Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Okay, good afternoon. After watching the tape from yesterday, I thought we played very hard in all three phases. Obviously, the run game was really good. I thought Kirk (Cousins) played excellent, took good care of the football, used his legs, made some really good throws. I thought the defensive line got after (Derek) Carr and harassed him. For the most part, we played pretty good in the secondary yesterday. We still have a lot of work to do, clean up some things and move on.
Q: What’s it been like to see Dalvin Cook reach 100-plus yards every week so far?
A: Dalvin’s (Cook) a great player, but he’s getting a lot of help from a lot of people. I thought Kyle (Rudolph) blocked really well yesterday. We got a lot of guys on the ground cutting them and receivers blocked well. So, it’s not a one man show. Everybody has been doing a nice job.
Q: CJ Ham has been getting 20-25 snaps a game. What influence do you see him having in the run game?
A: Quite a bit. It’s a chance to get an extra blocker to the point of attack a lot of times. Then sometimes we use him to get the linebackers going one way and bring the runner back the other way. The same thing even when (Alexander) Mattison has been in there. We’ve been running the ball well. It’s not just Dalvin (Cook), and Dalvin is a great player, but those guys are all helping.
Q: What does it say about the trust you guys have in the versatility in the tight ends as a whole when all three of them are in running a vertical route?
A: I think we have three good tight ends and the more we can use them, you get in there, you get big groups in there and then next thing you know is they’re spread out and we’re throwing the football or using them in different ways, the tight end screen to Kyle (Rudolph). We had a corner route to Irv (Smith Jr.) and (Tyler) Conklin will start getting some balls, too.
Q: Has Kevin Stefanski’s process of incorporating Irv Smith Jr. in on a weekly basis been about what you’ve expected it to be at this point?
A: Yeah, I guess so. We’ve been using him a decent amount. He probably caught a few more balls yesterday.
Q: With how the games have flowed with 21-0 leads on both sides, obviously, you’ve won two of them, what’s there to learn still about this team?
A: I think one thing about it is if we do get the lead and we’re continuing to play good defense and we keep the ball away from them, I think we have a chance to do some good things. I think it’s a good recipe to be able to say, ‘Okay, they know we’re going to run the football,’ and we run it and continue to eat the clock, especially if we have the lead. When the other team is having to throw the football, I think we have a chance to rush the quarterback.
Q: Do you kind of dispel the notion that running is a conservative thing to do and that it’s old school? How do you view it in today’s NFL?
A: Bottom line is score points and I think we scored, how many yesterday? 34 or 37 or something like that. And the first week we scored, I don’t know what it was, 28 or something like that. The bottom line is score points. It doesn’t matter how we do it. In those two games where we got up, there’s no need to throw the football when we’re up by three touchdowns. Again, they’re not always going to be like that. We want to be balanced. We want to get the ball to everybody, but we’re going to run the ball, too. The first play-action touchdown that we threw was partly because of the run game, guys sucking up on the run. When those things happen, typically good things happen in the play action which I’ve been saying for many, many years.
Q: You’ve been able to get off to get good starts at home, what do you have to do to transfer that to the road?
A: Get off to a good start. We got to play better defensively then we did.
Q: What was it like to see Eric Wilson step up with Anthony Barr not being able to play yesterday?
A: Eric played really well. He played a different position a week ago and played Anthony’s position yesterday. His versatility and his intelligence and understanding of the system has been really good. He’s been able to make plays when he’s been in there, and we’re glad we have him.
Q: Dalvin Cook was discussing the run game yesterday, and mentioned that you like to see the team run the ball and play good defense. Is there some satisfaction seeing that come to action?
A: Well I want to play good defense and I want to be able to run the ball. I don’t want to run the ball 40 times and throw it ten, I want to have balance. But if that’s what they believe, then good. If we’re running the ball effectively like we have been, we’ve had some big play runs in there, and we’ve had a couple that are really, really close ones. It’ll be harder to run the ball this week, these guys are a load up front. It may be a different ball game this week.
Q: With the running success in the red zone, how do you view that knowing you haven’t had to have Kirk Cousins do too much there?
A: Well I think it’s important that when the field gets shrunk like that, and let’s say the ball is on the 10-yard line and you’ve got 20 yards to throw, or the ball is on the five and you got 15 yards to throw, every window is tighter, so if you can run the ball in, whether they’re doubling to receivers or they’re playing two-high, whatever it is, if you can run the ball in there, that’s more power to you. It just makes it tougher. Then like everything else they’ll start getting into single-high and zeros down there, and you have opportunities to throw the ball.
Q: What do you like the most in terms of the offensive line’s improvement this season?
A: I think they’re battlers. They battled really hard yesterday. They played really, really hard, and they got a lot of guys on the ground. They got guys to the second level, they fought like crazy, and they’re getting on the right people. So that’s a credit to them and I think the mentality that they’re starting to develop.
Q: Have you seen the team get more takeaways in the first few games after emphasizing it in the offseason?
A: Yeah, but again, we always want to get turnovers. There’s a really fine line I think that comes with being able to rush the quarterback. Giving different looks, disguises, things like that. Xavier (Rhodes) pulled the ball out on the one (play) yesterday, and the guy’s arm was down, but I think it just breeds more confidence in doing those kinds of things. We emphasize it every day, but sometimes they come and sometime they don’t.
Q: How is the preparation different when you’re playing a team that played the previous Monday night?
A: No. It’ll be the exact same. It doesn’t matter when they play to us.