Vikings coordinators: Playing against Brady, Cousins running, Harris’ role and more
Every Thursday during the regular season (when the Minnesota Vikings play a Sunday game), the three coordinators speak to the media. Here’s a few highlights from this week’s press conferences:
Defensive coordinator George Edwards
Q: How have you seen Tom Brady change in any way from the times when you were in the division?
A: A lot of the personnel around him has changed, but he’s really been pretty consistent throughout the course of his career. He looks at things and diagnoses them and goes where he needs to go with the ball and understands protections. He does a great job with what they ask him to do.
Q: Coach Zimmer said they are the best play-action team in the NFL. What makes them so good with play-action?
A: It’s really tough, because they do great job of selling it, whether it’s putting the football in there, and they’re really up front in the way that they block it. They do a great job of coming off real hard and getting into the protection mode off of it. We’ll have our work cut out for us diagnosing run and play action against this team. And they’re ability to run the football, this team is what, 113 [rushing yards] a game? They run the football, so it plays right into it.
Q: How different is their offense with Sony Michel?
A: Yeah, he’s got good vision when he gets the ball. He’s got the ability to cut back, get on the corners, and he’s got the speed so that once he gets in the open field he’s a tough tackle. He brings a lot to their run game and we’ll have to do a good job of being technically and fundamentally playing from play to play, and making sure that we got gap control and those kind of things, and do a good job of tackling.
Q: Your defense is the best in the NFL when it comes to third- or fourth-and-short, but the Patriots are historically good with quarterback sneaks. What has made your defense so good in those situations, and what makes New England successful?
A: One thing for them is that you’ll see a lot of times hurry up to the ball, snap the ball, and it’s catching people off guard or they out-leverage you in the run game. Their scheme of things is pretty good and challenges you defensively. I think it’s an awareness thing for us. I think our guys have done a good job throughout the course of last year to this year of realizing the situation and playing the situation. That’s been critical for us as we’ve progressed throughout the course of the year.
Q: How tough is Brady to affect with your pass rush?
A: He does a good job of getting rid of the football. That’s one thing that we talk to our guys up front [about]. We got to do a good job with our rush plan and our rush lanes, but also, he’s going to get the ball out of his hand, so we got to do a good job of being prepared for those and being able to hopefully get our hands up and get our hands on some balls, and do a good job of getting underneath in coverage and down the field in coverage. That goes hand in hand with everything, a good pass rush, good coverage. Hopefully we can work those two things together and work it to our benefit.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo
Q: Zim said they make you play left-handed and take away your best players, how does that translate to what they do defensively?
A: They change up what they do every week. You really don’t know what you’re getting until you really get to the game. Obviously, you watch their game tapes as they go along the season and they play each team a little bit differently to how they perceive what you do well, like man coverage, bracket coverage, cover-two. So they change it up to stop what you do well. We have a feeling on how they’re going to play us, we don’t know for sure. That’s what he’s going to do. I think we’ll have enough to hopefully counter-punch it.
Q: Is some of that with them being good at recognizing personnel packages?
A: I think coach (Bill) Belichick does an unbelievable job. I think he really understands. When he sees a unique skill set on a player I think he does everything he can to take that away. Whether that be crowding to a side, whether that be man, whether that be getting in somebody’s face – press man, off man. He does a great job of recognizing skill sets in players and trying to take that away.
Q: You had two weeks of preparation last year (in the Super Bowl) for them, did any of that come into effect this week?
A: It does. You know it does. I think comparing years is a little overrated, to be quite honest with you. The average NFL team changes about 33 percent, between 33 and 38 percent from personnel to coaches. I did a study on that a few years ago and it was relatively between 33 and 38 percent. There’s different guys out there, there’s different schemes out there, there’s different things that they do better than they did last year. Yeah you look at it in terms of personnel driven more so than scheme.
Q: Does going head-to-head so recently make it easier for adjustments?
A: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. That was a very high offensive game in that Super Bowl. There was a lot of balls in the air, guys running around, if you like offense it was really good game. Yeah, it does. It just kind of gives you a flow of the game in terms of the way he views the game and the flow and how they change things up. Like I said, we’re obviously looking at this year’s tape much more than the Super Bowl.
Q: What makes playing there so difficult in the times that you were there in the past?
