Quotes from Jim Schwartz's Monday press conference.
On what to blame for the slow starts on offense: "I don't think it's so much scheme. We called the same plays in the second half as we called in the first, you know, a lot of those shots called exactly the same way. I think we've executed better in the second half, obviously. I think, you know, you look at the first drive and we got the ball, we got a couple of first downs, we had positive plays, we were moving the ball very well. Then we had the 15-yard penalty and that derailed that drive. If you look on offense, we had three penalties. All three of them derailed drives. You know, we had scored a touchdown, got a stop on defense, had a lot of momentum, got a good punt return out of (Stefan) Logan and had the ball around mid-field. Got a positive play on the first one and get called for a holding penalty. You know, 1st-and-20 was not something we overcame in this game. You know, I think you look at execution or whatever, I thought we were executing well at the beginning of that game and then the penalties derailed us. We had too many 3rd-and-longs in the game and they were in the first and second half. You know, last couple weeks when we had won, we had been very good on third down, very good in the red zone. We were good in the red zone in this game, but we were poor on third down mainly because I think half of our attempts were more than 10 yards and that's not a very good recipe to convert third downs."
On the contrast between the team's play in the first and second half: "No, I don't think so at all. I mean, we're going to try our very best in the first half and in the second half. I think it's just worked out that way. The week before in Jacksonville we scored 21 in the first half and were very efficient in the first half. You know, I think when you do that you don't hear talk like this. I think when what is significant here is that we have battled back. We haven't had those games that just completely slipped away and, you know, you had a 10-point deficit in the half and finishing with a 31-point loss or something like that. I think that we have, you know, battled back and I think that rather than get credit for that, I think it just emphasizes what we failed to do in the first half. Again, we're still trying every bit as hard. We're still running the same things there, but we haven't executed as well."
On the lack of an explosive run play this season: "Yeah, I mean, however you get them, you get them, I mean, as far as yards go. I think we had five explosive passes in this game. So getting the chunks however you're getting them is, you know, sort of irrelevant. But, the efficiency of the run game is important and, you know, when we've been successful this year we've been very efficient in our run game. You know, we got I think 23 first downs in this game and only had 61 plays of offense. So, we moved the ball at times, you know, particularly on some play-action passes made some pretty big chunks. If that's happening, you know, whether you're getting it on the run part of the play-action or the pass part of the play-action, as long as you can threaten both of them. I think in the second half, I mentioned this last night, and I think we did break a couple runs. They weren't explosive runs, but we broke a couple runs and that opened up some of our passing game in the first half. We had a hard time of getting that going. Again, give credit to a stout Minnesota defense, but in the first half we weren't there in the run game. But explosives are important to us, but whether you're getting it from a quarterback scramble, whether you're getting it from, you know, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, whatever it is, they all sort of count the same. But just the sort of complementary nature of the run and our play-action game, I think that means an awful lot."
On if RB Mikel Leshoure was not running as violently against Minnesota: "I wouldn't say that. We were a little bit less than 50-percent. I wouldn't call it anything other than, you know, a good Minnesota defense. Their job is to not allow us to run the football and he didn't have a whole lot of holes to go to. There were a couple cuts I'm sure he could second guess and make different plays. He's watching the film today, but I don't think he ran any differently."
On what he considers an efficient run on first down: "I don't want to go into to the whole...because then the next thing is ‘what do you consider an efficient run on third-and-this.' Let's just say look: if it's third-and-one, one yard is an efficient run. If it's third-and-ten, nine yards is not an efficient run. I'll just leave it there. I don't want to get into all the little micro details of it. It's not especially complicated but I just don't want to put it out. I mean we grade...there's a lot of different things that go into our run efficiency grading."
On if there was enough pressure from the defensive front four: "Unfortunately that was one of the few in this game that we rushed poorly up the middle. That was (DT) Nick (Fairley). Nick had two rushes that sort of got out of his assigned game and we paid for both of them. One was a quarterback scramble, the other was a step-up. That being said, Nick had one of the best games he's played since he's been here. But a lot like the rest of our team, a couple of mistakes overshadowed the good things that he did. I thought he played very well in the run game. Used his hands very well, made tackles for losses. Sacked the quarterback, was around the passer, and was very, very active. And he had to with (DT) Corey Williams not being able to answer on Sunday we only had a three man rotation there. We ended up only having a three man rotation at end when (DE) Cliff (Avril) went down. But I thought Nick did some really good things."
I thought Ndamukong Suh might have played the best game since he's been here. Was dominating at times. Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback's lap the whole game. Like I said, we had a few mistakes that overshadowed some pretty good performances. But I thought our guys inside did very well with only a few exceptions. You know Ndamukong did a really good job verses some trap blocks that had haunted us earlier in the season. First time we played these guys and he shut that part of the run game out. On our perimeter we weren't as strong."
On how much losing the field position battle is on the punter: "It's on every bit of us. We certainly were on the wrong end of the field position. Again, I think we had three 80 yard drives on offense. I mean it's hard to do. There's not many people in the NFL that can consistently move the ball 80 yards and we're one of the teams that can. But our defense, I think it affected our defense more than it affected our offense. We had very, very thin margins to play with on defense. One mistake and they were in field goal range or touchdown range and they made us pay for a couple of those."
