Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
After watching the tape, we did a lot of good things in the ball game. I thought offensively, we were physical. We executed, a lot of times, very, very well. Defensively, I think that we did a good job in covering. One of the emphasizes that we had all week in practice was that we quit letting one guy try to make the tackle, we try to get off of blocks and go make plays, and then special teams, we had a couple of nice long returns. The unfortunate part was, we didn't do enough things in the critical areas of the ball game to win. We didn't handle the 4th quarter well and as I'm trying to teach this team, that when you play good, you still have to win the 4th quarter, the critical parts. I talked to them today about the Tampa Bay game, how we came back and were able to kick the field goal and win in overtime, the Buffalo game, the 4th-and-20 that we gave up, really to lose the ball game, when the Jets came back and we were able to win the game in overtime. There are so many games in the NFL that come down to this kind of crunch time and we didn't do enough to win. We're going to keep going forward, we're going to keep pounding the message. My mentality has not changed. My mindset has not changed. As I told the team, we're going to stick with it, keep working on getting better because we've got something to build for the future.
Q: Does that 4th quarter stuff come with more experience?
A: Well, a lot of it is. We go through a lot of these scenarios, some of them you quite honestly don't get. I'll just go through the drive a little bit. We didn't get out of bounds, okay. Well, we talked to the guys about, if you don't think you can get out of bounds, get as much as you can and get down. Matt (Asiata), he got down, but he should have got the first down before he did. The communicator to the quarterback went out, we got a delay of game penalty. At the 4th-and-1, we need the first down, but we need yards at that point in time. We had a guy open down the field, we should have tried to get the ball down in there, and then the series before, we had a good return, we get a holding penalty. Those are the kind of things, we played great without penalties all day long, but the good thing is, that Teddy (Bridgewater) is getting a lot of these experiences. The on-the-job training that he's getting, I really believe will bode well for him in the future, and for us as an organization and a team.
Q: What frustrated you most about the sequence of the final drive?
A: Honestly, it's never easy to go from the 30-yard line, or whatever it was, with 43 seconds left and no timeouts. It's not ever an easy thing, but we just didn't execute. The execution probably frustrated me the most on, really, several of the plays.
Q: You've had success out of the division, how frustrated are you with the 0-5 divisional record?
A: We want to win division games, but each game to me is a new game, a new thing. I know people are going to be on my butt about that, not winning division games, but if we keep playing the way, with the kind of grit, and preparation, and things we do, we will win division games.
Q: How important is the improvement from facing one divisional game to the next time you faced that opponent?
A: I think I'm learning this division better, but I'd rather learn with a win than that. We've tried to improve each week and each time. I don't know if that's what it is. I don't know.
Q: What have you learned about the division?
A: I'm just learning more about personnel and how to play guys. Things like that.
Q: How do you think Xavier Rhodes did covering Calvin Johnson?
A: I thought he did well. I think the best things about it is, he accepted the challenge, he fought and competed. He wasn't alone all of the time, I mean, he was alone several times and we helped him. Like I said earlier, I feel like, defensively we worked on a lot of things last week that I wasn't happy with and it showed up. We practiced the way I expect us to practice, and sometimes you get in a routine throughout the season and you let certain things slide, and I just happened to notice it and we picked that up and it showed on Sunday. I think that the defensive players say, "At least these guys have an idea how to go up against some big-time guys and try to cover them, not let them beat you and things like that." I thought he did well.
Q: What were the circumstances that led to challenging Xavier Rhodes with covering Calvin Johnson?
A: It's a combination of things, I just felt like it was time to try it, and didn't really have anything to lose and he'd been playing well. He'd been competing well and playing well. It was a good size matchup, I mean this guy (Calvin Johsnon) is huge.
Q: How do you feel the players have responded to the different messages you've had throughout the season? Do you feel like you've gotten results as quickly as practical?
A: I don't know, you'd have to ask the players that. I'm going to keep preaching the message whether they like it or not to be honest with you. It's my job to try to get them to understand exactly what I want to get done and hopefully they are but if they're not, I'm going to keep pounding it until they get it.
Q: Can you talk about Austin Wentworth's improvement since coming in as an undrafted free agent and now getting in the game yesterday?
