Q: What stands out to you about the Lions defense ? CP: "They've definitely given up some points and some yards in the past. We've played against their coordinator a number of times. That Tennessee style – they run a lot of different looks, a lot of different pressures. It's one of those games where communication is key, being on the same page all the way across the line, receivers seeing hots (hot routes), us executing when we have those hots. And the same thing holds true, though: we've got to come out and run the ball. We pride ourselves on being a more physical group up front. It's one thing to do it, but you've got to go out and prove it, and we've got to go out and do it week-in and week-out. We have 100 percent faith, and I have 100 percent faith in our guys are going to go out and prove it. We've got to be physical up front."
Q: Since the Lions have been susceptible to giving up a lot of yards and points, is it going to be tempting to want to throw more against them this week? CP: "No, we're going to go about our game plans. You can't say you're not going to do one thing or the other, it depends on what the defense gives you. But we've been a very effective team running the football. That's what's gotten us to the point where we are right now. It's not just putting up points and numbers, it's more about a team win, and when we run the football, we keep our defense fresh. And when our defense is fresh, they don't let the offense move the ball. When we can keep them on the sideline and control the line of scrimmage and control the time of possession, that's when we're at our best as a team. Maybe not offensively putting up numbers, but we're not worried about putting up certain numbers. We've taken heat for that, but it's been a winning formula for us, and it's been a winning formula in this league. We're going to go about our business the way we have for the past however many weeks. If the pass is there, we'll take it. But we're run-first and a physical group."
Q: Would you have had the same attitude five or six years ago about being content with a run-based offense, or is that something that you have grown into throughout your career?CP: "I've said it time and time again, I'd love to go out and throw the ball all over the place like it's a seven-on-seven drill. But whatever helps us and puts us in position to win. If that's running the football, I'm more than happy with it."
Q: Would you have been happy five or six years ago with this run-first style? CP: "Five or six years ago we were a different team. Completely. Offensively, defensively. There's really no comparison. We used to be a run-second, pass-first and take a bunch of shots, but that was five years ago."
Q: You guys have had success so far this year passing and scoring against two NFC North defenses in Green Bay and Chicago: CP: "Yeah, I mean that's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is all four teams in that division are all different. They may play against each other twice a year, but they're all different teams and they all pose different threats offensively and defensively. Like I said, we're going to go about our business the way we go about our business, which is playing great defense, controlling the time of possession and running the football. We'll take our shots when we get our opportunities, but so far our opportunities have been running the ball, and if they give us the run, we're going to stick with it."
Q: Do you think physicality is now a trademark of this team, whereas you may not have been viewed that way in the past?CP: "I can't speak to never. I've only been here for seven years. But I definitely think in my seven years here, this is the most physical group we've had. Especially up front, at the tailback position, and now our receivers have really bought in and really stepped up the blocking. It was really evident last week. We had 10 guys on 10. There was one free guy, but that's the situation we want to put our running backs in. The free guy's a safety. He's got to make a move on the safety, and everybody else is covered."
Q: How much is the run-first offensive strategy due to the success the defense is having? CP: "Hugely. I talk to Paul Guenther and Coach Zimmer, and they say that if we get 17 points, we're good. We keep them fresh. We keep them in the spirit where they feel like we have to go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out. We keep that mentality on our defense where they can go three-and-out against anybody. If we're going three-and-out, our defense is consistently on the field. We try to keep them fresh, try to control the field position to put the opposition offense in a situation where they have to go 80 (yards) to score. There's not many offenses that can do that against our D. The more we help them out, the more they help us out. It's a winning formula."
Q: Would it be safe to say this is the most confident you've been in your defense since you've been here?CP: "Absolutely."
