ML: “Looking at the Lions, it's obviously a well-put together football team. They've got an outstanding receiver in Calvin Johnson, and Matthew Stafford is playing very well at quarterback. His interceptions are way down, he delivers the football on time, he's got great vision of the field. He's doing a great job. And Reggie Bush has been an outstanding asset to them. They're doing a great job protecting the quarterback. They get rid of the football. Defensively, the front group is very well stocked and good. They have hard-playing guys up front, and they make their defense go. They have created a lot of turnovers this year. They're playing excellent on third down, so we have our work cut out for us in all three phases.”
Do you see any similarities between their defensive line and yours? Both are young and aggressive:
ML: “Yeah, I mean, theirs has three first-round picks in it, but yeah, they do a good job.”
How do you think
ML: “I think Carlos has done a good job. I'm not going to sit here and talk about our guys up and down.
Have you been happy with the way he’s reacted to getting the deal in the offseason? He seems to be playing with a lot of determination:
ML: “I think he's done a good job when he's been on the field playing, yes.”
They’ve given up 5.4 yards per carry and about 120 yards a game on the ground. Is that sort of an anomaly since they have a good line?
ML: “As I've told you many times, you play the run with 11 people. You've got to be coordinated and play through it that way. Like you mentioned, they did literally give up, on the first play of the season, a 78-yard run. There's not a lot of huge runs that you will go through the games and see, but we've got our work cut out for us.”
Is Stafford the type of guy that stays in the pocket?
ML: “For the most part, he does. He's an athletic quarterback, but he's not a guy who came out running 4.6 or anything like that. But Matt has done a great job because he's had a lot of different people around him. But now they've finally settled on the same guys, and he's benefitting from that, and they’ve had the same coordinator now for three years. He's really benefiting from that. He's got good height and he's an impressive guy. He's got a very good arm, a strong arm, and can make all the throws.”
You and Jim Schwartz are close. What has it been like seeing him evolve as a coach over the last five years?
ML: “Well, Jimmy is extremely, extremely intelligent and just a very hard working person by nature. It's just where he grew up at in Baltimore and everything he knows. He's very analytical and he handles situations well, so he's been able to continually turn it up and move on and go on to the next thing, which is what you've got to do to get your team better. You have some hiccups along the way, you've got to work through those, and he's done a good job of working through that.”
What about the Lions offense makes it a good fit for Reggie Bush?
ML: “He wanted to be a guy who was in there all the time, and he pretty much has. They're also using him as a wide receiver, so he's not only carrying the football from the conventional running back spot. He’s also lining up outside as a receiver and getting the ball on screens and things like that, things that play well to the special ability that he has. You have to be really conscious of where he is at all times. He'll be in there with the other halfback, (Joique) Bell, and they'll be in there at the same time, and either one will be deployed, so you have to understand that. They do a good job of really using the field and utilizing the personnel they have.”
Does Calvin Johnson help create space for Bush?
ML: “Calvin Johnson creates space, yes he does. He does.”
What has made their tight end Joseph Fauria a threat in the red zone?
ML: “He's gotten an opportunity and he's made plays, he's made good, physical plays. He's a guy with height and stature, so, he's gone up and made good, physical plays, and he’s able to run down the seam, and if you don't get him covered, he's made plays. You've got to be conscious of things, and you've got to stay sound in what you do defensively.”
Their defense is 30th in the league in giving up yards on first down but second in the league on third down:
ML: “It's kind of been feast or famine. But yeah, you're right, on third down they're playing lights-out. But they've given up some plays. Again, you have the long burst run to begin the season and things like that. We're a six-game sample, we're not even halfway through the season. It's a small sample right now, so a lot of things can get distorted.”
When you guys were evaluating
ML: “Not really, not necessarily at that point. We looked at Calvin when he came out, but I think we're pretty picking in the middle of the round, so I don't think I spent a whole lot of time on Calvin that year.”
Calvin and A.J. work out a lot together. How much of a role model can Calvin be for A.J.?
ML: “He’s been a great role model for A.J. Ironically, Schwartzie and I were talking about that last offseason, before the 2012 draft. He was just sharing some things about Calvin. They are very similar personalities. He’s a guy, from what Jimmy has said, hasn’t let his success on the field really alter the type of person he is; very Larry Fitzgerald-like. He’s a guy that’s still very grounded and really wants the team to succeed. That’s important to him. It’s the same characteristics we see in A.J. Despite people writing that he was in a slump.”
