KEY QUESTIONS: Schwartz wouldn't classify Lions' defense as "soft"

Posted Dec 9, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at key questions answered during Jim Schwartz’s Monday press conference, including injury updates and why the Lions can’t seem to put their foot on the gas pedal and take off

After Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia, linebacker DeAndre Levy and safety Louis Delmas were quoted calling the Lions effort in the second half – both physically and mentally – "soft."

Head coach Jim Schwartz didn’t agree with that assessment during his Monday press conference.

"I certainly wouldn’t classify our defense as soft," he said. "We missed a lot of tackles in that game and LeSean McCoy did a good job with the conditions and we didn’t. I wouldn’t put it on anything else.

"Players can characterize it any way they want, but when you say that word it becomes sort of an inflammatory word. I think you look over the course of the season with us and I think that we are a big, tough and physical team. We played the run well, but that game we didn’t play the run very well."

Is there solace in the fact the Lions still lead the division?

"I think we’ll see tonight with Chicago’s game where that ends up," Schwartz said. "Obviously we are in a race for the division title. We have three games to play. You say it all the time that you can’t really worry about what’s happened in the past. You have to keep your eyes focused on the future. It starts Monday night with the Ravens. That’s about all you can really say about that."

Schwartz made sure to point out the team’s last three games will all be played indoors (two at Ford Field and one in Minnesota’s Metrodome).

"I know this, that the next three games we are not going to have to worry about eight inches of snow on the ground," he said. "We are not going to have to worry about 50 mile and hour winds or anything else."

Could the Lions have done anything more equipment-wise to help with the conditions?

There was a report after the game the Eagles had changed their cleats at halftime to longer spikes and it may have contributed to the 388 yards of offense put up in the second half.

The report also said the Lions didn’t bring longer cleats, which Schwartz refuted.

"I don’t know what they would have changed to other than what we wore," Schwartz said. "We wore the longest possible cleats that were available.

"It was almost like guys were walking around on stilts. So, unless they had snowshoes or something like that. I think the conditions affected everybody pretty much the same."

Except for Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (217 rushing yards) and Lions kick returner Jeremy Ross (two return touchdowns), that is.

Would Reggie Bush had made a difference offense for Detroit?

It’s easy to say that he could have in retrospect, especially with a similar-style runner like McCoy going off for a single-game franchise record.

The only 200-yard rushing performance of Bush’s career did come in snowy conditions at Buffalo in 2011 (203 yards).

"You get guys that are allusive then you put the field conditions the way they were and there was potential that he could have made some big plays for us, but he wasn’t available," Schwartz said. "It’s really hard to speculate."

How big of an impact did officiating have on the game?

The Lions were penalized nine times in the game for 48 yards. The Eagles were flagged just once for a false-start penalty.

Two calls in particular helped change momentum in that game.

Nick Fairley was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty on a long second-down play where it appeared he’d hit Nick Foles legally.

Ndamukong Suh was flagged for defensive holding on a failed two-point conversion call that gave the Eagles another chance and they converted.

"It’s difficult because one of the things we try to with penalties is try to learn," Schwartz said. "'Okay, this is why they called holding on you, this is why they called pass interference,' so that you can try to learn from it and be in better position the next time.

"And in these cases, I honestly don’t know what to tell Nick Fairley or (Ndamukong) Suh on those plays, but they got called. So we just live with it and we have to keep on playing."

What is the status of some of the injured players on the roster?

Rookie cornerback Darius Slay had arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday and is considered week-to-week.

"We didn’t put him on (season-ending) injured reserve, so I think that probably answers your question without me commenting specifically on injuries," Schwartz said.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh and DE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

The Lions played without starting running back Reggie Bush (calf) in Philadelphia and lost starters LaAdrian Waddle (elbow) and Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) during the game.

"All those guys, it’s really too early to tell with Reggie, with Ziggy, with Slay, with Waddle," Schwartz said. "We’ll just have to see this week how they respond. It’s a big game; it’s a home game. Obviously, we’re three games left in the year, we’re at the top of our division, so every game is pretty critical, so I’m pretty sure those guys will do everything they can to get back on the field. But if they can’t go, we’ll have the next guy behind them ready to play."

Is there concern about the rushing defense moving forward?

The Lions allowed a season-high 299 rushing yards to Eagles. McCoy set a new Eagles franchise single-game record with 217 of those.

Detroit entered the game not having allowed more than 62 rushing yards in their previous six games.

"We certainly give credit to a guy that’s near or at the top of the NFL in rushing," Schwartz said. "He certainly earned his yards.

"I think our run defense is good. We don’t want to overreact because of the way that game went and the field conditions and things like that. We have confidence in our ability to stop the run. I think over the course of the season we’ve proven that."

Why can’t this team consistently put its foot on the gas when the opportunity arises?

That goes for in-game situations when they hold onto leads late but can’t consistently put teams away. It also can refer to the NFC Division race, failing to seize control of the top spot while the Bears and Packers dealt with serious injuries to key players.

"We came back in some games, we had some big comeback wins this year," Schwartz said.

"It’s not like every one of our losses have been in the same way or that we haven’t been able to come back. We have come back, we have salted some games away and other games we haven’t.

"But we are battling for our division right now and that’s the only thing we can worry about. We can’t worry about anything else."