THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 7 AT VIKINGS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg,
& Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What does it mean to you to be the only team in the league that's in the Top 3 in both kick return average and punt return average? (Ed Lee) "It's important to us; we're trying to do well. So, the work that we're putting in is paying off in certain places. When I watch the tape though, there are still so many things that we could do better. We had a big play, and that's what happens when you get a big play. You look at the numbers before that, and punt return numbers, and we were being efficient, and then finally, we got a big play. Kick return-wise, we haven't had that many opportunities. [The return for a touchdown] was an anomaly – nobody plans on that happening. We'll take it, but there are a lot of things that needed to be corrected on that particular play at the end."
Are you going to keep "tackle your own teammate" in the playbook? (Garrett Downing) "No, there's no plan."
*When you returned the punt for a touchdown, you pulled your guys down inside, to pull their guys inside. Were you intending to block the punt or were you just trying to get them down inside? (Mike Preston) *"That was a return, and what we were trying to do was … At that point of the game, typically in this league, people are protection conscience. So, on the other side, people on the punt return are more aggressive; they'll sometimes rush more than the other team has in protection. So, we wanted to show that look, then we run a return out of it. We've done that many times before, and this particular time, it worked. It was well executed by the guys who were blocking the gunners; that was probably the biggest part of it."
**What have you seen in WR/RS Michael Campanaro's development as a returner? *(Ed Lee) *"I think the word that comes to mind many times as I watch Mike is 'efficient.' He's catching the ball well; you saw him track the ball over his shoulder a couple times when the guy hit long punts. He's getting vertical, and his ball security skills have been good. The touchdown play was a really good sign, because he set it up well, and he used his speed to get to the edge. That's what I've seen; I've seen a guy who has been efficient. Now, he's showed a little explosive power, which is good."
Can you talk about P Sam Koch's performance against the Bears? (Ed Lee)"We see that often with Sam at practice – things that he's able to do with the football that are unique – and it seemed like they piled up in that particular game. He had a number of extraordinary plays: the long ball to start the game got them into a situation where they felt like they need two returners just to defend the field, and then because they had two returners, he's able to hit the ball, target long balls, and our guys covered well. As you all know, I have a very high opinion of Sam. I think his demonstration on Sunday showed the kind of skills that he has."
K Justin Tucker can often kick it out of the end zone, and I know sometimes he kicks returnable kicks. Is that by design because you trust your coverage? (Bo Smolka) "Certainly some of it is by design. It's not always by design, because it doesn't work out exactly as you plan. Going into a game, we typically have a plan on how we want to kick off and how it fits with the kickoff team and how it fits with our opponent. So, we'll sprinkle in different kicks over the course of the game just to benefit our kickoff coverage and also to benefit field position. When you asked me this question a number of years ago, if you were just going to surrender to the 25-yard line, I was adamant that we weren't going to do it. But, I've changed my mentality, because there are times where you want to do it and a touchback is what you want. But there are other times during a ballgame and against certain return schemes, against certain opponents, where you want to try to grab field position, so the 25-yard line is not the best place to start, or we think we can do better, and that's when we kick tactically."
How quickly has ILB Steven Johnson acclimated to the special teams unit?* (Ed Lee)* "We are familiar with Steven with having played against him. We know his skill level and competitive level, and it's very high. He's a very willing student. Our guys are really jumping in to help him. All of our players understand that position is an important one to our special teams. Jonathan Freeny did a fine job when he was here, and now we have to bring Steven up to speed with all the things that are involved in play-calling in all phases. It is very much a crash course. But, not only are the coaches his teachers, but our players have also taken that responsibility, and it's gone well so far."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"The last ball game – the first thing is – No. 1, is the turnovers. Good teams take care of the ball. I understand there were a couple crazy bounces and those types of things. However, I told the fellas this: 'Good teams, good players take care of the ball consistently.' So, that's No. 1. The second thing is – it feels like we're talking about this every other week – we have to play at a high level at a consistent basis. Yes, we can make up a lot of reasons and all these types of things, [like] we're down a few players, but I firmly believe that we still need to be able to – and we can – maneuver just a little bit offensively and get some points on the board and take care of the ball at the same time. Let's get to the next game. We're facing a Top 10 defense that is especially good on third down, as well as in the red zone. It's a great challenge on the road, with crowd noise. So, we have to be at our best here. It's a great challenge for all 11 [players] on offense. So, we're looking forward to it; the guys are working very, very hard; they're preparing hard. Let's open it up to questions."
