Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Okay, good morning. Denver is a really good football team. Every game they’ve played, the score has been within seven points or less except one. They’ve lost three games by a total of two points in each one of those games. They’ve got a really, really talented defense, number four in the league. They’ve got an outstanding secondary, fast linebackers. Offensively, the two runners are really good, Pro-Bowl last year with (Phillip) Lindsay. Courtland (Sutton) is a really good receiver. We’re going to have our hands full, and we’re going to have to play really well on Sunday to win.
Q: How does their front and fast linebackers stress your running and screen games?
A: They give us a lot of different looks, very similar to what Chicago did a year ago. Big thick bodies in the middle, two edge rushers when they’re in their 3-4, aggressive get up the field and try and knock people back. The linebackers can really flow. Saw one play where the guard had him cut off and he went backdoor over him and still ended up making the tackle. They’ve got guys that can really run. I think their secondary does a great job of disguising, which they did again in Chicago as well with Ed Donatell, same guy, same coach.
Q: You mentioned at the beginning of the season that you were glad Vic Fangio got the job. What about his work makes you grateful he did get that opportunity?
A: Yeah, I wish he didn’t now. He’s been a good defensive coordinator for a long, long time. I’m not saying anything bad about anybody else, but a lot these guys, they come in and in one year, they get a head coaching job and guys never get an opportunity. I felt like Vic (Fangio) was a guy that earned that opportunity because of the body of work that he did. I don’t think he’s a guy that is a big politician or glad-hander from what I know of him. It’s nice to see guys get opportunities based on what they’ve done, not a one-year sabbatical.
Q: With you facing Gary Kubiak’s former team, can you summarize what he’s brought to the Vikings so far this season?
A: Gary (Kubiak) has been tremendous. It’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me since I’ve been here. He’s very smart. I talk to him a lot about what he’s done as a head coach. We talk a lot about offensive and defensive football. I just love his demeanor and the way that he and Kevin (Stefanski) can communicate during the games and also during the week on game plans.
Q: How often do you and Gary Kubiak get to talk one-on-one and shoot the breeze a little?
A: I don’t know about shooting the breeze too much, once in a while, maybe a couple times a week I’ll walk down to his office and sit down and just ask him questions. You don’t have a lot of time to sit around and just chit-chat, but we usually go down and spend 10-15 minutes there.
Q: What about it has made him the best thing that’s happened to you since you’ve been here?
A: I love the way the offense is, the way the scheme is, the things that he’s seen over the years running the offense. The other thing, one of the things that Gary (Kubiak) told me was when he came, one of the things that was important for him was he wants to keep the offense moving that way. For him to be able to come in and mentor a young coordinator was really important. Too me, that’s about being, talking about your particular scheme and making sure that carries on in the future. I think that part was as important to me as anything.
Q: How much does it help having him here this week?
A: Yeah, some. He knows some of the guys, but he wasn’t as involved last year as he had been in the past. He knows some of the players, but I don’t know that it helps that much.
Q: You said he wants to carry on his system? How is he as far as flexibility, keeping that core, but knowing that the game goes on?
A: He’s great. He’s open to ideas. He’s open to things that him and Kevin (Stefanski) talk about. He’s open to anything that looks like it makes sense. I think that’s just the type of guy he is. He’s a hard worker, team guy. The other thing he told me that he really missed was being part of the team. I think he likes being here and doing those things. You’d have to ask him.
Q: In what ways can taking a few years away and being on the personnel side help?
A: I don’t know if taking the years away has helped, but we talk about offense and defense. We talk about when I was in Dallas and, he wasn’t in San Francisco at the time, but we talked about that offense and the things in Dallas and we had to do and the plays that we used to have to work like crazy on. I think the other thing that I appreciate about Gary (Kubiak), kind of like with (Bill) Parcells with me, Coach (Mike) Shanahan was on his rear end every day, talking about understanding this and understanding that. I think Coach Parcells was pretty much the same way with me. We’ve kind of been in that same thing where we’ve had our rear ends chewed a little bit.
