KEY QUESTIONS: Where does the focus lie for Lions moving forward?

Posted Nov 11, 2013

Tim Twentyman covers key points from head coach Jim Schwartz's press conference, including what Schwartz had to say about leading the division, the injury status of Montell Owens and if Nick Fairley has turned a corner

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t taking the bait on Monday.

Questions regarding taking sole posession of first place in the NFC North kept coming during his Monday press conference, but Schwartz deflected them all.

"We have six wins," he said. "That’s not going to be enough. We don’t talk about standings and things like that this time of year.

"You have to go out and prepare for your next opponent. You have to correct mistakes. You have to plug guys in for guys that are injured. That same thing I say every single week and that’s just where we are. Everything else sort of goes out the window."

What would a home playoff mean for this franchise?

"Good try," Schwartz said with a smile.

"We got way too far to go to start talking about stuff like that. We’re worried about this week. Good gracious, I mean, you know, we have enough challenges to get through practice on a Wednesday and a Thursday and a Friday and build a game plan.

"To start worrying about things that are two months down the road and the only way we’ll get to two months down road is if we do a good job in the moment."

Schwartz did say that he liked the personality of this team, however, and thinks it’s better equipped to handle success.

"It’s increasingly becoming part of the scope of the NFL to deal with praise and to deal with the accolades and things like that," he said. "It makes it difficult to stay level headed. It makes it difficult to stay even-keeled throughout the course of a season.

"Quite honestly, that’s something that in the past we haven’t done a good job of dealing with. I think that’s been a significant change in our team. Guys being able to bounce back from wins and keep levelheaded and things like that.

"That’s one of the reasons why you bring in a player like Reggie Bush. A guy that has experience in all those different things and I think that he has set a good example that way."

What is the status of running back Montell Owens?

Owens, who was playing in his first game since coming off short-tern injured reserve, aggravated the same knee that put him on the list in the first place.

"Right now it’s no more than day-to-day, week-to-week," Schwartz said. "It’s short term. We’ll just have to see how it does."

That’s good news for Owens.

Montell OwensRB Montell Owens (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Has Nick Fairley turned a corner?

There was a five-game stretch around this time last year when third-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley was dominant.

Over the last two games, Fairley has recorded seven hits on the quarterback, a sack and a very critical tackle-for-loss on a two-point conversion.

"I think he’s trending that way," Schwartz said. "He played really well during that stretch last year. I think he still has a ways to go to get back to that level.

"He still has been inconsistent. He played very well in spots. I think that was encouraging, but there has also been some inconsistency. I think that’s been one of the things that he’s been working on throughout the course of this season."

Fairley has disappeared for stretches this season, but came through in a big way late in that game Sunday when he stuffed the potential game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute.

"I think any young player is going to deal with inconsistencies," Schwartz said. "I don’t really mean it as a negative toward Nick. It’s just sort of where he is in his career.

"A classic case is that last drive: an easily avoidable penalty where you throw the quarterback down after he had thrown the pass, but then on that series he also got a sack and then stopped the two-point play, so there was a lot of positive in there, but also still some things that he needs to work on. Nick’s not different from a whole lot of other players when it comes to that."

How much credit does TE Brandon Pettigrew get for the running success?

"A lot," Schwartz said. "I think anybody that watches our run game sees a lot of things we do with him off the line of scrimmage, just doing some dirty work when it comes to blocking."

Schwartz pointed to an 11-yard run late in the fourth quarter during the Lions final scoring drive as evidence to how important Pettigrew has been in the run game.

"It was just a real simple play right up the middle and it was over our right side, which is (Larry) Warford and LaAdrian (Waddle) and I think a lot of people look at that as saying ‘Oh the two rookies made the play,’" Schwartz said.

"They executed their blocks, but the key block on that play was Pettigrew. Pettigrew’s the guy that has the hardest angle and got his guy blocked, and Reggie’s able to squirt through there and pick up a first down late in that game and set up that game-winning touchdown."

Pettigrew also made two explosive plays in the pass game and finished with five catches for 70 yards.

"He’s played very consistent for us," Schwartz said. "I think that’s really a testament to him."

Brandon PettigrewTE Brandon Pettigrew (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Is there a worry that rookie CB Darius Slay will lose his confidence?

Slay struggled in Chicago and was eventually replaced when the Lions decided to move Rashean Mathis outside in the nickel and play Don Carey inside.

"He’s still made plays, but he’s also had plays that he has given up," Schwartz said of Slay. "Every player is doing that same kind of thing. He is working hard, he’s got really good skills.

"There were some things that we thought Rashean (Mathis) did better on the outside part of the field in this game so we went to Don Carey in the nickel to keep Rashean on the outside part of the field. There have been other times where we made the decision to have Slay outside.

"He’s had some plays where he needs to improve on but I still think he is ascending player and we still have confidence in him."