Key Questions: Reiff's contributions, impressive rushing attack and effective defense

Posted Nov 5, 2012

During his Monday press conference, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz took one final look back at the team’s most impressive victory of the season down in Jacksonville.

During his Monday press conference, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz took one final look back at the team’s most impressive victory of the season down in Jacksonville before shifting focus to this week's NFC North matchup at Minnesota (5-3).

Q. What was most impressive about a Lions rushing attack that churned up 149 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 4.4 yards per carry on Sunday?

It’s hard to run the ball 34 times (32 designed for the running backs) and not have one rush that resulted in a loss or no gain.

“We were close to 60 percent efficient,” said Schwartz. "Thought we got good contributions out of the run game. Not just form Mikel (Leshoure) in the first half, but Joique (Bell), particularly in that last drive, I think we only got to one third down in that.

“We were 100 percent efficient in that drive and took not only a lot of time off the clock but went and scored a touchdown.”

Both Leshoure and Bell had over 70 yards rushing and both got into the end zone, Leshoure three times.

The Lions have 10 rushing touchdowns through the first eight games, which is the most by the club through eight games since 1990. They currently rank sixth in the NFL with 10 rushing touchdowns, two shy of league leaders (Houston and New England).

Q. How much has rookie tackle Riley Reiff contributed to the Lions success on the ground this season?

The big rookie played on 46 percent (33 snaps) on offense Sunday, his most extensive work of the season.

“Yeah, he’s given our run game an incredible boost,” Schwartz said. “The offensive line has blocked very well and he’s a big part of that. Our tight ends blocked very well in this game and our running backs ran well. I think we’ve seen probably the most consistent and most productive run game since I’ve been here and a lot of it has to with attitude up front and Riley’s a big part of that.

“He’s contributed in a lot of different ways mainly because he’s a good player. But particularly the edge, you know, this game they were trying to clog up the middle and we had to bounce it outside or cut it back and that’s hard to do without an edge blocker and Riley’s made a big difference for us there. And in addition to his pass blocking. We’re not just one-dimensional when he goes on the field; it’s not always a run. He can protect up and we have ability to take shots down the field.”

Reiff is eligible to catch a pass every time he’s in the game as the sixth lineman, who knows, maybe he’ll add that to his repertoire soon enough.

Q. The Lions played probably their best defense of the season this past week. Why were they so effective?

Tackling was a big reason for their success. The defense missed only two tackles all game and kept everything in front of them. The two Jaguars touchdowns came in the fourth quarter when the defense was in prevent.

“Our whole defense tackled well,” Schwartz said. “You know, we’ve had games where we miss some tackles and other guys are there to clean up. We only had two missed tackles in this game. So, I think that went a long way to limiting the Jaguars.”

The defense held their fourth opponent to under 300 total yards this season. They did that only twice last year. In the process, they’ve moved up from the league’s ninth-ranked defense to No. 7.

“You know, we’ve plugged some holes, but that’s what you have to do in the NFL,” said Schwartz. “You know, a lot of those guys have stepped up and made plays for us.

“I thought Erik Coleman played very well in this last game. He had an interception negated and made another really good play. Had a couple pass breakups, tackled very well.”

Q. How did receiver Calvin Johnson come out of the game?

He was a game-time decision with a sore knee and still had seven catches for 129 yards.

“He’s no worse for wear,” Schwartz said. “He toughed it out in the game and made a big contribution in the game obviously.”

“We’re in the middle of an NFL season, everybody’s going to be dealing with something like that. But the things that he’s had eventually will be put to bed. The only thing is you can’t anticipate what else is coming up. I think every player is going to have to deal with injuries over the course of the season. Calvin’s no different than any of these other guys.”

Q. Has Joique Bell picked up the slack for not having Jahvid Best?

The stats would certainly indicate that. Bell is fourth in the NFL (second in NFC) in receiving yards (263) among running backs. He ranks second among running backs in yards per reception with 11.4. (min.: 16 receptions).

“You know I think it’s certainly picked up some of that slack,” Schwartz said. “He’s averaging 11 yards in reception. I’d have to go back and look what some of the stats that Jahvid had but 11 yards reception for a running back is pretty significant. He’s made a lot of plays for us and it hasn’t just been as a ball carrier from a rushing standpoint.

“He’s a talented guy and he has very good run instincts and it’s difficult for the first guy to bring him down. He’s a heavy runner. But I think he also benefits from some of the defense that we’ve seen. There’s some air underneath. If teams choose to try to take deeper stuff away then it opens some stuff up for our running backs and he’s done a good job of taking advantage of that both.”