Q: What have you been able to gather about Brandon Allen with such a small sample size?
A: It’s difficult, because he hasn’t been there the entire time. You got a one-game summary of it, and really, we have to prepare for the offense and then we have to prepare for the players. With him being different and just trying to re-study everything that he’s done, it is more difficult having that small of a sample size.
Q: What were the keys to the run defense limiting Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday night?
A: I think our front seven did an amazing job. They all played really well, honestly. Shamar (Stephen), Jaleel (Johnson), (Armon) Watts when he was in there. The two ends (Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter) played really well. Ifeadi (Odenigbo), there was a couple of times we were in nickel and he was in there, and he played the run well. (Stephen) Weatherly, the linebackers, safeties at times. They just played really well. It wasn’t anything fancy.
Q: At the end of the game, were you surprised that they used the pass game to get into the red zone before trying to rest you in the run game?
A: Not really. I mean they have tendencies like all teams do.
Q: How much has Gary Kubiak helped Kirk Cousins this year?
A: I think not only him, but Klint (Kubiak) as well has done an amazing job with him. Gary has done a really good job with him, and getting him to understand about playing fast, about getting the ball in the right place, about the things that we’re able to do with some of the movement passes. And the counseling that he’s done with these guys has really been good, and Klint as well.
Q: What steps has Eric Kendricks taken this year to become more disciplined?
A: Well at times he’s not, but I’m not calling him out. I’m just being honest. Yeah, I think he just understands the scheme better. You know, everybody says how great he’s playing. I think he’s always been pretty darn good, and so to me, is there a big jump? I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to evaluate it at the end of the season. But I mean he’s a see-ball, get-ball guy, always has been, and that’s kind of why he’s been able to make plays. He sees something and he goes, and he doesn’t hold back. He’s not afraid to shoot his gun, and so I think he’s just playing with a bunch of confidence, feels secure about the system, understands where everybody is going to be and I think that’s been important for him.
Q: What is it about his ability to be able stay on the field regardless of package situations? It seems like he’s really shed that stigma that he was too small.
A: Yeah, well the NFL is kind of getting that way anyway. Linebackers are getting smaller. You have to have coverage ability nowadays to play linebacker in the NFL. Maybe if anything we thought he was maybe going to be a weak (side) inside linebacker, and now he’s turned into a full-time Mike linebacker that can play pass coverage real well. The things that we ask the Mike linebacker to do in coverage typically are very difficult because of the different combinations of coverages and things like that that you get. He’s very smart, very instinctive and he plays fast.
Q: What are your thoughts on Dalvin Cook earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week?
A: That’s great. I thought the offensive line did an outstanding job, and he’s (Cook) is a great player. We stayed on blocks, we finished blocks, the tight ends did a nice job, and receivers did a good job when they were in there blocking. Kirk got us in the right plays, and Dalvin is a great runner.
Q: In terms of your injured players for next week?
A: We’ll see.
Q: Do you look at it differently with the bye week coming up?
A: No. When guys are healthy, they play.
Q: Are you surprised about the NFL having a workout for Colin Kaepernick?
A: Am I surprised? Honestly, I didn’t know about it until Rick (Spielman) came in and told me today, so I didn’t know anything about it.
Q: You didn’t check your email, right?
A: Well, I didn’t read all the way down. That’s what I told Rick. I said, “I didn’t even see it.” And he said, “Well, it was at the bottom of the transactions,” or whatever. I said, “I didn’t read it all the way down.”
Q: What has stood out the most about the way Dalvin Cook has played this year?
A: You know, I always knew that he was a terrific runner, but I think the other two things, how hard he runs and that the first person typically doesn’t tackle him, has been really impressive. And then the other part is when he gets the ball in space, people can’t catch him. He just has that extra gear. Those two things.