*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
Ok, good afternoon. Before I forget, I know everybody has been asking a lot about John Sullivan. He had a relapse about 10 days ago in the weight room, so he had another procedure done on his back, so we don't know when he'll be back or if he'll be back. As far as the football game yesterday, I think our guys showed a lot of resiliency on getting down 14-3. I think there was a lot of things that we can do better. Obviously we've got to get better in the red zone, we can't give up big plays defensively, we didn't handle some things good in the running game, but there was also some good things. We scored on six of the first seven drives offensively. I thought we did a nice job in the two minute situation; we were able to go down and score and then come back in the first part of the third quarter, we got the ball back and scored again. The guys kept fighting. So another good learning experience for us to be able to go on the road against a good division team. We fought our way out of a hole. These are all things that are important to me and this football team. Questions?
Q: How disappointing was the John Sullivan news?
A: It was disappointing and he was doing really, really good and then all of a sudden, he had a little mishap, so he had to have another deal done.
Q: The second surgery is on his back, correct?
Q: And you were talking about missing just this year? It's not a threat on his career, right?
A: Yeah, this year.
Q: What do you think the chances are he will be back this year?
A: Probably minimal. Tweet that. You guys are tweeting faster than I'm talking.
Q: How do you think Joe Berger has done physically and mentally filling in for John Sullivan?
A: I think he's done good. One of the things that we tried to emphasize this last week with the offensive line was keeping our pad level lower and I thought we improved this week doing that. And consequently, we were lower on our play-action passes, which helped to get some guys open down the field and give Teddy [Bridgewater] a little more time. As far as Joe [Berger] specifically, I thought he's done a good job. He's getting guys for the most part in the right place and we've had a few mishaps here and there where we've had the wrong assignments, but overall he's done a good job.
Q: Are those play-action passes a way to counter when teams are throwing run blitzes at you like the past few weeks?
A: Yeah, and the biggest thing is that these teams that keep wanting to load up to stop our running game, they say, "Hey, we're going to make Teddy [Bridgewater] beat you," but they keep going and then all of a sudden Adrian [Peterson] will have a 15-yard run, then a 20-yard run, then a 75-yard run because if they keep gambling to stop the run, those things are going to happen and then consequently, those things are going to happen and you're going to be left out. A good example of what happened in the ballgame – we were throwing the ball pretty good and then they say, "We have to change the coverage up. We're going to get into a 2-deep look." That's when Adrian had his 75-yard run. It's always a big cat-and-mouse game every week. The guys that I've been around – coaches and programs – know that you might get two and you might get one and you might get three, and then all of a sudden you might get 40. So you've just got to stay with it. You have to be determined and that's something that Norv [Turner] does very well, mixing the play-actions with it. We have to eliminate the negative runs; we've got to get rid of those, but I'm pretty stubborn and we're pretty stubborn about that.
Q: You hit Matthew Stafford a lot yesterday. Did you add a lot of new wrinkles compared to when you played them the first time or was their offensive line just not executing well?
A: A little new stuff. Yeah, we always have a little new stuff.
Q: Is that a credit to your guys selling the fake on those kind of plays?
A: It's a credit to our guys being able to execute exactly what we're trying to get done. Since I've been here – and I'm trying not to go back – but since I've been here, the one thing that I've been impressed with these guys, throughout the whole football team, but especially defensively is we have been able to move along at a little faster pace because of the intelligence that we have with our guys on defense. So some of the more complicated things that we do seem to be fairly easy for them.
Q: Do you have that same mentality on defense as far as calling blitzes and sticking with your calls even if they don't work initially?
A: I think every situation is different, really. Kansas City hit us on that wide receiver screen on a blitz. It's easier to call them when they're working obviously, but there is times when you have to let the quarterback know this isn't going to be an easy day, that you're going to try to hit him and even on some of them that we didn't get all the way home, we hit him pretty good.
*Q: Are you on the pace you initially intended with your defense almost halfway through your second season? *
A: I don't know, I haven't really thought about all that. I just go in each week. I don't get caught up in the stats or anything like that. I usually tell the players don't even look at them until Thanksgiving. I figure after about 11 weeks, you kind of know who you are and where you're at. But I've had defenses that have been very, very good and played bad the last four or five games. And I've had defenses that have been bad at the beginning of the year – that San Francisco game was not one of my most memorable [moments] – and have been able to fight back and continue to get better. It's all about a long marathon and we'll just keep going where we go.
Q: Who stood out to you on that goal line stand yesterday?
A: Audie Cole did a great job. He knocked the fullback back pretty good on one of them. Linval Joseph powered the guard on one of them. Our guys in the middle there I thought did a really nice job.
Q: Is yesterday another one of those steps you've been talking about in learning and how to close a game out?
