Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs spoke to the media Tuesday ahead of Detroit's Week 7 matchup in Atlanta against the Falcons.
Here are 10 takeaways from those media sessions:
1. How does Bevell plan to divvy up the carries in the backfield moving forward? He said Adrian Peterson still goes in with the first carries. Kerryon Johnson will continue to be a third-down and passing-situation back. Rookie D’Andre Swift will get some early carries too, and the Lions will just see who has the hot hand. Bevell said they game plan for specific backs to be in certain play calls, but the flow of the game and seeing who's seeing the field well early on will play a factor.
2. Undlin had a nice moment of levity with the media Tuesday.
"Just catching up on some of the things you guys (in the media) were talking about. You guys wanted more pass rush, we tried to create some more pass rush for you," Undlin said of Sunday's defensive performance in Jacksonville. "I know you guys are always talking about the man vs. the zone, I feel you guys wanted some more zone, so I tried to play some more zone for you. Ended up working out."
Well done, Cory, well done.
3. Is Coombs worried about the fact that Matt Prater has missed all three of his kicks from 50-plus yards this season? The short answer is no.
Coombs pointed out that the three kicks Prater has missed are from 55 yards or longer, and while Prater still expects to make them, those aren't easy kicks. Prater is perfect under 50 yards, so Coombs said there's really nothing that needs to be said and he's not worried. They'll continue to work on the long kicks in practice, and Coombs said he has 100 percent confidence Prater will go out there and make the next long one.
4. Tight end T.J. Hockenson has had a nice start to his season, but his catches and yards are down a little bit the last two games. He's caught short touchdowns in each contest, but after catching at least four passes for 50 yards in each of his first three games, Hockenson had just two catches for under 20 yards in his last two, though two of those were touchdowns.
Asked about Hockenson, Bevell said this last game in Jacksonville was probably Hockenson's most consistent as a blocker. Bevell said Hockenson is, and will continue to be, one of the team's go-to players on offense. Hockenson will continue to work on how he can gain better separation and make some of the bigger plays he was making earlier in the season.
5. Undlin and the Lions have a big task this week trying to contain Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Undlin views Jones and Ridley as 1A and 1B players, and said he'll have his hands full coming up with a plan to slow the Falcons' offense down. "Which wide receiver do you want me to talk about?" Undlin joked.
6. Coombs said Sunday was a good learning experience for first-year punter Jack Fox. He didn't get into the flow of the game because the offense was playing so well. He had only two punts in the contest, and his first wasn't until the end of the first half. Fox had two punts snapped from Jaguars' territory, and he booted both in the end zone. Coombs said it's good to have a game where there's some teaching points when it's a win.
7. What is Bevell most worried about when it comes to Atlanta's defense? He didn't hesitate in saying their front. He called them an "attacking" and "up-field" bunch that incorporates a lot of stunts to their rush to make it hard on the offensive line. That's his first focus in the game plan.
8. Rookie defensive tackle John Penisini has gotten significantly more playing time the last couple weeks, and Undlin's taken notice of how well he's played in those opportunities. Undlin said Penisini isn't the biggest guy in the middle, but he plays with tremendous technique. Undlin said if we polled the defensive players, they'd say the same thing about Penisini standing out the last couple weeks.
9. It says a lot about the preparation upfront along the offensive line during the week that eight offensive linemen can be forced into action, and there's essentially no drop off in the play upfront. Bevell said it's a compliment to how hard the players work, but also to how offensive line coaches Hank Fraley and Billy Yates prepare their guys.
10. Undlin said the real difference on defense this last week was guys playing consistent for 60 minutes. It was Detroit's best effort on that side of the ball all season, holding Jacksonville to under 300 total yards and only 44 rushing yards. He said that first series where Jacksonville gained minus-one yard on their first two carries, and then didn't convert on third down, was huge. It allowed them to get off the field and start fast. That's something they'll be looking to duplicate this week in Atlanta.