KEY QUESTIONS: Schwartz addresses Suh's penalty, Pettigrew's performance

Posted Sep 9, 2013

In his Belle Tire Monday Press Conference, head coach Jim Schwartz addressed player performances -- some good, some bad -- in the Lions' 34-24 division win over Minnesota

Will the penalty for Ndamukong Suh fit the crime?

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh defended a pass and had a quarterback hit in Sunday's win over Minnesota, but it was his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan that's garnering the most attention on Monday.

The NFL is considering whether to fine or suspend Suh for a low hit that was both illegal and unnecessary.

Head coach Jim Schwartz weighed in on the play during his Monday press conference.

"I talk to him on the field about it because obviously it cost us a touchdown and it was behind the play," he said. "It wasn't very far behind the play.

"What he explained to me was he didn't want to hit him high because if he hits him in the head right there it's a peel-back and that's a penalty also. He was trying to hit him at the waist and ended up in a bad spot and went low.

"It's a penalty. It cost us a touchdown in that situation because we turned the ball over on the next play offensively.

"The biggest thing was taking some momentum away from us at that point and also taking that score off the board because that would have certainly gone a long way to getting us out of the hole we were in early in the game."

Suh was fined five times in his first three NFL seasons and suspended for stomping on Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith in a Thanksgiving Day game in 2011.

"An offensive lineman is not going to be able to catch (DeAndre Levy) and at that point (Suh) should've turned and looked up field," Schwartz said.

"You see it happen all the time. I don't know how many times we have had special teams play where players are in the same position. They have a chance to block ahead of the ball or block behind the ball. They end up blocking behind the ball.

"We see blocks below the waist. We had one in the preseason. We had a block below the waist on a special teams play. We have to learn from it. We have to put it behind us and do better next time we're in that situation."

Is it only up from here for tight end Brandon Pettigrew?

The fifth-year tight end out of Oklahoma State has battled inconsistencies throughout his career. When on his game, Brandon Pettigrew can be a nice two-way player, but too many times he's inconsistent.

He had a fumble, dropped a pass and committed a critical holding penalty on a fourth-down conversion that forced the Lions to kick a field goal.

Schwartz is still sticking behind his big tight end, though.

"The one he fumbled on the screen, he's making a cut back and he has two offensive linemen out in front of him and both of them go after the same guy," Schwartz said.

"You can see his eyes on the play, he looks inside and he figured that guy is out of the equation. Well both guys missed that guy and that guy was the guy. It wasn't a guy facing him up and he wasn't protecting the ball.

"As a ball carrier there is no excuse, you have to be able to see the whole field but that's what happened on that play. When you're catching the ball, there is going to be contact on every play, particularly tight ends, that's one thing you're going to have to do.

"He got drilled on that one but he has to do a better job of coming with those and we all know he can."

Does Joseph Fauria start to take reps from Pettigrew?

The undrafted rookie out UCLA made the most out of his 11 snaps on Sunday. He was thrown at three times and made three catches for 27 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown.

Joseph Fauria isn't as good of a blocker as Pettigrew, but he's better than he gets credit for, and if he keeps making plays, he'll continue to see his reps increase.

"He made very good use of the time he was in," Schwartz said. "And scored the touchdown that was the difference maker. A two-score game at the end is a whole lot different than a one-score game.

"(He) made a couple other first-down catches and did a nice job in his role. We've said a long time, the greatest reward is the opportunity to do more. And if he can continue to show that stuff, show it in practice, deliver in games, I think there's going to be good opportunities for him."

How big a factor was the offensive line in Sunday's win?

Honestly, that was one of the bigger question marks entering the game, even though both Schwartz and Matthew Stafford said afterward there was never a doubt they'd play well.

Stafford was only sacked once (running read option) and the Lions run game looked better than it has in years.

"There was a lot of concern from outside the organization about the matchups with Riley Reiff and with Jason Fox and subsequently with Corey Hilliard, but we ran the ball better than I can remember running it against Minnesota," Schwartz said.

