Below is a look at what Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had to say on Thursday. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOE LOMBARDI QUOTE SHEET
On what color he marked this game on the calendar: "I'm not real sentimental that way. It's a little bit different because you've spent seven years with that group and I know a lot of the coaches and players well. It's like every game, it's the most important one because it's the next one."
On what he can offer the defensive staff in terms of knowledge: "I think a little bit of that is overblown. You can give them some things but there's a lot of terminology and things that are very similar from what we do to what they've seen every day in camp. I think some people think that you have secrets and you do know some things, but when that team breaks the huddle, you don't know what play is coming. You have to play it out and I'm not sure we're getting a whole lot of secrets given to the defense that will be of significant help to them. I think it probably helps that they've gone through training camps and seen a lot the similar passing concepts. Just like maybe their defense has got that advantage as well because there are some similarities in the offense. They're so busy, it's not like we sit down and do a debrief of what to expect."
On concepts of how Saints Head Coach Sean Payton likes to attack: "I think the biggest thing is that most of anything I've told him is certainly something that they've seen on film. When you tell him something, you see him nodding and agreeing because he already pretty much knows it. It's mostly the different use of personnel groupings and their philosophy. Especially early, they're going to want to throw different personnel groupings on the field on every play, different formations and just try to keep you a little off balance. They will try to dictate the tone of battle."
On what he learned from his time with Payton: "I think detail and the thoroughness of how he game plans. He never assumed anything. I think sometimes you're watching film and you see a blitz that is difficult and you'll say, ‘Well, that was six games ago, late in the game and they were up by 20. We're not going to have to worry about it.' I think there are some temptations sometimes to cut corners and he would never, ever do that. So, there's a thoroughness to it that I came to appreciate. You can see that that team is always prepared and we're trying to do the same thing here."
On knowing the tendencies of the Saints offensive line: "There's definitely some personnel insights, but there's so much film on those guys that there's very little that I'm going to be able to tell them that those guys aren't picking up from watching film. They can catch their strengths and weaknesses. Our pro scouting staff does an unbelievable job in their advance report. As I was kind of looking over what they wrote about the offensive players I was like, ‘That's dead on.' They really hit every one of those guys' strengths and weaknesses. So, certainly they ask some questions, but we played the Bears last year and Aaron Kromer was there who had spent a long time with us in New Orleans. You get a little bit nervous and then you realize, you have to play every play. One thing would be that you're going to know all their code words, your audibles at the line of scrimmage and your snap count. Well, everyone's watching the T.V. copies, they have the microphones right on the center so you can hear all that stuff anyways. So, there are really no secrets. Like I said, we talk and I mean this sincerely, but there is really not all that big of an advantage that I can give our defense. I don't think they need much, they're playing so well."
On what he imagines what it will be like seeing his former co-workers: "The quarterbacks told me that I get fined for every hug, so I'm going to try to keep those to a minimum, just try to wave and shake hands."
On if he was encouraged by RB Joique Bell last week: "Yes, absolutely. That's a player I've got some familiarity with. I know what he's capable. Watching him get some big yards was great and I think the better we can get that run game going the more productive we're going to be on offense."
On coaching QB Drew Brees: "Well, he is obviously an elite player. I think the more time you spend around him in the meeting room, at practice and away from cameras you understand just how focused and the mental energy he has to give to his job. It's really something that's fun to watch. I was his coach, but I'm sure I learned more from him than he probably learned from me watching how an elite player operates."
On analyzing the first six games: "I feel like I've made certain calls in situations, this is the negative, we've had unusually large amounts of second and long, third and long. And certainly I'm not going to take the blame for all that, but there have been some aggressive play calls in there that if I had back, maybe you'd call something a little bit safer. Like the trick play we had last week, it sure seemed like a good idea in practice and afterwards. We called it an outhouse or castle play, you're either in the outhouse or the castle. It turned out to be an outhouse play. So, there's been a few of those, whether it's bad play call, bad luck or bad execution that I would certainly like to have back."
On the positives the offense has made: "Here's the thing that I'm most encouraged about, our first goal is not to beat ourselves. Certainly in this last game, it wasn't as productive as we want to be, but when your defense is playing that well, I think you kind of ending up becoming more conservative both as a play caller and as players. To see us protect the football, not beating ourselves, we're not having a bunch of pre-snap penalties, we've had a couple games where we've had too many turnovers, but I think for the most part we are starting to eliminate or minimize some of those things. I guess that's the thing that you're most encouraged about is that we're not beating ourselves. Now it's time to pick it up and start beating people."
