*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
Q: What do you attribute your defense's ability to pressure Aaron Rodgers to?
A: I don't know. We played good, we rushed good. Our guys rush good together.
Q: Do you view Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson as similar quarterbacks and their ability to get outside of the pocket?
A: Similar, I mean, [Russell] Wilson, he can really scramble. He's Fran Tarkenton-ish, but he's throwing the ball extremely well. He's been extremely accurate on the move, he sees things, he's got great vision. He's been playing at an extremely high level.
Q: When you look at your defense compared to last year, where has it come the furthest?
A: I don't know. I didn't really have any expectations – I mean we had to teach the whole thing, but they caught on fast.
Q: What do you think St. Louis has done so well against Seattle?
A: Well, they created some turnovers. They were physical with them. I think they did a good job offensively of making some plays as they progressed and taking good care of the football.
Q: With Stefon Diggs struggling on Sunday are there any concerns about his play?
A: I don't know, we will find out this week. I don't have any concerns about Teddy [Bridgewater], I'm sure he will play good this week.* *
Q: How do you make the cold weather an advantage for your team?
A: Well, first thing, we need our fans to make it an advantage for us – they need to be loud and make sure they have some tailgating before they come out so they stay warm. But I don't know, we've luckily been in some of these element games – the Carolina game a year ago, the Giants game on Sunday night, Green Bay game last week. I'm sure they've probably been in some as well. It's just something that we will deal with.
Q: How does the brutal cold change the complexion of the game and your play calls?
A: Well, it could a lot. The wind affects things more than probably anything does. The cold is the cold. The ball is going to be harder, a little more slippery. I think it's going to be a lot of concentration when guys are out on the field, they've got to concentrate and really don't worry about the cold, you worry about playing. Tackling will be big because of that, I think.
Q: As a defensive-minded coach, what impresses you the most about Seattle's defensive achievements the last couple of years?
A: I was just telling somebody, they're really, really good at what they do. I wouldn't say they're extremely fancy at what they do, but they do it and they say, "Here we are, let's go." They get after you, they're physical, they play great in coverage, they play great in the run. To me, that's impressive when you don't have to try to trick people all of the time and things like that. You can play your base defense and get after people and they do that.
Q: With the way Seattle's defensive backs play, how are they also able to stop the run so well?
A: A lot of times they've got an extra guy in there. They do a great job of having an extra guy in the box for the run and playing coverage with it. The corners on the outside do a good job. Earl Thomas in the middle, he kind of is a window-wiper back there – he's got great range and toughness. I think they do a great job with their linebackers in coverage, as well.
Q: How difficult is it to allow the fewest points for four years in a row with three different coordinators for the Seahawks?
A: Yeah, it's extremely difficult. The nucleus of their players remains the same, which is what you want to try to do. They play fast because of how they play, the things they do. They play fast, they understand concepts really good. I think that all leads to being fast and physical.
Q: How close was Linval Joseph to playing the other day and were you saving him for the playoffs factor in at all?
A: No. It didn't factor at all. I mean, if he could have played he would have played.
Q: For bigger guys do toe injuries tend to linger?
A: Yeah, I mean, after the game he played it was sore and swollen. Just took a little time.
Q: Are you hopeful Linval Joseph will play this week?
A: I am.
Q: What are your thoughts on Everson Griffen's performance against the Packers to earn him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors?
A: Everson [Griffen] is a good player, a great person. He's got a great attitude. I think it's impressive that the team voted him as a captain coming in here because of the way he works and the way he does things and tries to be a great teammate. He played great the other night, he had some unbelievable effort plays. Obviously, he's a talented athlete that gives you a full day's work. When he plays like that, he's tough to handle.
Q: How do you get your guys acclimated to playoff experience so that they are not playing from behind early against Seattle?
A: We have some guys in there and I've talked to them about what to expect and right now it's really about preparation and execution for us and then as the week goes on, then we'll start talking more about the intensity level of the playoffs and things. But I've talked to them about it a little bit already.
Q: Have you seen any change in their focus this week now that it's playoff time?
A: Well I've only seen them a little bit today. They're about like they always are.
Q: What are some of the challenges of going up against a team that has so much playoff experience?
A: I don't know if it's that or that they're really, really good. They beat us pretty badly last time we played them. It wasn't close, they got after us in every phase, so we have to perform extremely well for us to play good in this game. We have to do things right, we have to tackle, we didn't tackle good in that game. We obviously didn't do anything offensively in the game, we didn't run the ball good, didn't throw the ball good, third downs, none of that stuff. We can't worry about the playoff experience until we do the things right in order for us to win. It's kind of like what we've been saying all year long that when we do things right, we have a good opportunity to win. When we don't, we don't. But they got after us the last ballgame. I think we've been in a lot of tight ballgames and we've made some strides in those when we've had those opportunities, but we have to get it to that point.
