Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham had to say following Friday's practice. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET:
On how much the run game has evolved from the last time the Lions played the Vikings: "A lot. Obviously using Riley Reiff in that package has been significant for us. Getting contributions out of different people. We're getting some experience (from) two guys that are young players: (RB) Joique Bell is playing really for the first time and (RB) Mikel Leshoure is basically a rookie. So I think that it's certainly has changed. It's been very productive over the last few weeks and we're getting contributions out of a lot of guys. It's not just our running backs. It's not just our tight ends. Riley Reiff, our offensive line, our wide receivers are blocking well. It's been a team effort to run the football."
On how much he takes point differential into consideration: "Division games I think are important, No. 1, because you talked before about how you put a loss on an opponent, get a win. We're trying to get a win. However we can get a win is the most important thing. We're in the middle of the season and we're going to do our very best in the game to get a win and I think anything else is just talk. Just sort of leave it there. It's important-division record is important. We can accomplish that. Putting a loss on a division opponent. That's important, we can accomplish that. Anything else we're just trying to win the game."
On the philosophy of taking the ball first: "Have confidence in our offense. You say it could all even out but any time we can maybe get an extra possession, I think that's important to us. If there is a situation where there's wind, which there won't be on Sunday, but if there is a situation like that then if you take the ball in the first half then you have your choice in the second half of which way you want to kick in the third quarter. We have a lot of confidence in our offense, not that we don't have confidence in our defense, I mean our defense went out there last week and got three-and-outs and turnovers to start all those series which is important to us. But I think anytime we have a chance to put the ball in (Matthew) Stafford's hands we're going to take it."
On if they have started games better: "I don't know. I still think we can start faster. The last couple weeks we've done a much better job in the first half of games. But we definitely can start faster. Be more efficient in the first drive of the game. Trying hard to do that as it is. There's really nothing else we can point to."
On if he expects WR Percy Harvin to play: "We're going to prepare for him. We're not going to be surprised if he does."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM:
On the keys to stopping Vikings RB Adrian Peterson: "Tackle him. You know, you've got to tackle him. I mean, he's a wonderful athlete, and he is everything people say he is. You know, I felt like he wasn't quite ready in the first game, and I thought he was about 90 percent. Watching him now, he looks like he's about 290 percent. I watched the Seattle game and I went, ‘My God, you better start tackling him.' He ran up the middle of their defense and there was no one there, and the safety had his work cut out for him. You don't want to put one guy on him to tackle him. You have to bring the whole team. He is one fine football player."
On the secondary's success despite not having the same starting rotation all season: "You know, Kyle Vanden Bosch and I were talking during a lull in practice yesterday and he brought that up that we hadn't had the same secondary the last eight games. I said, ‘Kyle, we haven't had it the last four years, you know, that I've been here.' I keep saying this and I've mentioned it a lot to all of you, Tim Walton is one heck of a football coach and adding Marcus Robertson has really helped him. They're showing it. You know, Tim was trying to do that job by himself, and it was going to kill after what he had gone through the last couple years. But now it's starting to pay off because there are two of them working back there. They start about five in the morning and they meet with players at 6 a.m. I'm really impressed with the job they've done, and so far we've survived no matter who is going on the field, you know? I'm really proud of those guys."
On the defense stepping up this week against Minnesota: "Well, you know, if you check back in the last three or four games, I think we had a tough one a couple weeks ago. But the defense has been playing pretty well. I think we've kind of flown under the radar around here a little because we just weren't winning at that point. But we've given up, I don't know, 14 touchdowns in eight games and that puts us way up on the League. You know, I think the way the offense is going, and I told Dan (Crossman) last week, the kicking game has really improved and they're putting us in good spots. If they get a first down, we're not as worried. The front, the defensive line's probably played well every game with the exception of last week. They stopped the run and they're not smart enough to understand when they stop the run now it's time to go rush the passer. At that point in the game, and that's how I felt, I laughed too when I talked to them about it, they accomplished what they wanted. They wanted to put the game in their hands, but they got frustrated in the first half because the ball was coming out so quick. When they went fastball we had them right where we wanted, but our frustration level set in and we weren't getting very good rushes at that point. I was disappointed in that. But games before like Philly, they had no chance to move the ball on us. We were in their backfield all day long. So, you know, we've just got to put a real good game together."
