KEY QUESTIONS: What do the Lions have to do to turn it around these last five games?

Posted Nov 25, 2013

Tim Twentyman covers key points from head coach Jim Schwartz’s Monday media session, including what Schwartz had to say about their recent two-game skid and what a short week means for Calvin Johnson and Chris Houston

Matthew Stafford and Jim Schwartz made the point during back-to-back media sessions on Monday that the Lions are still in first place in the NFC North -- despite two straight losses to losing teams -- and control their own playoff destiny.

"That’s part of this business is dealing with losses and things like that," Schwartz said. "The fact is that there are five games remaining and we are in first place.

"We need to conduct ourselves accordingly and we can’t worry about what happened last week and we can’t worry about what happened yesterday. We need to worry about what is going to happen in the future. I like our team’s mindset that way."

What has been the biggest factor in the recent two-game slide?

The most critical stat in any football game is the turnover ratio. The offense is simply making too many mistakes and the defense isn’t making up for it on their end by creating turnovers.

The Lions have given the ball away 21 times in 11 games and have only gotten 14 on the backend. The last two weeks alone the Lions have lost the turnover ratio 8-0.

"We can take better care of the ball on offense," Schwartz said. "I think another key is, we need to get back to getting some turnovers on defense. Early in the season, when we have done well, we have gotten the ball and we missed a couple opportunities against Pittsburgh.

"We didn’t have very many opportunities last week, but that’s something we need to come back to of coming back out of the plus side of that turnover ratio."

Louis DelmasS Louis Delmas has two interceptions this season (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Does Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien starting at quarterback for the Packers on Thursday, instead of Aaron Rodgers, change the preparation on defense?

Flynn played well in relief of Tolzien last week and has played well against the Lions in the past. Remember Week 17 of the 2011 season?

"He came in and gave them a spark yesterday," Schwartz said of Flynn’s performance in a 26-26 tie with the Vikings.

"He brought the team from 16-down, I think it was 16 in the fourth quarter. Ran their offense. I think that’s probably the key. They’re going to run their offense regardless of who the quarterback is. Flynn’s a veteran quarterback. He’s knows where to go with the ball and he’ll give us a challenge the same way that Rodgers would."

What does the short week mean for Calvin Johnson (knee) or Chris Houston (foot) being able to play on Thursday?

Yet to be determined, really.

Johnson has been on a pretty strict regimen all season to get him ready for Sunday. He was limping pretty good in the locker room after the game on Sunday and it’ll be a quick turnaround to get back into playing shape.

Houston hurt his foot in the second half vs. Tampa Bay and didn’t return to the game.

"Every team in the NFL now plays a Thursday game. Its just part of this business now is making that turnaround," Schwartz said. "A lot of the work has to come mentally. It has to be mental focus this week, it’s not as much a physical week. You have to get your body right, get your body back and then fool yourself on Thursday into thinking that it’s Sunday. Our team is used to doing it, but then again every team in the NFL is used to doing it now."

Is there a fine line between being too aggressive offensively and too passive? What’s that line with Stafford?

The thing that makes Stafford good is his strong arm and ability to push the ball down the field.

The thing that can be maddening sometimes with Stafford is his propensity to take too many chances relying on that strong right arm.

"Well I think it was just a couple of weeks ago that we were taking questions about how we weren’t aggressive enough," Schwartz said. "You certainly need to balance both of those. What has been our great strength has also turned out to be a weakness at times.

"We want to remain aggressive and push the down the field, particularly to a guy like Calvin. The last couple weeks we have had interceptions trying to get the ball to Calvin down the field. I think we’ve had three interceptions trying to get the ball to him, one last week and two yesterday. I think there is a balance there, we want to remain aggressive but sometimes we use the other playmakers."

What gives when the Packers resurgent rushing offense faces the Lions stout run defense?

The Lions haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown in seven games or a 50-yard rusher in their last six.

The last player to rush for more than 50 was Eddie Lacy (99) of the Packers in Week 5.

Lacy has given the Packers balance offensively rushing for 806 yards and six touchdowns on the season.

"He has really carried the load for them since Rodgers has been hurt," Schwartz said of Lacy. "They’re averaging about 30-carries a game since Rodgers went down. That will be important in this game also. When we played them the first time with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and (James) Jones and Jermichael Finley, Aaron Rodgers, they spread you really thin.

"A lot of those guys, or a couple of those guys are now injured. Lacy’s carried a load for them. He’s really done a nice job with it. Certainly a guy that we have to stop. I think that’s the strength of our team."

What is the confidence level this team can finish on a run these last five games and make the playoffs?

"I think the only thing we have to have confidence in is this week," Schwartz said. "We have to stay focused week-to-week. I think that it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. I don’t think we did. I think we took both of these last opponents seriously. We didn’t win because we didn’t play well physically. We made some physical errors out there.

"When you start looking at the last five games, it’s a cliché and everything else, but it’s one at a time. You really have to do that. How confident we are over the last five games is going to be how confident we are in a week-to-week basis."