*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
It's good to get back to work, good to start preparing for Kansas City. It'll be good to get in front of our home fans. Hopefully they're loud again like they were last time. The more they're into it, that always helps us. Questions?
Q: How do you feel about the safety position at this point in the season?
A: I feel good about Harrison [Smith].
Q: And the other guys?
A: It's fluid. Keep working them.
Q: Is it because no one has been consistent enough?
A: Pretty much.
Q: Has Antone Exum Jr. made any progress these last few weeks?
A: Some. We'll see how he does this week.
Q: Is he a candidate to get any more playing time?
A: Potentially, if I feel good about him.
Q: How much do you think the bye week helped you make adjustments in pass protection?
A: A lot of it was mental errors that we had. A lot of those guys rushing, but we spent a lot of time with it, yeah. We'll have to see how that unfolds.
Q: Did Denver prepare you for what Kansas City does defensively?
A: Some ways they do similar things and in some ways they're different. Obviously they've got two good edge rushers and they play a lot of man-to-man. They're very stout up front in the middle. Linebackers are fast, but they have a few more fronts than probably Denver did.
Q: You are number two in rushing, but 32nd in the league in passing. How important is it to get a little more balance in that particular area?
A: How are we in scoring points per game? That's all I care about, wins and scoring points per game.
Q: What does a guy like Brock Vereen need to do to get in the mix at safety?
A: It's still a learning process for him. I would say at this point Anthony Harris has a better chance of getting in the mix than Brock Vereen does.
Q: What do you see out of Anthony Harris?
A: Smart, athletic, seems to know what he's doing for the most part.
Q: How do you assess being 23rd in scoring and 6th in points allowed per game?
A: Well, we'd like to score more points than that. Obviously we want to be in the top 10 in everything. It's more about sustaining drives. When we convert third downs like we did, we need to convert into points, so that's part of it, part of it is that. Honestly, it's nice but more important is winning games and scoring points, so that's the most important one.
Q: How much do you talk to Teddy Bridgewater about situational football and when to make a certain throw and when not to depending on field position?
A: I talk to him more about a lot of the situational things that come up in the game, not so much about making certain throws. Norv [Turner] does that. We sit down and talk about a lot of the third down stuff, we sit down and talk about situation football, what we're thinking here, where we're trying to go. Norv is the expert on when to make what throw.
Q: How do you think Teddy Bridgewater has done in growing and learning that part of the game?
A: I think he's good. Where are we at in turnover margin? I think we're pretty good, but you can check on it. I think that's been good. We're taking good care of the football offensively, and so that is a big factor in today's NFL. Sometimes he's careful with the ball, but that's not a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to punt, change the field position, but we'd much rather have that than turn the ball over. I do think he continues to do a good job of that. That's what he did last year and that's what he continues to do this year is those things. And the rest of it will continue to get better with him.
Q: What do you see when you look at their running and screen game without Jamaal Charles?
A: Well, they've got a terrific screen game. It's not always with him, sometimes it's with [De'Anthony] Thomas, sometimes it's with [Travis] Kelce. So they average about six screens a game, they do a great job there. The running game, who knows? I think they'll be similar to the things that they've done with the bellies and the counters and stutters and things like that that they run. They may go in and start running some presses and things like we've seen in the past. Their backs, they're good backs. I don't want to take anything away from Jamaal Charles because he's amazing, but [Knile] Davis has had some really good games, [Charcandrick] West hasn't had a lot, but I know they like him a lot. He's averaging four yards a carry. I assume they're going to do a lot of things that they do because they're averaging 340 yards a game or something.
Q: When a team loses their identity on offense, what are your thoughts on the uncertainty now that a team might change things up?
A: There is always the uncertainty. They've got a lot of tight ends, they can line up in all tight ends like San Francisco did and try that. But you're right, part of it is the uncertainty. When you've got all of their guys, you kind of know what they're going to do. You have to figure out and adjust during the course of the ballgame usually.
Q: What are your thoughts on Alex Smith?
A: Well, he's very talented. He can make all of the throws. I remember playing against him last year in the preseason. He makes some really good throws. I think the tight end and [Jeremy] Maclin both are very good security blankets for him. They do a good job of getting the ball out quick. They've got a lot of five-outs. I wouldn't necessarily say they're a protection-based team. They're going to try to get the ball out, get five receivers out and there's a possibility that they may go four receivers and a tight end this week because of the things that they're trying to do or put [De'Anthony] Thomas in the backfield and use him as their screen guy and the things you're talking about.
Q: It always seems like good teams find a way to win this league. Do you want to expand on that notion?
