HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
QB Brock Osweiler got banged up pretty good yesterday. What can you do that you haven't done with him to try to have more drives like you had early against Tennessee?
"That's a good question. I think that's what we're working on right now. Every opponent is different. The Colts are a lot different than the Vikings just as far as their scheme and things like that. But that's obviously a problem from yesterday - obviously we were not able to sustain drives until later in the game when it was too late. We're going to work hard on that. That's not one guy or one position, that's everybody working together to try to figure out what are the best plays to start a drive, to keep the drive going, third down plays, things like that. If you look at Minnesota's first offensive drive against our team, against our defense, they didn't even have a third down. Part of it is getting some chunk plays, some good runs and trying to move the ball at a good tempo. That's what we're all striving to do."
Are you concerned about the number of hits QB Brock Osweiler took yesterday?
"No. Look, I don't want the guy to get hit at all, but quarterbacks in this league are going to get hit. That happens. Brock's a very tough guy. He's a tough individual, big guy. He got right back up after all those hits. Give the guy a lot of credit. Like I said after the game, he battled hard the whole day."
Do you have any updates on TE Ryan Griffin, S Quintin Demps or any of the other guys who got injured yesterday?
"Griff is going to be in the concussion protocol deal there. I would say that Jeff Allen and Johnathan Joseph are in the same protocol, so that will be kind of day-to-day, basically. Brian Peters, it'll be day-to-day with him. Quintin Demps, day-to-day. I thought that Duane Brown came out of the game, said he felt pretty good. We'll check with him on Wednesday, see how he's doing and kind of go from there."
Is there concern that QB Brock Osweiler getting hit as much as he did yesterday could affect his confidence in standing in the pocket and allowing plays to develop downfield?
"I don't think anybody likes to get hit that much at the quarterback position, but I don't think that will affect his confidence. He's a confident guy. I think we have to do a better job. Sometimes we were playing that chess match that we obviously lost pretty badly where we were keeping seven guys in, getting three out and they were rushing four and playing what you would call 'two-man,' which has been kind of a problem for us this year. So, the rush was coming free at some point in time. These guys, they're good players, too. We can't hold them off forever. A lot of it is just us doing a better job of game planning – like I said after the game – and getting these guys in better positions. But as far as his confidence, I'm not concerned about his confidence."
What are some of the challenges you're facing the past few weeks when you try to get WR DeAndre Hopkins more involved? It seems like teams are repeating strategies in coverage.
"Yeah, they are, you're right. We're trying to get him involved the last couple weeks. Yesterday he didn't get involved until late, but when he did get involved, which was way too late, it does give a spark to the team. We need to do that earlier, obviously. We know what a player he his. He had 111 catches last year. So, we're going to work really hard to try to figure out how to get him the ball more often."
DE Jadeveon Clowney did some good things for you yesterday. What do you think about the way he has worked since you moved him around this year?
"Yeah, no, he's playing well. He played really well yesterday. He was one of our best players on our whole team yesterday. I give him credit. I think he had four tackles for loss, he had quarterback pressures. He had a couple penalties, which he has to cut down on, he knows that. But overall I thought the guy played a really good football game."
OLB Whitney Mercilus had more quarterback hits than he has ever had. Can you talk about how he has been playing?
"Look, Whitney, he's played really well for us since we've been here. He's a hardworking guy. He's really developed his pass rush moves. He was using a move yesterday that I really hadn't seen him do too much. He's working very, very hard to perfect all the different things that he does for us. Give the guy credit. All the success that he's having, a lot of it is self-made. He's a self-made guy. He's done a great job on his own."
Do you have concerns about the secondary right now with all of the injuries?
"Yeah. There are some injuries back there, so we got to see how that is as the week progresses. That's part of the deal in this league, that you're going to have to deal with injuries. You just don't want too many at one position, but it is what it is. You're going to have to figure it out and see where they are by Thursday, Friday. Whether they can play in a game or not."
You took the blame after the game and the players came to your defense. Do you second guess yourself after a game and what do you do personally after a loss?
"I definitely second guess. Anytime you lose like that, it's not good. You go into the game with what you think is a good game plan and obviously it wasn't. What could you have done differently in the game plan? I think the practice week is set up properly. I think we practice the right way. Maybe there's some things we can do to help us for the start of the game or coming out after halftime or whatever it might be, but definitely, and I told the team that this morning, the first thing I do is look in the mirror and that's what I'm trying to do. Look in the mirror and try to get better and figure out what we need to do to play a lot better against the Colts.
