Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media Monday following Sunday's convincing 41-10 win over the Chicago Bears in Detroit's home finale. The team heads on the road to Green Bay to finish the regular season this week with a potential playoff berth on the line for both teams.
Here are the key questions from Campbell's Monday press conference:
Would Campbell vote defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson as Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Campbell prefaced his response by saying he hasn't studied the other rookie defenders enough to make an educated vote, but just off what he knows and what he has seen from Hutchinson he would probably vote that way.
Hutchinson is the first rookie to ever record a stat line of at least 7.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries in a single season. He's played the second most snaps on Detroit's defense and been a consistent playmaker all season.
"I know as far as us picking him, and for what we wanted him for, he's everything we wanted," Campbell said. "I mean, this guy is a football player and with the No. 2 pick in the draft we got a football playing dude who is high motor and he's versatile as hell. So, I don't know what that is. If you were to ask me to cast a vote, yeah, I would cast a vote (for Hutchinson)."
How important has this late-season run been for this young football team?
After a 1-6 start, no one outside of Allen Park would have given the Lions a chance to be in the playoff conversation Week 18. But they are, and that's big for this team moving forward. Campbell said it's important to start to get used to playing games like this late in the season.
"You have to be a resilient team," he said. "And I think that's got to be part of your foundation and that's why we put this team together."
How did Ifeatu Melifonwu look on tape after his second career start at safety Sunday?
Campbell said last week he expected Melifonwu to be much better and play more aggressive than he did in Carolina making his second career start at safety against the Bears in place of veteran DeShon Elliott (shoulder).
"He was better," Campbell said. "I thought he answered the bell. I thought he tried to play more aggressive."
Melifonwu was one of Detroit's top graded defenders in the game by Pro Football Focus. He had four tackles, a half sack and two defended passes, including a fourth-down pass that gave the ball back to the offense.
What went into the decision to play cornerback Jeff Okudah just 17 snaps Sunday?
Okudah's play has dropped off a little bit over the month and that's coincided with veteran Mike Hughes earning an opportunity to play more with the way he's been practicing.
"It was always about getting Mike Hughes more plays," Campbell said. "Mike earned his right to play now, too."
Okudah took some gunner reps on special teams. Campbell said Okudah is in a good place, it was just a situation where they're trying to get Hughes more time on the field.
What is coaching this week like for Campbell and his staff?
Credit to Campbell, his staff and this team for turning things around after a tough start. Now their Week 18 game Sunday is one of the few around the league with real meaning.
"Every week you're trying to give your guys the best plan you can possibly give them. That goes without saying," Campbell said. "But this one, you just want to make sure you don't leave any stone unturned. I mean you're looking for every nugget that's out there potentially. Any way that you can find some type of an advantage and make sure you give your guys the very best opportunity to have success and maximize your roster vs. their roster."
Campbell said a week like this gives everyone in the building a little extra energy and juice. He said he couldn't write a better Week 18 script than having to go into Lambeau against that quarterback and team in a must win.