Once a week, Mark Craig will get on and off the field quickly, then focus a spotlight on a player and a coach.
On the field with ... Mike Zimmer, Vikings coach
Question: Drew Brees had one of the worst halves of his 18-year career in last year’s NFC divisional game at U.S. Bank Stadium. He trailed 17-0 after completing 44.4 percent of his passes (eight of 18) for 117 yards, two sacks, two interceptions and a 26.6 rating. However, in his second-half charge, he completed 77.3 percent (17 of 22) for 177 yards, two TDs, no interceptions and was outscoring the Vikings 24-6 in the half until Stefon Diggs’ walkoff touchdown. Long story short, what the heck happened?
Answer: “I don’t really think that’s unusual. In the fourth quarter [this year], they’re the number one scoring team in the league right now, by a large margin, averaging almost 14 points a game. [Brees] had a couple short fields, we had a punt blocked, we had an interception. Things happen.”
On the field with ... John DeFilippo, Vikings offensive coordinator
Question: Another reporter asked DeFilippo if he thought being Brees’ coach would require doing anything more than handing him a football and stepping aside.
Answer: “Here’s what I found out about all great players, and obviously Drew Brees is a great player: All great players strive to get better every day, and great players are coachable. I’m a big Bill Walsh guy. I’ve read all of Coach Walsh’s books, and he tells a story in one of his books about I think it was Joe Montana’s 12th year in San Francisco. [Walsh] is describing ‘22-Hank,’ which is the No. 1 play in the old-school West Coast offense. Everyone still has a form of it in their offense. And there was Joe Montana in the front row taking two pages of notes on that play. It’s like his 12th year with the Niners. Usually, great players have that stuff in common where they just love football, dive into it. I don’t want to speak for Drew, but I would assume that Drew being the great player that he is, is always looking to get better every day.”
Spotlight player of the week: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback
The last time he faced the Browns, Roethlisberger turned the ball over five times in a 21-21 tie at Cleveland in Week 1. Amazingly, the Browns didn’t score a single point off Big Ben’s three interceptions and two lost fumbles. Since that game, the Steelers are 3-2. Roethlisberger has three interceptions and no lost fumbles since Week 1. The Browns and Steelers meet again Sunday in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger is 11-0 against the Browns at home and 22-2-1 overall.
Spotlight coach of the week: Sean Payton, Saints coach
If not for the “Minneapolis Miracle” — Stefon Diggs’ walkoff touchdown catch — the lasting image of the Vikings’ divisional playoff game last year would have been Payton mocking the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd by doing the Skol clap on the Saints sideline while leading 24-23 in the closing seconds. Payton and the Saints have bounced back with five consecutive wins heading into Sunday night’s rematch at U.S. Bank Stadium. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer calls Payton’s offense “indiscriminate.” “Call anything at any time,” Zimmer said. “Call anything. Second-and-1, he might be in no backs. … Formations, movements, personnel groupings, he doesn’t care. I don’t think he cares about down and distance.”