On what he learned from Brees: "A little bit like Sean (Payton), just the approach to the game, the details with which he prepares. There's a preparation and he had a routine, he was just consistent. This is what he was going to do on Monday at this time, this is what he was going to do on Tuesday and just the way that he attacked the week and got himself ready for Sunday was impressive. Certainly, everyone is trying to do that, but the way with which he did, the detail with which he did it was impressive."
On fixing the pass blocking after simplifying the run blocking: "Pass blocking, we certainly have a number of protections, but for the most part I think it's more the timing of the routes, making sure the quarterback is getting the ball out of his hand in time and maybe calling some plays that develop a little bit quicker. I don't know if it's a simplification of the pass blocking as much as the concepts you're running and the timing of the routes, just helping us getting the ball out of our hands a little bit. Some of it is me having a better feel for understanding what he's comfortable with, so that I'm not calling these plays that in my mind are great ones, when sometimes the quarterback has a different feel for different plays. It's us kind of coming to understand exactly what he's comfortable with and communicating with him to make sure we're getting him in the right situations."
On what he has seen from QB Matthew Stafford after playing without WR Calvin Johnson: "He's a great asset to have on the field (Johnson), obviously he's the best receiver in the NFL. The things that impress me about Matthew are one, his toughness. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around, I love that. And then mentally tough, it would be easy that you see Calvin go down, then Reggie gets nicked up and it's not, ‘Oh, what are we going to do?' He's just ready to go and attack the defense. It's kind of that mental and physical toughness of this guy are things that I like. I think he's going out, he understands the situation. Like all of us, he's watching the defense play well and so he's like, ‘Hey, ‘I don't have to throw these balls into triple coverage.' He's being smart with the football and he's doing what a quarterback has to do to win a game."
On running the ball with someone fresh off the practice squad on fourth and one: "Yes, we spend a lot of time during the week and each play we have a plan. We've got a third and one plan, a fourth and one plan and we've got a, ‘What are we going to call inside the ten yard line?' So, we've got all these plans, we hit that screen and Joique got down short by a yard. I felt comfortable with the play and I'm comfortable with George Winn getting a yard. I would have been comfortable with Joique too, any of our running backs, but when we we're talking about it that week we're like ‘Hey, who do we want to carry this ball?' On Wednesday night we said let's give this ball to George Winn and you trust what you did on Sunday."
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TERYL AUSTIN QUOTE SHEET
On being around a defensive line that makes as many plays as the Lions': "They're right up there. I think that crew we had in Baltimore had a lot of fun too and I think they play the same way. They're aggressive and they have fun doing what they do, so that's good. We want them to be loose, but we want them to be focused and our guys are."
On if the competiveness in practice translates to the field: "It does, I think it does. Guys that like to compete and have fun makes it fun. We'll go at this from July until whenever and it can get a little stale and a little boring, but when you put a little energy into and make it fun, the time flies.
On his first impressions of DE Ezekiel Ansah: "Well you watched the tape from last year and you see he's got a ton of potential. It was just a matter of getting him on the field. I know there were a lot of questions in the off-season about how is he going to catch up and all that other stuff and I think he's answered those."
On if Ansah is as animated as the other guys on defense: "He's pretty quiet. I mean, he's not going to be like some of the other guys we have but he enjoys being around them. He goes out and gives a great day's work and everybody is a different personality."
On what the team needs to do defensively to stop the New Orleans Saints: "Like we always do, they run the ball really well, and obviously they throw it really well. We'll go into the game saying, ‘Hey we want to stop the run,' like we do every week. Hopefully, what we can do is contain it and not let any balls over our head, and if we can do that and make then go the long field, then we like our chances. If they're getting lots of break out plays and lots of big explosive plays, then it doesn't look good for us."
On if the Saints are more dangerous coming off the bye week: "I think they're dangerous anytime. Those guys have been in that system for a long time, they know the ins and outs, they know how to attack people, and obviously they'll have the extra week, but I don't think that matters. I think they'll come in with a plan of attack and we just have to be able to execute better than they do."
On what makes Saints QB Drew Brees so unique: "Like most great quarterbacks he's able to see a lot of things before the ball is snapped. He's able to say, ‘Okay, I can narrow down what I'm going to get coverage wise, if I'm getting pressure, if I'm not getting pressure, and where I need to go with the ball.' Once the ball is snapped, it takes a spilt second to decide where he's going with the ball, and that's what the really good ones do and he does it."