A: I hope so. There was a couple situations there when we got done, it could have been a bad deal if we got down and not fought back. Kind of similar to Denver I guess. We fought back but we gave it away again at the end. I think our guys have a lot of confidence as we continue to move forward. The two-minute situation before the half, they were 3rd and 18, the guy caught the ball and ran out of bounds. Our guys on the sideline said, "Coach, what is he doing?" because we try to be really good in all of those situations. We didn't have to use a timeout there, we had two timeouts left, we got the ball back. I think all of these things that we get the opportunities to do, we continue to have good learning experiences and hopefully they are successful ones.
Q: You seem to use previous records or nay-sayers as motivation what's your thought process behind that?
A: I was hoping you'd bring that up.
Q: What's the point of saying stuff like 'they don't believe in us'?
A: I like proving people wrong. People have doubted me for a long, long time. I hope they keep doubting our football team, because that's the mentality I'm trying to get them, say what you want and let's go prove it.
Q: Who do you think is doubting your team?
A: I just think that, there was a lot of doubters after we lost to San Francisco, right? I don't know. When people say we lose all of these games, we can't win a game on the road, we can't win a game in the division, I just take it personally I guess. Even though I haven't been around that long. I'm hearing it from 10 years ago, or something they're telling me.
Q: What have you seen from Zach Line and the fact that Teddy Bridgewater was praising him and the ability for all of your players to accept their roles?
A: That's very, very important for me. Before I get on to Zach [Line], I'd like to point this out to you – Kyle Rudolph, to me, yesterday did some things that don't show up. He chipped on the defensive end numerous times, he did a lot of really good things. He made a nice catch on the goal line that everybody sees, but some of the other things that he did, opening things up for other people I thought was really important. It's really what I'm trying to get our team to understand, the focus may not be on you today, but who cares? Let's just go play together, let's go win, let's everybody do a good job. Zach is a guy like that, that is very unselfish. He's not going to get the football very much and he has to go in there and billy-goat a bunch of linebackers, that's part of his job assignment and then he gets an opportunity to get the ball in the flat and he runs for 40 yards. It was great that Teddy saw him, because he was looking to the other side of the field and came back late to him. That's really what I want my football team to be like. I just want us all to have success. Good things happen when teams have success, good things will happen to individuals when that happens.
Q: Will Sharrif Floyd's injury be keeping him out for a couple of weeks?
A: I don't know, honestly. I've heard all kinds of ranges, so we will see.
Q: Is there any broken bones?
A: He had a little piece of cartilage taken out.
Q: With Adrian Peterson what's the key to eliminating and minimizing negative runs and how is he handling those type of runs in-game?
A: I think he gets frustrated at times. Part of it is making sure that we don't allow people to run through and then part of it is, if it's not there let's take what we can get, but let's not lose. And he does get frustrated at times, I see him on the sideline and talk to him a little bit, I said, 'just stick with it, you're going to pop one here,' kind of what I told you, it might be two this time, it might be one next time, but it might be 40 the next, so just keep going. We talk a lot about runs and completions here. I think we had 25 completions and 35 runs, that's 60, that's pretty good, runs and completions. That's pretty darn good.
Q: Would you talk about the luxury you have in Tom Johnson with Sharrif Floyd out?
A: Well, Tom [Johnson] did a good job in this ballgame, as well. He had a lot of playtime in the preseason and I think it helped because his playtime was up a little bit yesterday. He's a veteran guy that knows what we're trying to get done, understands, has had some success last year and I think that's kind of carried over and I think he'll continue to have success.
Q: What has Linval Joseph done so much better this year compared to last year?
A: Everything. I don't want to get too gushy here, but I've had a couple of really good nose tackles in my career, this guy is may be the best, he's good, he's really good. He cares, he's tough, he's physical, he's got some pass rush to him when he wants to go. He plays blocks, he doesn't get defeated in one-on-one blocks. Every time we went back out on the field on defense in the second half he'd say, 'keep your foot on the pedal, coach.' I said, 'yes sir.'
Q: Did you think he was that good when you signed him?
A: Yeah, I thought he was pretty good. Big, physical, fast, great athlete, good kid, strong.
Q: Were you anticipating the Lions putting Calvin Johnson in the slot?
A: Yeah, they did that some last time. Yeah.
Q: What did you see from Josh Robinson and what's the chance he's activated soon?
A: We have to make a decision in two more weeks, so we'll see.
Q: What's the key to having effective blitz packages from a coaching standpoint?
A: What's the best way to say this? The best way is that your guys can beat their guys, but it's a lot of timing, it's a lot, I guess disguise. It's numbers of things.
Q: How much do you vary the blitz packages to your personnel?
A: Every place you do that, dependent on your personnel. Some are usually pretty good and they've withstood the test of time, if you run them correctly. You're not going to get guys free all of the time, it's still part of getting a good matchup that you feel like, this guy can beat that guy in this particular blitz or breaking down their protections, understanding what they're trying to do versus the blitz. All of those are real important and we spent an awful lot of time on that with our guys.