Quotes from HC Jim Schwartz and WR Calvin Johnson ahead of the Lions' matchup with the Giants.
Head Coach Jim Schwartz
Q: After a 6-3 start, you guys have dropped four of your last five. How’s the team responding, especially after such an emotional loss this past week?
A: Yeah, I think you’re right, it was an emotional loss. We put a lot into it, we were playing the defending Super Bowl champs. We got the lead early and then we were down and then we got the lead back late and then we saw a guy kick a 61-yard field goal, when it looked like we were going to have a victory. It is a difficult situation, but it’s the NFL. I mention we had the Ravens come in here on Monday night, the Ravens lost four out of their five last year. They managed to get themselves into the playoffs and win four in a row or whatever it was and win the Super Bowl. There are a lot of examples around the league. There’s going to be some rough spots. We’ve had some. We used to control our own destiny, we don’t right now. We’re one game down with two to play. There’s probably about 15 to 20 teams in the NFL that would love to switch positions with us. We have to take advantage of the opportunity that we have.
Q: In each of those four losses you had fourth quarter leads. What do you think has contributed to those collapses?
A: I wouldn’t label them as collapses. I don’t think any of those games were triple score leads or anything like that, just like this last one. We took the lead, we’re up by one, we went for two. Losing a fourth quarter lead that’s a single score doesn’t count as a collapse in my book. You guys might label it a different way, that’s up to you. We’re out there trying hard on every single play. We’re trying to make one more play on our opponents and in those losses, our opponents were able to make those plays.
Q: You guys are number three in the league in passing offense. What have you seen from Matthew Stafford this year?
A: We have a high-powered passing offense. Any time you talk about Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford, you might have some opportunities there, but it’s not about passing stats. It’s about getting wins. Whether you run the ball, whether you throw the ball, whatever you do, it’s about getting one more point than your opponents. Now we’re 7-7, so we haven’t done a good enough job when it comes to that.
Q: Do you think Matt Stafford has improved from last year?
A: I think every year in his career he’s improved. It’s difficult to play quarterback in this league. I think you can look at a guy like Eli Manning. That guy has won two Super Bowls. I think that’s the thing I respect most about players in this league, quarterbacks in particular, their ability to lead teams. Things happen. He’s struggled this year with interceptions, Matt’s thrown more interceptions than he has in the past. I don’t think that makes him a bad quarterback and I don’t think that there’s things that he’s still not learning and improving on.
Q: How much of your red zone success do you attribute to Calvin Johnson?
A: We’re a pretty good team offensively and defensively in the red zone. It’s something that we spend a lot of time practicing not just during the season, but also in training camp and all season. We spend a lot of time on third down and red zone and a lot of those specialty situations, so I think that plays into it. Calvin does affect things in the red zone, he affects things all over the field, but he affects things in the red zone. He’s a tough guy to single up in the red zone, which can free other things up. I think Scott Linehan does a good job with scheme on our offense. Our offense does a good job executing. I think that some of the times when we’ve had turnovers, we haven’t technically been in the red zone. Generally we get down in there with a pretty good chance that we’re going to score and a pretty good chance we’re going to score a touchdown.
Q: You guys are among the top 5 in the league against the run. How much of that success do you attribute to Suh and the defensive line, or is it more so guys like Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy, stepping up at the linebacker position?
A: It’s a combination of both. It’s also a combination of safety. The Giants are pretty good in stopping the run also. Their leading tackler on the team is Antrel Rolle, a safety. I think you can look at it a lot of different ways. When you play run defense in the NFL, there’s too much space in there, one person can’t stop the run. You’re going to need good team defense. I think our linebackers fit well. I think our defensive linemen do a good job of attacking. We protect our edges pretty well. Other than the snow game we played against Philly, I think we’ve done good things against the run. Early in the season, we gave out some breakout runs. Our first play of the season was a 78-yarder to Adrian Peterson after that we bottled him up pretty good. I think he had about a yard a carry after that in that game and that went a long way for us to come back and win that game. Over the course of the year, we’ve had some really good running backs that we’ve been able to hold down. We’re going to have to do the same thing against the Giants. The Giants are a power running team. Brown can go downhill, Peyton Hillis can go downhill. It’s going to be a challenge for our D-line, our linebackers, our safeties, and our corners. Corners have to tackle, too, and they’re a key part of the run game when teams try to attack the perimeter.
WR Calvin Johnson
Q: What did you see from the Giants on film last week?
A: We’re still getting acquainted with those guys. Just based off their coverages, it looks like we might be able to free up some things in the passing game. We’ve been running the ball well all year, but it’s going to be a challenge up front for us, but it is every week.
Q: What’s the mood of your team coming off of a disappointing loss and knowing you’re in a very tight race to stay alive in the playoff chase?
A: We were just talking about it just a little while ago. Forget everything else, all we can do is control what we can and go out and get these last two games. We can’t worry about everything else going on around us or who can help us out or whatever. We’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do and get these last two games.
Q: Have you gotten a look at the Giants’ cornerbacks yet on film to get an idea of the difficulties in going up against them?
A: Yeah, a little bit. I’m bad with pronouncing the names. Amukamara is more of a physical guy. I know they have some injuries back there in the secondary this season. I think Webster is out. McBride is going to be on the outside over there. They’re going to present some challenges for us, but I think we can find some openings there in the secondary and get the ball moving.
Q: With the way the Giants are playing on offense, do you guys go into the game trying to keep it simple because they’re having trouble scoring?
A: We’ve got to respect what Eli can do. The guy has won two Super Bowls and he has the same personnel that he’s had during those runs, so you’ve got to respect what they can do with their receivers and what not. But we feel at the same time if we put up points on the board and we start fast they might not be able to keep up with us.