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 Packers bye week being beneficial for them given their recent loss: "We don't make the schedules. All we do is play. Sometimes the bye can come at the right time and sometimes it can come at the wrong time. There will be times where you have some momentum and everything else. They're coming off a loss. Regardless of injuries, a lot of times you come off a loss and you wouldn't get that taste out of your mouth and go back out. I think all that stuff can work both ways. We just know that we play them as they schedule. Whether they're coming off a Monday night game or coming off a bye week like this one."
On DE Willie Young stepping in to the starting role: "Very businesslike. Willie hasn't been a guy that we had to rely on full time. He had part time roles and he's been effective at times in those roles. When Jason Jones went down, he really needed to pick it up and focus. He's done that. Now we're four games through the season, but I think we have seen some really good signs from him. We are going to rely on him over the course of the next three-quarters of the season and longer. I think that's been the big change. Willie has always been a guy that when he goes in to the game has made plays, but he's been a lot more consistent. He's very serious about helping this team."
On the importance of the defense being tough: "I think a lot of that is reflected in some of the plays that have come against us this year. Defense couldn't have started any worse for us this year. Our first play was a long touchdown run. There is physical toughness, there is also mental toughness. You have to be able to bounce back from situations. You have to be able to go out and compete. Our guys bounce back from that and after that they did a great job against the run. Last week we gave up a long run. Our guys came back. We're getting turnovers and we're optimistic. There is going to be times, there's good offenses in this league, there's good skill players in this league, you're going to shut every single play out. You have to be resilient mentally and you have to be mentally tough as well as physically tough in this league not only over the course of the game, but over the course of the season. We're not going to get four turnovers every game. There is going to be some things that we are going to have to work through. Some calls might go against us or it might be a situation we need to overcome. I like the mental makeup of the guys. I think some of that comes from our vet leadership. We have some real steady guys. We have talked about Glover Quin being that guy. I think Rashean Mathis brings us a lot of that steadiness. DeAndre Levy, (Stephen Tulloch) Tully those guys are all sort of the definition of collected and cool and can mentally persevere through things."
On if he has the same ability to rotate eight defensive linemen through: "Yeah. I think that all of our games we have had eight active. It's helped that a couple of those guys have had some special teams roles. (Israel) Idonije, Devin Taylor those guys have played some on special teams. Every week, we'll just take the best 46 and use them. Defensive line is different than a lot of other positions. You're not out there every single snap. They just need to be able to do something to contribute on Sundays."
On if the nickel defense is the base package now: "I don't know if it's because of the quarterbacks or the rules. I think what you're seeing is a lot of really quality skilled players. Our opponent this week has three really talented wide receivers and a really talented tight end. Randall Cobb is technically their third wide receiver. He is also their leading receiver. He plays about three quarters of their snaps out of a three wide receiver formation when they're in two tight ends or two backs they only have two receivers on the field so they have a good player that's going off the field. It's the first time in the NFL that teams have featured three wide receiver sets. I think that's also there. There are a lot of playmakers on offenses that they want to keep on the field. That's up to defenses that fend them. A lot of times you have to go to extra defensive back packages to do that."
On if RB Theo Riddick has been better than expected on special teams: "In college, a lot of times your skilled players aren't covering kicks or punts. He has shown good speed, toughness and good instincts. He's made some good plays for us on the coverage units. You need to do that. Particularly a guy that we were expecting to be in that role was Montell Owens. Montell is going to miss the first part of the season, but he certainly picked that slack up. That's been going on all year with our team. When somebody goes down, the next guy has stepped up and has been reliable. Again, that's a lot easier said than done. It's easy to say next man up. Our guys have been able to contribute and have responded well in those situations. I think that's a good sign for us. It's going to happen over the course of the rest of the season. We are going to have to fill in guys that are injured. They have to be up for it. They have to take it seriously and prepare."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR GUNTHER CUNNINGHAM QUOTE SHEET
On Packers QB Aaron Rodgers's comments that CB Chris Houston has gotten better every year: "I have to agree with Aaron. I think everybody talks and everybody says things this time of year and I think it's a respectful statement and Chris has gotten better and we need all the DBs (defensive backs) we can get because he (Rodgers) throws it all over the yard. So we just have to have our best group and play them."
