*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
On to Atlanta. They're in the top ten in about every category – offense and defense – number one in the league in rushing defense. They're very active up front, two good young corners, a safety that's physical, some big guys in the middle and offensively they've got a lot of weapons. [Devonta] Freeman is an excellent back, catches the ball well, obviously Julio Jones is maybe as good as there is, the quarterback [Matt Ryan] can throw the ball all over the place, move, smart, tough guy. It'll be a good game, have to go down there and handle the crowd noise, we've got to handle all of the different situations and play good.
Q: Is there anything that you have seen from Teddy Bridgewater's demeanor that you think helps on the road?
A: I don't know. I haven't noticed anything that I could point out. I'm trying to think the road games, it's been so long since I remember. I have a hard time remembering yesterday.
Q: Having coached in Atlanta, does that help knowing what affect their crowd noise may have?
A: No, it doesn't help any. I've been there when it's loud, but it can be loud and they get it rocking pretty good.
Q: Atlanta's recent struggles have been a lot of turnovers, is there a common theme about what they're doing?
A: Well, they've had 18 fumbles, they haven't lost all of those but they've had 18 fumbles. They've had some interceptions, so typically when you get turnovers, it's pressure on the quarterback, it's hitting the ball, the second guy in hitting the ball.
Q: Do you think you'd have more takeaways on your defense with such an athletic defense that has been playing well this season?
A: Yeah, but it's probably as much my fault as anything. We stress fundamentals and those things and I wouldn't say we're a gambling football team. But I think throughout my career we've been about middle of the pack most of the time. We've never been real, real great, but they tend to come in – you get a couple here in this game, you miss a couple games, then you get two or three more. It's kind of like the Oakland game. We get a couple, then we don't get anything the next week. We've just got to keep working on it, keep stressing it.
Q: Is it a better way to play since your team is near the top in points allowed?
A: It depends. If you're giving up a lot of points because you're gambling for the ball – it's just my philosophy really. I know the more turnovers you get, the more opportunities your offense has to score and things like that, but I've never wanted to be a team that, "Hey, I'm going to jump this" or, "I'm going to do that." It's more because I think you can give up a lot of big plays that way as well and so I'd rather get them being fundamentally sound I guess is what I'm saying. I'm not saying I don't want to get turnovers.
Q: How much of a weapon have Teddy Bridgewater's legs been in crucial down and distance situations?
A: I think it's a weapon anytime a quarterback moves in the pocket. It typically slows the rush down a little bit because they're nervous, you get a lot less double man coverages, things like that. I know he scrambled but I wouldn't qualify him as really a running quarterback.
Q: In terms of his elusiveness, couldn't it be a lot worse with how many sacks you have allowed?
A: He's a good athlete but that's what I've been talking about. He gets himself out of a lot of bad situations. He's a good athlete, I wouldn't say he's a runner, but he does have some athletic ability moving in the pocket, some quickness.
Q: When you lose a game like you did against the Packers, do you concern yourself with maybe they exposed something in your team that another team can pick up on?
A: Yeah, I think that happens when you win or lose because you're always going to give up some plays either offensively or defensively and teams are going to continue to try and exploit that and that's something that we look at every week, too.
Q: How much of an impact do you think Kyle Rudolph can have moving forward coming off his biggest game of the season?
A: I don't know that it'll be changed. I think that last week we had some opportunities there and we took advantage of them. It just depends, each team plays you a little bit different, most times they'll kind of do what they do, so it may be more this week, it may be less, I don't know.
Q: How is Kyle Rudolph handling the role of doing whatever it takes to win with his numbers fluctuating each week?
A: He's been good. Kyle is a great kid, he works hard, he understands really what we're trying to get done. I'm really proud of him, the way he has handled everything this year.
Q: What did you see on that touchdown pass that you liked from Teddy Bridgewater to Kyle Rudolph? It seemed Bridgewater made a great throw.
A: Yeah, and Kyle made a great catch, it was over the shoulder. He used his size and his body to go up and get the ball.
Q: Do you need to get Mike Wallace more involved?
A: Honestly, we want everyone to get involved, but I'm not going to worry about individual statistics or anything like that. I'm just going to worry about trying to get wins.
Q: What do you see from Atlanta's run defense?
A: They've got two big, physical guys up front, [Paul] Soliai and [Ra'Shede] Hageman, and their ends are active, their linebackers are physical, they get the safety down in the box a lot, so they use a lot of guys in there.
Q: Do you see any similarities to what Dan Quinn did with his defense in Seattle?
A: Yes, very much.
Q: Personnel-wise or scheme-wise?
A: Scheme-wise. I think they're working towards getting the personnel, but they've got athletic ends, bigger inside guys, physical downhill safety, corners the same. It looks very similar, yes.
Q: What's the thinking to shortening the defensive line to six players?
A: Part of it has been the no huddle offense and part of it has been the situations of the game. Sometimes that's just how it goes.
Q: What have you seen from Sharrif Floyd since he has come back from his injury?
A: I think he's doing well. He's starting to get more involved the more healthy that he feels. First week back we were careful with him and last week he got in there a little bit more and he'll probably get in there a little bit more this week.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
*It's good to be back in the practice mindset, getting ready to face a tough Atlanta team. We know that they're a stingy defense, number one in the league right now in rush defense. We know that that team takes pride in taking care of the football and things like that. They're an explosive team, their record shows they're 5-1 when they win the turnover battle, they're a team that's been in some tough, close ballgames. We just know that it's going to be a battle for four quarters. *
Q: Do you expect that you will have to take on more in the passing game going against Atlanta's defense and its ability to stop the run?
