*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
It's good to get back, get working. Had a little bit of work done yesterday and I think the players feel ready and excited to start moving forward. Questions?
Q: Are your practices shorter at this time of year because all the concepts are familiar?
A: Yeah, we can. We change the schedule up a little bit, we change the schedule up a little bit, go a few less plays here and there.
Q: Did you say anything special to Teddy Bridgewater about that last play against Arizona?
A: No, I talk to him about other stuff, but not that.
Q: What do you see from Chicago's run offense right now with them using both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford?
A: They're both really excellent backs, they both catch the ball good out of the backfield, they both spread them out wide, so both of them are I think really good backs. Offense is similar when both of them are in there. It's a little different styles, but similar offense.
Q: What have you seen from Jay Cutler that has made him a better player this year?
A: He's taking good care of the ball, I think they're doing a good job with their scheme as far as him knowing where to go with the football. Obviously he's got confidence in [Alshon] Jeffery and I see him making a lot of good decisions as opposed to in the past, maybe he didn't make quite as good of ones.
Q: What is your assessment on how the players came back after the long weekend?
A: Pretty good. They came back yesterday and had a good practice.
Q: What did you see from Edmond Robinson in his first start?
A: I think he did alright. For the most part, he was in the right place all of the time, made a couple plays, did good.
Q: How do you feel overall about what you are getting from your rookie class?
A: Yeah, we're getting a lot from those guys. I think somebody told me we started eight rookies throughout the course of the year, something like that. Again, I don't really look at them as rookies, I look at them as football players. They're young guys, whether it's first year, second year, whatever. But I think we've done a good job of expediting the process of them understanding what we're trying to get done and not try to overload them too, that's another big thing.
Q: What do you think of the season that Chad Greenway is having?
A: I think he's playing good. I actually talked to his agent yesterday and he told Chad – I don't want to be a second-hand guy – but Chad told him he was having a really enjoyable year and feels good about it. Chad's a great leader.
Q: Where is Charles Johnson at right now after not playing a snap on Thursday?
A: He continues to work hard. I'm sure he's probably frustrated that he's not [playing], but sometimes that's the way it goes. I don't know, you'd have to talk to him about that. But he continues to work hard, he continues to do a good job in practice. It's like everybody, when his opportunity comes, I'm sure he'll do good.
Q: How are you able to get your team focused for this game at TCF Bank Stadium after a couple of disappointing performances at home recently?
A: I just told them about it's always on to the next week and we have to make the corrections that we didn't do the week before. But I've kind of admired teams throughout the past that they get beat and they go on, they win, they go on. So that's kind of really been our mindset about the things we have to do and moving forward too. We're just trying to focus on one week, one day, this particular week and worry about the next week the next week. This is a good bunch of guys. They're good kids, they care and I think that's probably the biggest thing that these guys care. They're all good people.
Q: Do you do studies or look at how the teams that you admire get to that point?
A: You kind of see them based on who they are and the teams that are winning and you see how they bounce back from losses, you see how they focus on the job at hand, the preparation, things like that. [Bill] Parcells always said he didn't want to have a yo-yo football team, up one week and down the next. He wanted the same guys all the time and when we come out to practice we're pretty much the same guys. You want to know each and every day when you come out. We had a couple setbacks obviously, but it's time to get back on track.
Q: Is that something you can decipher when you are doing interviews and are in the process of acquiring players?
A: I think a lot of it is, it's a combination of things. You talk to a lot of the coaches, what kind of competitor is a guy, how does he handle adversity, how smart is he, is he moody on the practice field, does he pay attention in meetings? There's a big combination of things I think that helps figure out. How does he react when you get after him, how's the best way to coach this guy, does he put the team first, is he all about stats?
*Q: Do you think that's a rare characteristic to have for such a young team? *
A: I don't know. It's all about mindset and trying to get them to kind of do it, which you like.
*Q: Is there a little bit of an adjustment for a rookie going to the NFL where you can lose multiple games, whereas in college you may only lose one game in a season? *
A: I would say so, but not everybody we have only loses one. I think there's an adjustment in the NFL for all of the players, the athletes, the speed, the length, the physicality, all of those different things. But smart guys typically learn quicker.
Q: How do you think Anthony Harris played after going back and digesting the film?
A: I'm pretty much like I said the other day. I think he did some good things, he was in the right position, he's a smart guy that was communicative. I think he sees things well and he's got some length and size which helps him go up and get the football.
Q: How much do you alter your game plan based on weather conditions?
A: A lot. I wouldn't say it's so much your game plan being altered, but it's more about your play selection being altered on both sides. You have enough plays in the game plan of what you're trying to do, but some of them are not factors against the wind or like you say when it's really bad weather out.
Q: Do you feel like you guys are playing smart football right now?
A: Not always. What I've always said is I want whoever we're playing that week to say, "They're a well-coached football team that plays really hard, they don't beat themselves and when we go play them this day we're going to have to play really, really good to beat them." That's really what I try to get this team to be like. Sometimes we're like that and sometimes we make mistakes like every team does, but I think overall we typically play that way.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
*It's good to get back going after some time off. The message around here is that we have to have the same intensity that we had last week and we know that the atmosphere is that it's a playoff atmosphere now. Each game counts for us, we have to make the best of each opportunity that we go out there. We're getting ready to face a pretty solid Chicago Bears defense, those guys have the number two passing defense in the league but number 26 rush defense. We know that there are some areas that we want to attack this weekend. We know that those guys plays well on the road – four of their five wins have come on the road. We know that it's going to be a challenge, especially playing a team that knows us well and playing them for a second time. *
Q: How important is it to control your own playoff destiny?
A: It's very important knowing that we control our destiny, we want to make sure that we take advantage of that. We just want to take it one day at a time, one week at a time. Right now our focus is solely on Chicago.
