“Going forward now and looking at the Packers, obviously it starts with Aaron Rodgers and his tremendous ability. He’s quick with the ball in his hands and he’s got a great arm. The ball gets out of his hand quickly and to the right spots. He understands in-and-out what they do offensively. The receivers are a veteran group of guys with him. They understand where the spots are, and how to adjust versus coverage and leverage. We’ve really got to be at the top of our game that way.
“They would like to run the football. That’s part of their deal. They got off to a good start with it last week in their game, so they feel good about things where they are.
“Defensively, they’re explosive with their rushers. The nose tackle and two ends are bigger men. Clay Matthews is just an exceptional rusher, and they’ve got the young guys on the other side that play opposite him, and they do a good job. In the secondary, they give you a lot of different looks, so we’ve got to be really on point and be exact with things that way. We’ve got a big week of preparation ahead of us. We’ve got to get the crowd back into it like they were on Monday night, so hopefully everybody’s rested up all week, and Paul Brown Stadium will be loud and rocking like it was Monday night for this Sunday 1 o’clock game.”
They had a 100-yard rusher last week, not something they often do. When they have kind of a pick your poison, how much harder is that to deal with?
ML: “You have a 100-yard rusher when people don’t get to the right gaps, and we’ll get to the right gaps. James Starks is a good runner. He’s had 100-yard games before. He’s been productive for them at times and in chances he’s had. Eddie Lacy has a lot of ability. I don’t know whether he’ll play or not. They’ve got some guys that can play if you allow them. You’ve got to to a great job of tackling. That will be very important this week.”
What made them so successful in yards after the catch last week?
ML: “They do a good job of breaking tackles and running with the ball. They’re strong guys. Whether it be (Jermichael) Finley, whether it be Jordy (Nelson), (James) Jones, (Randall) Cobb, they’re all good runners.”
Rodgers can do things on the run or in the pocket. When he’s outside the pocket, is he different from what we’ve seen from Ben Roethlisberger?
ML: “He can do a little of both. Aaron had great physical tools when he came out, so he’s got some speed to him. He can scamper and get the first down, or he can run out there and bide time and, if you’re not sound and in the right spots, make a big play against you. We’ve got to do a really good job.”
Is there any advantage to getting Dick LeBeau’s scheme and Dom Capers’s scheme in back-to-back weeks instead of with a 3-4 week break?
ML: “There’s a little bit of carry over in spacing. They do some different things. This is really a dominant team with Clay (Matthews). We know that’s part of the deal. Much like the Steelers were with James (Harrison). Some of the nickel looks are going to be similar. This is a pressure football team, and we’ve got to do a good job against pressure. Our quarterback did a nice job in the last game of stepping around and in the pocket, but we’ve got to do a better job of keeping him clean. That’s going to be important.”
That’s the system you broke in under Dom. When you watch the tape is it a lot of the same concepts?
ML: “A lot of the concepts are the same. Very similar.”
ML: “Gio has been that guy, and that’s why he was the first running back selected in the draft. He’s a good player, and he’s going to continue to be a good player. It’s not too big for him.”
What did it mean to have
ML: “I think for everybody in the building, we’ve known how much Whitworth has meant to this football team and the organization. He’s been the face, and he’s the pillar. It was great. When you’re a veteran player, and you’ve been injured, and you’re expecting to be in there playing, that’s hard. I mean, he couldn’t even go to preseason games. That’s hard to do. It’s great to have him and I think gave the football team a lift. Having him last week back on the practice field was good.”
He sounded pretty emotional after the game. Did you get a sense it meant a little more to him?
ML: “I think he’s such a great pro and such a good person that he was going to keep that inside and not let it spill over to the other guys, but it meant a lot. When you fight back from things, it’s important. It’s good.”
You’ve been in the league a long time. You have a lot of coaching connections with many teams but especially with Green Bay:
ML: “They’ve got four guys I coached, I noticed. Four guys that I coached, three guys that I coached with, and Tommy Clements, who I used to watch in high school when I was young. Yeah, there’s a lot of connection to this staff, similar to Atlanta and like Pittsburgh was. Mike (McCarthy), obviously, we coached together at Pitt, and Shawn Slocum. Alex (Van Pelt) was our quarterback. I coached Darren Perry and Kevin Greene with the Steelers, and we had Jerry Fontenot here. I think I’m missing one. So, a lot of people. I noticed I was looking at that the other day and thinking about as I look forward to these guys on Monday, I started writing it down because I thought that was pretty incredible.