Calvin has kind of led a new breed of receiver, the anti-diva:
ML: “It’s funny, when we were down there in Atlanta, I spent a little time with their receiver coach, Terry Robiskie, and the point he made for Roddy (White) and Julio (Jones) was, ‘Is it better to catch 100 passes and win six games, or better for you to catch 70 passes and win 12 games? O 14 games or whatever it may be.’ That’s the thing. That this is a team game, and you play a position that if they want to keep you from catching the football, they can. And so hopefully the rest of the football team is strong enough, and we put enough guys around you, that we can be successful until they figure out they’re going to get beat another way, and maybe they ease up off you. And you as a player have to have the flexibility and the ability to play different spots like A.J. has, like Calvin Johnson does. They don’t just line up at one spot. Calvin Johnson, when they have three wide receivers, will be at any of the three receiver spots, just like A.J. will be for us. Guys that have that intellect and smarts about them understand they can be shut down if they are pigeon-holed in one spot, but it takes me a little bit more time to adjust coverage to you if you can end up in all three spots. It makes the other team do a little more coaching.”
It seems like the receivers that grew up watching the divas became the anti-divas:
ML: “That’s your word, so you go ahead and comment on it as you wish. Because that’s not my deal.”
The statistic is out there that your offense could have six receivers with 500 yards or more at the end of the year. If you shut down one area, there’s the other:
ML: “You’re hopeful to have that, because that’s what you want. That’s the balance that you see the great offensive football teams have, the fact that you don’t need one guy to have superior numbers. You have five or six guys. Whether it be two 800-yard backs, let’s start there. Let’s have that, and let’s go from that point on. Let’s be in that situation. Hopefully we can continue down that path, but that’s what we like to have.”
Detroit has the same thing going on:
ML: “That’s right. They’ve got their two backs as their second and third leading receivers right now, and the other guys are not far behind that -- the tight end position, the second receiver, third receiver and so forth. That’s what you’re looking for, because that spot can basically be locked down by coverage.”
When you look at their offense, does it start with Calvin Johnson?
ML: “It started in the past a little bit more with Calvin Johnson, but right now you have to be a little more conscious of No. 21 (Reggie Bush). He’s a very effective player. He’s a special player and he’s having fun and playing that way. Reggie’s doing a good job.”
Do you feel like you have a Reggie-in-waiting in
ML: “Bernard’s a little different than Reggie. I take that back. I didn’t say anything, because I’m not comparing anybody. You compare (laughs). I’m not even going to answer those questions any more.”
What does Bernard do for you?
ML: “He’s doing a good job. He’s making the field big and that’s what you want. He’s making it a big field right now, and he’s mowing the grass down as he goes.”
Does he ever make a move where you think, ‘How did he do that?’
ML: “He’s doing what we expected him to do. As we said from the start when we opened the regular season, it’s not going to be too big for him, and it hasn’t been too big. He’s growing. He can’t be teamed with a better pro than Benny (
With the criticism he sometimes takes, what is it like seeing
ML: “It’s numbers and stats....it’s great. Let’s just keep winning games. That’s what counts. It’s a good honor for Andy and his offensive teammates because they all contributed a great deal in executing the plan last week and showed people some things that say ‘Oh wow, this happens, and we’ve got to be conscious of this now.’ We did some things that were good.”
AD: “It's definitely an honor. It's something for me, but obviously I didn't do it by myself. We had a lot of guys making plays out there. It was big for us to come out and get a win on the road, and for us to do some things well offensively that resulted in me being able to get the award. So hopefully we can keep improving, keep getting better. But it's definitely a great honor.”
The offense was very diverse in Buffalo. What made things click?
AD: “We came out and had a good focus going into the game. Guys just came out and made plays, that's what it came down to. We've got to keep doing that. We know we're capable of doing it, we've just got to be consistent with it and do it every week.”
What kind of relief was it to get your first road win?
AD: “It's big. It's tough to get wins on the road. It's good for us to get the first one. We've been close in some of these other ones, but to finally get the win was big, and hopefully we can keep doing that since we've got three of the next four on the road."
You’ve blown two 14-point leads, and come back from a 16-point deficit. It’s been a heck of a roller coaster so far, hasn’t it?