A: That's the most important thing in this league. That's what keeps coaches their jobs is if you win. Would I like to be great every Sunday we go out? Absolutely. Am I upset if we win and we don't play good? Yes, because I have high expectations, but the most important thing to me is winning. It's not going to be perfect every Sunday and that's why I keep reminding our guys that this is a team, it's not an offense or a defense or a special teams. It's how can you help us win? What can you do in your job to help us win as a football team? And some if it might be field position, securing the double-team, just a lot of things that I've just been a firm believer in those things. The best team on Sunday wins, not necessarily the best team for the rest of the year, but in that particular day, who is going to win?
Q: How do you think your linebackers have done covering this year against athletic tight ends like Travis Kelce?
A: He's really good. I always have a hard time because we don't play man-to-man all the time. Usually we're playing some kind of zone, man within zone, so it's not always this guy has him or that guy has him. I don't know, going back thinking it's hard for me to answer to be honest with you. I think we have pretty good cover linebackers, but for me to say that we've covered tight ends specifically very good, I would be guessing.
*Q: Do you have a lot more options now that you have some speed at linebacker? How much does that help? *
A: The more speed you have everywhere helps. I think in today's NFL with the guys you're talking about – the Kansas City guys – what they have is so much speed offensively, you want to be able to try to match up the best you can. The slower guys in today's NFL with the passing game and all of that just makes it more difficult, but luckily with [Anthony] Barr and [Eric] Kendricks and [Chad] Greenway does a good job and when we get some of the nickel packages, I think that helps too.
Q: How would you assess the four games this offensive line has played together?
A: Well, not very good against Denver. Not very good against San Francisco, but I thought they played good in the other two games. I don't know C , B-, something like that. Middle of the road, but we can do a lot better.
Q: When you have time off, do you over-coach that group or do you want to let them continue on the path they're on?
A: I don't know about over-coaching, but there's a lot of correcting that we have to continue to do and that group is a lot like the secondary. You have to work so much on everybody understanding where everything is supposed to be because not everything turns out really black and white. There's a lot of helping here, it's not like I've got this guy, this guy, this guy. Then they start bringing guys and you change your protections and now he's going to this guy and that guy has to slide and make sure the center has to come with the guard, one time he's too far, so to me, it's a lot like the secondary. There's so many variables that go on, you really have to really be on point and I think with the newness that we have with those guys, they'll continue to get better, T.J. [Clemmings], [Mike] Harris playing guard, [Brandon] Fusco on the other guard, [Joe] Berger, I think we'll continue to get better the more we work with continuity.
Q: Is that mainly a communication thing between those offensive linemen or just a general understanding of how protections are going to change?
A: It's some communication, but it's a lot of technique and being together. I guess the best way to say it is like if the guard and tackle are double-teaming the three-technique, there's a certain point off the double-team they want to come off and get the linebacker. Well, it's the same thing in pass protection. At a certain point, you're working here and if this guy goes a little too far and he doesn't follow him or one guy sets the other way and there's a space there, that's what creates the issue, just like the combination blocks and things like that.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's good to be back to work. Coming off of the bye week, we know that we have a tough task ahead of us and we want to make the best of the next three months of football.
Q: What do you see out of the Chiefs defense?
A: They're a physical team, that's a team that's trying to get back to its 2014 form. Right now, those guys are aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. It starts up front with those pass rushers and they're good at stopping the run and re-establishing the line of scrimmage. Then on the back end, those guys are aggressive. We know it's going to be a challenge for us. We want to put together a game plan that's going to allow us to go out there and play at our best.
Q: What differences do you see between Kansas City's pass rushers compared to Denver?
A: Last week's guys, those guys are active. This week, these guys do some things different than what Denver does. They're primarily the same scheme, we know that it's going to give us some challenges but we're going to put together a game plan that's going to allow us to just go out there and play at our best.
Q: You mentioned after being sacked seven times you might need to make some adjustments, what can you do to not get sacked as much?
A: Throughout the course of the game teams are going to scheme us up and stuff like that. For me, I can continue to get the ball out of my hands fast, make fast decisions to help out in protection.
Q: Do you think the bye week will help allow you to make the needed adjustments in pass protection?
A: Yeah, you can say that, but I know that each week we put together a game plan and it allows us, each and every guy on the field, to do their job. I know that my job is to deliver the football to the guys on the outside and allow those guys to make plays. I just have to continue to do a good job of that.
Q: Was the pass rush from Denver the most pressure that you've had playing football?
