Initial comments:** ML: "After reviewing the the game, the area that played a huge factor was third down. At halftime we were two-of-four and they were eight-of-11. They were lighting it up. We didn't finish much better offensively through the second half of the game, but we did make some key ones and some significant ones. They were five-of-eight in the second half. We ended up with a couple of key stops. You look inside that and know that they scored three touchdowns on third down, which is significant. Our inability to make a play and their ability to make a play would have had another huge impact had we been more successful. As we sit in here each week, we know how important turnovers and takeaways are. If you take those out of the equation (the Detroit game was even), now you go to third down, which is usually significant, and or explosive plays. We were able to make an explosive play yesterday that was big. They had a 50-yard explosive play and another third-down explosive play, and we had the big catch by Tyler (Eifert). Those things were critical in the football game."
When you're even in the turnover ratio, you're 4-0. When that factor has been eliminated, you're executing in the other phases well enough to win football games:
ML: "The blocked field goal was a huge turnaround (at Detroit). You take three points off the board, and it set us up field position-wise. That's something that sometimes gets taken for granted. We have to keep working hard at that. Mike (Nugent) misses a kick that we're basically counting as money. We've got to be more consistent there. We've missed a couple this year that we've not ever missed before. We've got to keep being more consistent there, and he's just got to free his mind and let it go. Just keeping the pressure on, we got good pressure on the punter in the times we wanted to, and I think that was significant. We had Michael Boley and Carlos (Dunlap) both keep pressure on the punter all day. Those were significant plays and they have an effect as the day goes on, when he feels people around him all the time."
On the blocked field goal that Dunlap had, I don't think I've seen a guy get knocked back as far as James Harrison knocked his guy back:
ML: "James Harrison was very significant in creating the space there for Carlos to make the play. It's the whole execution of the entire team at work there, and Reggie (Nelson) not being asleep and picking it up. He tried to do too much with it (attempting a lateral during his return that Bengals recovered). We want to maintain the football in that situation."
Your special teams when you've needed them have done exactly what they're supposed to:
ML: "We're going to keep coaching them hard. That's what we have to do. We know a lot of new players that weren't even on this team a year ago are taking the majority and the bulk of those snaps. We just have to keep coaching and encouraging and remind the coaches every time we meet how significant that. The other coaches are involved, auxiliaries to Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons), and they all have to remember how important it is when you're coaching a certain guy or phase. We can't let that go unnoticed--the urgency of it, the technique of it and the execution of it."
The two biggest signings in the offseason might be Mike Nugent and Kevin Huber:
ML: "We knew they would be huge, and Kevin has had a really good year. We're asking Kevin to do special things with the ball, and he's delivering. That's great. Every time you see the returner catch a ball on the boundary and step out of bounds, Kevin's done his job again. That's what we want all the time. We want that ball pinned to the boundary as much as we can. He doesn't get the opportunity like some guys just to stand back there and boom the football. We want that ball put in certain spots all the time. It's important when we do that."
In a game like that, Kevin having a 47-yard average when you're in a dogfight like that is huge, right?
ML: "It's big. Just the execution of it, giving our guys an opportunity to get down and tackle that returner, pin that returner and minimize the yards on returns."
Clark Harris was significant, too, on that last punt, getting down there and downing it:
ML: "Clark gets down and downs the football, we get a good release there, and we got a good opportunity, and Kevin put it where it belonged. It's all parts of the play, and we've done that two weeks in a row now. We know Kevin is very good at that, and we work really hard at that. We have to keep that going. It's part of the winning formula that we have going on."
With that push penalty in the Jets-Patriots game, how often do you guys revisit new rules like that beyond when the officials come in during camp?
ML: "Weekly. And that's not players figuring it out themselves."
There seem to have been a lot of offensive pass interference calls this season:
ML: "We're having college football plays evolve into the NFL, with the wide receiver screens and so forth. Their rules are different. All the time, you end up coaching guys up on the execution of them. The one we had called frankly, if we executed right, it's going to be fine. But that's part of the thing, we're having some of these plays that stretch and go beyond what our rules allow, and the officials are doing a good job of the recognition of it. The penalty that was called on A.J., to me was just a no-call. A.J.'s got his hands on the guy just like the guy had his hands on A.J. To me that's an incomplete pass. I don't think their guy interfered. I think that's an incomplete ball, and we're back to third-and-three."
They called another one on A.J. but that was Jermaine Gresham, right?
ML: "Yeah, that was Jermaine."