On if the Packers and Lions playing a similar style of offense helps the Lions prepare in practice: "Yeah it helps in this game, but when you play some of the other ones, like Cincinnati or Cleveland. I think there were 35 power plays last night between Buffalo and Cleveland. So it's not good for those kind of games, but when both play about the same kind of offense, it's a definite help, there's no question about that."
On the Packers having three receivers with over 200 receiving yards already this season: "They're good. They've been good for a long time, Mike (McCarthy) does a great job with that offense. He learned well from Paul Hackett, Bill Walsh and those guys. And I still see a lot of those similarities in what they're doing. They've added things to it, a couple of wrinkles, it looks like a normal pass, but really two wide receivers down blocking everybody and they throw it. It's close to being illegal. It's a screen and they get away with it and they do it well. We have to be on our game. One thing about playing these guys I think is the most important thing: we have to tackle. Everybody has to tackle, because they are as good as anybody catching those five-yard shots from Aaron (Rodgers) and taking off. If we don't tackle, we can't win the game and our players know that."
On what he likes best about what the Lions defense has done so far this season: "I think we're tough. I think we're a lot tougher than we have been in the past. We're a lot stronger. I think (Ndamukong) Suh's playing on a level that I haven't seen lately. If he can keep this up, I don't know what'll happen for us. Nick (Fairley) has kind of been up and down. Last week he was better. The ends are... (Ezekiel) Ansah, you don't see an explosive play and at the end of the game, he's got like two sacks and seven tackles. We're kind of playing under the radar. I thought Willie Young played an outstanding football game last week. I have never seen him play like that. The run, the pass, it didn't make any difference. And I think having Rashean (Mathis) back here and the young guys getting a chance to grow and not having to put (Darius) Slay under the fire every two seconds, I think all those things are helping us."
On how impressed he is by the Lions' third-down defensive stats: "Like you said, that is really good, but things even out. 16 games is a long road, but this is a heck of a start for us and we need to keep the gas pedal down on it. We work really hard on third down and we work really hard in the red zone. Those are two big things that Jim (Schwartz) and I both believe in. Sixteen percent, 21%, whatever it is, we're pitching a shutout on 3rd-and-10 plays with fifteen snaps. That's hard to do and fortunately for us, the players are understanding the scheme better. We have smarter guys on the backend and all those things play together."
On why the Packers are suddenly so effectively running the football: "Mike McCarthy is from Pittsburgh. Now, we have to all understand that. And he likes to throw the ball. But I say this every game we get ready for him: ‘Guys, you better understand. He's going to run it.' And he would run it with the janitor, he doesn't care who's back there. You talk about guys being out. Well I've coached against him and I don't even recognize the guy as carrying the ball. In the second game last year, they had the kid come in and he ran the ball. And he did a heck of a job running it. Mike believes in all-around football. It's not just line up and throw it all over the place. He runs the ball and runs it effectively."
On why the Packers are having so much success running the football: "I think it's a combination of things. They're well-schooled up front. They do a good job of coaching those guys. The other thing is Aaron Rodgers is back there. And Aaron Rodgers being back there, you keep looking and you go, ‘We have to cover the pass. And all the time he's handing it off, you know it's a mindset thing. It's like what Bill Belichick does. He'll come out with five wides the first half and then come out with what we call ‘tank' - three tight ends, two backs - and pound the ball. Well he sets you up. You have to be able to adjust fast. And that's why Mike does that. He's not going to just go throw the ball every time down. They have good schemes and a passing game and a run game. Very good."