Opening Comments:ML: "After looking at the tape, I really don't have much change from my remarks after the game. In the three phases, we got outplayed. I thought we did some good things in all three phases, but we didn't do enough of them long enough or significantly enough to make enough plays to win the football game.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early offensively. We put ourselves in some bad down-and-distance situations. Defensively, they get the one tipped ball that kind of bounces around and sets up the first score. And we didn't come up with any plays. When we did get them backed up, we had an offsides, and we had a facemask penalty on the interior that didn't help the cause. On special teams, it was not a very good game for us punting the football. We didn't work to change field position at all that way, which would have been very helpful in this game. So we left them a bunch of times with shorter fields really than we should, and they were more effective in that area as their guy (punter Chris Kluwe) got us backed up. Their guy did a great job.
"It goes back to being fundamentally sound in all areas. We need to make plays in the passing game. When we have opportunities, we've got to stay on track where we don't have these third-down-and-unmanageables. We did a good job converting most third downs until it just got to be ridiculous, where it would be very difficult to convert without turning it over. And that was a positive – other than the fumble which obviously was a big play before halftime – not having turnovers in the passing game. We have to continue with that. And we need to keep getting them (turnovers) on defense.
"It's a great opportunity for our team going to San Diego now, playing for, really, what this is all about. We'll be playing not only to win the division, but a chance to continue to be right on track to control our own destiny. So this is a good spot for us."
Q: San Diego is on an eight-game winning streak, and they've won 16 straight games in December since Phillip Rivers has become the starter. They're really on a roll and always seem to find a way to play their best football late in the season: ML: "They do. They found a way to play good football at the end of the year. They haven't necessarily always gotten off to a good start, and so they've obviously been playing football with a lot to play for, and they've done a nice job of it. So that's what they've done, and that's outstanding."
Q: How did you come out of the game in terms of injuries?ML: "I think the only guy that we'll be probably without this week will be Chris Crocker. I think Bernard Scott has an opportunity to be back, and we'll have the other guys back. Just (Domata) Peko and Crocker seem to be the only guys that seem to be for sure out right now."
Q: So is Chris Crocker week-to-week?ML: "We'll have to see. They've got him in the protective boot to take the strain off the ankle right now. He got the wind knocked out of him in the game, and I think it was the very next play where he got twisted up trying to make the tackle on the tipped ball. But he couldn't play today, so we'll just judge it that way for now."
Q: What is your assessment of the passing game?ML: "We've got to do a better job of executing. We have to protect. We have to be in the right spots at the right depths and give the opportunity to the quarterback. And I think we've got to go back and do a better job of manufacturing some balls down the field. When we had our opportunities yesterday, they (Vikings) just happened to be in the right spots, and so the ball couldn't get there. But we've got to continue to do that and keep fine-tuned in that area, until we get some opportunities to make some plays. "Yesterday for whatever reason, the luck wasn't in, the opportunity didn't match up. We had some good throws in there. But we have to do it consistently and all the time, and that will help.
"If you just turn it around, look at their offensive production yesterday. Their passing game was about 150 yards, and four balls to the backs that converted another 70. So in that kind of game, where neither team is really getting the ball down the field, we've got to make some hay with some of these other things that occur. We didn't execute our screens very well when we had them. We had opportunities there. Brian (Leonard) made a great run for our first first down, but there's got to be better execution around the board.
"All that being said, we're right where we wanted to be (in the standings). That's the exciting part of it. That's what this job is all about, and that's what the NFL is all about, and here we go."
Q: You prepare all offseason for where the team will stand, and the condition of the team, in December. How do you think you stand right now?ML: "I think we would have taken this in March. I know you would have, I don't know if I would have. You guys (media) would have. As for San Diego, they're a good football team playing really well right now. To win eight games in a row, we know how difficult that is. We've played some other teams already this year when they've been hot, and that's the case this Sunday. As for our guys, we got unnerved last week. We did things a little more out of character, from guys we count on to be our guys.
"I think that's both a negative and a positive all in one. We don't have to look very far from the ends of our noses to correct things. That's the good part of it. We need to have a very good, concentrated-focus-week this week. We had a great week last week, and I was worried we were too amped up, and maybe we were. We didn't go out and play very well because we were so excited. People kept commenting to me before the game, and I didn't have to say much before the game because we were so excited to play. So we did things out of character. We didn't get the coin toss right, so it wasn't a very good start yesterday."
Q: You guys haven't lost two games in a row all season. Are you confident that you can keep that going? ML: "I'm very confident that we've made inner corrections and gone forward. It's all of us. I think that's important. That's what this team has been about all year – it's a good football team that understands the team concept and what's at stake. So now we get ready to go play."
Q: How did you mess up the coin toss? ML: "That's my secret, I won't tell you (laughs)."
Q: You got Larry Johnson a few reps yesterday. Was that just to rest Cedric Benson?ML: "It's to keep Ced fresh, but I'd still like to get Larry a little more. Bob (Bratkowski) and I talked before I came downstairs, that we have to be mindful. I'll tie a rubber band to my ankle or wrist or something to remind us to get him some more opportunity to keep Ced fresh, and keep going forward that way. It's good for Larry. It gives us good balance and an opportunity to keep expanding and understanding."
Q: The Vikings had two 10-plus play drives, which is obviously very uncharacteristic of this defense. What can you attribute that to? ML: "It's been rare, and we can't let it occur, and that's what leaves a very sour taste in your mouth when you give up 17 points there toward the end of the game, and the field goal before halftime. It's a pretty nip-and-tuck game, and then we allow them to separate themselves. When we get the opportunity later, we can't convert for the touchdown. First-and-goal from the eight, and we can't convert to make it a 10-point game."
Q: There were al lot of underneath passes that you gave up to the Vikings' running backs yesterday: ML: "We got beat. We didn't get to the right leverage points and understand it. We were on the right guys, we just have to get to the correct leverage points and understand that's a matchup you want if you're an offensive coach. If you're a linebacker or linebackers coach, that's what you tell them all the time – you make sure you get yourself in situations so the ball doesn't come that way. As they say, you get a lot of pressure with some of that stuff. They were able to take advantage against us a little bit."
Q: You have had nine-plus penalties in each of the last four games. How do you change things so that doesn't happen? ML: "We do a lot of things with cadence, and so forth. I'm not going to sit here and talk about it, because that's what we do, and it doesn't help me to spread anything from upstairs to help our opponents in any way. That's why I don't talk about a lot of stuff you guys want to bring up and talk about. It's not helpful to us beyond here. Our players understand what we have to do to correct it, but for me to sit here and go into it is not helpful to us."
Q: Right before halftime, your defense had a tackle for a loss that was negated by a Pat Sims facemask penalty, setting them up further for a score: ML: "It's an unfortunate thing. You're coming off the ball on defense and your hand gets caught in the mask. Hopefully you can let it go quick enough where it doesn't warrant a 15-yard penalty. In this case it did. His hand got caught in there and twisted around. It's not something Pat tried to do. It was unfortunate and untimely. Those things can happen five other times in a game and not get called. In this case it was called and gave them a first down, and a 15-yard advance of the football."
Q: You had a pretty angry look on your face after that. We're you unhappy with the officials?ML: "We got called for a five-yard illegal contact penalty as well. It's part of it. Our players know the officials have to do their job and they're not a reason why we win or lose anytime. Go make enough plays and we don't have to worry about what else occurs."