You never had to give Mike any turnpike toll, did you?
ML: (Laughs) “No, but you knew when Mike was with us at Pitt he was an outstanding coach. Mike’s career has not surprised anybody that was with us there at Pitt. He worked hand-in-hand with Jon Gruden, and then was able to leave and go with Jon and with Paul (Hackett) to Kansas City, and then took off from there. Mike’s career has been what he showed there as a young coach at the University of Pittsburgh.”
How do you game plan for a guy like Randall Cobb not only as a slot receiver but as a return guy?
ML: “We’ve got to do a great job tackling. It comes down to the same words: leverage and tackling. He’s an explosive player, one that we wished we had here and they picked him just before we could. But he’s a talent.”
Is it incredible to see his development as a receiver given how much he played quarterback at Kentucky?
ML: “No, I don’t think anyone doubted that. We certainly didn’t here. Mike Sheppard (Bengals WRs coach) felt like both of their receivers (Jordy Nelson also) were going to be excellent players in the NFL. They both just went before we could pick them. But we were very high on both he and Jordy.
Did he take a similar path to NFL as Josh Cribbs?
ML: “Josh was never really able to stay out there as a receiver. What impresses you is Cobb’s hands, his ability. He really developed as a route-runner early. He did those things at UK. You saw his athleticism all of the time.”
How much did it help him that at UK he was lined up as a receiver early in his college career?
ML: “I think it helped a lot. You could go back and watch the video of that and see that he had done those things, and by necessity they kept putting him back at quarterback. I think he was probably preferring to play another spot because he felt probably going forward that would be an opportunity for him. But he’s had two carries already this season, reverses and end-arounds and things like that. You just have to be conscious of him.”
When you go against teams with great slot receivers, how much do you have confidence because
ML: “The nickel corner is a special player and it takes special abilities to be able to do that. Not only of the physical challenge of it, but the mental challenge. We’re blessed to have Leon like that. He does an excellent job at that.”
Mike Zimmer says it’s a luxury to have a No. 1 pick play in the slot:
ML: “Well, you’re matched against a lot of first-round players in there, so you better be able to match ability with ability. I don’t see that way as maybe Mike does, because for me that was Rod Woodson for a long period of time. When I was in Washington, it was Champ Bailey for me. I’ve had Darrell Green. too, so I’ve been fortunate. I felt like that was that important because he was going to be matched against one of those guys. And if not, I’d put him outside on the number one and we’d put somebody else in there.”
I think he meant to say you guys have pretty good depth at corner:
ML: “That’d be pretty good, too. That’s a good way to say it.”
How are you health-wise?
ML: “I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Do you think the message of keeping composure after Chicago got through during Pittsburgh game?
ML: “I thought we could do a better job of keeping some more composure, yes. That’s going to be important for us. We’re growing and we’ve got to grow in a hurry because we’re two games in and it doesn’t get any easier. We’re growing, and we can’t beat ourselves, and we’ve got to keep learning from every single opportunity that we have. The penalties in the kicking game are hurting us. Penalties on offense are hurting us. We’ve had two interference penalties on defense, and they’ve hurt us. These things are hurting us. We are hurting ourselves. Somebody mentioned we had three drives of over 80 yards against Chicago, we had another one (against Pittsburgh). If we quit hurting ourselves, we could be at six or seven of those right now.”
AD: “Yeah, that’s correct.”
What did you see when you studied him and what did you try to learn?
AD: “He's one of the best in the game. Just to see what's he doing. What are some of the checks he's making? What are some of the progressions he's going through? What route combinations does he like and do they use a lot? How's he making his plays? He does a really good job of getting outside the pocket, making plays when things aren't exactly how you want them. Getting outside, his receivers do a good job of working when the play breaks down. Just different things like that.”
Were you a little overly excited Monday night?
AD: “Yeah, I was. Some of the balls were coming out a little high. But I settled down when I needed to, and we had some big drives that helped us win the game.”
Do you go into this game thinking it could be a shootout?
AD: “Absolutely. They're an offense than can score a lot, and can score really quick. When you've got a quarterback like they do … Aaron is one of the best in the game. They've done a really good job offensively there, and they score a lot of points. The offense has to come to play this week. We've got to do whatever we can to keep scoring, keep drives going, get some long drives against them to keep their offense off the field.”
