Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan met with the media on Thursday.
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET:
On if the red zone inefficiency is because the offense's answers to defensive plays are not working: "No, I think that we have other places to be able to go, we just haven't executed when we've had those opportunities. Early in the season we were running the ball across the goal line at a pretty good clip. This one we have a chance to get it in and fumble it right on the 1-yard line. We have answers. We get a one-on-one like we did to Calvin (Johnson), you know Matt (Stafford) can get it a little higher, Calvin can come down with that one. But we just haven't gotten very many of those opportunities."
On RB Mikel Leshoure being ball-secure in college but fumbling twice in 66 carries playing in the NFL: "I think that particularly this one was just fighting too hard. I mean literally. One thing we talked was: if that's third down and you have to get the sticks, then you're fighting to try to get that extra half yard. If that's fourth-and-one you're fighting to get that extra yard. Those kind of situations, it's the goal line, third-and-goal, one of those situations. But he'd already had the first down. We were in the red zone. There are some times when they got you hung up and you're not going to go any farther that sometimes discretion is a better part of valor at that point.
On having Leshoure walking around with a football: "He's not loose with the ball. Watch the way he runs. He has very good fundamentals and things like that. It's been at the finish. I don't want him running over any staff members."
On last game being a good teaching moment for RB Joique Bell: "You certainly don't want to have teaching moments on the field. It's a hard less to learn. But yeah, that is one of those situations. Stafford had one a few weeks ago against I think it was Minnesota. It was a fourth-and-goal play. There you have to be aggressive. I was at the game in the press box when Kevin Dyson was stretching that ball out the last play of the game against the Rams in the Super Bowl. Those are opportunities that you have to put it out there and take a gamble; second-and-goal is not one of those situations."
On what you think about that play (in the Super Bowl with Tennessee) looking back: "I was the replay guy. And Jeff (Fisher) asked me, ‘Hey what's the replay look like?' and I'm like, ‘We don't have it.' We were up there pretty high in the Georgia Dome and down on the field you probably didn't have a very good angle. Everybody though he might have stretched it over but where we were, you could tell he didn't get it over."
On CB Drayton Florence returning to practice soon: "There's a difference between being back on the field and then also being able to be activated with the protocol, the IR that we put him on. But we had a good feeling that he'd be able to bounce back from this and a lot of guys have. Usually what you're doing is you're sucking them up on the 53-man roster until they can. It was a little bit of an advantage that we were able to replace his roster spot. Those things are fairly predictable in the healing and we'll see what it looks like. But he'll be a boost to get back on the practice field. Bigger boost to get back on the field."
On almost always playing from behind this season: "I think the hardest thing is on the defense. Obviously, easier to play defense when a team's one dimensional, when they have to threw to catch up. And then also much easier to play defense when you're just pinning your ears back and not really worrying about a draw or a screen or one of those things. Our offense has proven that we can come back late and we can score, but I think it certainly affects our defense the way that it goes. We can certainly help ourselves by getting a lead and holding a lead."
On the NFL being a copycat League and eventually making the move towards bigger DBs like Seattle: "I don't know. That's like saying you want seven-foot point guards. Maybe there is a guy out there that can do it, but there's not many of them that can. A lot of people are trying to find a Calvin Johnson, a lot of people are trying to...there's been a lot of players. When I was a Tennessee, Jevon Kearse was so good everyone was trying to find a Jevon Kearse. Guys like that are hard to find. To have the athletic ability to be able to flip your hips and cover and run with world class athletes on the outside part of the field is not a skill that most tall guys have. Like I said, they have a couple of them. It's an advantage for them because the length that they have particularly on balls down the field."
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR SCOTT LINEHAN QUOTE SHEET:
On WR Calvin Johnson having only three targets in the first half against the Bears: "Yeah, well, that was probably the only half where it was like that this year. I mean, his targets are top in the League as far as targets to him. You can't force it. You saw the week before we were trying to get him the ball on a shot at midfield and it gets picked off. It's kind of a double-edged sword. You've got to get it to him and then sometimes forcing the ball to him derails you because the ball should have gone somewhere else. We work extremely hard and have got to keep working at it of putting him in a lot of positions where he's going to get the football. First target of the game was incomplete, third target of the game was a drop, so I think we have an idea of we're trying to get him the football in the course of four quarters of football. There's no question, we've got to get him the ball as many times as we can. Be smart about it. Take what they give us but put him good positions so he can help us move the ball and score points."
On RB Mikel Leshoure's fumbles: "Well the biggest thing, I think Jim alluded to it with you all earlier is you love the effort trying to fight for the extra yard, fighting for the extra foot. We're always talking about ‘Don't take an inch for granted.' But you can't do it at the expense of ball security. He was a very ball-secure player in college. He's been out for a while, whatever it was, a year out of contact. You've got missing really missing pretty much the entire training camp except for maybe the last part of it. Those are the things that you take for granted and you find out and say ‘Hey, listen, we've got to make sure that we're securing that ball,' and both of our fumbles were extra-effort fumbles. Just critical that we take care of the football. You put the ball on the ground, it's a self-inflicted wound and it takes points off the board and both of those fumbles were in scoring position, so never a good time, but it's always pretty critical when you take away that opportunity. So, we'd like to pretty much get that off of our radar at this point. Last year we were a very good ball secure team, we didn't have a lot of fumbles. If we had maybe one every three games or four games that was even unusual and we've had a couple of games now where we've put the ball on the ground. That's got to come to an end."