The call with the defensive holding and the offensive pass interference that offset:
ML: "Well there was a pick over there. They ran the slant flat and picked and ran into us. To get back on the guy, we end up latching on. It was a heated game, a contested game with a lot of balls thrown around there. I guess it was a dream day for fantasy football (laughs). Not for the defensive coordinators, I can tell you that."
During the week do you take a look at the official and the officiating crew to learn their tendencies?
ML: "We educate our guys on it every week. The crews are also educated about us. They don't come into the game blind about what we do offensively and defensively. There's an educational factor that plays throughout. That's what's good. Dean Blandino (of the league office) has done a great job with the communication between the teams and the officials. It's great right now. It's better and it's a positive thing. We just have to get on the plus side of it and keep working at it."
A lot of the DBs were talking about how emotional they were after seeing what happened to Leon Hall. Did you think you had to help those guys get their minds back on the game?
ML: "That's a key. When a guy gets hurt, particularly a good player like that, when a guy knows it looks to be a significant injury, it affects them a little bit. That's why it's called professional football. You're paid to play, so get back to playing."
You always talk about the maturity of this football team. Is that an example of them maturing and being able to handle adversity like that?
ML: "You have to. We keep talking about the same things, reviewing the series by the coaches on the sidelines, and the coordinators, and the position coaches, and previewing the next series, and moving forward, and keeping their minds involved in what's going on. You can't worry about what you don't control or have a say or hand in. You have to focus on what your particular jobs and responsibilities are."
What was your assessment of the passing game yesterday? It seemed like everybody got involved:
ML: "That's what the passing game is. I kind of repeat myself in here, but the quarterback has to deliver the football based on concept and coverage. He did a good job yesterday distributing the football in the one-on-one and what we perceived to be the weakness in their coverage. He got the ball in the right spots and was accurate with it. The couple of balls we didn't get down the field, he got jostled around a little bit where he didn't quite get his feet planted and get it going. We just have to improve in those areas, because we left a couple big plays out there. We've got to do better. It's not the quarterback, generally it's the people around him that have to get him an opportunity to do his job carefree. We were a slight off that on a couple of them yesterday, and he wasn't able to get the ball out there quite where we needed."
Detroit's Matt Stafford is getting the ball out in as many ways as possible. Has he shown that every week now?
ML: "Oh yeah. He's shown that every year. He has put up huge numbers. That's what he does."
He'll change that arm slot and do whatever it takes:
ML: "He's a very accurate thrower. He made the back shoulder throw on the second touchdown he threw. He put the ball right outside the tight end when the tight end made a good catch on the first one, and obviously he was able to come back and reverse his field and throw the ball up for grabs on the last touchdown. Those were all big plays."
Dre Kirkpatrick got thrown into the fire on Sunday. How has he progressed?
ML: "Dre's doing well. He didn't get thrown into the fire. He was expected to play and he got to play. He played a little more and in different spots, but we expected him to have a hand in things. He's doing well."
If Leon's injury is what we expect it to be, do you feel like this DB group is better equipped compared to the time of Leon's injury two years ago?
ML: "We'll have to be. We don't have any other choice. Other than Terence (Newman), we have a lot of the same guys. That's a plus. I do think we've got a couple of guys sitting in the bullpen that should be ready to step in, and that's good."
Do you have to go out and look for someone?
ML: "No, we don't have to look for anybody. We have a couple of guys that have to step up and play now. They've been sitting here on scholarship for a bit, now it's time for them to go. The three hots in the cot, now it's time to pay for play, let's go. We're not going to get anybody off the street that's going to outplay anyone here in the building."
You've been doing very well on challenges and there's a lot of components to that. You're relying on a lot of things. Do you feel good about the information you're getting?
ML: "Yes, I feel very good about it. It's been excellent."
Was there any thought on that second challenge, where it occurred in the game, to maybe not do it?
ML: "The hard part of the second challenge was that it should have been a play that I didn't have to challenge. That was a play that somebody should see. That ball was incomplete. The ball was rolling on the ground. That's not a hard one. The whole thing became so chaotic with the penalty. Their guy was blocking down the field. They were trying to run a shield play where they've got a shield underneath, and it got flushed. It looked like some of their guys thought they were running the screen, and some thought they were running the shield. I think the back got confused, which caused a lot of the issue. The quarterback had the ball in his hand a little longer than he'd like, and at the last second he scrambles and throws. The ball was luckily on the ground. You should've have to waste an opportunity to challenge. It really didn't matter because if I was right, I was going to get the third one anyway."
Jermaine was unfortunately in a situation where he was in contact with an official. Is there any potential repercussion with that or is it over?
ML: "I don't know. It's up to the league."