Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham had to say after Friday's practice. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET
On the defense not completing big plays: "Any defense is going to be trying to prevent big plays. We are no different than anybody else there. I think what we have been is resilient enough that if we have given them up that we have gotten it fixed. We've gone out and we have either gotten a red zone stop or have gotten a stop in the next series or something like that. Offense, defense and special teams there are a lot of things that we ARE still working and trying to improve on. A big play allowed is certainly one of them."
On the linebackers elevating each other's performance: "I think the linebackers are playing well. I don't think it's elevating each other's' play. All three of those guys are good players and they have played good football in the past. I don't think it's a surprise that they're playing good now. We're consistent at that position. Those guys have done a nice job. Even a first time and full time starter in Ashlee Palmer has done a nice job."
On LB DeAndre Levy being successful in coverage this season: "He always has been. He's been a guy that has always made a lot of plays on the ball. I don't know that you're seeing anything different. He hasn't changed the way he's playing and we haven't played him at a different position. He's got a couple of opportunities that he has made the most of. He made that play down the sideline. It wasn't a pass breakup, it was an interception."
On Cincinnati HB Giovani Bernard being a big play maker: "He's made some big plays in the pass game. We have a lot of respect for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's a north-south hard runner. If he gets some open space, he can break a long one too. Again, we respect our opponents. Those guys are good running backs. That's a good tandem. We feel like if we do the right things, if we fit right, we tackle well, then that will take care of itself."
On health playing a factor in the linebackers' success: "I think with (Stephen) Tulloch that's particularly a point. He struggled with the knee all last year and it affected practice time and his ability to sort of be consistent with it. I still think he had a good year. It appears to be behind him now. I think that never hurts a player."
On RB Joique Bell's ribs: "It's just part of the game. He wouldn't be the first running back to have some sore ribs and be able to go out and play. He's a tough guy. If he can do it, then we'll put him out there. If he can't, we'll go to the next time."
On WR Calvin Johnson being monitored during the course of a game: "We do the same with any player, you're going to monitor how much they play. We certainly are not going to divulge how much we plan on playing him or what situations or if he's going to be restricted or full go. We don't want our opponent to know that. Any player, we'll take their health and their feeling into consideration as they go through a game."
On CB Bill Bentley's consistency: "I'd like to see him finish some interceptions. Seen his hands on a couple of balls that he hasn't been able to come down with those. He's a young player. He's improving. There are some things that he does well and there are some things that he is continuing to work on. With experience, a lot of that comes. He doesn't have a lot of experience. He got hurt in training camp last year. He didn't play a whole lot in the nickel last year. He played a little bit outside early on and wasn't able to finish the season. He has a lot of learning on the job, but he's been coming quickly. The thing about him is, he rarely makes the same mistake twice. He's had some opportunities in the pass game that we have to take a little more advantage of. I mentioned DeAndre Levy taking advantage, I think you could easily see a situation where Bill has three interceptions, maybe even four right now. He just needs to take advantage of the times that he has put himself in good position and finish those plays."
On continually having the safeties together: "The previous year and a half, we were struggling to just have consistency at the position. That's been a big thing for us and hopefully we can continue in that vein. Both of those guys are good players and they help our defense when they're out there."
On LB Stephen Tulloch's leadership role transferring to his game performance: "It's a part of any players' sort of thing. It's not just about themself, it's about the team. Tulloch has always been a good team player. He makes a lot of tackles and things like that. When you're a middle linebacker, there is some dirty work you have to do. Sometimes you don't always get the glory, so to speak. He's been very productive in how we are going to use him. He's always been a guy that has been passionate about football. I think that rubs off on his teammates. He's been incredibly consistent and durable over his career. You can't be a leader if you're not on the field and Tulloch's been on the field for us."
On Slay becoming more aggressive as he grows in confidence and experience: "I wouldn't say he's not aggressive now. When you're a corner, you have to be judicious about when you're aggressive and when you're not. You can't play in a three point stance. You're going to give up a lot of plays if you do. I think you just have to understand your spot in the defense and recognize some things offensively and know when you can be aggressive and when you have to have integrity of the defense and prevent big plays and stuff like that. Every responsibility is a little bit different. The one thing you don't want from a corner is, ‘ready, fire aim.' You want him to be able to line everything up. Sometimes you're not going to be aggressive on every play."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM QUOTE SHEET
On LB DeAndre Levy's approach this season: "I think it is a combination of things, he is really into it, he always has been but that is kind of a moot point. He understands the game better, there is no question about that. You could see it at OTA's and other times throughout the year that he was on point and it's paying off. The wheel route down the sideline, the last interception, I almost jumped out of the press box. He had given up a couple of those in the last few years and he was ready for them. He made a nice play and the offense pounded it in and iced the game. I was really happy about that."
On what makes Levy better in coverage: "He understands, he's a bright guy, he's tough, he can run and he recognizes things now. It's trial and tribulations that you go through and grow and I keep saying, I knew when (Chad) Greenway up in Minnesota hit his stride and Lev is right there at the same point, he is hitting his stride. He is an excellent veteran football player."