**The passing offense has typically struggled in the red zone. What has been the reason? *(Ed Lee) *"It starts with me, and then we certainly have to get better in that area. That's one thing I didn't say, but I told the players, 'We have to get better situationally,' as well. Now, we're good in some situations, and we're poor in others. That's just one of the areas that we must get better at."
Could a taller receiver or target help with that situation? (Ed Lee)"Yes. We just have to execute a little bit better down there – and that starts with me. I have to install better [schemes] and need to teach all those things."
When you're missing a couple of your top receivers, how do you balance less experienced guys understanding that you still have to be productive and win a game? (Luke Jones)"That's correct. What a great opportunity for the guys who may not even have expected to even dress to be playing in the football game. The No. 1 thing for all of us is that we have to prepare like we're starting every ball game – everybody in the room. It's just that simple. You make a good point, but what a great opportunity for a player like that."
*When your team is not doing well, how do you handle the pressure? Considering what happened to the offensive coordinator last year, do you look over your shoulder and think, "Oh, we're not getting it done." (Mike Preston) *"Look, I've been a part of some great teams, some medium teams, some poor teams. I've been through it before. You pull your boot straps up and some guys – the players – handle it really well. I kind of like it when the heat is on. 'Hey, let's bounce back!' The fellas did it a week ago in Oakland; they bounced back pretty well. So, that's what we're looking for. When things are going good, you better work, or you're not going to stay there and get even better. When things are going medium, you better work. When things go bad, you better go to work. So, that's our mentality. We've talked about this before: No. 1, if we can just get better every day, [then] good things tend to happen – that's our mindset. My wife doesn't like it very much, but …"
With something like drops, where it's not necessarily scheme or a play call, it's much harder to say, "Let's fix it." (Bo Smolka)"However, as a coach, you can't go there. 'Oh geez, we coulda, woulda, shoulda had that one,' right? Well, I have to go back and say, 'We didn't get it.' So, guys in the right spots … Just because it didn't work doesn't necessarily mean it was the wrong thing to do. So, you have to evaluate yourself over and over and over again. However, sometimes it is. You have to go through that process if you're going to get any better. I try to do that every week, no matter if we do well or do medium or do poorly."
What have you seen in terms of WR/RS Michael Campanaro's development from last year to this year? (Ed Lee)"Well, the experience shows just a little bit. He's certainly is a quick player that has natural instincts. Of all the great things he did, you know the one that sticks in my mind – and he knows that, too – one of those first third downs in the second quarter. But, he's a fine player – more than a situational player. He's really climbed the ladder just a little bit."
What are the key ingredients to building a good passing game? (Mike Preston) "No. 1, the scheme, so you have to have it all. That's No. 1, every game, is just a little bit different depending on how they're playing. You're going to do some of the things that you do well. It just matters how – personnel groups, formations, motion shifts, all those things come into play. Then, the game plan comes into play. When you're attacking a defense, to make it really simple, you try to stymie their strengths and get after their weaknesses. It's really that simple."
What can WR Griff Whalen bring to your offense? (Luke Jones) "He's a smart guy; he has some natural ability. We're happy to have him here. He had a heck of a practice today. He got in late last night and got in early this morning. Bobby [Engram, wide receivers coach] did a great job of preparing him for practice today."
**In the past two games, T Ronnie Stanley has given up no sacks, no quarterback hits, and only two hurries. What have you seen from his play? *(Ed Lee) *"Ronnie Stanley, I know this, with hard work, continued hard work – because he is a hard worker – he may end up being one of the best in the league. He's a fine, fine player. We're glad to have Ronnie at the left tackle spot."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
*Can you talk about the challenge of going against Vikings WRs Stefon Diggs and WR Adam Thielen? Do they remind you of any wide receivers you have played in the past? *(Ed Lee) **"A bunch of them. I can't really tell you one guy in particular, but we have played against big receivers with big radius catch ability and that kind of stuff. There are so many good receivers in the league, that I can't really just name somebody off hand. They are just good and talented receivers."
Do they present a different challenge than some other receivers? (Ed Lee)"Well, the whole system does. It is always a different system every week. Everybody's passing attack is just a little bit different in who they go to and where they line them up and how they play them and stuff like that. They are always a challenge. It is a challenge, but you can't double everybody, so you have to pick your poison and figure out who you are going to take care of. The biggest thing is we just have to go out and play, execute what we do well and play it well."