AD: “We've been put into a lot of situations and been able to overcome a lot of situations. We've got to find ways to keep scoring points, and keep these leads so hopefully in the fourth quarter it's not coming down to some of these last plays. As long as we're finding ways to win, that's what matters. Like I said, we've just got to keep getting better.”
What is the key to getting everybody involved on offense?
AD: “It just kind of depends on some of the looks we're getting. It just comes down to guys making plays as well. We feel like we've got a lot of weapons. So for me, it's just getting the ball to the guys. You saw what they can do once they have the ball in their hands. You don't know how it's going to happen each week. Some weeks it's going to be one guy, some weeks it's going to be, shoot, eight guys like it was last week. It just kind of depends on the week. But the more versatile we can be, the more we can spread the ball around and get guys the ball, I think the better we'll be.”
Are the defensive looks a little bit different in Detroit compared to what you saw in Buffalo?
AD: “It is. You go and you see the looks and you kind of say, ‘OK, this is what they're going to do.’ They're not a big blitz team, but they rely on those front guys. Those front guys are really good. So we've got to be able to handle the pressure that they bring. But yeah, it's different than it was last week.”
Does Ndamukong Suh get more of your attention for what he does?
AD: “He's a good player. He's an aggressive guy. He's a disruptive guy. So you've got to find ways to slow him down. You've got to do things because he's pretty good. We know where he's going to be. It's a big challenge for us. We've got to come out and play well.
You’ve got six guys on pace for more than 500 receiving yards. How do you go about distributing it?
AD: “It depends on the looks that we're getting, certain plays that are being called and different things like that. So we're not shooting for yardage for a certain number of guys, but the more we get people involved, the more their yards will go up. It just kind of depends. Certain weeks it will be different. We feel like we've got lots of guys that can make plays.”
Is your confidence level in the offense growing because so many guys can pick up the slack?
AD: “That's kind of how we've felt. I feel like I keep saying the same thing: There's a bunch of guys that can make plays. You don't know who it's going to be each week. But I've got full confidence in the guys that they're going to win some of these one-on-ones, and we're going to win some of these matchups that we have.”
How disruptive is their defensive line?
AD: “They're good. I think they're the key point on that defense. They put a lot of trust in them, and put a lot of faith in them to get to the quarterback with the looks that they give on defense. Like I said, we've got a good challenge. We've got to find ways to slow them down and block 'em up.”
How big of a plus is
AD: “Kyle's done a great job. One of his big strengths is he's a really smart player and communicates well and gets us into some of those right protection checks, and I'm not having to change very much of the stuff that's going on. It's big. He played really well, and he's done that for a while.”
It has to be a comforting feeling knowing you’ve got that in front of you, right?
AD: “Yeah, it definitely is. I think the biggest thing for quarterback-center, there's a lot of communication being involved with protection and different things like that. For him to be able to handle all that stuff, knowing that we're getting into the right calls and things like that, it's big.”
Your defense has had a goal-line stand in each of the last two weeks. Does that have a carryover effect for the offense?
AD: “Yeah, it's big. For them to come in and stop them on the goal line just kind of shows the attitude of our defense and shows what we can do and the type of guys that we have, guys making big plays. James (Harrison) on the fourth down the last game made a huge play. So it definitely gives us some momentum going into that next drive and the rest of the game.”
I know you’ve seen the video of the father and son with the son giving his dad a jersey and tickets to a game. What does it mean for you to see a grown man get so emotional when getting your jersey?
AD: “It shows the impact that players have, it shows the kind of platform that guys in the NFL, guys that play professional sports, have. Really it shows you that you can make a positive impact on people. So to see how excited he was to get to come to a game, to get my jersey, it's special. There's a lot of people that dream of getting a chance to play in the NFL, and now to give this opportunity and to have a positive impact on people that you don't know, it's a special feeling.”
Have you reached out to him yet?
AD: “I haven't reached out to him. I'll make sure that the team's going to be doing something for them when they come to the game, so I'm sure I'll find a way to talk to them whenever they get here.”
You now have a 12-7 record on the road in your career. Is that a source of pride for you?
AD: “It is, because when you're on the road, you've got to take games. It seems like everything is against you when you're on the road, but you've got to find a way to make enough plays to win games. I've been fortunate that we've done that since I've been here and I hope we keep doing it.”