You said yesterday that when you guys simplify the offense, that's when you're able to move the ball more. Is that something you plan on doing more of moving forward?
"What I meant was and the word 'simplify' is probably correct. We were down by so much, we got into a two-minute mode, which are basically basic plays. Not a lot of motion to them. Basic runs. Alfred Blue ran the ball well on that drive. I think it says a lot about our team at that point in time. I think the game was pretty much over and those guys were really battling hard. Those were plays that helped us. Now, they're in a two-minute mode too. They're not really doing the same things that they were doing earlier in the game to get ahead 24-0. You got to be careful there thinking that that's the way to move the ball, but it did help us yesterday at that point in time."
The Vikings returned a punt for a touchdown. Can you talk about where your team is at when it comes to punting and punt returns?
"It starts with the offense. We couldn't get anything going on that drive so we're punting where we're backed up inside the 20, so Shane (Lechler) is basically inside the 10-yard line. You're punting to a very good returner around the 50-yard line, midfield. It doesn't set up well for your punt team. I don't care who your punt team is. Any team in this league, that's not good. Then we had a formation when we wanted to try to funnel the ball, the coverage didn't work out the right way. The guy made a good play. We missed some tackles on that, but they made a good play there and that really, obviously, hurt us."
Is there anything that you're not seeing from QB Brock Osweiler that you really need to see going forward for the offense to get back on track?
"I think Brock is working very hard. He's very prepared. I think all of us, including himself, we all have to do a better job. I'm sure he'd be the first one to tell you. Look, he's got to improve in this area, that area, you know all those things. I think overall, I've been happy with the way the guy prepares. Not happy with the way the offense has played. Not blaming it on anybody. Really taking responsibility for it here, right here because that's where the responsibility lies when you're the head football coach. That goes with defense and special teams, too. That's what you're charged with. You want to have a smart, fundamentally sound, productive football team and that's not what we've had on the road twice this year. Again, let's kind of rewind here a little bit. You know, we are 3-2. We're not 0-5. We have a very big ballgame coming up here, so hopefully we can get things corrected and play better this week."
You've touched a couple times on the starts and have mentioned no stone unturned. Is that an analytics product, a film study, or is it all of the above?
"I think it's something that we have to really focus on in practice. The issue is there if you focus too much on it and then you don't have a fast start, then what happens? You're trying to get your guys into a good rhythm. Somebody making a play in that situation, whether it's a defensive player or an offensive player, making a play can kind of spark the team. That's an important - a big sack or a big catch or whatever it is. We just all need to do a better job of game planning how we want to start these games. We all just in it together need to go out and play better at the beginning of these games."
Is it a consolation that you have the Colts coming in and if you win you are 4-2 and put three games between you and them?
"You're certainly correct in the fact that, again going back to what I said a couple minutes ago, we're 3-2 and this is a big division game. A big rival, Indianapolis. They're a good football team. We've got a lot of good things ahead of us if we can correct a lot of these things. We have to work hard to correct these things, but again we're only five games into the season. I know it hasn't looked very good at times. Other times it's looked pretty good and that's what we need to do. We need to be more consistent and we need to play that way on Sunday night otherwise we're going to be looking at 3-3. We need to be looking at 4-2 by playing more consistently."
Is DE Antonio Smith starting to round his way into shape? It seemed like he gave you some pass rush off the bench.
"Yeah, he had the one, I think he had half a sack on the one where Whitney (Mercilus) – Whitney probably got most of that sack but Antonio was right there. He did a nice job on the center. He is getting in better football shape. He's a great guy in the locker room. Really, really happy to have him."
Could you explain the reasoning behind having ILB Brian Peters kick off?
"Well, one of the reasons why we did that was because we were concerned about their returners, and he had kicked different types of kicks very well for us during the week – squib kicks. He had been able to kick it out of the end zone a couple of times for us, and actually, the times - especially the first kickoff - when he kicked it, it was kind of a knuckleball that we instructed him to do it that way and we ended up tackling the guy I think around the 15-yard line, so that worked out really well. We're just trying to change it up. Sometimes it's good to change that up for the opponent to have to deal with that. Sometimes we want Nick (Novak) in there to direct it a certain way and things like that, but Brian, we think, has a real strong leg and he can do some things that we need him to do."
