra guy close to the line of scrimmage and I think that's why they're pretty good at making sure the runs don't pop out.

Q: The reports are out that you're going to be the new Giants coach. Do you have any thoughts on that?

A: Not really. There's a time and place for everything. This is not the time or the place to talk about that. Again it's just part of staying in the moment, and our focus right now is to put together a really good plan, get on a plane, go to Philadelphia, and get it on.

Q: Looking at Case's interception in the New Orleans game, what are your thoughts of Case staying in the system and sometimes taking those risks that can lead to good plays as well?

A: I think we all want to create and I think that anyone who has the ball in their hands, if they're still on their feet and running around, they think they can still make a play, that's part of what makes a player special. Certainly with all of that, you have to make good decisions with the ball whether it's early in the down or late in the down, and I think we all learn from things. There was a handful of things in that game that I want back, that I wish I could've done differently. I think every player and coach walks away from a game and we self-analyze that and I think it's pretty obvious that he wanted that one back.

*Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards   *

Headed to Philadelphia to play in the NFC Championship. Excited about the opportunity, our guys are doing a good job of preparation this week and we'll continue to prepare throughout the rest of the week.

Q: All of the final four teams placed in the top-five for scoring defense this year. How is it that rule changes are favoring the offensive side of the ball, but defense still remains to lead the way?

A: I think you have got to be able to play good situational football as a team and then defensively, if you can handle situations and be able to give your team sort of an edge, as far as getting off the field on third-downs, giving up few points in the red zone – all those things are very geared towards us having success on Sunday.

Q: Does defense still win championships?

A: I think defensively it's going to give yourself a chance to go win a championship, if you don't play defense then you have to outscore your opponent every week.

Q: When you look at what they were able to do with the run-pass-option, what do you think can help your team against that?

A: That's something that's been a part of them and has been successful for them, so we're just preparing this week and preparing what we're going to do schematically. It'll be tough on our guys, but they've done a good job picking up what we're asking them to do during the course of the week and hopefully we can go out and execute on Sunday.  

Q: Is it helpful having a couple of guys that are not too far removed from college where they maybe see that more?

A: Yes, I think that's a part of it, but our offense is a part of what they do. It's not something that we haven't seen. We played a lot of teams during the course of the year that, that's been a part of their package. Our guys have a good understanding of what's expected from them, so from that aspect we just got to continue to work through the rest of the week and they can line up and play against them on Sunday. 

Q: Was there anything from the second half against the Saints that you weren't happy with?

A: There were some things that we identified that we wished we would have played better and things that we had to get corrected. We've done that through the course of this week and we also know it's a copy-cat league, so we also have to be on our P's and Q's for our game plan this week.

Q: How do you think this defense has been sharpened by practicing going against this offense?

A: I think our guys pay attention to the details, no matter who we're playing from week-to-week. We got different packages. Different guys we ask to do matchup wise, different assignments, different pressures – just different things we ask guys to do from week-to-week. I think they have a good fundamental understanding of what our defense is about and then we can pick and choose what we have too, as far as the matchup that we have that week. It's a credit to them for their attention to detail of what we're asking them to do week-to-week. Where we get to a game we have to adjust. It's a credit to them for paying attention to the details and what we're asking them to do.

Q: Can you contrast the way Philadelphia plays against the run and the way your defense plays against the run?

A: I think they're, from what I'm understand, we haven't seen them a lot on defense through the course of the year. But, I understand they're aggressive up front, they're front seven are very aggressive. They're very good on the coverage part of it and matching up man-to-man and being able to handle keeping the leverage on the route. Very similar to us. We think we're pretty aggressive up front, we try to be aggressive up front with our techniques and our fundamentals and our guys having a good understanding of how we're going to attack the run. I think that's a big part of it. I think those guys buying into what we want to do. I can't speak for them, but for us I think they buy in to what we want to do; try to help not give up big runs, big plays, explosive runs – those kind of things. 

Q: What did you think of Everson Griffen's deflection?