It's a combination with punt location, distance, hang-time and coverage. I think that our coverage was pretty good. Our kick location was pretty good. Our distance wasn't the greatest but our hang-time was good. They didn't get a whole lot of long returns."
On assessing the play of the secondary thus far taking into account all of the injuries: "Unfortunately you don't get graded on the curve. You really can't say taking into account the injuries because injuries are what they are. One of the things that we needed to do in the game was prevent the big play down the field and on the first series they were able to get that. We need to overtop that route and stop that. They were able to get the tight end (Kyle Rudolph) going a couple of times. We had a little bit of a difficult time getting him covered. We had a mistake down in the red zone that gave them a touchdown on that first drive. So this wasn't one of our better performances. We had done a pretty good job in the past of limiting big plays. We gave up too many big plays in this one whether it was the first series or even some of the runs. Our secondary needs to play those a lot better. We didn't play those runs very well."
On facing better passing teams as the season progresses and how the secondary can prepare for that: "We can play better. We had a couple miscommunications, like on the touchdown that was a miscommunication that led to having a guy get rubbed and a guy be wide open. Do a better job with technique. But not every week are you faced with the challenge of (RB) Adrian Peterson either. We devoted a lot of resources to getting him stopped with mixed results. There were times we played very well and had a lot of tackles for losses and limited their screen game to him, their passing game to him, and their run game. But over the course of time he broke out particularly that one series which was crack toss, however many yards and then touchdown on the play the opposite way. We did devote a lot of resources trying to stop Adrian Peterson."
On with all of the attention WR Calvin Johnson gets how important it is for all the other receivers to win their one-on-one battles: "That's the name of the game. We didn't have a lot of free access in this game. We had to work to get open. There were times we did, there were times that we didn't. I think the biggest thing with that is we had, particularly the lost yardage plays or the penalties that put us in so many third-down-and-longs. It's tough to get open deep down the field that way. But then also it's tough when the defense knows that's how far you have to go. Then combine that with the pass rush, which is pretty good, that's clocking the quarterback that made it a very difficult situation. We got some pretty good contributions. (TE Brandon) Pettigrew made a nice play down in the red zone for a touchdown. (WR) Titus (Young) made a nice play down in the red zone for a touchdown. We left some other ones on the field. Calvin played like Calvin usually does but we can still get a little bit more. We had a turnover and then he had the fumble. We're minus two in turnovers. That's not a very good formula for winning a game in the NFL, much less on the road."
On contacting the league about head hunting: "The league reviews every single game as it is. They review the officials. They review every single play. They look for things like that. That's how players end up getting fined. If there's something that we think may go unnoticed, we generally bring it to someone's attention. I don't think in this case it went unnoticed. Number one, it was flagged so it's always going to get noticed by the league. That's just the passing game now. There's a strike zone with those receivers. The last thing you want to do is see guys get hit in the head."
On how much pain WR Calvin Johnson is playing through: "He has been slow to get up, but he's also made a lot of plays. I think he's gotten better over the last couple weeks. He was better this week than he was last week. There's not a player that's 100% right now. He was able to go out and effectively do his job. And not only do his job, but impact the game that way that he does. He's fighting through just like a lot of other guys are fighting through, but he's still able to be successful and he is getting better."
On if he thought the shots on Johnson were on purpose: "I don't think anybody in this league is trying to hurt somebody. He's a 6 ft. 5 receiver and when Matt throws it up high to him, people have to go up high to be able to get the ball. He got hit in the head twice. I'm sure the league...we know that the league sees that. I don't think anybody's trying to do it on purpose. They're trying to defend him, but as a result he ended up getting hit in the head a couple times. Thank goodness he was fine, shook it off, went right back and kept on making plays. There are a couple times that it's difficult for defenders and we see it when we're on defense. One is when a receiver goes to the ground and you're trying to defend him. When he leaves his feet, what you thought was going to be his chest level where you're aiming ends up being right on his head, very difficult situation. The same thing when you have a guy that's 6 ft. 5 jumping up 40 inches in the air to catch a ball, that's a difficult situation too. As players, particularly as defensive players, the onus is on them, it's on us to avoid those kinds of contacts and the league's going to... The officials are going to flag it and the league's going to look very closely at it."
On Harrison Smith lining up Calvin and looking obvious about it: "I would never accuse another player of doing something like that. Calvin's a very difficult matchup for anybody. As tall as he is, it's difficult. But it doesn't change the rule. You still can't go hit him in the head. One of them got flagged, easily both of them could have gotten flagged in that game."
On if S Louis Delmas traveling is an indication of him returning to practice and if there are any updates on CB Chris Houston and anybody else: "There's no real updates. Chris hurt the same ankle that had kept him out earlier and we'll just see how that one goes. Cliff wasn't able to return with a concussion. And Cliff has been fighting a leg/back/whatever you want to call it thing for a while. He's missed some practice with that. The concussion kept him out, but he was much improved after the game, probably more so than a lot of the other concussions that we've had so he'll have to go through a protocol to return but he presented different at the end of the game than some other guys have. Everybody else is sort of just battling through including Delmas. He was on crutches the week before. That makes it very difficult to get around a hotel, get around an airplane, up and down those jetways and on the sideline of games. It's a difficult situation to travel. He wasn't on crutches this week."
