*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
It was a good win yesterday on the road against a good football team. I thought there were some big things that happened in the ball game. The five-minute drive the offense had at the end of the game. Third down conversion, but to be able to take the clock and use the clock. Understand time management and being able to not let them get the ball back and have a chance to win. I thought that was a huge play. I thought we did some good things as a team. We punted them down there at the two-yard line. We stopped them on defense and we get the ball at the 50-yard line for the offense. I thought there was a lot of good complimentary football going on there. Obviously, third downs were big and red zone touchdowns that we had offensively. A lot of those things that we've been talking about helped us to be able to get a win.
Q: What stood out to you about what you were able to do against Matt Ryan?
A: I think we did some good things on defense and we did some things we have to get better at, honestly. I didn't get them lined up a couple times very good in some of the situations. I have to do a better job there. But we gave them some different looks and things we had to deal with.
Q: Kyle Rudolph talked yesterday about how you spent a couple of days working on nothing but red zone at practices during the bye week. What is the key to getting everything working in the red zone or being able to make a stop?
A: Part of it is number one, you have to understand the situation. If it's third-and-four on the eight, you're not just playing the touchdown. You're playing the third down. So that is part of it. Part of it is understanding that everything is more condensed now. So the advantage goes to the defense a little bit because now you're playing sidelines and backlines and things like that. Offensively, you have to understand that the windows are going to be a lot tighter so you are trying to get some more space width-wise. But there's a lot of it. If you can run the ball in against some of the different coverages that you get, then that's important. Part of it is most of the time you can anticipate a little bit more pressure down there, with some of the teams, depending on their makeup and things like that because they don't have as much to lose. It's a lot of things that we just try to teach, that's all.
Q: What have you seen from Mackensie Alexander in this stretch since the bye and in terms of his second year?
A: Mackensie is a good athlete. He really, honestly is still learning the position. He'll have moments where he won't do what he is supposed to do all the way. But he's getting a lot better with it. I think he's starting to understand where his help is, when we have man or zone, different things. Understanding routes. I think Jerry [Gray] has done a really good job with him, and with Terence [Newman] as well. But he's a good athlete and has good cover skills.
*Q: What are your thoughts about being 10-2, being first in the NFC, and controlling your own destiny? *
A: No thoughts. We've got four games left. My only thoughts are about the Carolina Panthers and trying to get a win this week. All that stuff is nice to talk about, for you guys to talk about, but for us, we don't talk about it. We go about our business.
Q: I think your safeties drew three blocks in the back. What can you say about the way they played?
A: They played good. Both of them played very well. Harrison made some outstanding plays. Sendejo as well. The backend played really well yesterday. I think that was a credit to them. I thought Trae Waynes played real good, obviously Xavier [Rhodes] played well. They understood the plan that we had to try to do. * *
Q: Even though you didn't record a sack, what did you think of the pressure on the quarterback?
A: It was good. They changed a lot of things up in the ball game than we anticipated getting, so we had to change things up as well. That's part of the chess match that goes from each play, each series, each half, each quarter, but I thought Everson [Griffen] rushed well, Danielle [Hunter] had a couple good rush, Tom [Johnson] had a couple, Linval [Joseph] had a couple. It's not always about sacks, it's about effecting the quarterback.
Q: How important are the linebackers when it comes to third down?
A: Everybody is important. Understanding what your assignment is and then being able to execute it and count on the guy next to you to do what their supposed to do. It's real important. A lot of times they have to cover vertical routes and crossing routes and backs out of the backfield, but they've done a good job.
Q: What's been the key to the success on third down?
A: I think we're number one in the league now on offense on third downs, right? We've made a lot of plays. Even on some of those third and longs, Adam Thielen comes up with a play, Case [Keenum] scrambles for one. I think part of it is the different options that we have – [Laquon] Treadwell had one yesterday, Jarius [Wright] had one yesterday, sometimes it's Rudolph. Being able to have man-beaters, zone-beaters, pressure-beaters, being able to have those concepts in there.
Q: Is there a certain eye test that you look at to see what a team is uncomfortable with?
A: Well, we try to do that every week, is make them uncomfortable. Sometimes they make us uncomfortable too. There are things, but I'm not really going to talk about them, but there's things when I feel like when we have these guys now. But I didn't feel that way yesterday. They're a good football team.
Q: How is C.J. Ham developing?
A: I thought he played well yesterday. He had a third-down conversion. He caught a pass and made a guy miss and had a nice run. He gets on the right guy, he blocks them, he's a good athlete, he does a great job on special teams. He's improving a lot.
Q: How do you think the special teams unit played on Sunday?
A: I thought they were a lot better. I thought we covered much better. We ran faster, I felt like, we ran a lot faster this week. We punted the ball really good most of the day. We had the one field goal that hit the upright. I thought we did a good job in coverage. I still want to get the return game improved a little bit. I was encouraged by the way that we covered yesterday. We're going to need to do that as we continue down the stretch. These December games are really going to be important as we continue to move forward.
Q: Do you feel like the return game is getting close?
A: Well, we were a little better yesterday. We missed a block on one that we might have gotten it out a little bit further. We just have to continue to work on it so we can get better at it. If Marcus [Sherels] can get the ball with some space in the punt return game, we can flip the field position, we've got a chance to really help the offense and go from there.
Q: Did you say anything to Case Keenum at halftime about stepping up in the pocket more?
A: No, he's supposed to step up, that's what he is supposed to do. Not really as far as, 'get it out quicker', or anything like that, no.
Q: Where do you see Riley Reiff's leadership qualities impacting the most?
A: Probably with the offensive line, that's a tight knit group over there. I really like the demeanor that they play with it. Not just with the guys who are out there. Even [Jeremiah] Sirles, he's kind of got that same mindset. So, I think that's a lot of it. Then, you don't have to be a rah-rah guy to be a leader. You have to be able to do your job and people respect you. Do what you say you're going to do, that's usually the litmus test.
Q: What did you see on film from the defensive line in run prevention?
A: That's why I said I didn't do a very good job in some of the things to help them in some of those. We had to make some changes here and there. Our guys take a lot of pride in playing the run. It wasn't as good yesterday. They all take a lot of pride in it. Andre [Patterson] stresses it, the linebackers stress it. It's important to try and make teams one dimensional.
Q: What happened on the pair of Falcons sacks?
A: Well, without getting too technical, we didn't set right, basically. I wouldn't throw that all on Riley [Reiff], I think Nick [Easton] could have set a bit better and it would have widen the rusher way up above the quarterback. They were expecting something else and that's the way it happened.
Q: What allows Jarius Wright to be so effective on third downs?
A: Well, first thing about Jarius is, he's a very good person that works his rear end off each and every week. He's got good speed, he's got good quickness, catches the ball good. He's a tough competitor. Whenever he gets the opportunity to go in, he knows all the receiver positions if he needs to be. He's just a guy that loves to go out there and get a chance to play and when he does, he usually makes a play.
Q: How is TE David Morgan doing today?
A: A lot better today.