A: That's a part of what we talk about from week-to-week in our pass rush. How many tipped balls? When you have a shorter quarterback you're able to get that done a little bit because his vision. He's got to get the ball up in the air. It's a good heads up play by Everson. Good job by [Anthony] Barr hustling to his responsibility in the coverage. It was a tipped ball we ended up intercepting and ended up being a big play for us during the course of the game.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Good afternoon to everybody. First thing I would like to do is thank our fans for last Sunday. That is the loudest that stadium has ever been. They were incredible. The support they've given us all year has been outstanding. I was glad we were able to pull it out for our fans and our organization and everybody that loves the Vikings. It was a great afternoon. It turned out great for us. I am real proud of the way our team responded. Some of the things we did on special teams were good and some of the things we have to get corrected. Obviously, we're moving on.

Q: What happened on the blocked punt?

A: Yes, I knew that was coming. That was a good question. It was nothing New Orleans did. It was an easy scheme. They're pretty good on punt rush as is Philadelphia so we've been working on that this week. We had a guy go the wrong way to be honest with you. It's never happened. It's a pretty simple explanation. He just went the wrong way and that can't happen again. Obviously it's something we worked on this week and will continue to work on tomorrow and talk about Saturday. We're not going to be overly concerned with it because it was a major mistake, but it was a mistake that he can easily correct. We are just going to move on from there.

Q: Does that have anything to do with having a new long snapper?

A: It might. It might. I just want to keep it at that. Yes, we've got it corrected. We've moved on and we just have to go out and do our job. From up until that point, we had been playing outstanding. We did miss a field goal at the end of the first half, but he made three kicks in the first half, two PATs and a field goal. We had a great punt return to start the game off to put our offense in great field position. We pinned our opponent inside the 20 three times, twice on punt and once on kickoff. I was really proud of the way Kai [Forbath] responded and our field goal team responded in the fourth quarter. Made two 49-yarders. One was because they threw the challenge flag. So he hit it, but it didn't count. Came back and stroked the next one after a long delay. That 53-yarder with a minute and a half to go was outstanding. I was real proud of our field goal team, Kai, our snapper, holder, and kicker. Everybody.

Q: What is your philosophy on kickers going out? Do you talk to them a bunch before they go out before a potential game winner?

A: No. Kai doesn't need to be talked to. He knows what the deal is. All I tell, if I do talk to him, is relax, take a deep breath and do your job. Keep your head down and follow through is something else I might say to him. But there's not a lot of discussion going on. He's been doing this a long time. He's a pro and he gets it. He understands the magnitude of the situation and he went out and did a great job for us.

Q: Did the outside rush move towards the guy that actually blocked it?

A: No. We didn't do great on the outside either. That's a good question. We didn't do a very good job of protection on that side, either. He was going that way anyways. It was a directional right punt, so we were going that way. He was turned that way anyways. We went the wrong way in protection and made a big mistake. That can't happen again.

Q: Do you feel that special teams can win or lose you any game is especially true when you have a matchup like this with two of the top defenses?

A: Yes. I think any time you play a good defense, good offense and another good football team, it does come down to field position. I know we talk about it all the time with our guys. We talk about complementary football. I told Monday in the special teams meeting we start the game with a touchback. Our defense forced a three-and-out. We get a punt return to the 45. We go down and score and it's 7-0. That is how you play the game right there. Good teams do that and we needed to do that on Sunday to help our team win.

Q: How much yardage do you think you need on the final play to give Kai Forbath a shot?

A: I think it would've been right around if [Stefon] Diggs would have gotten out of bounds, it would've been around the 40. 34 would've been a 52-yarder so that would've been good. Of course you're going to have to try because there's no other time left. I felt pretty comfortable 55 and in because he had hit a 60-yarder in pre-game. He missed one and made one in pre-game and of course indoors and great conditions. I felt pretty confident. He had been hitting the ball well all day.

Q: Have you ever seen a play where two punters are on the field at the same time?

A: No. No, I have not. As long as in it's our favor we can do that one again. Anytime, anytime they want.

Q: Have you seen everything that has gone on with Thomas Morstead?

A: Yes. I like Thomas. He is a good man. He is a great punter. He is a great ambassador for the game. I'm glad people are helping his cause. I think it is a great foundation. I've looked into it just a little bit. He is a fine punter, fine young man. I'm glad people are helping him. It's a great thing the fans are doing that.

Q: Did you have a split second where you were wondering why Stefon Diggs didn't step out of bounds?

A: Oh I was yelling out of bounds. Probably me and a lot of other people. I was yelling, "Get out of bounds. No score, score." So yes, for a split second I was hoping, of course. Then we were all in shock. The place was obviously deafening after that. It was fun.

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