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Hearing from the Lions

Posted Nov 13, 2013

Lions Coach Jim Schwartz and receiver Calvin Johnson talk about Sunday’s game against the Steelers.


Photo Gallery: Eye on the Opponent: Detroit Lions

Coach Jim Schwartz

Can you talk about Calvin Johnson? No matter what team’s do against Calvin he always seems to get the ball.
I think that’s a tribute to him, our quarterback and also our offensive coordinator. Even going back to last year, and really in the history of Calvin’s career in the NFL, he’s been a marked man. He’s been a guy that defensive coordinator’s start their game plan with. His ability to be productive in spite of that says a lot about his ability. I think that defines a great player in the NFL when you’re the guy that everybody tries to stop and you can still be successful, whether you’re a pass rusher, a running back or a wide receiver. Whatever position you play, I think that’s a good definition of greatness.

Can you talk about what the addition Reggie Bush has meant for your backfield and your offense?
He’s meant an awful lot, obviously. It goes back a couple years. We had a young player named Jahvid Best who was an outstanding player on our offense and complemented Calvin well and the quarterback, and how we wanted to move the ball and things like that. Unfortunately, his career was short and we were searching to replace that cog in our offense. The opportunity came for us to get Reggie Bush this offseason, and I thought it was a match made in heaven. He was what we were looking for in the role. I think we were what he was looking for as far as an offense to use to his talents. He’s a very good complement to Calvin, our other wide receivers and our tight ends. I think he complements Joique Bell very well. We have some explosive ability in our offense, and we lacked that last year. We were at the bottom of the NFL in explosive runs, and he’s gone a long way to reversing that trend.

Your offensive line has only allowed 10 sacks. Is that a product of your line playing well and also your quarterback being able to get the ball out pretty quickly?
Yeah, the answer is yes to all of the above. I would even include one more and it’s our ability for our skill guys to get open. If the quarterback wants to get rid of the ball quick and nobody is open, nobody can shake a guy or find a spot in zones or things like that, it doesn’t do any good. I think it’s a combination of all three. We’re proud of our offensive line. They’ve done a good job of run blocking and also protecting the quarterback. I think last week was just the latest example of that. We had a rough game at Green Bay. We gave up, I think five sacks in that game, and never really got our run game started. Last week, we rushed for almost 150 yards, averaged about six yards per carry, which is really impressive. And also the quarterback not only didn’t take a sack, but really didn’t take any hits at all in the game. I thought that was a big part of the game. It wasn’t just pass protection. It was our ability to run the ball, and the running set up, particularly our last touchdown. It set that play up with forcing enough guys into the box that we were one-on-one on the outside part of the field with Calvin. We’ve done it with a couple of different groups in there. We’ve had some injuries. We’ve put some guys in there, and they’ve responded well. We have some good veteran leadership in Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola, and right now we’re playing with three first or second-year players. Riley Reiff is a second-year player at left tackle. Larry Warford is a rookie at right guard, and LaAdrian Waddle is a rookie at right tackle. I’m really proud of what they’ve done so far this year, and if we can continue in that vein, I think it goes a long way to putting our team in a position to win.

Coach Tomlin yesterday said that your defense doesn’t have an astounding number of sacks, but there’s no doubt that they change what offenses do. Can you speak about your defense, particularly your front line?
They don’t give out trophies at the end of the year for the most number of sacks, or any other stat other than who wins that last game. That’s what we try to keep our eye on, is doing whatever we can to win the game on Sunday. You can’t always affect how many sacks you get. Like you mentioned before, if the quarterback is throwing the ball quick, you can’t get any sacks, or if they’re running the ball, there are a lot of circumstances that determine whether or not you’re going to make sacks. But if you can affect the game, if you can make the ball come out quick, if you can stop the run, if you can take your toll on the quarterback and set up big plays – we got a tipped ball for an interception that was at least a three-point play. They were on our eight-yard line and Ndamukong Suh tipped the ball that [DeAndre] Levy intercepted for his fifth interception of the year. No matter how you slice that, that’s at least three points, maybe seven points. When you play a close game, we won by two, it’s easy to look at a play like that as being the difference maker. Maybe it wasn’t the sack, but I think that play was just as big. We try not to get too involved with numbers. There are plenty of people that can talk about what our stats are and things like that, but we just try to keep our eye on doing whatever we need to do to win that particular game. If we’re able to do it, then we’re successful. That’s the only thing that matters, is that team’s success and getting a “W.”



Receiver Calvin Johnson

The Steelers defense has given up some yardage to receivers this year. What do you see and what do you expect the challenge to be on Sunday?
Just from watching the film, just from seeing the zone coverages, any time you play zone there are holes. If you’ve got a good quarterback he tends to find them, especially if you’ve got receivers that understand what you’re trying accomplish offensively.

