Here’s what the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings had to say before Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on the Vikings’ safety tandem of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris: “It’s been a while since I’ve been on a football team that has played against this defense, and it seems like Smith is the same guy if not better than he was the last time – I think it was 2015. Harris – man, those are two really good players, I mean really good players. That sticks out on tape. So they definitely pose a challenge. Any good player is going to pose a challenge and these two guys are no exception to that. They do a good job of disguising their coverages. They do a good job of tackling. They do a good job of covering when they’re asked to cover. They’re physical, really good, solid football players. Then a lot of credit to that staff over there in Minnesota, Coach (Mike) Zimmer is a phenomenal coach. (It’s) no surprise that his players just continue to get better as they are in the system there.”
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on forcing Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins into tougher throws after forcing only one incompletion in Week 1: “I think it’s like any week. You want to take away what they are doing early in the down by re-routing receivers. If you’re playing mass coverage, you want to do that. If you’re playing man-free, you want to be tight in your coverage. We do all those different things during the course of the game. We have to do a great job of handling the run game because everything runs through their halfback, and we know that with this group. It’s going to be a big challenge for us going forward this week.”
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers on if he’ll pick former Vikings and new Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ brain this week: “I usually try to go about the week normal and then, as the week goes, I’m sure we’ll have a conversation or two. I’m always a little careful to do too much of that just because I think it works both ways. They know he’s here too and you never know how much they’ve tweaked. This offseason especially, you just never know. More so, maybe like you said, personnel-wise – just being around guys, knowing what routes they don’t like, which ones they defend better than others. Little things like that, since we don’t have a ton of this year’s tape. It’s all off last year’s, except for last week. I usually try to go through the normal preparation, study what you see, and then have some of those conversations as the week goes.”
Rivers on what he can take away from facing the Vikings last year: “That game like so many others last year, was I believe it was 12-10 game them. We were driving to take the lead before half and had a sack-fumble they ran back for a touchdown. It spun out of control from there. There were a couple of turnovers in that game that hurt. Two came really late in desperation when we probably should have been handing it off, but we were – for some reason, we wanted to push it down the field a little more. They’re a good team. We’re a good team. Both teams didn’t play probably the way they wanted to last week. All throughout obviously, both teams didn’t because we didn’t come away with a win. You have two good football teams on Sunday. This defense is always challenging. Coach Zimmer does a heck of a job with the defensive schemes. I’ve played against his team so many times, both when he was in Cincinnati and a couple of times obviously in Minnesota. They have really good players, a heck of a secondary. Those two inside linebackers, obviously, a defensive end we know well from his time in Jacksonville. It’s a heck of a challenge for us. We’ll have to be better than we were last week, to say the least, but I think we’re going to have a great week of preparation and be up for the challenge.”
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard on what makes Vikings running back Dalvin Cook good: “The way he runs. He runs hard. He catches the ball out of the backfield. They use him in all types of different ways. I’ve been watching him ever since he was at Florida State. He’s been an elite back ever since then. He has a great offensive line. They run a stretch play a lot that complements what they do in the pass game. Pretty tough, tough runner – definitely have much respect for him.”
Rhodes on facing his old Vikings teammates for the first time on Sunday: “It’s all love. I was there for seven years. It was a brotherhood when I was there, and it’s still a brotherhood to this day. So it’s going to be good going against those guys. When I was practicing against those guys when I was there, we were competing each and every play, so it’s going to be the same right there on the field. But I’m going to be able to tackle them this time.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on Rhodes: "I love Xavier. He's a great kid, a good competitor. We had a lot of good times together. We worked really close for a number of years. I hope he has a good year and is staying safe and healthy. … I thought he did well (on Rhodes’ performances in Week 1). They obviously play a little different scheme than what we do, but the things that he was asked to do, he did fine.”
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen on facing Rhodes for the first time as an opponent: "Shoot, I can go back to day one in the Vikings organization at rookie camp (in 2013), going against him every single day. Pretty much from there on, looking at my practice squad year, going against him every day, and then moving forward in training camp and things like that. Honestly, he's probably been a big part of who I am today because he's challenged me, he's pushed me, he's made things very difficult on me. That's what helps you become a better football player when you have a challenge like that, you're constantly having to perform your best and having to get better, so I give him honestly a lot of credit for helping me become the player I am today. … I'm excited to see him, he's a friend of mine, and obviously was a fantastic teammate. So, excited to see him. He knows me just like I know him, so it definitely creates another challenge because he knows what I like to do, how I like to run routes, how I do certain things, and vice versa. So it creates a challenge, that's for sure, but that's just how this league works. You figure it out on the fly and you go against who you gotta go against."
Cousins on Rhodes: "He's done it for a long time, and we always asked a lot of him. When we beat the Saints, I think he was the very first person to hug me in the playoff game, which says something about him as a teammate and a person, so it'll be strange seeing him in blue and white, but I have nothing but good things to say about him as a player and a person."
Zimmer on Rivers now being in a Colts uniform after 16 years with the Chargers: "It is quite a new system, and Rivers is a tremendous, competitive player. Still can make all the throws. He's really, really smart and sees a lot of different things. Even though you played him recently, it's always tough playing those guys. They are good players."
Zimmer on the Colts offensive line: "Well, this offensive line is definitely one of the best in the league. They've got two big, long tackles (Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith), the center (Ryan Kelly) is a really good player, and (left guard Quenton) Nelson is maybe the best guard in football. It's just a little bit more time (for Rivers), which I'm sure he appreciates. But he's throwing the ball great. A lot of (shotgun formation) – a lot of being in the gun."
Vikings defensive end Yannick Ngakoue on facing the Colts after playing for the AFC South-rival Jacksonville Jaguars for the last four years: "I see a lot of the similar things I've seen over the past four years when I was in Jacksonville. Big guys, big o-line. They try to get their hands on you and just try to swallow you up. … So I've just got to try to bring that same intensity that I've brought these last four years into this game. Not just that, but just trying to inform the guys that I'm playing with how they can beat certain guys that are their matchups, and things like that.”
(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)