KEY QUESTIONS: What is the injury status of starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston?

Posted Sep 30, 2013

Tim Twentyman walks through key points from head coach Jim Schwartz's press conference including the injuries to starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston, tight end Brandon Pettigrew’s progressions and what Schwartz thinks of his team through four games

The Lions are off to a 3-1 start following Sunday's, 40-32, victory over Chicago.

Next up for Detroit is a road game against division foe Green Bay. It's a place the Lions haven't won since 1991.

But before we look too far ahead, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz wrapped up another successful game Sunday in his weekly press conference.

Here are the key questions from Monday's presser:

What is the injury status of starting cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston?

Mathis left in the first half Sunday after suffering a head injury trying to tackle Bears running back Matt Forte.

Schwartz told the media on Monday that Mathis passed concussion tests on the sideline during the game, was never diagnosed with a concussion, but was held out as a precaution.

"During the game there was question of whether he was concussed and our people decided to err on the side of caution there," Schwartz said. "Even though he was never diagnosed with a concussion we just thought it was prudent for him to not go back into the game."

Mathis was at the team's Allen Park practice facility on Monday, worked out and is expected to be available for Sunday's game in Green Bay.

Houston, on the other hand, is considered day-to-day, week-to-week with a leg injury.

"He wasn't able to finish the game and I think as an indication that's always a strong thing when talking about injuries on the field," Schwartz said. "We'll just see. He has a leg injury. I'll just keep it that way and we will just see where he can get to this week and try to get him back as quick as we can.

If Houston can't go, it'll be next man up.

So, who might that be?

It's likely to be rookie Darius Slay, who came in a filled in for Mathis on Sunday and played 63 snaps, or 88 percent of the defensive stats.

"I don't announce any depth chart things," Schwartz said. "I don't think there is any advantage to an opponent knowing who would be out there if a player wasn't able to play.

"That's one of the reasons I don't talk very much when it comes to injuries because I don't think there is anything but a potential disadvantage when it comes to an opponent."

How did Slay fill in for Mathis in those 63 snaps vs. Chicago?

Like any rookie early in his career, there was some good and some bad with Slay.

"I thought Darius did some really good things in the game, he had a couple bad plays," Schwartz said. "The two-point conversion was a poor play by him but I thought that he did some good things in the game."

If it's determined Houston can't play this week, and Slay does get the start, he'll have his work cut out vs. quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that terrific trio of receivers in Green Bay.

How important was it for tight end Brandon Pettigrew to have a bounce-back week?

Schwartz admitted that Pettigrew had been "in a rough spot" to start the season, but the fifth-year tight end caught all seven passes thrown his way on Sunday and Schwartz said that bodes well for the remainder of the season.

"He is a very prideful player and when his team needed him this week he answered and I think that is a great sign for the future for Brandon," he said.

"He's blocked well the whole season and he made some plays in the passing game. I think he went and trusted his technique and went and played football. That's a good sign for us."

The Lions are at the quarter pole of the season. How does Schwartz like his horse so far?

"We're off to a 3-1 start," he said. "I don't think there is anything else to be said other than that.

"We are 2-0 in the division which is important for us. We didn't have a division win last year. We showed some signs that we can get some turnovers on defense, that was a point that was lacking last year. We also have some explosive ability, not just in our pass game, which we've always had, but in our run game."

But Schwartz made the point that the last 12 games aren't going to hinge on what happened in the first four. The first four are over with and the Lions are moving on.

"We are going to have ups and downs and things we are going to have to deal with but I think our personality as a team, we have been battle tested in a lot of ways," Schwartz said. "We have been through some rough spots and I think we can lean on that as we go forward. I like the personality of our team when it comes to dealing with adversity, the inevitable adversity that comes for all 32 teams in the NFL."

What would it mean to get a big road victory in Green Bay?

Schwartz never gives the media anything really tasty on these kinds of questions. 'It would be another win in the division' or 'It's an opportunity to give a division opponent a loss'. Those are pretty standard.

However, Schwartz did talk about the confidence the team has going into Sunday's game.

"Honestly, in my career I don't think we have ever gone in to a game not thinking that we could (win)," he said. "Including last year we played a Sunday night game at Green Bay and we were shorthanded in that game, but never once did anybody think that we didn't have a chance in there.

"We certainly want to end the streak (Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991), but that's not our rallying cry. Our rallying cry is Green Bay and a division game. Those are the things that will mean more to the players. Building confidence is important to a team. I think we're a battle tested team, but I think there is something to the confidence to know that you can pull through."

How has safety Louis Delmas played through four games?

Delmas recorded the first multi-interception game of his career Sunday and also made a few nice open-field tackles.

"I think you're starting to see him make plays," Schwartz said. "His two interceptions get noticed, but I thought he had a couple of really good tackles too. That's one of the things that's one of Lou's best assets is his ability to make open field tackles and things like that.

"I think that comes from just being on the field more and things like that. He didn't have a whole lot of practice time last week, but his game experience has increased this year.

A lot of the focus surrounding Delmas this year has been on his injured left knee. Not enough, according to Schwartz, has been what the acquisition of Glover Quin in free agency has meant for him.

"I like the dynamic between those two guys," he said.

Can the Lions sustain their success on third-down defense?

The Lions are at a pretty ridiculous pace of allowing a conversion just 28.5 percent of the time, which Schwartz admits probably isn't sustainable. Schwartz does, however, like the game plan the Lions have had in place on third down the first four weeks.

"I think our defensive staff and Gunther Cunningham do a good job at preparing the players for what opponents do," he said.

"We certainly spent a lot time on third down and we want to get off the field on third down. It's just the rate we're going at now is pretty tough to sustain. We have guys that rush. We have some guys in the backend that can get the ball. We have some guys that have played pretty smart and matched up routes. I think the combination of the two, we have blitzed from time-to-time I think that's been affective when we have."

With Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards inactive Sunday, who stepped up to fill the void?

We mentioned Pettigrew above, and Reggie Bush and his 173 total yards certainly helped, but the contributions of receiver Kris Durham (three catches for 58 yards) didn't go unnoticed by Schwartz.

"He's got great size, he's got good hands," Schwartz said. "I think that he's reliable as a catcher of the ball. He doesn't look like he's moving fast, but because he's so long, he can get open, he can get guys deep. He certainly wasn't a forgotten man as far as our team.

"He's stepped up in some crucial times in that game, made some crucial catches, including a sidearm throw from Matt Stafford on one that we'll try to address (get it?)."

Durham's biggest play of the game might have been the final onside kick recovery with less than a minute remaining.

"They had cut it to eight, it's still a one-score game, even though they technically have to score twice on that drive," Schwartz said. "We'd had a lot of injures in our secondary. We were tired on defense, we'd been on the field, we had turned the ball over on offense. There were a lot of things that were rolling against us and we had to go back on the field, who knows what's going to happen.

"But he goes up, makes a very short catch of the ball, goes down, takes a hit right in the back. That was the 'game-winning play' for us."