LIONS INSIDER

KEY QUESTIONS: What did MNF win mean for Lions' playoff chances?

Posted Nov 7, 2017

Tim Twentyman covers all the key questions from Jim Caldwell's Tuesday press conference.

Head coach Jim Caldwell spoke to the media Tuesday after Monday night’s big victory in Green Bay that improved the Lions to 4-4 at the midway point of the season.

What were the key takeaways from that media session?

What did Monday’s win do for Detroit’s playoff chances?

Good luck getting Caldwell to speak beyond Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland. That’s just how he’s wired. He did say how big of a victory Monday was for his team after losing three straight coming in, but he also reiterated that a team is never as good as it looks after a win and never as bad after a loss.

“We just kind of look at it like we typically do,” Caldwell said. “One quarter finished and we were 3-1. The next quarter finished and we were 1-3. We have to do better.

“Obviously, the guys played strong and played well in a big game and a tough place to play (Lambeau). It was a good performance for them.”

What does having the most favorable schedule left of any team in NFC North mean for Detroit’s playoff chances?

The remaining win-loss record of Detroit’s second-half opponents is 25-40. It’s a little tougher road for the other three teams in the division – Minnesota (34-31), Green Bay (31-35), Chicago (29-37).

“I don’t buy into that,” Caldwell said. “Games are hard to win in this league. Every team has talent and ability. For us, it’s just one game at a time and try to make certain we prepare well is the key.”

Caldwell believes the Lions need to keep their focus narrow by having 360-degree awareness, but 180-degree focus.

What does Caldwell attribute to Detroit’s improved pass protection?

After being sacked 25 times in the first six games of the season, Matthew Stafford has been sacked just once over the last two weeks. That sack came Monday night in Green Bay on a failed flea-flicker play.

“We’ve been better at making certain our quarterback isn’t getting hit as often, and I think just like sacks, there are a lot of things that go into that,” Caldwell said.

“Receivers running routes on time on the proper depth and the quarterback getting the ball out of his hands on time and on rhythm. Our backs blocking linebackers when they blitz. Tight ends doing the same. Offensive linemen taking care of their responsibilities.

“I think we’ve been doing all of those things better and I think that contributes to the outcome.”

Is left tackle Taylor Decker closer to making his return from the PUP list?

Caldwell made it very clear that all he’s worried about when it comes to Decker’s return is seeing him active on gameday when he’s ready to be active.

Will that be this Sunday vs. Cleveland?

“We’ll see,” Caldwell said.

The Lions aren’t going to rush Decker back just to get him back. They’ll be certain he can handle the full load. When he’s ready, he’s their guy at left tackle.

That being said, it seems like Decker's getting close, and an extra week of practice this week could be just what he needs to make his return in five days vs. the Browns. We shall see.

What does Caldwell attribute to the Lions’ 3-1 record on the road and 1-3 mark at Ford Field?

Let’s not be naïve to think that the opponents at home vs. the road don't play a factor. Atlanta, Carolina and Pittsburgh at home are tough opponents. The New York Giants and a depleted Green Bay team on the road are a little bit easier of opponents.

The Lions would obviously like to get their home record corrected the second half of the season. They play Cleveland (0-8), Minnesota (6-2), Chicago (3-5) and Green Bay (4-4) at Ford Field the second half of the season.

“We haven’t played well at home,” Caldwell said. “If you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat. It doesn’t matter where you are. Parking lot, next door, down the road, in your stadium or in someone else’s. You don’t play well, you’re going to get beat and we haven’t played well at home.”

Has Darius Slay gone from good to great?

Slay had another terrific performance Monday against a top receiver in Jordy Nelson. He’s faced most of the league’s best pass catchers so far this year, and has played very well against them all.

Caldwell thinks they haven't yet scratched the surface with Slay. If that's true, receivers beware.

“Last week I said, ‘You haven’t seen the best of him,’” Caldwell said. “I mean, he just keeps getting better and better all the time. He’s got an extraordinary level of competitiveness. He loves the game. I don’t think he’s ever had a bad day. He’s always looking for the next challenge. He’s a high, high, energy guy. And not only that, he’s blessed with an immeasurable amount of talent as well.

“He can run, he’s got courage, he’s not afraid to take a chance. All of those things I think play into what he’s able to do out there on the field. Like I said, you still haven’t seen the best of him.”

Where is Caldwell in terms of identifying some of Detroit’s red zone issues?

Detroit was better in the red zone in Green Bay (2-for-4) than they were a couple weeks ago in the loss to Pittsburgh (0-for-5), but there’s still too many points being left out on the field.

“Got to get better,” Caldwell said. “We got it in a couple times down there, but got to get better. That’s it. We just got to keep working at it. That’s kind of what this league is all about. You know, through times when you’re having some difficulty in certain areas, those are the things you’ve got to get fixed and we’ve got to keep working at it.

“We figured out a couple things, we haven’t gotten them all solved. You’re never as good as you think you are when you win, never as bad as you think you are when you lose. So, there’s a lot of work to do.”