Talk about the chemistry between you and Matthew Stafford.
It’s grown and it’s still growing. We’ve come a long way since when we first started. I think that’s just from game experience, practicing day-in and day-out together, and then just trying to see things as he would, so I could put myself in position for him.

The only time you played the Steelers you had one catch for two yards. Were you hurt that game?
I left that game with an MCL or meniscus or something.

Ryan Clark said that you weren’t the same player then that you are now. How has your game developed these last couple years?
The more and more experience you gain, the more situations you see, the more in tune you can be to those things. Just a better overall player you become. Like I said, experience is always the best teacher.

How much single coverage do you see if at all, during the game?
I see it every now and then. Defenses are going to do what they do for the most part. Some coordinators will mix it up and have the safety shadow me wherever I’m at. The last couple weeks we’ve seen some single coverage. We’ve been able to make plays because of it. How much do I see? I can’t put a number or percentage on it really. It’s probably like 30% maybe. I don’t know.

Mike Tomlin said that you’ve faced all types of coverages?  What is the most exotic or crazy coverage you’ve seen?
I would say having a gunner-like coverage. It wasn’t even on the goal line. I’ve had it out in the middle of the field.

What has Reggie Bush done to help your production?
Reggie has come in and helped. Give credit to the offensive line, too. But definitely getting that running game is obviously a big help. When he’s off and running, the defense will bring the extra defender down and then we can make plays on the outside with single coverage.

The coverage with the gunner, is that something you’ve seen only this season?
I haven’t seen it this season. I saw it the last two.

Can you explain that? Is it basically a guy shadowing you all over the place?
It’s two corners or two defensive players on you right on the line of scrimmage.

Tomlin called you the best receiver in the league. Do you agree with that?
I appreciate that. I’m not going to get involved in that. That is for you all to decide. I appreciate it.

Ryan Clark said you remind him of a young Randy Moss.
That’s another great player, so that’s cool.

Do you watch other receivers around the league?
If I see them on my film, if they’re on the film I’m watching for the week of the game, then yeah. But I can’t say I take extra time to go and watch any particular receiver.

Has Antonio Brown jumped out in some of the film you’ve seen this week?
Yeah. He’s a playmaker. He does well, not just at the receiver position, but returning the ball on punts. I don’t know if he does kickoffs, but he’s done well returning the ball on punts. He has a pretty good average and he definitely can make some big plays out there. He’s real quick, good route runner. He’s a good player.

It seems like when things break down, Stafford just throws it in your direction. Is that a plan now to get the ball in your general direction?
He’s going to go through his reads the way he is supposed to go through them. If he sees opportunity for me to make a play, then he’s going to put it up for me.

Could you have had any more yards against Dallas?
Yeah, there are always plays when you look at the game that could have been made.

Did you not get the one you thought you should have? Did they miss you open a couple times?
We were very efficient if you look at the numbers in that game. Like I said, I’m sure there is a pass here or there – there’s probably like two or three that we didn’t complete. There is always room for improvement.

What is it like having a 300-yard game? Did you know how many you had as the game was progressing?
I had no idea. I can’t even remember all of them, all the catches that would’ve added up to that. It’s crazy to believe that it happened. It’s just something that maybe I’ll think about later down the road when I’m done playing.

Can you talk about the mindset of the Lions? Did beating Chicago a second time get it turned around for you?
We’ve still got a lot of season left to go. That was just another game. It’s all on Pittsburgh right now and [we can’t] look too far ahead. We know we’re a good team. We know we’ve got some pieces in play where we can make a run. We just take it game-by-game and go from there.

Are you a Super Bowl contender?
Like I said, we’re going to take it game-by-game. That’s everybody’s objective to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season, I would hope. But like I said, we’re keeping it at this week.

What do you know about Dick LeBeau?
I met Dick LeBeau a couple times. Great guy. Great part of NFL history. Looking forward to going out there and hopefully we can wreck his schemes. [Laughs]

You’ll probably see a lot of Ike Taylor? What do you know about him?
He’s been around for a long time. He’s been playing for over a decade in the league. He’s, I guess you could say, a physical corner. Good size. I’ve run across Ike, not on the field, but he’s a good corner. We’re going to have our hands full.

Have things changed since Nate Burleson went out with how teams cover you?
I can’t say because I don’t know how they were going to cover in the first place. Without Nate being there, we definitely miss him, but we just look forward to the time when he comes back.

Do you think he might be back this week?
Don’t know. Don’t know.