Q: How much did you learn from facing Russell Wilson the first time?
A: I've learned he's really, really good. He throws the deep ball great, he's extremely accurate on the quick throws, he gets the ball out fast, he sees things, he's an unbelievable scrambler. There were times when we had him and two guys couldn't get him. He's like Houdini. That's a quote for you.
Q: How does Marshawn Lynch enhance their offense if he is able to play?
A: He's going to enhance it a lot because he's a load. Obviously he's a great back, physical, I think he does a lot of good things well, not just running the football – I think he's good in protection, I think he's good at catching the ball. That's another factor that we didn't have to face when they thumped us the last time, so we're going to have to be extra good.
Q: Do you feel like your offensive line is struggling?
A: I think we can do a lot better.
Q: What was your biggest difficulty on third down defense in the last game against Seattle?
A: I think we had about eight 3rd-and-1s which makes it difficult. We had them at times at 2nd-and-9 and then it's 3rd-and-1. That happened several, several times in the game; it might not have been 2nd-and-9, but there were a lot of 3rd-and-1s in the ballgame. It's hard to stop people on 3rd-and-1s. They usually try to get to 3rd-and-managable situations. They run a lot of rub routes and things like that when it's 3rd-and-4, they kind of rub you and he gets the ball out quick, some of them were the free releases to the back, things like that. But they're 46 percent on third downs, so they're pretty good at them anyway. But we helped them a lot in that game. I think they were 68 [percent] or something when we played them.
Q: In that first game, did you guys feel like you were flat or did they just beat you soundly?
A: They just whooped us, they got after us. They beat us in every phase, they beat us every which way. I don't know that the team has ever been flat. I don't know, but I don't think we were flat. I think they just got after us.
Q: Does Russell Wilson's ability to spread the ball around to his receivers make it more difficult to defend their offense?
A: Yeah, they do so many good things. They've got the zone read game in the running game and then they've got the run game with the boots and the play actions and they've got the deep shots to [Tyler] Lockett, and they hit [Jermaine] Kearse on some balls, Wilson on some play actions, so yes, it makes it really difficult. They do a number of things. I think [Darrell] Bevell does a great job and the things they do, they make it difficult for you, the concepts. Tom Cable, the offensive line coach, I think he does a terrific job. The whole gamut of things they do make it difficult.
Q: What does Dominique Jones bring to the table as a player if you were to call him up to the practice squad?
A: He's got some athletic ability in the passing game. He's been around here, so he knows the system a little bit.
Q: Do you expect MyCole Pruitt to have an increased role with Nick Easton out?
A: Yeah, probably.
Q: What do you see from him filling that role?
A: I don't know that they're really similar players, but MyCole [Pruitt] is going to have to do some dirty work probably.
Q: Have you seen progress in his run blocking over the course of the season?
A: Yeah, he's a shorter-statured guy with lower center of gravity that has some size and strength, so he'll be okay in the running game.
Vikings Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
It's a good opportunity to be back out here this week. We just have to continue to do the things that got us here and not beat ourselves. We're getting ready to face a pretty tough Seattle defense. Those guys are playing some good football right now, winning six out of their last seven games. It's going to be a challenge for us but it's good to be back home to get a playoff game.
Q: What impressed you most about the way they played defensively the first time you guys played?
A: The thing about that defense, they want you to be impatient and that's something I noticed the first time we played them. There's nothing wrong with taking those easy completions and then the big play will come. They sit back, they play their coverage and they do it well. Those guys have a ton of chemistry. You just have to take what they're giving you.
Q: As you look back at film, you weren't able to follow up on what was a string of good performances. What do you think contributed to that?
A: I think we're at our best when we're just taking completions, taking what the defense is giving us. Not trying to be too perfect on every play. Whenever we're in rhythm, when we're completing the football, converting third downs, and that's when we're at our best.
Q: Do you see similarities in your struggles between Seattle and Green Bay?
A: I really don't. I can't even think back the first time, I watched the tape and everything but you just have to take those completions. They're out there. You have to allow guys to make plays and that's what this game is going to come down to.
Q: What has changed in this team from Week 13 to now?
A: This is a team that's continued to just trust in one another. We've been playing some of our best football these past couple weeks and that's a good thing. We want to continue to build off that momentum that we have and take advantage of this opportunity.
Q: What happened on the overthrow to Jerick McKinnon at the beginning of the game? Coach Zimmer said that's a play you hit every time in practice.