On his philosophy on leaving the ground like RB Joique Bell on his fumble: "Yeah, the learning experience there is if it's fourth down and you can't get there. It would be one thing if we were on the 1-foot line. Matt two or three weeks ago on a goal line play, it was fourth down, had to reach the ball out because that's the only way he's going to cross the goal line. This was early in the down, second down I believe, you want to keep your feet on the ground, run through and get the ball in the end zone and have it secure. Reaching it out at that point is really too risky."
On the lack of red zone scores: "And we've been good in the red zone the last couple years, one of the top teams, first or second or whatever. The non-scores are my concern. You're not going to score a touchdown every time and I feel like as the year goes on our touchdowns are going to get better but the non-scores are the thing that alarm me. And we've got to take better care of the football down there because, like I said with the fumbles, you know, I take Matt's interception in this game away from that because we're trying, it's fourth down trying to make a play, I mean that's not necessarily the same as the others. But there's been others this year where we're trying to make something happen and it's not there. And the red zone's a tight area in the passing game and the run game you can't be loose with the football because that's what everybody's trying to do. They're trying to take points off the board, trying to keep you from getting points. And it really accounts double against you because you've at least got three points every time in the red zone. That's your minimum standard. You try to get seven but three's on the books as far as offense is concerned. So it's something that that trend's got to stop."
On if the red zone struggles are due to teams paying so much attention to Johnson: "Well, some of it's the elimination of Calvin, especially in the last couple games. But we had some opportunities in this game that we missed. We missed a fade and haven't had that this year. Missed that opportunity. So I think it's got to be picked up from everybody, you know, from the running backs and the running game, even the passing game on some of the check down stuff (for) our tight ends. Tight ends have been, last year were very effective for us in the red zone, and we've got to increase that role. So there's a lot of things that we've focused on and are focusing on and trying to improve them."
On the Seattle defense: "Yeah, they're set up for the run because they play an eight-man front, technically, all the time. They're very much a single-high defense until you get in maybe a long-yardage situation. So they're set up against the run. They're very big. This is one of the biggest defenses, I'd be shocked if there's a bigger defense across the board from their front, linebackers' length, and their secondary are giants. I mean, the corners are, I've never really seen the corners as long as they are and they've got a safety that looks like a linebacker. And then their smallest DB may be their best player. So, they've got a lot of very talented players. They play the run well. In coverage they're kind of in your face. They'll play a lot of man, very sticky man. They're on you and regardless of whether they're latching or not, I mean it's only going to be a penalty if they call it and we've got to be able to work very hard at getting open against that coverage."
On what the Seattle defense's length allows them to do: "I think it buys time for their rush. They try to, not always reroute the receiver at the line of scrimmage. If it's a man call for them then they're going to come up and utilize that because they got a deep post player so they're protected on the deep part of the field and they're playing for the short and they can do that because they know that the range of that free safety is very, very good back there. So, I think that's what they're trying to get done. And then when they play their three-deep zone they're basically trying to squeeze the middle of the field and really force lower percentage passes. And as long as they're able to do that and match up, that's why they've had success. I don't know of any category that they're not one of the Top-5 in the League. There's maybe one or two but they're pretty much Top-5 defense in all the major categories right now."
On if he thinks the tall Seattle defensive backfield is the next evolution: "I think, you know, it's just the philosophy. I know that when Coach Carroll got there he talked about getting bigger in their defense and that every position. And you really see, I mean, it's not just their secondary, it's their defense. I mean, they've got the biggest defensive end I've ever seen and they're just big and long at really every position, linebackers as well. To see two corners like that, usually you're thinking ‘Okay, well if they're tall they're not fast.' Well these guys are pretty, pretty good speed. And they don't ask them to have long speed because they've got that deep safety back there so he overlaps deep balls and things like that. So, if they continue playing the way they play, then certainly people are going to be trying to emulate what they're doing. I would think that's probably a defense you'll start seeing a little bit more of."
On Broyles' game against Chicago: "Yeah, well I really liked that first of all he looked healthy, like he's as close to 100 percent since his injury. And he looked like it wasn't too big for him. It looked like he just picked up like he was playing his senior year at Oklahoma, fast and getting open. Really the quarterback went to him on a play I would have assumed based on it was right after Nate had come out and hadn't really worked that route and went right to him he produced for him. And as the game went on you saw the confidence of Matt with him. So that was a good sign his first real go of it and have his first catch be a nice, big chunk there and in the same game has a touchdown in his first game where he had really significant playing time. So, I think it's a good sign for the future and obviously we need him. We figured going into the season that we were lucky last year not to have an injury at receiver and this year unfortunately we lost Nate but fortunately we have a healthy Broyles to go to."
On if the Seattle defensive backs are good because of their strength or height: "I think both. I think they're a long, very strong team. They try to squeeze what they can and force you to hold onto the ball if you're in the passing game and they don't give you a lot of air in the run game because they're always lined up in, like I said, an eight-man front or if you're in a sub-package a seven-man front where they've got run defenders close to the line of scrimmage. But they're physical. I mean, they've got a back end of players that are as big of a secondary, like I said, their safety is their smallest player. He's one of their most decorated players on their team. They're pretty darn good."