"Even though a quarterback got hit a couple times, we kept it clean enough to throw for a lot of yards and score touchdowns and stayed sack-free. I think on offense we had a holding on a wide receiver and a holding the tight end. We had two false starts on the offensive line. They were the only penalties.

"I thought they did a good job in this game. It was a tough matchup. Jared Allen still made his plays. He knocked down a couple passes and did the things that he does, but we prevented those game-changing-type plays. I thought that combined with the run game was important."

What was the biggest factor in the Lions win?

Too many times last year the Lions either couldn't hold a lead late or put a team away late with a crucial score.

Sunday, the Lions won the fourth quarter. They outscored the Vikings 7-0 in the fourth quarter and forced two turnovers.

The Lions took care of business in the money quarter Sunday.

"You always want to say ‘Win the fourth quarter,'" Schwartz said. "I think we had one penalty in the fourth quarter. They had a few. We had no turnovers in the fourth quarter. We got a couple. We won the fourth quarter in that game.

"Even though we had some plays where we didn't play our best early in the game, we botched a field goal snap or we botched a hold, we didn't punt the ball especially well early, when it was fourth quarter, Sam (Martin) dropped one on the 1-yard line. We came through in a lot of areas.

"We grounded out some first downs. Took a lot of clock off the board. Kept big plays off the board defensively. That's why we won the game. It wasn't the way we started the game. It was the way we finished the game."

Why wasn't Darius Slay in the game at the end?

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Schwartz channeled his inner Jim Leyland and went to the bullpen.

"(Darius) Slay's still our starter out there, but it was more of a call to the bullpen," Schwartz said. "He had given up a play in front and then a play behind, and it looked like they were getting ready to start picking on him. And like I said yesterday, the biggest thing there is we didn't want him to start playing conservative because of the double-move play he had given up over the top.

"You just need to put that fire out and what better person to put a fire out than a very experienced player like Rashean Mathis who came in and did a good job in the fourth quarter.

"At that point of the game it was time to make a call to the bullpen, but we've still got a lot of confidence in (Darius) Slay, (he) made a couple nice plays of the game, it was really good experience for him. We saw him in the preseason get better each step along the way. Regular season, as he found out, is a completely different thing."

When will Broyles be back on the field?

Sooner rather than later, according to Schwartz.

We sometimes forget Broyles is only nine months removed from a second ACL procedure. He was inactive for Sunday's game, just like he was Week 1 last year. But Schwartz says he's still ahead of pace.

"He's making up a lot of time," he said. "He's not at the same spot a lot of those other guys were that went through every play of training camp and things like that.

"I mean he's probably a little bit ahead of where he was last year at this time. He's still working his way back but he will be a contributor to us. It's not a matter of if, it's when."

Broyles said he felt 100 percent around Week 4 last year.

What is the status of tackle Jason Fox?

Fox injured a groin in the first quarter and did not return to the game.

"I don't know yet," Schwartz said. "We're waiting on some tests, we got a couple guys that didn't finish the game: Jason Fox and (safety) Don Carey. Neither of those guys finished. Both of them were soft-tissue-type things and we'll see where it is."

Are the Lions changing up their weekly schedule this year?

They are this week and it could turn into a yearlong scheduling change.

In the past, the Lions have had players in the building on Mondays to watch film and go through meetings. They would also be available to the media.

This week (and possibly the rest of the year), players are off Monday and will report Tuesday for meeting and film study.

The key difference, according to Schwartz, is that Tuesday will also include prep for the next opponent. Essentially, the Lions want to get a one-day jump on the opponent.

"One of things that changed so much in the NFL, now that we're digital with video and stuff like that, is that the coaches use to be sitting around waiting for the game tape to come in. It use to be a slow process to get your preparations done and stuff like that.

"One of the things with everything digital and online now is it moves things up and coaches can prepare earlier and get stuff to the players earlier so I think we are going to take advantage of things like that also. We are a little bit of work in progress there.

"Players are off today, they had medical treatments and everything else but they're off today.

"Tomorrow they come back and they will have workout and film review but we will also be able to get a jump on the next opponent, which typically on Mondays we never did because you just weren't ready.

"Now coaches can use this time to get some game plan to the players when they leave here on Tuesday."