A: I think I was just a little too excited. I know we had the favorable matchup and I just overthrew him.
Q: How do you feel going into your first playoff game?
A: You can tell that the guys' focus is totally different. Coach Zimmer said something this morning in the team meeting, 'now you're playing for trophies and rings, not just banners'. Hearing that, it lets you know that it's go time. I walked in the facility this morning and the guys were locked in. Those guys have that intensity, that look in their eyes that they want to get it done.
Q: What has been the most important part in not letting the cold weather affect your throwing?
A: Being smart with the football. Taking good care of it. That's what these games come down to, protecting the football, penalties, converting third downs, field position and things like that. When we get in these cold games, we want to use it to our advantage being that we've played outdoors all years. But that's what this game is going to come down to, those key factors.
Q: How do you use the cold weather to your advantage?
A: We've had come cold games dating back to last year. We feel like it's a mental thing. The guys have bought in. We're going to practice outside most likely, Coach Zimmer being our head coach, he's a tough guy. Get used to the weather, get used to the climate. The guys understand the challenge that's in front of us and they've been doing a good job answering Coach Zimmer's challenges.
Q: What do you need to do to make sure you don't get too excited this time around?
A: Like I said, I just have to go out there and take completions, take what the defense is giving me, get in rhythm and set the tempo of the game.
Q: How important is it to get those completions early? It seems as if the games where you've been able to complete a few passes in that first drive have typically been your best games.
A: Yeah definitely. It just gets us rolling as a unit. Completing the football, converting third downs. In some of our touchdown drives that we had in opening drives, like you said we've been four of five completions, five or six rushes. I just have to get out there and just take what the defense is giving me. I can't get too greedy. I have to be patient with this defense and that's something that we understand.
Q: Can you describe the challenges you guys have faced when defenses like Seattle have taken Adrian Peterson out of the picture?
A: They just put us in a passing situation and I think that's when they're at their best, when they get you down and they just let their pass rushers go. Those guys have a ton of chemistry playing together. They've been playing for a while now and it's a good group. Number one and two in both categories on the defensive side of the ball. I just have to take what the defense is giving me, take those completions.
Q: How tough is it to stay balanced when you are not getting the run?
A: You never know how the games are going to come up. We'd love to be a balanced offense and that's something that we take pride in.
Q: You guys don't have a ton of playoff experience. How have you guys approached this game?
A: We just have to understand the opportunity that's in front of us, just continue to embrace this challenge. Like you said, we have a ton of guys who don't have playoff experience. But the guys who are here who were on the 2012 team, the Minnesota Vikings, they've been sharing some wisdom with the guys, some knowledge on how to approach these kind of games and it's been very helpful for us.
Q: Do you feel less pressure when your defense is playing well?A: I just feel less pressure when we're playing good football. Whenever we go out there and take care of business the game seems to come easy.
Q: Have you had a chance to circle back with your friend Bruce Irvin?
A: Actually, I didn't. We talked after the game but that was it.
Q: The fact that you guys won at Green Bay and especially that the defense came and got the touchdown back, does that make it easier to go back and watch the left-handed throw that you made?
A: Not at all. But it was good that the defense was able to get the touchdown. You have to think about the risk-reward factor in that situation. If I just take the sack, we'll punt the football and we'll have Green Bay backed up and that's something that I've mentioned earlier. Games like those come down to taking care of the football, field position and things like that. But our defense did a great job Sunday night and I take my hat off to those guys.
Q: You grew up idolizing Brett Favre. That play was kind of uncharacteristic of you but when you think of Brett Favre, you think of him taking a ton of chances and you don't really mimic your style of play after him. So what is it about him that you like so much?
A: He was a tough competitor. He's the ultimate competitor. He's a guy who started, I can't even tell you how many consecutive games in the NFL. I think he has the record still. He's a winner. He did some great things throughout his career and that's why I admire him.
Q: You only handed the ball to Adrian Peterson eight times the last game against Seattle, and he voiced that he wanted the ball more. What was it like the way that game unfolded, just not being able to get him involved?
A: Like I said, you never know how these games are going to play out. Seattle did a good job of just keeping us off the field. They had long drives put together and those guys did a great job of possessing the football. The games come up differently each week and sometimes it's just the way the game goes.
Q: When you were growing up, did you make a point to watch a lot of playoff games? Does that make you say, 'Hey, that's kind of cool that I'm here on the NFL's biggest stage'?
A: Definitely. Growing up watching some of the most epic battles in NFL history and now I get to take part in an NFL football game, it's huge for us and just speaks volumes to Coach Zimmer and what he's been able to do here in the past two years. He's just been challenging this team and the guys have been great of stepping up to the challenge and responding.