Cunningham: Defenders trusted the scheme in the second half at Cleveland

Posted Oct 15, 2013

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham credits dominating second half to players being where they were supposed to be

To say the Lions defense didn't play well in the first half, especially the second quarter, of Sunday's game in Cleveland would be a bit of an understatement.

The Browns racked up 17 points and 250 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes on way to a 10-point halftime lead.

The performance prompted a bit of discussion in the Detroit locker room at halftime.

"Jim (Schwartz) started a halftime talk and basically challenged the guys," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told me Tuesday.

"When I was going through reviewing the mistakes we made, it's the loudest I've gotten this year. You have to challenge them. I said, 'I have been here four and a half years and we are still making the same stupid mistakes we have been making, and there is no excuses. We have good players that like to play. Now lets get this done in the second half.'

"Jim basically said the same thing, but Stephen Tulloch called them all out. Between the three voices they all heard it loud and clear and we went out and played."

The Browns were held scoreless in the second half and had just 145 yards of offense with four punts, an interceptions and a turnover on downs.

Nick Fairley DT Nick Fairley (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Cunningham said he didn't make any big scheme changes or call the game any different than he did in the first half. His guys just simply made the plays they weren't making in the first half.

"We just executed the scheme; we didn't change anything," he said. "We talked about the one run play (45 yard end-around by Travis Benjamin), but that wasn't killing us. We just didn't execute the scheme in the first half.

"Too many guys trying to do things on their own and we put a stop to it, both the coaches and the players. I think it was a real well done halftime. It wasn't hell-fire and brimstone; it was just a matter of fact."

The way the defense played in the second half is how Cunningham drew it up before the season started. Fast, assignment sound and playmaking. It's how he hopes they'll play more often moving forward.

"The idea is to win the game and we played like we were capable of in the second half," Cunningham said.

"What I envision is us playing together and being disciplined. Play the scheme and don't do things your own way. We have had a couple of guys fall off the wagon and try to do that, but they have been told, and the good thing is the guys that are guilty are getting better at it and trusting the scheme more and more everyday."

Cunningham also touched on a couple of other items.

On the play of Darius Slay in the second half: "Well, the interesting test will be this week. He has really made progress, and we took him out of the starting line-up and he never stopped working. This last week in practice is probably the best week he has had. He needs to learn how to finish now. He finished a couple of plays early but got penalties.

"The bottom line is you are going to get those calls once and a while, but he was aggressive throughout the down he got the penalty on and a couple of guys started yelling about it and I said, 'Hey just back off. Its going to happen and we want him to be tough like this.' He has to experience it and he got better last week, there is no doubt, in practice and in the game."

On Nick Fairley's performance and what you need form him moving forward: "He played better in this game, but he can play a lot better then he is playing, there is no doubt about that. With Nick it has been one thing after another; these nagging little injuries he has gotten and then he gets down on himself. I saw him go into this game and his frame of mind was good, he played better and made some plays. He just needs to get more consistent."

On stopping Browns tight end Jordan Cameron: "That was the game in my opinion. I went into the game having respect for their whole team. To me, Cameron was the guy that we had to stop. We had to snuff him out and he had four catches for 31 yards going into the two-minute drive. I felt throughout the game we played him well."