Key Questions: Slow starts on offense and why 'urgent' is the word to describe the Lions' state

Posted Nov 12, 2012

At 4-5 the Lions need to start winning football games to get back into the playoff hunt.

During his Monday press conference, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz took one final look back at the team’s disappointing 34-24 loss at Minnesota before shifting his focus to this week's matchup with Green Bay (6-3) and the beginning of an important three-game home stretch.

Q. Have the continued slow starts on offense been a matter of scheme or execution?

The Lions aren’t calling different plays in the first half than they are in the second half, so it's more an issue of execution early in games.

The Lions continued to be plagued by dropped passes, inopportune penalties and timely mistakes early in games.

“I think we’ve executed better in the second half, obviously,” Schwartz said. “I think you look at the first drive and we got the ball, we got a couple of first downs, we had positive plays, we were moving the ball very well. Then we had the 15-yard penalty and that derailed that drive. If you look on offense, we had three penalties. All three of them derailed drives.”

“I thought we were executing well at the beginning of that game and then the penalties derailed us. We had too many third-and-longs in the game and they were in the first and second half.”

Q. Schwartz didn’t want to call the Lions’ current state of 4-5 desperate. What word did he use instead?

"I wouldn't call it - desperate or dire,” he said. “I think our word is urgent.”

At 4-5 the Lions need to start winning football games to get back into the playoff hunt.

“We had six of our first nine on the road,” he said. “We now have a stretch of three in a row at home. We have to do something with that. There's urgency to that. Our margins are a lot thinner. We don't have a whole lot of wiggle room for mistakes down the stretch. We have to play our best. It's life in the NFL.

“The feeling today is probably a lot like our feeling after getting home from Chicago. We had a road loss against a divisional opponent, a tough game. A game that we can look at certain mistakes that we made and see how the game got away from us and how we lost the game and our urgency to correct that and have a better performance is the main thing.

“We were able to come back on a short week and have a win over a very good Seattle team, respond with another road win against Jacksonville. We need to respond a lot the same way with this and it starts with Green Bay on Sunday.”

Q. Are the Lions getting enough out of their defensive line?

The stat sheet from Sunday might not tell the whole story of how well the interior of the defensive line played.

Second-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley might have played his most complete game starting for the injured Corey Williams. Fairley recorded a sack and three tackles-for-loss.

“I thought he played very well in the run game,” Schwartz said of Fairley. “Used his hands very well, made tackles-for-losses, sacked the quarterback, was around the passer, and was very, very active. And he had to. With Corey Williams not being able to answer on Sunday we only had a three man rotation there.”

It wasn’t a perfect performance from Fairley, though.

“Nick had two rushes that sort of got out of his assigned game and we paid for both of them,” Schwartz said. “One was a quarterback scramble (a 20-yard gain by Christian Ponder), the other was a step-up (54-yard pass to Jarius Wright on first series).

Schwartz said Ndamukong Suh also might have played his finest game of the season, though the stat sheet only read one tackle for the third-year pro.

“(He) was dominating at times," Schwartz said. "Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback’s lap the whole game.

“Ndamukong did a really good job verses some trap blocks that had haunted us earlier in the season. First time we played these guys and he shut that part of the run game out. On our perimeter we weren’t as strong.”

Cliff Avril, who left with a concussion, and Kyle Vanden Bosch didn’t have near enough of an impact on the game.

Q. There have been some accusations the Vikings were targeting or “head hunting” Calvin Johnson.

"I don't think anybody in this league is trying to hurt somebody,” Schwartz said. “(Johnson) a 6-foot-5 receiver and when Matt throws it up high to him, people have to go up high to be able to get the ball. He got hit in the head twice.

"I'm sure the league…we know that the league sees that. I don't think anybody's trying to do it on purpose. They're trying to defend him, but as a result he ended up getting hit in the head a couple times. Thank goodness he was fine, shook it off, went right back and kept on making plays.”

Johnson said in the locker room after the game that he didn’t think the Vikings were targeting him in any way.

In the end, the Vikings didn't do a very good job of containing him. Johnson finished with 12 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown, but was slow to get up a few times.

Q. How did Megatron come out of the game health wise?

Johnson has been dealing with a sore left knee the last few weeks that’s caused him to miss a lot of practice recently.

"He has been slow to get up, but he's also made a lot of plays,” Schwartz said. “I think he's gotten better over the last couple weeks. He was better this week than he was last week.

“There's not player that's 100 percent right now. He was able to go out and effectively do his job. And not only do his job, but impact the game that way that he does. He's fighting through just like a lot of other guys are fighting through, but he's still able to be successful and he is getting better.”

Q. Is the first time all season the teams’ patchwork secondary got truly exposed?

The injuries have been well documented in the Lions secondary and they suffered another one in the fourth quarter when cornerback Chris Houston injured an ankle. Schwartz confirmed Monday that it was the same left ankle that kept him out of the first two games of the season.

“Unfortunately you don’t get graded on the curve,” Schwartz said. “You really can’t say taking into account the injuries because injuries are what they are. One of the things that we needed to do in the game was prevent the big play down the field and on the first series they were able to get that. We need to overtop that route and stop that.

“They were able to get the tight end (Kyle Rudolph) going a couple of times. We had a little bit of a difficult time getting him covered. We had a mistake down in the red zone that gave them a touchdown on that first drive.

“So this wasn’t one of our better performances. We had done a pretty good job in the past of limiting big plays. We gave up too many big plays in this one whether it was the first series or even some of the runs. Our secondary needs to play those a lot better.”