Is there more that can be done to get QB Brock Osweiler comfortable in the pocket when he's under pressure?
"Yeah, certainly there is. I think it has to do a lot with how we design the routes, whether it's getting more guys out on the route or having a different route concept for what the coverage may be, where he can throw on rhythm, throw on time. That's what we're working on right now to try to get him where he is a little bit more comfortable, because when he has been comfortable he has been very accurate and delivered the ball on time and it's been very good. It's a goal of ours to make sure we improve that."
TE STEPHEN ANDERSON
Do you think you're on target to play Sunday?
"I'm on target."
Your coaches must be excited about that with all the injuries at tight end.
"Yeah, I saw that. I'm just excited to get back. I felt like I let my team down. Just excited to get back and make some plays."
Do you think you can come back and do everything in practice this week?
"Yeah, I should. I mean, like I said, build me up because that's kind of just the normal protocol. But everything is on schedule."
It must be tough to sit out.
"Definitely. When you kind of see the schemes of them really focusing on Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) and Will (Fuller V) and kind of leaving the middle wide open. I'm very eager to get back."
What does the mindset of this team have to be coming off of a tough loss and into a big divisional game?
"Divisional game. Just have to keep winning, handle our division and then handle the other teams outside of our division. Keep winning, coming back with the right mindset, kind of learn from our mistakes and then just get better from that. That's all."
TE C.J. FIEDOROWICZ
The last two road games have been tough losses. What is the mood right now?
"If I knew the answer, I'd tell you. We just got to pick things up on the road. That's two big, bad losses that we've had on the road. It's still early. We still have time to figure things out but we got a big test this week. Conference game. So, we're looking forward to that."
Did the Vikings do anything that surprised you on defense?
"Not really, I mean it was a loud stadium. It was tough to kind of hear Brock (Osweiler) and get the checks. They definitely use that to their advantage and we struggled with that. That's something that we got to work on for sure."
What was the mindset when you look up and it's 24-0?
"I mean it was still, what, half way through the second quarter. It was already 24-0. We definitely weren't counting ourselves out. There's a lot of football left. You definitely can't get yourself in a hole like that especially in this league against a good team like that. It's hard to come back from."
The tight ends have been getting more involved in the last couple of weeks. What's it going to take to get the ball spread out some more?
"Just got to build up that confidence in practice. You got to show Brock (Osweiler) that you can make those hard catches and be consistent."
It was a scary moment when TE Ryan Griffin went down yesterday. Did you get the chance to talk to him at all?
"I talked to him on the plane back. He seemed alright. I'm sure he's pretty sore today after what he had. I think he'll be good coming forward here."
How do you feel health-wise?
"I feel good. My knee is fine actually. I'm not really very sore today. I feel pretty good."
Can you talk about all of the injuries and how much players have had to move around?
"It's football. Guys get hurt. The next man up and we just kept playing. It's not something you can dwell on. You got to get in there and do your job."
The Vikings have had massive injuries too. Can you talk about that?
"They're playing well even with those injuries and that's something that we got to do. You know, next man up. Against a defense like that, injuries hurt but we just got to move the ball better offensively."
Can you put your finger on what has been causing the slow starts?
"No. If I had the answer, I'd tell you. Tennessee, we started fast. This game, it was a slow start. If I had the answer, I'd tell you. It's still early. We have time to work things out."
In spite of the tough loss, you are heading into Sunday in first place. How do you feel about that?
"This game is big. Second (divisional) game. We've been playing well at home. We got to drop this last game. That was an NFC game, NFC North. So they won't really affect us much, but obviously we want to win every game. This one is definitely a big game for us."
QB Brock Osweiler took the blame for some of the things that happened in the game yesterday. How do you feel about his comments?
"He's a great leader. He knows when he messes up. He's smart. He's a good quarterback. He takes responsibility, but at the end of the day it's the whole offense. Everyone seemed a little sluggish and be a part of that slow start, so that's something that we all got to work on."
WR DeANDRE HOPKINS
How much does yesterday's loss still sting?
"It was a tough loss. A 5-0 team – well, 4-0. Great defense. We thought we had a good game plan, didn't come out and execute, got down 14-0. It's hard to come back in the NFL being down 14-0."