On how much he talked to Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi about the Saints offense: "I think for a guy that's been there that long you always ask him. You have to anticipate that they'll change some signals and change some things, but like we talk about, a lot guys DNA is the same. There is a way that they want to attack you and they're not going to change the way they attack us. That's really more of what I asked Joe, ‘Hey, how do you think they'll come at us if you had to look at us and you were there?' That's it and we just go about our business, try and get in the best plan for our players and hopefully execute it on Sunday."
On why the Saints have been so consistent offensively: "I think they do a good job of executing when they run. I think what happens is, if you start trying to load up the box and play the run game, then you're opening yourself up to the throws outside and he hits everybody. He has no favorites, he spreads the ball around and when teams back off and play pass coverage, it opens up running lanes. I think that's why they're effective running the ball. They don't have to have a lot of break out runs but five yard runs are great runs in this league especially if you're averaging that."
On how different the Saints are without TE Jimmy Graham: "He's obviously a unique talent and he causes you some consternation in the pass game. That being said, I don't think they'll change dramatically because a lot of times, what he does is open up other people. If they still place guys in those same positions, it still causes problems for you defensively."
On how he keeps track of the snap count and lineman rotation: "We try to keep it down on the field. I know I don't do it, but I know Jim (Washburn) tries to keep it down on the field to make sure he has a good rotation, and to make sure guys aren't taking too many snaps and keeping guys fresh. They have a rotation, they have a couple groups that we roll in."
On monitoring the defensive line's rotation: "Yeah, they just try to monitor it by series. We always have to play counts because, you know, we'll have the pictures and everything and we'll say, ‘Hey we're at 38 plays and Suh's gotten 35. It's time to give him a little break here.'"
On WR Golden Tate's comments that the Lions defense can be better than the 2013 Seahawks defense: "We're just thinking about being good this week and trying to get a win this week. Comparisons down the line don't really mean anything because it's all speculation. All we can focus on is the task at hand and what we have to do to get a W this week. That's all we care about. We could care less about, I know the stats are nice for a lot of things, but really the only stat that really matters at the end of the year is how many wins you have. That's really what we're looking for."
On Brees' ability to escape sacks: "I think what he's able to do is, he understands when the play's dead and doesn't try to make too much of it and throws the ball away. Sometimes the throw-away is a great play and I think he understands the value of the ball, protecting the ball and not taking sacks. So, I don't know if we'll be able to do anything different than anybody else has because the bottom line is, he knows it's time to get rid of the ball and the ball's out."
On how the League has changed where speed at the linebacker position is more valuable: "I mean, it is. With the amount of passing, the spread and trying to spread people out, you have to have linebackers that can run. But you also have to have physical guys. You have to have guys that know how to play football. I think sometimes that gets overlooked. We'd love to have speed, but we love to have a good football player more importantly. Sometimes you get a guy that can run but he doesn't know where he's going and never gets there, so it doesn't matter if he runs fast."
On how instinctual LB DeAndre Levy and LB Tahir Whitehead are at their positions: "They're good. I mean, DeAndre has unbelievable, off-the-charts instincts, you know? You see him key in and diagnose a play, and that's why he gets there so fast. That's why he makes a lot of tackles. It's not just because of his speed, it's because he is able to key and diagnose really fast and he can get there. Then he uses his talent, so he is off the charts that way."
On Brees moving players with his eyes: "That's every game in terms of eye discipline in the back end. You have to make sure that you read your read and your route progression and you're going where the routes take you and not let the quarterback move you. So, that's every game. Obviously, you have a veteran quarterback that really knows how to move it. Sometimes he'll get a young guy, but if a veteran guy's dialed in and doing the right things, it shouldn't happen. So, we've been coaching our guys hard this week to have great eye discipline, don't let him move you out of your zone. If you have a man, keep your eyes on your man because he can extend the play. We work all of those things, they're things we work weekly. The biggest thing is to be able to execute them on Sunday and that's really been our goal."
On talking with Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi about game-planning for the Saints: "Well, you know, you don't spend a ton of time because he's got to get our offense ready to play. So, what we'll do is, if we have a few minutes here and there, we'll maybe ask him certain situations, ‘Hey, what do you think here? What's been the plan of attack? How have you done things before?' I mean, how much it really helps, I don't know. You don't know because he's not there anymore, so we just try to get an idea. But the bottom line is, once you line up and play the formations and the keys that you receive on that play are going to tell you what to do."