On LB Stephen Tulloch's play this season: "I think he is getting enthusiasm from Lev. Lev is making plays and he doesn't want to be outplayed by him. They are really close friends, they do everything together, they sit together, they study together, it's a friendly competition. Tully is playing really well. He had been injured the other two years we've had him with little nagging things where he couldn't play at 100 percent but now he is. To have those two guys out there have rubbed off on Ashlee Palmer and I think Rocky McIntosh's time will come as well. He is doing everything right and from what I understand Rocky is playing really well on (special) teams."
On CB Bill Bentley gaining experience: "He's been a little bit up and down and that's the emotion and the maturity level that you have to rise too. He needs to understand that every week is a new week and those guys in the box, if you do something wrong it's down on the sidelines and the next play is right at you. He is starting to battle and he is starting to understand that. The only disappointment I had was he stayed off that guy in the two-minute drill. I saw it and I knew what was going to happen and he banged up his shoulder. He's worked hard and he's ok in practice every day but he can't afford to do those things. It's the little things that he has to make progress with."
On Bengals QB Andy Dalton: "It's funny, he wears number 14. The last guy I saw that with was Dan Fouts. I believe Ernie Zampese's son is coaching him and you can see similarities. He's throwing the ball quick and they have a really good concept, it's a lot of the ex-San Diego Chargers stuff when Ernie was running the offense for Don Coryell there. As I studied it, I saw it and I said ‘Oh here we go' and when things went on during the week you could see all the similar things that they are doing. It's a very precise offense and he is doing a good job delivering the ball and receivers understand the routes and they're big and fast and they're tough. This offense is a lot like Green Bay in the passing game. It's quick throws and catch and turn and run. It's all about YAC yardage and we have to tackle this game. We have to tackle this week."
On Tulloch being healthy and allowing him to play more free: "I think that's a big, big thing with him. I don't think people realize how beat up he was. I would watch him practice in this indoor facility and you could see how much pain he was in, last year in particular, and the frustration level he had. He is a different guy this year. He made a play yesterday that was unbelievable, it set the tone, he was in pass coverage and he came on the tight end, I thought he was going to kill the tight end, but he knocked the ball out. The DB's feed off of that. Once you do it once with a guy like Tully, they follow his lead and he has done a great job that way."
On the rareness of having a linebacker (DeAndre Levy) be the team's leading interceptor: "I think it's great. I used to work with the Chiefs and with Bobby Bell, Willy Lanier and Donnie Edwards came along. Now it's Derrick Johnson for them, so I like linebackers intercepting the ball. He's putting himself in good spots. He doesn't just have four interceptions, but he has six or seven knockdowns. When you look at corners, if you have six PBUs (pass breakups), you're probably in the top quarter of the NFL right now. There's a couple guys that have 10-13, but not many and that's tough duty for a linebacker."
On how DT Nick Fairley played at Cleveland: "He played better. There's no question about that and he has a long way to go until I'm satisfied and I'm sure he feels the same about himself. But he's practiced well again this week and we look like we're moving forward."
On what he wants to see Fairley improve on: "I can't say that publicly. I think he and (Ndamukong) Suh need to really start dominating more inside. I think Suh's played exceptional, he really has. And Nick needs to step up to that level. He's had a slow start with the injuries that have happened to him. It's a little bit like you were asking about (Stephen) Tulloch. When some of these guys get beat up, like (Glover) Quin, he handles it. Glover Quin is like a 20-year veteran, he knows exactly what to do with his body. Guys like Nick, they're young guys and they need to learn to take care of themselves better when they get banged up."
On the defense still giving up big plays: "You're right. You're there too, I see the same thing you do and it's really frustrating. Last week we overreacted, same thing all year. I think so many guys are trying to make plays that they get out of position and a couple of the runs, we got out of position on. I was pulling my hair out. It doesn't look like it, but I do need a haircut today. But that's the issues. They're not out there trying to lose the game, but they get out of whack. One guy makes a mistake and it causes great pain for us to make the adjustments. And we had to do that at halftime last week. Jim (Schwartz) started the meeting and I finished the meeting. I just challenged everybody on my behalf and said, ‘We've been making dumb mistakes for four and a half years, I'm tired of it. The head coach is tired of it, let's see what we're going to do the second half.' And that was about the gist of it other than going over a few plays. In the first snap of the second half, I couldn't believe it. We had 11 guys in their backfield. And then the first three drives were three-and-outs. The fourth drive they got one first down and they punted. The fifth drive they got two first downs and we intercepted it. And they had like six yards the first four drives in the second half. We're capable of playing and we just need to focus on the details of the defense."
On how to carry that defensive mentality over to the next game: "You go, ‘I lay me down to sleep.' You start praying a lot. But I think the focus level, I think Jim (Schwartz) is doing a great job with the team and ‘Don't listen to all the noise' is one of the things he says and it's really true. You have to maintain the focus on the next game and you can't' worry about what people say and the yards and the idea is to stop them from scoring. You're right though, we need to solve those things and do it in a hurry."