Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer * *Good morning. It's good to get back to work, get the players in here, start focusing on Chicago. It'll be a tough test. They're 10th in the league in defense, they're playing good and solid and offensively they've got a lot of skill players that are really good and do a lot of unique things really, so we've got to knuckle down and start grinding again. Questions?
Q: When you say they do some unique things, what does that mean specifically?
A: There is a lot of opened up formations and they've got some three tight end formations, they've got some zone read stuff that they do, some of the route combinations are a little bit unique.
Q: With the change in their coaching staff, does that take away what you can look back on last year when studying film?
A: Yeah, it's completely different, 100% different on everywhere really – offense, defense and special teams.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in switching to a 3-4?
A: Well, football is football. It's coaching and getting them to do the right things. It's not that difficult. If you feel like you have the right personnel to run the things they do and even sometimes when you don't, you can finagle the 3-4 to fit the guys that you have. But they're playing good and they're 10th in the league, they're physical. [Pernell] McPhee is a really good rusher – two good corners [Tracy] Porter and [Kyle] Fuller, the two safeties are good players, [Shea] McClellin the inside linebacker – and they're big. That's typically what you get when you get to a three-man front team.
Q: That fact that Teddy Bridgewater was able to get the ball to so many different receivers, what did that indicate to you?
A: I think he has a good idea of where the combinations of routes are. The one I might have liked the best was the one where he threw to Zach Line because he was working the other side of the field at the time. They dropped and for him to see it – his vision is starting to expand I feel like. That helps to open a lot of other things up for other of people.
Q: Was Zach Line at the right spot he needed to be or did he just drift out?
A: Yeah, he did right. The linebacker handed him off instead of covering him.
Q: When you're talking about combination routes, was an example when Charles Johnson had his catch and Jarius Wright ran a short route underneath?
A: Yeah, that was a combination route where he had the option. It's basically a high-low on that nickel back at that particular time. But that's really what offenses are doing, they're working high-low on the corner, high-low on the linebacker, different combinations where you have to read and see if a guy jumps it or if a guy backs-up, then you throw the shallow route, could have the swing with it sometimes.
Q: So two or three guys are looking at Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson gets behind them?
Q: How patient can you be in the running game knowing that every team is keying to stop Adrian Peterson?
A: The good thing is we threw the ball effectively when they did and that started to open up some of the things. Some of those longer runs were against different kinds of defenses that give you good looks to run the ball in. We want to be balanced and we have to be effective in the passing game in order to help the running game and vice versa really.
Q: Do you think guys did a better job of handling those run blitzes?
A: Not every time, but we did do better. Our pad level was lower, we came off the ball better, which I believed helped our play actions, and the one long run that Adrian [Peterson] had was a zone blitz.
Q: Is Jerick McKinnon's limited playing time due to Adrian Peterson returning or is there something else to that?
A: No, nothing else playing into it. Just the rotation that we're going with it.
Q: Is Chicago leaning on Matt Forte more than they have in the past?
A: I wouldn't say more than they have in the past. He's still an integral part of what they're doing. He still catches a lot of balls out of the backfield, he still catches a lot of screens. He's obviously the guy in the running game, but they're relying on [Martellus] Bennett quite a bit, and now that they've got 17 [Alshon Jeffery] back, they're using him quite a bit more. [Jay] Cutler is still running the show.
Q: What do you guys need to do to try and contain Forte, especially in the passing game?
A: He's tough, he's tough to get. He's a very good option runner, very good on the check-downs. It's more about positioning, being in the right position, understanding where your help is and when you don't have help, making sure you're at the right spot.
Q: When you face a back like that, does it take away anything you can do in your blitz packages?
A: Sometimes. You're always conscious of the back and what they do and their protections. But yeah, I'm not trying to minimize his abilities, but it's no different than any other week with the backs. You look to see if they're free releasing, if they're protecting, what kind of protectors they are, if you can get a matchup you like on the back. But you can do other things if you've got a guy like that, you can cover them with different people.
Q: Can you talk about MyCole Pruitt's catch?
A: I thought he did some good things in there. He had a nice block on the long run that Adrian [Peterson] had. But on that one, the toughness kind of showed. It was a 6-yard catch, he turns and I liked the way that he attacked the defense to try and get the first down.
Q: Why was it MyCole Pruitt on that specific play and not Kyle Rudolph or Rhett Ellison?
A: We have a rotation going in the ballgame of how we want to do it. It's not necessarily for particular plays, it's just certain times in the game we want to give Kyle [Rudolph] a little break, so Pruitt gets a chance to get in there. Sometimes it's [Rhett] Ellison that gets a break. It's similar to what we're doing with some other guys.
Q: So all of your tight ends are capable of running ever play?
A: Yeah, that was not a play just designed for him.