I know they have some uncertainty at quarterback, but what have you seen from QB Case Keenum on tape? The numbers look pretty good, and I know you guys have faced him in the past. (Luke Jones)"Yes, we have faced him in the past. We faced him twice on two different teams, if I remember right. I think we faced him in Houston down there, and he kind of came out hot at the beginning of the game and stuff. Then, I think we faced him with the Rams, maybe when we played them the other time. He is a good quarterback. The thing of it is that he is a very accurate guy. He is kind of a … He throws on time. He is going to get rid of the ball. We have to do a great job in the pocket. We really have to keep him in the pocket and not let him get out. The other part of it is really push the pocket and make things hard for him to see downfield. We can't give him throwing lanes. But he has talented receivers; he has a good corps. The offensive line is playing well. He is a good quarterback. There is not really a bad quarterback in the league. I have said this before: If the guy is in the NFL, he is not a bad quarterback. Really, at this point and time with us, it is all about us. We just have to play. We just have to play. What we have to do is not give up a big play. That was … We gave up a big play at a critical time last week, and that was the game at the end. I know everybody talks about the running game, but everybody is feeling good after Oakland. We gave up 245 yards and 17 points and at the end of regulation [against Oakland in Week 5]. We gave up  yards and 17 points and [had a] 3.3-yard per carry run [average]. When [the Bears] run the ball  times, guys get caught up in frickin' numbers. It is not [about numbers]; it is about yards per carry, and 3.3 yards per carry would be third best in the league. Our problem is we gave up a big play in overtime. That is what happened. We gave up a big play. It is not doom and gloom. It is not the sky is falling. We have to quit giving up big plays. That is it; bottom line. We missed a tackle; we gave up a big play. Really, it is not only Eric [Weddle]. We had some other guys that should have been right around the ball too, and they weren't. That is our fault. We have to get everybody to the ball. Whenever you win, you look at all the negatives. Sometimes when you lose, you look at some positives. I'm tired of the sky falling around here. I really am. I am really sick of it. Our defense last week on a third down-and-1, was that a third-and-critical 1? If they get that first down, is the game over? They are taking a knee. What did we do? We stopped them, [they] kicked the ball, got the ball for us. Half the stands are gone. Everyone is going home, and we run a punt back for a touchdown and tie the game up. So, that is a hell of a play, and I am proud of the defense for doing that. We went into overtime; what did we do the first series? They got the ball. What did we do? We stopped them. We just can't give up the big play. It is still the bottom line; I'm still not trying to excuse that. But I'm just saying I'm not doom and gloom. I am not going to buy into that crap. We are a pretty good damn defense, and if we quit giving up big plays, we will be a damn good one statistically. Enough said."
How has DT Brandon Williams looked the past couple days in practice and along those lines with your run defense, obviously, he can help you out? (Luke Jones)"Him and Carl Davis. Everyone kind of forgets Brent Urban isn't there either, and Carl Davis isn't in there either. Brent Urban wasn't in there either. The young guys played their butts off. We had 11 tackles for loss in the last game. Now, we also had 10 plays that were five yards to seven yards, which we can't have. It balanced. But they also had 11 negative plays, which is pretty damn good for a bunch of young guys. It is great to see '98' [Brandon Williams] back there, and it is great to see '94' [Carl Davis] back out there."
Going back to QB Case Keenum, he has only been sacked four times. Is that a product of the offensive line or him getting rid of the ball? (Ed Lee)"It is both. I think the offensive line has protected pretty well. Everyone has a system. In some systems, the ball is out quick. In some, it is a little five-to-seven step drop and things like that. Some people move the pocket. There are all kinds of different ways on our offense and a lot of times, you may not see a lot of sacks on a team that the ball gets out quick and they move the pocket. That is a little bit of Minnesota. [Offensive coordinator Pat] Shurmur does a good job with it, and Keenum does a really good job of getting the ball out quick. If you go back to the Chicago game when Bradford was there, that was a little bit of the problem. He was hobbled a little bit and having a tough time getting the ball out quick, because he could not move very well. As soon as … They did not really change the offense. As soon as Keenum came, he just had the ability to get the ball out quick and they came back and won. It is a product, really, of just as much of getting the ball out quick, and the offensive line doing a good job and recognizing when you do pressure, him recognizing the pressure and getting the ball out. There have been some free pressures on him, and he has got the ball out quick to the receivers. He has read it."
Is there a premium on disguising your pressures?* (Ed Lee)"It is always a premium on disguising. Every quarterback we have, we have to do a good job of disguising, whether it be pressure or whatever. Our 'bend but don't break' defense last week blitzed 41 times, by the way, out of 80. Just for those that think we bend, but don't break. I'm getting my words in today. I am getting that off my chest. Right, Mike [Preston, *The Baltimore Sun]? Hey, I'm 68 years old; I could really give a you-know-what." (laughter)