A: I'd say we caused that upon ourselves, missed some assignments and things like that. When we were going, things were going good for us. We were slowing those guys down in the pass rush. It's just we were shooting ourselves in the foot. I was sacked seven times, you don't want to get hit that many times, but our guys work extremely hard. Ever since training camp those guys have been just grinding, grinding away. They have a great group of leaders in that room, so those guys are doing a great job of just continuing to trust each other, trust in the coaching staff and just go out there and play football.
Q: Against Denver, did you make some early in-game adjustments?
A: It was just better execution. Like I said, some of those sacks we caused upon ourselves. You put the tape on and some of the things we've done well in training camp, we didn't do so well against Denver. Right now, Denver is in the past, we can't focus on that game. We have to give our focus all into Kansas City right now. We know that it's going to be a challenge for those guys coming in here. Like I said, we want to establish something and get something going over these next 12 games.
Q: Can you draw a positive from last year's eight sacks against Detroit and five against Buffalo, will you draw anything from that experience?
A: Definitely, but we're not here to sit and talk about sacks. We want to focus on Kansas City moving forward. We can't put all of our focus on what happened in the past, we want to correct things and go out there and play at our best this Sunday.
Q: How do you prepare for a 3-4 defense when you play against a 4-3 in practice?
A: Our show team has been doing a great job. The coaching staff has been tough on those guys to give us the proper looks, so those guys understand what we're asking of them and they give us great looks throughout the work week, it just helps us when Sunday comes.
Q: Do you feel more comfortable against a 3-4 defensive front after having played a few teams that run that scheme recently?
A: Definitely. The more you see it, the more comfortable you get, the more familiar you become with it. Our coaching staff, like I said, they're going to put together a game plan that allows us to go out there and play at our best.
Q: Justin Houston hasn't had a sack in a few games, does he still get a lot of pressure on the quarterback?
A: Definitely. He's a guy who knows how to get around the quarterback, he's one of the best pass rushers in this game. We know that we have to be aware of where he is on the field. We're going to have to try to do some things to slow him down.
Q: How does a change in receivers impact you and your timing with that group?
A: It doesn't. I've been able to put time in working with all of those guys, whoever is up, those guys know that we expect a lot from them. Whether it's Adam [Thielen] Cordarrelle [Patterson], Stefon [Diggs], Mike [Wallace], Jarius [Wright], Charles [Johnson], all of those guys know what the expectation level is. I have total trust in those guys.
Q: What does Stefon Diggs do in his ability to run the proper routes, how has he developed that?
A: Stefon, he's a young guy who is working extremely hard, he's shown some flashes throughout training camp. The thing you like about Stefon is the big catch radius that he has. He has big, strong hands, he can go up and make tough catches for you. He's a guy who knows whether he's in the game, what we expect of him. All of those guys, we expect those guys to play at their best.
Q: Was Stefon Diggs in the right spot at the right time against Denver?
A: Definitely. He did some things good for us, there's also things that he can clean up, he had two fumbles, luckily we recovered both of them. He will learn in this league that guys tackle the football. He's a guy, like I say, he works extremely hard and he's eager to be great. That's the type of guys we want around here.
Q: Are the fumbles something that you players mention to him?
A: Definitely. We take pride in taking care of the football around here. Like I say, Stefon, he's a guy that's going to learn that in this league guys tackle the football. For the most part he played good against Denver. We expect him to continue to build off his performance.
Q: Why is Kyle Rudolph not been as involved in the passing game?
A: If you look at it, we've been able to run the ball effectively. Coach Zimmer talks about being a physical team and a tough football team. Right now, we're doing what works for us. We want to be a balanced team, but we're the number two rushing offense in the league right now. That speaks volumes of what the guys up front are doing and Kyle is a part of that, whether it's helping in the run game or in protection, he's been doing a great job.
Q: How much do you pay attention to field position in different parts of the game so you can adjust your game to it?
A: You pay attention to it throughout the entire course of the game. Thankfully, our special teams has been doing a great job of giving us great field position. We may be in a situation where it's maybe 3rd-and-17, you don't want to be in that situation but you know that maybe instead of forcing the ball down the field, if you can hit a check down, gain eight yards now you're changing the field position for the punter or getting in field goal range. Field position, we know how important it is. Coach Zimmer, he stresses how important field position is, we try to win the field position battle.
Q: Do you have a different mindset in the redzone and how you're distributing the ball?
A: I'm not out there thinking about those things when I'm in between those white lines. Once you put the tape on, you go back and say, 'Man, if I would have probably checked the ball down here, we could have got five yards and made a field goal easier, or changed the field position for the punter.' On the field, I'm just out there reacting and playing football.