Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton will be up against a familiar face in Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Sunday.
The friendship between the two coaches goes back several decades. This weekend's game will mark the first time Zimmer has coached against his old team in a regular-season game.
"I consider him not only, he's a great friend, but he's just a tremendous coach," Lewis said earlier this week of Zimmer.
According to Lewis, Zimmer's style of defense hasn't changed much in Minnesota from what he ran in Cincinnati.
"They just do a great job fundamentally. They're very sound," Lewis said. "They do a nice job in tight coverage and contesting footballs, and that was Mike's big thing – contest the catch. And they're doing a great job of contesting the catch all the time. And he's been able to pair that with a good group of rush guys up front and athletic linebackers.
"They're doing a nice job, particularly on third down, which is really keeping the opponents from having the opportunity to drive the field to score," Lewis later said. "And throughout the football game, they have given up very few explosive plays – occasionally, but very few of them. They're really making you earn everything."
Dalton and Zimmer overlapped in Cincinnati from 2011-13 when Zimmer served as the Bengals defensive coordinator, and the quarterback knows what to expect from practice against a Zimmer-inspired defense.
Dalton echoed Lewis' thoughts on the strengths of the unit lying in the fundamentals.
"Well, they play really hard. I think they've got good players, too. They're just really sound at what they do," Dalton said. "They've got guys that contest a lot of balls in the pass game, and they've got guys that are physical up front for the run game."
Added Dalton: "They've had guys that have been around that defense for a while, so they know what they're doing, and they're good at it."
Here are other highlights from what Lewis and Dalton said during the week in preparation for Sunday's matchup.
Dalton on Vikings CB Terence Newman
"You look at how long everyone's been in the league – 'Three [seasons], four, five, 15.' It's like, he's been around for a long time. For him to be playing and to be playing pretty well, that says a lot about the type of guy he is, how hard he works. Even when he was here, you could tell he's a guy that could play for as long as he wanted to. It doesn't surprise me that he's still going."
Lewis on Newman's longevity
"I just think that Terence, in '03 when I started here, was somebody we were considering when we had the first pick in the draft. We felt like he was that kind of athlete in person, and then when he came here later on and we got an opportunity to experience it firsthand, it's incredible. He's done such a great job of taking care of himself, he's a student of the game, he's a mentor for all the young players, and he's an extension of the coaches out there on the field."
Lewis on effectiveness of Anthony Barr
"When Anthony came out, and you know what kind of career he had at UCLA, but then when you see him physically, you know, that's what a No. 1 pick's supposed to look like. He's got the skills both to the play linebacker and as a rusher, and Mike's done a great job of incorporating him in the defensive scheme and using his skills."
Lewis on Minnesota's offense
"[Case Keenum] has really done a great job of taking care of the ball. He's running the offense well. They've been pretty balanced. Adam Thielen has had a very fine season, and when [Stefon] Diggs was out, he kind of picked up the slack there. [Kyle] Rudolph has had a strong season, and they're doing a good job of moving guys in and out, and they've being very productive offensively. They're great at third down, which is keeping drives alive."