A: Well he only had two plays. He's come in and done a good job. He's a smart guy, he's got pretty good balance, works hard in practice. I think that's a credit to our scouts that they go out and find these kinds of guys. These kinds of guys get opportunities to play in the NFL every year, every year a bunch of undrafted free agents make it, and when you can continue to get guys like them and guys in the later rounds that you pick, it really helps your franchise a lot.
*Q: How did you feel about the offensive line's performance against the stout Detroit defense? *
A: I thought they battled their rear ends off. I think they competed. I thought they fought like crazy to give us the opportunity to get the ball in the right place. I know the run game totals weren't exactly what I wanted but we did stay on the double teams pretty good. We knocked a couple of guys off the line of scrimmage and when we went to the second level a guy would fall off and make a play. They did some good things; probably as good as they've played this year.
Q: How do you feel Andrew Sendejo performed filling in for Robert Blanton? And Antone Exum when he had to step in?
A: I thought Sendejo did well. He plays real hard, he's a smart guy. I thought he did well. Exum had some good plays in there as well, only six so it's a small sample size.
Q: Is there a positive or negative to the on-the-job training that Teddy Bridgewater has gotten compared to sitting out and watching the veteran quarterback play for a season?
A: Well I really think you learn best from playing. That's what I believe. I'm glad that he's playing. What I was nervous about at the beginning of the year was, because I know this guy's got a chance to be the guy for a long, long time here, and what I was nervous about at the beginning of the year is I didn't want to get him beat up, I didn't want to get him a bunch of bad outings where he didn't have that confidence and that attitude that he was going to do the things that he's doing and I think that things we're doing offensively is allowing him to do that. We've been cutting down on the sacks, we've been cutting down on the turnovers – he had two yesterday. I think in the long run his playing and going through all of these experiences and getting a chance to play against Green Bay and Chicago and Detroit will be a big factor for us in the future because he's been through these things now. It's not new. If he wasn't playing that fourth quarter that the things that happened in the ball game, maybe next year we're in the same boat and he's learning from it then as opposed to learning from it now and the one thing I do know about Teddy is he learns from a lot of the experiences he's had and I expect him to continue to improve in those ways. I'm really glad that he's playing; I'm glad that we're keeping him upright. You can think back, and I know it's just my belief, you think back on some of the quarterbacks that had to play as rookies or have been playing as rookies and got the heck beat out of them and they haven't made it. That was the most important thing to start the season is that we take care of him and when it's time it's time.
*Q: Norv Turner mentioned that he didn't think Kyle Rudolph would be 100 percent until training camp next year. How do you think Kyle has looked in terms of coming back? *
A: Well I thought he looked better this week. This was the first week that I saw him in practice that he looked closer to what he is and I do agree with Norv, he may not be 100 totally percent but I thought this week in practice, and in the game as well, he looked more like himself from what I saw.
Q: Where is the most progress yet to be made in these final two weeks and what do you look to see during them?
A: Well you know the biggest progress I'd like to see is get some wins. I know people probably just blow smoke up my behind but I get calls and texts from people and coaches and they say what a good football team we look like and the things that we're doing are right and maybe they're just telling me to be nice, I don't think that, but we're doing so many good things that if we can get over the hump, just get over the hump to win, and we've got progress to be made everywhere, there's not one area that I'd say we don't need to progress a lot. These next two weeks are so important for continuing the process of where we're trying to get to and I just think it's really important. I told the team today that I'm not backing down, I'm not backing off of anything, we're going to continue on, the message is going to be preached each week just like it's the beginning of the season or the end of the season it doesn't matter to me. I'm too much of a competitor and hopefully the team is too much of a competitor to not fight each and every play each and every day.
Q: Did you see Matt Asiata run with a lot of force and determination in yesterday's game?
A: I did. I thought Matt ran well. Even a couple of times when Teddy dumped the ball off to him he went after the defensive backs and tried to pound them. When I talk about the mentality that I want to have as a football team, that's kind of part of it too – when we get a chance to hit somebody, we want to hit them. I thought that he displayed a lot of that.
*Q: What's your assessment of Ben Tate III? *
A: He's still learning where he's at, the different intricacies of the offense – where to go and where to be and all of that. He's still learning. He's got talent and skill, we've just got to keep going.
Q: Do you anticipate the four injured guys that sat out the other day would have a chance to be back this week.
A: I don't know. I really don't know, even though we're not talking about injuries.