Q: Does it feel different to have Cedric Benson in the backfield, as opposed to when Larry Johnson or Bernard Scott is back there? CP: "I think so. Those guys know what they're getting from Ced (Cedric Benson). Ced has proved it since he's been here a year and a half. You give him a little bit of a crease, he's always going to fall forward, or he's going to find that crease or run people over. He's going to wear a defense down. He's going to make defensive backs sore if he gets one-on-one with them. It's been like that that since he's been here. There's a little bit of excitement to see him. I'm fired up to get him back there because he's fun to hand off the ball to and watch him go, and fun to watch on the highlight film when we get ready for the next opponent. I'm excited to have him back. I'm sure the offensive line is, because you know what you're getting with Ced."
Q: Brian Leonard has made a lot of key contributions to this offense, especially on third downs: CP: "He's been tremendous. We've put him in situations where he's had to block the 3-4 linebacker against Pittsburgh, and 3-4 backers against Baltimore. He can do it. He can block a D-end if he has to. If there's a certain call made on the offensive line, he can cut a three-technique and do anything you expect, where you put a tight end back there or a big physical running back. He can do all that. What he does once he gets out of the backfield is special. He can make a number of plays that have won games, that have extended drives. He's made plays that he shouldn't, whether it be breaking a tackle or jumping over a guy for a first down. Somehow keeping his balance and falling forward to get five yards on third-and-four. It's been a real good combination of keeping him in the backfield to max protect and get him one-on-one with linebackers and safeties on routes."
Q: If the situation presents itself late in the season where you could be rested for the playoffs, would you be in favor of sitting out a game or two, or would you want to play in order to stay sharp?CP: "I, and us as a team, would rather play. Just to not get out of it. During a bye week, sometimes you get out of it. Sometimes you're a little rusty coming back, even though you've played so many games throughout your career, and so many games in a season that at the end of the season you've already played 20 games, including pre-season. Plus our guys like to play football. We have a blast playing with each other. And there's something definitely to be said about getting guys healthy. If there are guys that aren't banged up it's hard to sit them, and that's a tough decision. But if you're healthy as a whole and you're on a roll, you want to keep that roll going into the playoffs."
Q: Hypothetically, if you are 100 percent health-wise going into training camp, at about what percentage would you generally be going into December?CP: "It completely depends on the year, the previous week, the previous month. You hope to be 100 percent. It's pretty rare, but it just depends on how your season is going."
Q: As you enter December this season, what would you say your percentage is health-wise?CP: "100 percent."
Q: How much has Maurice Purify developed in the offense? CP: "He's coming along. He's been great just watching him. He wasn't active for awhile – the first eight or nine weeks – but he looked great in scout team, going against Leon (Hall) and Johnathan (Joseph), two of the top cover corners in the league. He's gotten his fair share of shots on those guys, and they've obviously gotten their shots in on him. He's proven he can do it against two of the better guys in the league. They go 100 percent every day, so he's getting good looks from them. He needs more reps, like any young guy, especially a guy who hasn't played in a couple years. He's been on the practice squad and inactive. He's got all the talent and the capabilities of being an NFL receiver. He just needs more reps, and he's growing into that role. If you watch him play on special teams, you know he's a football player. He'll come in on the run game and block a safety, a linebacker, a D-linemen that he has to crack block. He can kind of do everything. He's still got surprising speed, because he's 6-5 with a long stride and can run by people."
Q: You have a two-game lead in the division with five games left in the season. At what point do you start looking at the bigger picture with things like home-field and a first-round bye? CP: "All we're looking on is one game at a time, and that's all you can do. It's hard not to start thinking about a first-round bye or home-field advantage, but this team is extremely focused and all our energy is on Detroit, and that's all it needs to be on. Next week, it will be Minnesota, and then San Diego or whoever it is. Right now, it's Detroit. When we get to Game 16, we'll be worried about the Jets. As soon as you start looking past people in this league, you get beat. We've seen that happen to us a number of times. We'll focus on each game as it goes."
Q: There has been a lot of talk lately about concussions in the NFL. How would players welcome the idea of an outside entity coming in to evaluate players with concussions?CP: "I have no idea. I think it really depends on each guy independently. I saw something on it where somebody was saying where they've fudged some information to a doctor to play. There's definitely guys that will do that. There's definitely guys that will worry about the long-term effects and take time off if they think they need to. It depends on each independent player."