Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Good afternoon. Go ahead and fire away. Short week.
Q: How was the plane ride home?
A: It was good. Pretty quiet.
Q: Andrew Sendejo missed a couple practices last week because of illness and had never really played in the slot. Given all that, what gave you the confidence that he could play the way he did yesterday?
A: He's a smart guy. A lot of similarities with the two positions, so we've had a lot of safeties play nickel in the past.
Q: When will you know that the team has moved on from celebrating the New Orleans game and are ready for this game?
A: Probably Saturday night. A lot of the guys that are here were here before, and so I feel like they're a veteran team, they understand. We actually had a couple of guys saying, "Hey, calm down" in the locker room. We got to get ready to go play again. So I'm hopeful that it's like that.
Q: Is there a challenge to managing workloads and keeping guys fresh in a short week like this one?
A: Yes. Yeah, we'll have to monitor how we do things. It's a day off, but we had a lot of guys in today getting things done. And then we'll adjust the schedule a little bit this week.
Q: Does the fact that San Francisco runs a similar offense to your own help preparation in a short week?
A: Some of the things are similar, but they all have their own wrinkles. But hopefully, yeah.
Q: When you see many of the remaining playoff teams running an offense similar to your own, is that a validation of what you're trying to do scheme-wise?
A: Well I was actually up in the defensive room, and I was sitting there trying to remember who is left. And I think there is a lot of running teams that are in there, so yeah, I think it's different then what a lot of teams are doing. I think it can be effective.
Q: What was your impression of your line play on both sides of the ball?
A: It was good. I thought our offensive line played really hard and tough. Defensively, those guys did a really nice job in the running game. That allowed us to do some things in the backend. I thought that Kirk (Cousins) had a lot of time to throw the ball, most of the time. The one sack he took late in the ball game, we actually told him if it's not there to take a sack so we can keep the clock running. But I thought they did a nice job in the running game for the most part. They got a good, solid defensive line.
Q: What do you think about Brian O'Neill's maturation process throughout this season, and do you think he's gaining a larger voice in the offensive line room?
A: Well number one, I think he's done a great job this year. He's got a chance to be a really, really good player if he continues to improve, continues to get stronger and more physical, because he's smart and he's tough. Rick Dennison and Andrew Janocko have done a great job with him about changing up sets, not doing the same thing every time. And yeah, I think all those guys in that room kind of communicate amongst themselves pretty good.
Q: What stands out to you about how aggressive Kevin Stefanski was in overtime, especially with the deep throw to Adam Thielen?
A: Well we thought we had a chance on some of those shot plays, and we didn't get them off earlier in the ballgame. But we continue to look for them. It's just part of the offense, and we're going to try and get some of those shots in there. Like I said last night, when you get in overtime you're trying to win the game. It's not like we want to play two more quarters or something like that.
Q: Can you see Stefanski's growth as a play caller during high-stakes moments like that one?
A: I mean there's a lot of communication going on with everybody throughout that whole group. Kevin (Stefanski) has done a great job, but there's a lot of communication going on with Rick (Dennison) and Gary (Kubiak) as well.
Q: Aside from having Dalvin Cook available, what did you notice about the team in terms of rising to the occasion in this game as opposed to the performance against Green Bay in Week 16?
A: I don't know. I thought we were ready to play against Green Bay. We obviously didn't play as well as we needed to. You never really know, but we went out and we fought pretty hard last night or yesterday, whenever it was.
Q: How often do old-school tactics of running the football and playing good defense win in the postseason?
A: They're all different. If you get out in the elements, then you pretty much have to play good defense and be able to run the football. I think it shouldn't be too bad when we go to San Francisco, but we'll see.
Q: What was it like to give Kirk Cousins the game ball after the game?
A: It was just about him solidifying himself with all of the bad rhetoric that he gets all the time about this or that. I just felt like it was time to tell a lot of people that he's our guy and he did it.
Q: Logistically, how tough of a turn is it considering the emotional win and the travel in a short week?
A: It is. I'm not saying it's not. It's similar to playing a Monday night game and then you have to get ready for a Sunday game. Obviously, we're going out to the West Coast, so that'll be a little bit different, but, hey, it's playoff time. It's big boy football now.
Q: Usually when you win the opening coin toss, you defer to the second half. Why didn't you do that yesterday? Where you looking to send a message?
A: Yeah, I felt like let's take the ball, let's go score.
Q: How far has Robert Saleh veered off from the scheme he started coaching in with the Seattle Seahawks?
A: It's hard for me to give you a great opinion on it. I've watched him some, but I haven't watched him all that much. I would say they're a little bit more pressure, the coverages are similar but maybe some of the fronts are a little bit more go get up the field and go.
Q: Is the league-wide recommitment to the running game part of a natural cycle?
A: Everybody's gotten away from the fullback and the pass. Everybody has gone to the shotgun, all that stuff. It's just getting back to it a little bit, I think. I guess when I was coaching a long, long, long time ago, we had to teach the linebacker his adjustment alignment before his two back alignment, when you're against the offense. I actually asked the head coach, "Can you just give two backs for a day or two so we can know where to line up first and then we can go to all the other stuff?" I think that's a little bit of it, too. You get guys spread out. You get smaller guys in there. Now, you do the things with the fullback that you might be doing with a wide receiver or a tight end.
Q: Do you find yourself with an advantage when playing defenses that are built to defend spread offenses?
A: Yeah, I guess. The one thing about when you have two backs in the game, for instance like C.J. (Ham) or these guys, they have the same basic thing, they put the fullback out wide and now they open up the formation and they try to get a matchup with a corner on a linebacker. Really, might be in two backs or backs in protections, now it's one back and it's zone read, could be whatever, so there's a lot of variables to it where you can move players and different positions. It all kind of started way back with Bill Walsh in San Francisco and Mike Shanahan and now Kyle (Shanahan) and Gary (Kubiak) and these guys.