A: A lot of things. Number one, they have great players. Number two, they have great schemes. Number three, they are very well coached. Number four, the environment you have to play in; it’s a pretty loud place, the fans are right on top of you. The other thing is they’ve won a lot of football games there. They’re a really good team at home. Over the past years, I don’t know the exact stats, but they’re a really good team at home. Anytime you go in there and play them you know you’re going to get a great game, you’re going to get their best shot all the time – very rarely do they have a bad game. We’ve just got to be ready to go and start fast.
Q: What is your message to Kirk Cousins when it comes to running the ball?
A: Not lowering his shoulder is one approach I don’t want him to do, but at least it was his left shoulder. Our goal in the quarterback room is to get one a game, get one first down a game however that is, whether it be a QB sneak, a third down and six run up the middle, whether that be whatever. Our goal is to get one a game, so Kirk did a great job of doing that last week.
Q: You’re 40 and Tom Brady is 41, you’re a quarterback guy, what stands out to you about how he defies the age bracket?
A: A lot of times when I get out of bed I think about that and I’m like hurting and my back’s hurting and my legs are sore. I’m like “how does Tom Brady play? How does he play NFL football at that level?” He’s just an unbelievable player. He’s Tom Brady. He’s probably the best who’s ever played, got a ton of respect for him. Depending on who the quarterback it is, if you’re a wide base, short strike guy, that’s what you want to watch – you want to watch Tom Brady because he’s so good at it. Just staying back in the pocket, moving his feet, keeping a wide base, great upper body torque when he throws the football; he’s so fundamentally sound it’s really a thing of beauty to watch.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
Q: What has it been like preparing for Cordarrelle Patterson this week as an opponent?
A: We know what type of player he is. We know what type of attitude and effort and enthusiasm and energy he brings to the locker room, that he brings to the football team. I always told him that if he ever left here and I ever had to coach against him, I was not going to be happy that week. But I think our guys are excited for the challenge. Anytime you coach against an opponent and you coach against an opponent that is that good, and he is the best in the business at what he does as a kickoff returner, your juices get flowing, your competitiveness juices get flowing a little bit. In that regard, we are excited. We are excited about the challenge and opportunity. I think we have a good plan, we just have to go out and execute and tackle better than we did a week ago and then we go from there.
Q: Will the NFL ever get back the rare returner type that the league used to be filled with?
A: I think there are probably more exciting returners out there than we realize because of the opportunities aren’t as much as it used to be because of the rules and the changes. Special teams coordinators in general are trying to figure out the best way to utilize our kickoff returns, when to bring it out, when to not bring it out. We have to avoid penalties. I think once we get two to three years of these rules under our belt, which are great rules. I think they’re fantastic and I think they’re making the game better and safer for us. Once we get to that point, I think you are going to start to see some of those great returners continue to develop and make the game exciting. Which is why we need to keep this play in the game, because it is an exciting play and it is an important play. I think that has proved out this year in the NFL with some games that have come down to those big plays on special teams that have helped teams win or lose games.
Q: How do you think Anthony Harris’ role is going to change with becoming the full-time starter?
A: He’s done a great job on special teams. Andrew [Sendejo] has been out for a while and Anthony’s role has changed a bit pretty much for the last six, seven weeks anyways. Because we know Andrew is not coming back now, Anthony is set in that role. I think he will contribute on special teams and if he needs a blow, I know coach [Jerry] Gray does a great job of getting George [Iloka] in there or getting another safety in there, Jayron Kearse in there, to give Anthony a blow. At the end of the day, he is a very important part of our special teams and we are going to continue to use him if he is going to help us win and I believe he will.
Q: Knowing Harris was big for you on special teams, how rewarding is it for you to see him perform the way he has?
A: That is a great question because I said that the other day, probably about three or four weeks ago in a special teams meeting. I said, “The fun thing for me as a coach is to see these young men develop as special teams players and they last in the league and they’re contributing on special teams and they play at a high level and then they contribute on offense and defense.” When C.J. Ham catches that ball on the flat the other day against Green Bay, I’m like, “That’s a teamer.” Anthony Harris has two picks against Chicago, that’s a teamer. Adam Thielen had been a teamer for a long time. Harrison Smith played special teams back in the day. Trae Waynes, like I’ve mentioned before, was our leading tackler about three years ago in his rookie year. I think he had 15, 16 special teams tackles that year. For me, it’s very rewarding to see those guys that last in the league five, six, seven, eight, nine years and contribute on special teams when they are called upon in certain phases, but still do a great job for us on offense and defense. That’s fun. That’s a great question. I like answering that question because I’m real proud of those guys.
Transcripts provided by the Minnesota Vikings