What are your thoughts on their defense?
AD: “They've got some really good players on the defensive side. Clay (Matthews) does a really good job of disrupting plays, has good instincts, great job rushing the passer, making big plays for them. They've got guys that have really played well. We've got to be at our best.”
How does having both Giovani Bernard and
AD: “They're two different style of guys. Benny's a guy that gets the tough yards, really does a good job in pass protection, the run game. Then we have Gio, who's a different kind of back, catches the ball really well, really quick, shifty. So it's good to have both of those guys. Those two guys really bring a lot for us. Like you said, what we didn't have for the last couple of years.”
Was the one to Gio on Monday night one of the easiest touchdown throws you’ve ever had?
AD: “Yeah. I said this after the game: It's nice just to be able to throw a three-yard checkdown and have him take it for a touchdown. Explosive plays, that's what he brings for us.”
What did it mean to have Andrew Whitworth back?
AD: “It was good to have him back in the lineup. He's one of the big leaders on this team, a guy that's been around for a long time, a guy that's played in a lot of games. So it's good to have him back out playing. But when (
Do the Steelers and Packers run pretty much the same defensive scheme?
AD: “There's some similarities to what they're doing. It's not exactly the same, but there's definitely some similarities.”
Is that helpful at all to you when preparing for the Packers?
AD: “Yeah. It's definitely going to help us out. When you watch film, you can say, 'OK, this is how we're going to handle it, like we did last week against the Steelers.' So from that aspect, you can get some advantages going into the week.”
Are their coverages and zone blitzes similar?
AD: “There are some that are similar and there are some that they do differently. Every team's kind of got their own little wrinkles. It's not exactly the same as what we just saw. But there are some similarities.”
What’s next for you after beating Pittsburgh at home? What’s the next challenge?
AD: “Well, we've got to keep winning games. I think that's the biggest thing. I can't worry about anything else but winning. As long as we do that, a lot of good things will happen for this team.”
With the Packers having such an explosive offense, is there more of an emphasis on you guys moving the chains and holding onto the ball?
AD: “Yeah, I think there's going to be a big emphasis on third downs, picking up first downs, keeping the clock going, keeping the ball in our possession, and when we get to the red zone, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. When you're playing an offense like this, you want to take advantage of every chance you get and get points as much as you can.”
Is the best defense against them what you did against the Steelers, to keep the ball for 35 minutes?
AD: “That's a big part of it. If we can win time of possession, not turn the ball over and play well, I think we'll have a good chance.”
How important is it to not have turnovers?
AD: “You don't want to turn the ball over. If you win the turnover battle, you're going to win most of the games. We won the turnover battle; we had two takeaways and they didn't have any. That was big for us. It gave us a chance to not give them the ball another time. If you win the turnover battle, you have more of a chance to win the game.”
Is there a guy on Green Bay’s defense that you have to account for on every play similar to Troy Polamalu?
AD: “I think, there's not a guy in the back end that does what Troy does. Troy's doing his own thing out there a lot of the time. But you obviously have to know where Clay Matthews is. He's kind of going to be all over. He'll be walk-back as a linebacker, down as a rusher, so you've got to know where he is.”
How improved is the offensive line? You’ve only been sacked one time in two games:
AD: “I feel like we've done a good job. The more guys play, they're seeing things easier, they're seeing things quicker. We feel like we've done a good job not only in the passing game, but in the running game as well.”
When Whitworth is out there, does he bring more of a calming influence over everyone?
AD: “He brings leadership. He's a guy that's been around for a long time, a guy that's been part of this team for many years. Guys kind of know what we're getting with him. Guys respond to him being in there. Good to see him back out there.”
How good was it to see
AD: “It was good. Obviously in the first game, he had a really costly turnover. He didn't let that carry over into this game. He played well.”
What’s your confidence and comfort level with the two tight ends?
AD: “We feel like we've got matchups with those guys. Those are big, physical guys that catch the ball really well, and are good after the catch. They're a big part of this offense.”
How have the two tight ends made life easier for you?
AD: “It is nice having both of those guys. You feel like with the matchups you can get with the different formations, with putting guys in different spots, we feel like it's really going to help us out. It's good to have. The personnel that's going in this year might be a little different than it was the last couple of years. It's all because of the matchups we can get.”