EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are hosting a home playoff game for the first time since January 2018.
Minnesota (13-4) is set to face the New York Giants (9-7) at 3:30 p.m. (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Throughout this week, several players have spoken with media members regarding the energy around the Wild Card game and its implications.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips, Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell and Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels also addressed reporters during their weekly media sessions.
Below are 16 top quotes from inside Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
O'Connell on 'chess match' of preparing for Giants:
"Yeah, especially versus a recent opponent, an opponent like this one. I said it the last time we played these guys, not only their head coach in "Dabes" (Brian Daboll), but I think Wink [Martindale] is one of the better defensive coordinators in our league. He has been for a while. Presents a ton of different challenges for ya as an offense. And having just recently played them, that's where you're trying to work through things you can really hone in on versus 'What's the next step? What's the next phase of not only their plan but our plan?' And how we can maybe do things better. There's always – I know sometimes we roll our eyes a little bit, but when I saw there's always things I can do better, I really do mean it. So I'm trying to circle back and make sure I do my part to kind of set the tone for our whole team, not just our offense. And then rely on our staff and players to absorb it and give our team the best possible chance."
WR Justin Jefferson on importance of using experience from tight games and staying loose:
"I'm learning as I go on. This is my first time in the playoffs, but I know what it takes to win. They're going to get everything out of me; I'm going to leave it all on the field every single play. Everybody has to want it, everybody wants to win, everybody has to go out there with the same attitude, and I know I'm going to bring all that I have out there on that field and do whatever it takes for us to get the win."
LB Eric Kendricks on what this season and making memories with the team has meant to him:
"It's meant everything. I think that obviously you put your head down, you grind, you work, you just kind of live in that time. You always want to do better, you always want to look forward to the next game and whatever you have to do, but I feel like I've really started to enjoy the process and take advantage of the moment. That's what I'm doing this week, I'm not going to take it for granted, I'm going to work hard and go out and show up."
RB Dalvin Cook on significance of making it to the postseason:
"I haven't been to the playoffs for a while, what three years? It's a small margin of getting in or not getting in. We've got an opportunity of getting in and earning our spot in this dance, so we've got to take advantage, and the guys know that. Some of the older guys on the team shared some of their experiences of being in the league for so long and only being in the playoffs once or twice, so we're going to take advantage and make sure the younger guys know the opportunity before us and we've got to go seize it."
OLB Za'Darius Smith on he and Danielle Hunter overcoming injuries and working together to get to the playoffs:
"Oh, it's big. I know when I first came here, we talked about it. And the first thing was getting the [NFC] North [division], you know what I'm saying? Winning the North and getting into the playoffs and basically having home-field advantage. As you can see, everything is happening the way we want it to."
OLB Danielle Hunter on what he remembers from the last home playoff game:
"I just remember it being loud. It was probably one of the loudest games I've ever been in. It was so loud that you could just feel the vibration, the sound off your skin."
QB Kirk Cousins on O'Connell's role in the team's 11-0 record in 1-score games:
"I think a lot of credit goes to Kevin. Anytime something happens to your team that hasn't happened in league history, then I think your head coach deserves a lot of credit. It's Important, again kind of always looking forward, not looking back and staying very present. I think it's important that playoffs are likely going to be one-score games, and hopefully that continues into the playoffs. Nothing that has happened in the past really guarantees you anything moving forward. It's so important that we do stay in the present, and I think the nature of the playoffs enables you to do that. Forget what's behind, don't get too far ahead and just focus on what you have this week."
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Giants.
DT Harrison Phillips on 'wide-open' playoff field:
"I think a lot of times when you look back historically in the playoffs, it's a true any-given-Sunday type thing. The ball is shaped a weird way for a reason; it can kind of bounce different ways, and obviously you can execute on 99 of your 100 plays, and that 100th play might get you. I think that's some of the messaging we're going to preach, is being as consistent as we can, and you've seen when we're firing on one side of the ball or all three sides of the ball at different points in the season, if we can bring that consistently, I think we can win a handful of [playoff] games here and hopefully go the whole way."
TE T.J. Hockenson on if this week presents a different kind of pressure:
"Other than it's a one-game season. We lose, we go home, that's the biggest thing. Yeah, there's a sense of intensity with it and a sense of focus that comes with it and making sure everybody is doing their job. But this is the same team we were last week and the same team we've been all season, and that's the focus we need to have going into this playoff game. We're an uncommon group, and that's what we're going to continue to try to prove."
CB Patrick Peterson on returning to Vikings this season and making it to the postseason:
"It's very rewarding to see all the hard work pay off. Especially with the talent, the leadership, that we had in this locker room the year before – we just knew it was very promising. It was no doubt in my mind that we would be in this position right here if we had the right guy leading this group. We're family. [General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] did a great job of picking the right guy in K.O. (O'Connell) – made us better in every facet of the game. Situational, special teams, offense being pretty much unstoppable, as of right now. So yeah, I was just very, very happy not only for myself but for the guys. Because we've got a lot of young guys who have never tasted this type of success. I just want those guys to continue to relish this moment, give us everything you've got, and we'll see what happens at the end of the year."
WR Adam Thielen on approach to playoff game versus regular season:
"The feeling is different, but as far as the process, the process is the exact same. Which I think the coaches have done a great job, the players in his locker room have done a great job, of not making it bigger than it is. We know it's win-or-go-home; we have that in the back of our heads. But again, the process is what's important. I think where that starts is actually doing it, not just saying it, throughout the season. Trusting the process whether we win, we lose, a big win or a bad loss. The same process week-in and week-out, I think that kind of carries on to the playoffs. Again, the coaching staff that we have and the players have done a great job so far with that."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
CB Chandon Sullivan on if this group is bringing high expectations into the playoffs:
"For sure. The goal is to win it all, but we've got to take it one step at a time, one game at a time. The Giants are our next opponent, and they're going to get our best."
OLB D.J. Wonnum on evolution of Vikings pass rush this season:
"There are some different things we had to dial up going into the season, especially [when] game-planning different opponents. Every team is different in a unique way, so just going into each week and changing up our scheme and things that we do to try to fit that team the best way we can."
Wes Phillips on facing Dexter Lawrence:
"He's a great player. You saw it in our first game with him. He, in my mind, is one of the top guys in the league, top five at that position, so he's certainly a concern, but when you can, you try to build in guard help with the center or the center helping with the guard, but he's going to have his moments where someone is going to have to block him 1-on-1, just with the nature of the o-line and fronts, and we've got to be able to hold up against him, but it's a big challenge."
Donatell on Peterson keeping the secondary at 'cruising altitude':
"He's in charge of anybody getting tight this week. It's his job – I said, 'If you see anybody getting tight,' because it's not coming from me, because that doesn't help anything. What you want to do is be more focused on the details, but you've got to operate free and flowing. So he's in charge there, and Dalvin [Tomlinson is] in charge of the front if anybody starts getting a little nervous or tight."
Daniels on challenge of Giants special teams:
"[Kicker Graham Gano] is a big-time weapon. We kind of talked about keys to victory, and at the end of the day, this game is a mano a mano type of game where it's punter versus punter, kicker versus kicker, perimeter versus perimeter and core versus core. So you know, Greg Joseph is competing against Graham Gano, at the end of the day. Ryan Wright is competing against the "Scottish Hammer" (Jamie Gillan), at the end of the day. So we've just gotta find a way to win those 1-on-1 matchups and dominate our opponent."