What's the mindset when you look up in the NFL and it's 24-0?
"It's a long season. We have a lot to fight for, a lot of tough guys in here. Nobody's head is down."
What's the key to getting the offense back on track?
"Just coming out in practice, practicing perfect. Basically just trying to do everything that we want to do in the game, at practice. That's where it starts at."
Those guys were a physical defense. You knew they were going to try to come up against you and try to get you off your routes.
"It's football. That's their job, to, on defense, come up and get in your face and try to get you rattled. It's a long game – four quarters. I don't let that distract me or get me off my game."
Are you still able to be encouraged that you're in first place?
"It's a long season. We're No. 1 in our division right now. Big game this weekend against the Colts, and that's what we're focusing on."
Does it make it easier to bounce back knowing you have a divisional game?
"Win or lose, you have to look at the next game. You can't get too happy if you win or you can't get too down if you lose. It's a long season."
How much is your timing and chemistry with QB Brock Osweiler still a work in progress?
"Working every day. Nobody's perfect."
You guys have had two tough games on the road. Is it being on the road or the level of competition that has given you guys trouble?
"I can't put a point on it. It's a long season. We still have a lot to fight for."
You guys got off to a fast start against Tennessee but not against Minnesota. Were there some things you did against Tennessee that you got away from yesterday?
"We got down 14-0. That changes a lot when you get down 14-0 early against a good NFL team."
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
It seemed like there was some miscommunication on the field and a lot of injuries. How tough is that on the road?
"Yeah, there was a lot going on. But we just have to stay focused as players and just try to put all distractions to the side. Just get the play call in and just try to remember what we have going, fly around and play defense."
What's the mindset early in the game when you go down 24-0 early?
"As a defensive unit, we try not to pay attention to the scoreboard. Just play every play one play at a time. Just try to forget the bad plays and try to correct them on the sidelines, then just go play the next play."
How important will this week be leading up to a big game against the Colts?
"We're just going to put the last game behind us. We'll watch film. Coach is going to make a great gameplan for us. We just have to fly around and play our defense."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien continues to take blame after the losses. Is that comforting as a player?
"It's on all of us. Coach does a great job putting us in a great position. Whatever plays they call, if it's a bad play or a good play, we just have to play our ball. The defense has to fly around. If we do that, then we should be good."
Are you concerned about how the team is playing against good competition?
"No, I'm not concerned at all. Like I said, we're just going to watch film, coach is going to do a great job of making the gameplan for us. As a defensive unit, we just have to go out there and try to execute."
WR JAELEN STRONG
How is the team feeling today after a tough loss to Minnesota?
"You never want to lose, but we'll turn the page now and focus on Indianapolis."
Did the Vikings do anything defensively that surprised you?
"No. Like I said, we're going to turn the page, try to work on corrections and take them over to Indianapolis."
What will be the key to turning the page?
"Just coming in, correcting everything and just working to get that chemistry together every day. I think we'll be fine."
On the interception, what was your route and what did you see when you watched the play?
"It was a clear out. I didn't know he had thrown the ball. I didn't know until it was intercepted."
Was the crowd noise a bigger factor than you anticipated?
"Not really. We work on communicating every day in practice. It wasn't that. I think we kind of enjoy and thrive off crowds when they get like that. It wasn't that at all."
What is the level of concern for the team with how lopsided the road games have been?
"It's Week 5, so there is 11 more weeks to play. I don't think anybody should be concerned right now at all."
G XAVIER SU'A-FILO
As far as keeping QB Brock Osweiler standing back there, just thoughts on how the offensive line did?
"You know what, we are definitely going to look at the film today and see what's going on to try and improve."
How concerned are you with how this team has played during the two road games?
"I think it's early in the season and definitely there's things we need to get taken care of, but that's why we practice, that's why we watch the film because I know that very quickly we have to get ready for Indianapolis. We are just coming in to work and improve."
What have you seen from QB Brock Osweiler in terms of handling being under that distress?
"It's always neat to see Brock (Osweiler) take control of our huddle. He really is our communicator out there. He is the quarterback. We all try as an offensive unit, especially as an offensive line, to communicate our best so we can execute the play."
Were they doing something that you didn't expect defensively?
How much is it that the Vikings are just a good front seven?
"Talented team and hats off to them. They did well and they were prepared yesterday. So, hats off to the Vikings."