On what he takes away from the defense's last performance against Minnesota: "Well, we've always had good games with them going back to last year, you know. You can't ever, if you're up on them, you've got to be real careful. If Joe Webb ever comes off the field again I might try to lasso him before he gets out there. But they're a good football team, and I think Leslie Frazier's one heck of a guy and man before a coach. He's done a great job there. They've gone through some difficult things, the stadium issue and all that, and he's held that team together. They came out shooting at the beginning of this year. They've had some injury issues on defense, I guess, like all of us do, but they're a tough football team. It's a division game and it kinds of reminds me now in the AFC West when I was coaching there. We used to beat each other up and nobody went to the Super Bowl for years. Then Denver broke out. Well, here Green Bay's broken out of the division. All the other teams are getting to the point where they're real good. If you look at all the defensive stats, which I do all week, you know, studying different things, every category there's four teams in the upper 10. It's all of us. Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago along with us. So, the talent level on defense is trying to catch up with the offenses we're playing against. You play against (Aaron) Rodgers twice a year, you're going to find out what you're all about in a hurry. That goes for (Jay) Cutler as well. You know, there's great talent in the division and the division's very competitive."
On why the defense has been so much better this year despite injuries: "We're smarter. I think what we've done here as a defensive coaching staff, you can't give us a player that's not going to be coached. Like I hear they want to bring a guy in, well he's a problem. I go, ‘Good, I've got a new target. I'll straighten that out in a hurry.' We take that approach and Jim (Schwartz) does it with the whole team, but we take it to a level that most people don't. We take great pride in developing (Ricardo) Silva, you know, developing all these guys. I want a Jonté (Green) a year from now. You know, he's a developmental draft choice as is Chris Greenwood. But the way we coach, I told Jonté point blank he got more reps than any corner I've ever seen in my life and it's paying off. He made some plays out there yesterday. So, we coach everybody so when our backups when they go in, they're pretty prepared. The other thing that's happened, these players have been together for a while. You know, we got Tully and JD in here last year and it's paying off. Ashlee Palmer was the special teams player of the week I think the last two weeks, yet on defense he played outstanding last week. It was the best game he's ever played, which made me say, ‘Hey, we finally got the fourth linebacker.' That's a real credit to Matt Burke and he didn't' give up. He wasn't do everything right, but being around two veteran linebackers has made (DeAndre) Levy better, it's made the whole group better. The back end's like that, you know, getting (Drayton) Florence in here has really helped us because they speak coaches language to the players. We have great communication going."
On if DT Ndamukong Suh needs a tackle in order to have an impact in his opinion: "Suh just raises hell. I kind of like it. You know, I get a little upset when he's standing next to me and we're on defense. I always look up and I go, ‘Why are you standing next to me.' He's like a wrecking crew in there, you know? He is an exceptional football player. Watching him grow over the last month and a half, you know, emotionally mature in different ways has really been exciting for me. There was a time he wouldn't talk to too many people and now it's like he's having fun. He's learned how to play this game and I told him. You know, say a guy's got five sacks but he makes a tackle in Chicago, you got a sack. Everybody here saw that sack. I said, ‘Suh, that's the game.' It's about making the play at the right time. It's not about numbers. It's about being a football player and causing havoc on the offense and letting your teammates play around you. Well, he's kind of doing that. He did a lot of that last year and people make me laugh sometimes. I sit in my offense and I coached the defensive line eleven years and I look at all these guys up on that wall, some of my guys are in Canton too, and I've seen a lot of great players in my day. He's got that in him and I just want him to be successful. I don't care what I have to do, he's going to be successful. I enjoy talking to him and I love him as a man and as a football player. I'm never, ever, ever going to walk away from saying that because I know the guy and I know him well."
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