A: Yeah, definitely. We're still going to try to get things going with our run game. We've been doing a great job all year of rushing the football. We know that there are going to be opportunities for us to run the ball, when my number is called to put the ball in the air, I have to make the best of it.
Q: Would you talk about when you decide to take off and run and how much of a weapon using your legs can be for you?
A: It can be a huge weapon, but the thing is, I don't want to have to be running all of the time. That's something Coach Turner told me, 'We don't want you running all of the time.' They said I do a good job of just knowing when to take off and things like that. I think that just having a mindset, a clock that goes off in your head if something isn't there downfield, you see a favorable coverage that allows you to run, you take advantage of it. We have guys here who do a great job of running the football.
Q: Do you think you have the skillset to run even more if the coaches call for it?
A: Hopefully I don't have to run even more. Like I said, we have the best running back in the NFL right now, he's been running the football exceptionally for us this year. My job is to complete passes, just take control of the offense.
Q: Do you approach the game differently knowing the Falcons record when they lose the turnover battle, do you take extra care of the ball?
A: We just have to continue to do what we've been doing all year, and that's protect the football also. We can't put ourselves in bad situations, just have to continue to just take the game as it comes. There are going to be opportunities for us to complete the football or rush the football and have to be smart.
Q: Kyle Rudolph said that he owed you from the Oakland game, what was that conversation with him like?
A: Kyle [Rudolph] is a guy who's been working extremely hard and you put the Oakland tape and he was still beating himself up all week last week about the missed opportunity in the endzone. He's a guy who takes pride in being right, catching the football every time it comes his way, he made up this week. He played big for us. We just have to continue to just operate within the system. Each week a different guy is going to get an opportunity to step up in this offense, last week Kyle did a great job for us.
Q: How nice is it to have a big target like Kyle Rudolph and how accurate was your throw on his touchdown reception against the Packers?
A: Oh man, it's good to have a big target like Kyle, with a big catch radius, he's a big body who can win matchups versus safeties and he's very athletic so you get him in those matchups on linebackers, it's an advantage to us. To have a guy like Kyle, who not only helps out in the passing game being a big target, but also in the run game. He's down there blocking defensive ends, digging out linebackers and safeties. He's a huge part of this offense.
Q: Did you miss some chances to get the ball out quickly against the Packers?
A: There were times where I could have just, whether it's throw the ball away or take a check down and avoid some of those hits, avoid some of those sacks. That's something that I have to continue to work on. That's something that we're going to continue to work on here – just getting the ball out faster. The offensive line has been playing great for us all year in the run game and the pass game. I just have to continue to just do my part.
Q: How much does it help you being able to scramble or avoid pass rushes and move around in the pocket?
A: It helps a lot. We're able to avoid some negative plays, try to keep plays alive. Sometimes I have to have that clock in my head where I have to understand that every play isn't going to be a successful play, sometimes the defense will have your number. Just have to sometimes throw the ball away, avoid some of those hits, avoid some of those negative plays.
Q: How are you feeling physically at this point of the season?
A: I'm actually feeling pretty good. We have a great training staff who do a great job with us with any nicks and bruises we may have. Those guys have been very good for us this year. I'm feeling pretty good heading into this Atlanta game.
Q: What did you see on your touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph and could you have made any better of a pass?
A: Probably not. It was just a great job by Kyle of winning across the field, I just laid it up there for him, throwing it to the spot where only he could come down with the catch. He made the catch and he did the rest, scoring the touchdown. It was a big part of that game. It's just one of those things where you talk about a guy always being in the right place at the right time, being a very detailed guy and that's Kyle.
Q: Did you have any special communication with Kyle Rudolph when you see a matchup like that?
A: Yeah, we have different opportunities, different plays that allow for us to take advantage of those matchups. On that play it was just part of the progression, got through it, saw Kyle in a favorable matchup and just made the throw. He did the rest.
Q: What do you think is going on with Mike Wallace and his involvement in the offense?
A: Mike [Wallace], he's a guy who works extremely hard. Like Coach said, we're very close and we know, like I continue to say, each week in this offense a different guy is going to have an opportunity to make plays for us. When Mike's opportunity comes, I'll be one of the happiest guys for him. He's probably one of the hardest working guys on this team, staying back after practice catching balls on the Jugs machines. He's doing the little things that allow him to be a great player. We know that we've just been missing. Those opportunities are there and we just have to continue to try to capitalize on them.
Q: Does his involvement have to do with needing more time to setup back there to allow him to stretch the field?
A: Not at all. We have different schemes, different play calls that allow us to, whether it's take shots down the field or being successful in the intermediate passes. Teams know that this is a big play offense, sometimes they play coverages that take away some of those deep threats and forces us to check the ball down and things like that. The guys understand that a different guy is going to get an opportunity to make a play each play, they understand that.
Q: Do you think there would be more takeaways created by your defense the way its playing?
A: I can't speak for the defense, but I know Coach Zimmer has been hammering on just trying to get takeaways, trying to get around the quarterback. That's a pretty fired up group that we have over on the defensive side of the ball, those guys have been playing some good football all year. We know that those guys are capable of making plays. Like Coach Zimmer said, that's what he expects.
Q: When you work with receivers after practices is that your idea or theirs?
A: It's both. If I maybe miss a throw in practice or something like that, stay behind, just try to make the corrections before we go home or head back in the locker room. It's just trying to make sure that we leave no stones unturned on the day. We have a great group of guys who love to work hard, love to be perfect. That's what you want in that group.
Q: When you look at the film what are some attributes of Atlanta's defense that makes it so stout against the run?
A: They try to an eight-man box to have the numbers on their side in the run game. They're big up front. They have some playmakers on that defense and those guys are playing well as a unit.