Q: Darren Woodson is going into the Cowboys Ring of Honor this weekend. Where does he rank among the best safeties you've coached?
A: He's the best. Best player – I wouldn't just say safety. He's a great, great person, he's smart, he's a kid that was an outside linebacker in college and taught himself how to backpedal, worked really hard on his technique, learned how to blitz, was tough, competitive, and I've always said this about Darren, that he is a better person than he is football player and I'm happy for him. He needs to go in one other Hall of Fame [Pro Football].
Q: What are your thoughts on Jerry Kill resigning from the University of Minnesota earlier today?
A: It's disappointing to have another great coach that you respect and the things that he's done to retire, but in the same token, I'm glad that he had the fortitude to be able to do it when he felt like he was ready to do it or needed to do it. And we're all going to miss him in the Twin Cities and I'm sure all of the U of M faithful will miss him as well. He's an awfully good football coach; he's got that program going in the right way. I wish him – not only health – but I might go join him someday. Who knows? The sooner the better, maybe. A lot of people want that anyway.
Q: Can you touch on some of the physical and mental tolls you have to go through as a head coach that the general public might not realize?
A: I can't speak for Jerry [Kill] specifically, but for me – every day a player comes in and almost every day talks to you and you're trying to figure out what's the best way to help the football team win and all of that and then somebody says to you, "Well, it's game week, let's have fun." I say, "Fun?" This is always a grind. At least for me and I know everybody's personalities are different, but you put every heart and soul and every minute that you have into one week and trying to win a football game. That starts specifically in the middle of July for us but there's really not a day that goes by that you don't think about how can we get this better, what can you do? Even though when you try like when [Pioneer Press reporter] Brian [Murphy] comes down to my place down there, there's still football being talked about. It's a tough, tough profession, especially with the people that they want you to win so badly and they're behind you. Everybody – I probably shouldn't say any of this stuff – has always said, "Everybody knows how to do a coach's job. I can't go in there and tell him how to operate, but everyone knows how to do a coach's job."
Q: Did you know Jerry Kill personally prior to moving to the Twin Cities?
A: No, I never met him until I got here. But I know his background and track record and things he did at Northern Illinois and his personality as well. He's a little bit like me I guess. The steps that he had to take to be where he is right now, I'm sure it's hard for him to make that decision because I think the University of Minnesota was a dream for him and he's got it going the right way.
Q: What happened with Jabari Price going on injured reserve?
A: He needed to have shoulder surgery.
Q: What went into the decision to elevate Brandon Watts?
A: We just felt like we needed some help at linebacker and he's done a good job. He really has done a good job on the show teams and special teams stuff and we have a lot of hope for him.
Q: What do you expect out of Sharrif Floyd today at practice?
A: I don't know yet. He's here, so he's doing good, but I don't know.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's great to get back to work this week, shift our focus to Chicago. We know the challenge that's ahead of us and we're aware of the streak that we haven't won in Chicago, since I can't even remember. The guys are aware of that, Coach Zimmer, he stressed how important this game is and we know how important it is. Another divisional game, on the road and we need to play on the road the way we play at home. I think the guys are doing a good job of just understanding that and we're excited.
Q: How often does Coach Zimmer mention the streak?
A: [Laughs] In the team meeting this morning he brought it up, we're aware of it. I think we only have three guys on the roster who were on that team that won at Soldier Field, Chad [Greenway], Adrian [Peterson] and BRob [Brian Robison]. We know it's a challenge ahead of us and we want to hopefully put an end to that streak.
Q: Have you ever played in a game with clock issues like there was at Soldier Field last year?
A: Nah, it was the first time that I've ever experienced something like that. I think we could have handled the situation a little better, but when you're not aware of how much time is left on the clock when you're down there on the playing field, it forces to make some decisions that you probably wouldn't have made if you were aware of the play clock or the game clock. Hopefully it doesn't happen again this year.
Q: What are the challenges to completing passes to so many different receivers like you did against Detroit?
A: It just happens in this offense if you know where your check-downs are and things like that. In this offense you always have an outlet in the passing game. Our guys do a great job of being spaced up, understanding passing concepts. For me, I try to get through my progressions fast and not hold on to the football, it just allows those guys to make plays and it showed Sunday, 11 different guys were able to touch the football and make plays for us.
Q: Do you have to develop a chemistry with all of those different players, is it harder to throw to different types players?
A: No, not at all. Like I said, in this offense you always have an outlet in the passing game. As long as you know where those guys are, it'll be easy to spread the ball around to those guys and get the ball in their hands and allow them to make plays.
Q: When the running game gets stopped it seems like you have to throw a lot quicker, are you sensing that you're going to have to get the passing game going quicker in games?
