On Sunday, the Vikings (4-2) will play their second straight home game, hosting the Ravens (3-3) at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Baltimore has snagged nine interceptions in its first six games, but quarterback Joe Flacco has also thrown eight picks of his own. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said via conference call that he's well-aware of the challenge his team faces in the Vikings defense.
"I think the defense is probably the punctuation of that, on all three levels," Harbaugh told Twin Cities media members. "[Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's a great defensive coach; his defensive staff does a great job. I just think they have a system.
"Kind of around the league there are families – on all three phases – of kind of football systems, and Mike's sort of the father of that particular system," Harbaugh continued. "He's very creative, he built it from scratch. It's a 4-3, attacking type of a system. He's got so many great principles incorporated into it and so many things that cause problems for the offense. I just think that he's one of the great defensive coaches in the league, and a pretty good head coach, too."
The Ravens are averaging 159.7 passing yards per game, ranking 31st in the NFL, and rank seventh overall with 129.5 rushing yards per game. Minnesota's defense, however, ranks third in the league after allowing an average of only 78.7 rushing yards per game through the first six weeks.
Harbaugh spoke about the challenge the Vikings defensive line poses.
"They roll guys in, they're fresh, they play with a lot of energy," Harbaugh said. "I think they have a number of really good pass rushers. I mean, obviously they have the top couple guys and the top guy, who is just a dominant pass rusher, but all of those guys bring something to the table in that way, so it's really hard to focus in one direction."
And if game-planning for the Vikings d-line isn't enough of a task, Harbaugh said he also knows how tricky it can be to make big plays against Harrison Smith in the secondary.
"He's a very cerebral player back there, and a playmaker. You know, you just have to know where he is at all times. If he gets his hands on the ball, he usually catches it," Harbaugh said. "They got him in different disguising coverages, and he blitzes, he moves the secondary around, gets them in the right place. But I'd say the main thing is his playmaking ability."
Here are other highlights of Ravens talking about the Vikings:
Harbaugh on prepping for Vikings QBs
"A lot of energy, you know, [Case Keenum has] really spiked them. Obviously Sam Bradford's a great player, but he's been injured. So Case has stepped in. He's a veteran … we've played him a number of times.
"You know you're going to get a great game from Case Keenum, and he's a guy that concerns us with what he brings to the table. He's a playmaker, and he knows what he's doing. So we have a lot of respect for him. But, you know, we have to get ready for Sam, too. We've got to be ready for both of those guys."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg on Vikings defense
"We're facing a top-10 defense that is especially good on third down, as well as in the red zone. So it's a great challenge, on the road, with crowd noise, and so we've got to be at our best here. It's a great challenge for all 11 on offense. We're looking forward to it – the guys are working very hard, they're preparing hard."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees on Case Keenum
"We've faced him in the past. I think we faced him twice with two different teams (Texans and Rams).
"He's a good quarterback. The thing of it is, he's a very accurate guy. He throws on time, he's going to get rid of the ball. We have to do a great job with the pocket, we have to really be able to keep him in the pocket and not let him get out. And then the other part of it is to really push the pocket and make things hard for him to see downfield. We can't give him throwing lanes. He's got talented receivers, he's got a good corps; the offensive line, they're playing well. I mean, he's a good quarterback."
QB Joe Flacco on familiarity with Zimmer's defenses
"When you watch the Vikings, I think they have a lot of confidence in the guys they have and the personnel that they have, so they kind of play to their strengths. So I don't know if a lot's going to carry over from when [Zimmer] was in Cincinnati to now, but you can kind of get a good [idea of] what they're doing."
CB Jimmy Smith on Vikings WRs
"A talented receiving corps. We've got to get after them if we want to win this game.
"[Stefon Diggs is] a really good receiver. He makes a lot of plays for them, and he's a whole lot of their offense.
"[Adam Thielen] catches the ball. He's a good possession receiver. He gets open; he finds how to get out to the sticks. We have to definitely keep our hands on him."
T Austin Howard on Minnesota's d-line
"We have to establish a good run game, good pass game, a good overall offense, period. Obviously as offensive linemen, we love to run the ball. There's no hiding that. But yeah, we each want to get things rolling, make sure that we prepare well this week.
"They're a bunch of guys who are hard workers – they're always finishing [through] the whistle, always finishing at the end of the plays. One of the guys [Everson Griffen is fourth in the league with 7.0 sacks], so we're going to face a true battle this week, and we understand that. We have to come out prepared this week."