On if Delmas had a second surgery: "No. He was just on crutches to try to immobilize."
On the status of S Amari Spievey: "I don't know. He's on a concussion return. I don't really have any answers there. When it does, it does. We'll see."
On the status of CB Drayton Florence: "He's eligible to come back and he's physically cleared so we would have to make a roster spot for him. We've missed him on the field. He's a good veteran presence particularly with the injuries that we have in the secondary. It would be good to get him returned."
On the playoff race being difficult and being desperate: "I wouldn't call it either one of those - desperate or dire. I think our word is urgent. We had six of our first nine on the road. We now have a stretch of three in a row at home. We have to do something with that. There's urgency to that. Our margins are a lot thinner. We don't have a whole lot of wiggle room for mistakes down the stretch. We have to play our best. It's life in the NFL. You have to do that all the time. The feeling today is probably a lot like our feeling after getting home from Chicago. We had a road loss against a divisional opponent, a tough game. A game that we can look at certain mistakes that we made and see how the game got away from us and how we lost the game and our urgency to correct that and have a better performance is the main thing. We were able to come back on a short week and have a win over a very good Seattle team, respond with another road win against Jacksonville. We need to respond a lot the same way with this and it starts with Green Bay on Sunday."
On how he keeps the team in a positive mindset despite steep odds at making the postseason: "Yeah, you could look at that a lot of different ways. I mean, our goal is one game winning streak this week. I think that that's the only thing that we can work for right now. We're not going to prepare for any other games. We're going to prepare for this one and need to get a win there. We'll leave math for mathematicians and statisticians and stuff like that. Need to have consistent performance. You need to go out and win the next game that you're playing. You need to be able to put a win or a loss behind you. Again, the last two Super Bowl winners were 7-7 with two weeks to go in the season. So, there's some math right there, too."
On if there is anything the League can do to improve player safety given several recent concussions: "I don't know, I think it's a sign that the League is taking concussions more seriously. Teams are taking them very seriously. When people have been concussed, they've left the game. I can't comment on any people other than ourselves, but when someone gets hit in the head, they get checked out. If they can return, they return. If they can't, they don't. Cliff wasn't able to. His was on a run play and it wasn't a matter of someone taking a shot at his head or something, I mean, it was just football. Blocker was coming for him, he was coming for a blocker, he ended up with a concussion. It was disappointing to lose him in the game, and again it effected our rotation a little bit. We're generally deep and try to keep guys as fresh as we can. But that didn't matter. When he was diagnosed with a concussion he stayed in the locker room and that's all there was to it."
On the timeout on the Vikings' two-point conversion: "Well, we were a little bit unsettled. We had base personnel on the field and they were in three wide receivers and we didn't have very good matchups in there and we wanted to, it could potentially have been a big play, particularly if we could have got a stop. We didn't get it stopped, but thought the timeout was worth it there to be able to get the matchups the way that we want them. Unfortunately it didn't, looking back on it if we were going to give it up, don't waste a timeout. But the goal was, they had substituted late, it started off with sort of running their, looked like they were going to run their extra point on and then they pulled off and it was just a little while before we realized that they had three wide receivers in the game. Just didn't want to have a mismatch."
On the pooch kick in the third quarter: "Which one, the one that the defensive lineman got and he fumbled? Jason had just come off making that tackle on the sideline and we wanted to try to mortar - we call it a mortar kick, we don't call it a pooch kick. It wasn't as deep as we wanted it. We'd like to get that ball down about the 20-yard line or so and force those guys to catch it. That didn't work out very well. Would have worked out a lot better if a guy that's not used to handling the ball fumbled it if we'd been able to get the fumble. But that wasn't the intention. It was a little bit short for where we wanted it."
On not throwing deep at the end of halves: "In that case we were on our own 20-yard line with 40 seconds left. I mean, they know we have 80 yards to cover, too. You can very easily throw the ball deep and get it picked off and then you're facing the other side of that too. So you need to make good decisions at any point in the game but late in the half when there's not a whole lot of time, and there's a lot of teams that just take a knee in those situations, don't want anything bad to happen. We want to try to give our players a chance. Going out of bounds there and getting two yards or three yards really isn't going to change that situation. If he can cut back and he can get a significant chunk, we can affect that and try to use our timeouts to go and get in field goal range. Your point is right. You need to make a chunk somewhere. That's why he sort of went back. If that ball's on the 50-yard line, he needs to get out of bounds. When you're backed up you just need to get some yards somehow. And there's a fine line between being aggressive and being careless. I think you saw last week, it ended up getting overturned with a penalty, but its 21-0 and Jacksonville tried to throw one down the field that we intercepted and we would have had the ball right around midfield with a chance to go up 24, possibly even 28 points. Got overturned with the penalty, but there's a fine line there between being aggressive and also taking care of the football and trying to avoid turnovers."