A: That's our mindset going into any game, just to start fast, whether it's in the run game or the pass game. We want to be a balanced team. We know that teams are going to focus on Adrian [Peterson] and try and stop the run. Our coaching staff is still doing a great job of just helping us out, whether in the run-game, calling plays that allow us to still have some success or in the passing game.
Q: What does Jerick McKinnon bring to this offense?
A: Jerick [McKinnon], he just brings a change-up to the team. He's a guy who will come out of the backfield, we like him in those one-on-one matchups with the linebackers. He's a guy who brings a different running style than Adrian, it's good to have that in the backfield.
Q: Are you surprised by Jerick McKinnon's limited number of snaps?
A: I have no control over that. I'm just glad when he's in there, he's taking advantage of his opportunities.
Q: On Charles Johnson's catch, did Jarius Wright's route on that play help free up Johnson?
A: In this system, guys know that sometimes a route may call for them to just open up another receiver. We have different plays that allow, whether it's Jarius [Wright] to run across the linebackers face and hopefully they grab Jarius and we throw the ball behind them or something like that. It's just understanding his responsibility, it just helped CJ [Charles Johnson] get open.
Q: When you review the sacks that you've taken has there been an opportunity to avoid them?
A: Some of those sacks I could just throw the ball away. Throw it out the back of end zone, in the redzone this past Sunday, twice right before the half, or I could have just thrown the ball to [Stefon] Diggs on the drag route instead of getting sacked right before the half. It's like things like that that goes unnoticed. The offensive line always gets the blame, but I think I need to do a better job of just getting rid of the football, also.
Q: When does the timing of plays like that become second nature?
A: With me, always trying to keep a play alive because big plays happen when quarterbacks leave the pocket or things like that. I also have a timer in my head to just get rid of the football and help the offensive line out and also live to see another down.
Q: Did you notice run blitzes opening up opportunity in the passing game against Detroit and Kansas City?
A: It's a balance, but at the same time it does open up. I look at the play to Adam Thielen in the Detroit game, those guys bit on the run fake hard, it allowed Adam to just slip through the coverage and he was wide open for a big gain. It goes hand-in-hand.
Q: Have you always been able to keep your eyes downfield when moving in the pocket?
A: It's something that I've always worked on. Like I said, you watch football games, sometimes when the quarterback leaves the pocket, the defenders think the quarterback is sacked or they have a timer in their head also, thinking that the ball might be thrown. If you leave the pocket, keep your eyes downfield, you may be able to get a big play down the field.
Q: Is that something you and your receivers have to work on in practice?
A: It's just understanding what's going on throughout the course of the game. We do little drills like that where the quarterback does leave the pocket. Different receivers do different things and you try to get a big play.
Q: Have you ever had a game where you had 11 guys catch a pass?
A: I don't recall. Like I said, it was good to see all of those guy get going. That's what we expect around here, different guys touch the football and whenever they get an opportunity, they make a play for us.
Q: Do newer players pay attention to streaks that started before their time?
A: Definitely. You don't want to continue to hear about it, so you want to do something about it. We're pretty aware, and Coach Zimmer is going to continue to stress it throughout the course of the week. Not only how important it is to end this streak, but just to get a victory in Chicago. It's a divisional game, we'll have a chance to move to 3-0 in the division. It'll be huge if we can just go in there, execute the game plan that coaches are going to put together for us to just go out there and play fast and play at a high level.
Q: Are veteran guys mentioning it to you or is it mostly Coach Zimmer?
A: Coach Zimmer. He started talking about it and BRob [Brian Robison] and Chad [Greenway] finished the sentence for him. He started to say, 'Yeah, we haven't won at Chicago in…' BRob and Chad just finished the sentence for him. I think they're more aware of it than we are. Like I said, we know how important this game is for us, a divisional game, on the road, in a place that we haven't won at in a long time.
Q: What makes playing at Soldier Field so difficult?
A: I've only played there one year, but I know last year the game clock going out made it difficult last year. They have a great crowd. We know that, like I said, we have to play the way we play at home on the road. If we can do that, I think we have a pretty good chance of just going in there and quieting the crowd.
Q: How many times did you watch Stefon Diggs' touchdown catch?
A: I think I've only seen it twice. I try to not to pay attention to those plays, that's last week's event. We're focused on Chicago this week. Trying to get Diggs not to watch it too. He probably posted it on his Instagram or something like that. We have a great group of guys here, and Coach Zimmer's message right now is – Detroit is in the past, we have to focus on Chicago. That's our mindset.
Q: Was Adam Thielen in there for his catch because of Jarius Wright's injury?
A: No, we just had a designed play call, Adam was in there at the time, he made a big play for us. It could have been any guy, could have been Charles [Johnson], Mike [Wallace], Cordarrelle [Patterson]. Adam was in on that play, he had an opportunity and he capitalized on it.