Q: Against Arizona you completed passes to 11 different receivers is that the goal or did the Cardinals defense dictate that?
A: I think throughout the course of the year we've been using different guys, different guys have been touching the football. I remember earlier in the season I think eight guys caught a pass in a game, one week nine guys – it's all built into this offense, different guys are going to get their touches. Those guys did a great job of trying to make the best of each opportunity they had last week.
Q: Was there more of a focus in the Arizona game to get the ball out of your hand quickly?
A: We put together a game plan that we were all comfortable with heading into that game. I think we executed well, we want to limit those turnovers, I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times. I think we did a great job of just understanding what was asked of us and executing at a high level.
Q: Was that about as good of a rhythm that you've felt you've been in all season?
A: Yeah, I'd say so. Just playing pitch and catch with my guys, guys were spaced up. The offensive line did a good job for us that night and we were also able to run the football. It was a pretty balanced attack, it just made the game much more comfortable.
Q: When you look back at the final play what did you see and what could have been done differently?
A: Like I said after the game, the play call, all of the receivers were coming from the left side of the field, I tried to wait because I couldn't complete the ball in the middle of the field, we didn't have any timeouts. I had to wait until the guys got closer to the sideline to try and throw the ball either over [Stefon] Diggs' head or I could have thrown it over Adrian's head maybe a little faster, that one thing I could have done. I couldn't complete the ball in the middle of the field because the guy would get tackled and we wouldn't have had time to get the field goal team out there. I probably could have just got the ball over Adrian [Peterson's] head a split second faster, but it was a bang-bang play.
Q: Were you down over the weekend at all about that play?
A: It was a little frustrating to get that close and not finish the deal. I sat in the locker room, I sat in my pads for about 20 or 30 minutes after the game and the guys were just telling me to snap out of it, I had to put it in the past. That's just that competitive nature in me, hate losing. It's something that we learned from, we have to move forward and focus on Chicago.
Q: What are your thoughts on that play call, could you check out of it?
A: We practice those situations. It's not a play that I could have checked out of. Like I said, it was a play that we were comfortable with. Like I said, I probably could have gotten the ball over Adrian's head a little quicker, but I think Arizona did a great job of covering the play. That's a play that we hit last year against the New York Jets in a similar situation. I think those guys were prepared for that situation, they covered the play well. All I could do, like I said, was try to throw the ball over Adrian's head.
Q: Do you wait to throw the ball until they get to the sideline or do you hit them as they're running?
A: Hopefully you can catch a guy open or running away from the man coverage or something like that and try to get a lane to get out of bounds. The play had to develop. The Arizona Cardinals, I think, came out in man coverage, so it kind of slowed down the timing, slowed down the release of the receivers so I had to, like I said, try to hold the ball to try to get it over Diggs' head or I could have got it out a little quicker and got it over Adrian's head.
Q: Was Jarius Wright the first read on that play?
A: Any guy could have came up on that play. It was a bang-bang play. Like I said, we have to shift our focus to Chicago, we can't dwell on the Arizona game. Chicago is a team, like I said, four of their five wins have come on the road. We know that they're going to come in here this weekend expecting to end our season and things like that.
Q: Could you talk about the intangibles of winning but not putting up crazy individual stats?
A: At the end of the day it's all about winning. Everyone gets caught up in stats and fantasy football and things like that. At the end of the day the only stat that matters is the wins and losses. It's a team sport, I'm one of those guys who understands that. I know that one day I may go out there and throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns or one day I may go out there and throw for only 100 yards and we may rush the ball for 300 yards. It's an overall team effort and that's something that we understand around here.
Q: When you look at Chicago's defense do you think you can duplicate your performance against the Cardinals?
A: We have to just look at the game plan, we want to try to attack some of the areas that they're struggling in and just go from there.
Q: What were you comfortable with in the game plan against Arizona?
A: We had a good week of practice, a solid week of practice. The guys were flying around, the guys were focused. We have to have that same focus this week. I noticed it today, this morning at walk-thru, the guys are locked in, they know what's at stake. As long as we have that same focus that we had last week, come out with the same intensity, we expect ourselves to play at a high level again.
Q: You didn't see anything different in last week's game plan with the play calling or passing schemes?
A: No, like I said, we were focused. Guys were locked in and they were ready to go out there and play.
Q: What did you see on that long throw to MyCole Pruitt?
A: It was a play that we've been practicing since training camp, it was good to get it called. MyCole [Pruitt] did a good job of getting separation, all I had to do was just lay it out there in the open area of the field for him to run underneath it and he did just that.
Q: Do you think that was one of the better throws you've made down the field?
A: You can say that. It was just a good play by MyCole in understanding the route concept and the offensive line did a good job on that play of giving me some time to sit back there and throw the football, just playing pitch and catch.
Q: How do you like playing in the colder weather?
A: I actually love it, we get to use it to our advantage. You get teams that aren't used to playing in the cold weather games and like I said, you get to use it to your advantage. It's all a mental thing and I'm a big fan of it actually.
Q: How important is it to get off to a quick start against Chicago?
A: It's very important every week to get off to a fast start. You get in rhythm, you get to set the tempo of the game. That's something that we take pride in, setting the tempo of the game and not letting our opponents do that.
Q: Is it still possible to take anything from a game you lose?
A: There are a ton of things you can take away from that game, a ton of positives, some negatives also. We know that in this game that there are no moral victories. We did some things well that night, that's expectation level for us to continue to just peak and play at a high level.
Q: What did you do over the extended weekend?
A: I got away and took some time to relax. I think we've been going since Week 5 or something like that, we had the early bye week. It was good to get some time off, get some guys healthy and come back and finish these last three games off.