Opening Comments:ML: "After watching the tape from yesterday, I'm pleased. First of all, defensively with the line of scrimmage, I thought for the most part our guys did a nice job. On the perimeter, our two corners really played well in coverage. There's some things we always want to do better, and we've got to keep working at that. I thought our safeties played a pretty heady ballgame. We did a nice job and got people in the right spots. Defensively yesterday, we had two missed tackles throughout the game. That's a good game tackling, which was a key as they checked the ball down underneath a couple of times. Special teams-wise, although we didn't have our best game of the year punting the ball, things worked out well. I thought we did a nice job in coverage. We had the one penalty in the return game, but otherwise we executed not badly. Quan (Cosby) did a nice job getting up and catching the ball in the punting game, and playing the other plays out that proved to be touchbacks. With Shayne (Graham), the wind got one kickoff and pushed it toward our sideline there, but other than that, he did a pretty good job all day. The 53-yard field goal, obviously, before halftime was a big play and a big kick.
"Offensively, it was a day where they just run, boom, right into you, and you're trudging along, and we just didn't move them as well as some people. But they were big, strong guys up front and we didn't quite get the same movement we've gotten other times. We were productive in the running game. We weren't as sharp and efficient at other times in the passing game, and it hurt us when we missed a couple of third-down throws, and we missed a couple of second-down throws, and our penalties got us off track a little bit. We have to be sharper in the passing game and execute, particularly in the red zone, because we left some points out there. In those areas, we can always look to go back and improve. It will be a big week to hone in on those things, and get better in those areas.
"Injury-wise, we came out of the game decently healthy. Bernard (Scott) tweaked his foot, and he was initially diagnosed as possibly a turf toe. Right now we have him in a normal procedure in a boot to keep pressure off of things. Domata (Peko) missed a little bit of time in the third quarter with his knee, and he came out of the game. He's no worse for the wear, today. We'll have Keith Rivers' services this week. Evan Mathis was able to suit (be on the active roster) last week. Cedric (Benson) will be back. Cedric will go ahead and start the game this week. He should be ready to go and start the football game. I think that's good to be in a good spot where we are with our running back situation. That'll be good."
Q: Do you have to figure out a way to divvy up the carries between all of the running backs? ML: "The only thing I have to figure out is how to win the game. Right? I have one job. That's win the football game."
Q: As it stands today, your defense is No. 1 in points allowed and No. 3 in rushing yards allowed:ML: "They're doing a good job. We have to be consistent, consistent, consistent. This season has played out a little bit like last year. In the beginning, we gave up some big plays. At the beginning of the year, and similar to what we did in '08, we gave up some explosive plays. We've done a nice job as of late of not allowing explosive plays. We have to continue with that. That helps you play better scoring defense, which is important. Right now, it's enabled us to go in the football game and feel pretty good about limiting the scores, and we need to continue to do a good job that way."
Q: With the way you structure the 45-player active roster on Sundays, with activating players who are dedicated strictly to special teams, is it likely all four halfbacks could play on Sunday?ML: "There's a chance of it. I'll make that decision later in the week, if not Sunday. I just met with the coaches and let them know my plans and my thoughts on this week. We'll go through the week and re-evaluate it tomorrow, and take it possibly on Friday again, and go forward. We'll make that call later. But yeah, there is a possibility."
Q: That's not an easy decision:ML: "The flexibility we have is we're getting great snaps from guys in positions where you sometimes don't get good snaps and production. Darrin (Simmons) and the position coaches have done an outstanding job of training our young players that, if you want to play on Sunday, you better have a significant role in the kicking game. If you're not a 50-snap guy on offense or defense, and even if you are, you may have a significant role. When you start that way from the ground up, you're able to get some production from guys in areas you sometimes don't. We're getting it from the defensive backfield group. We're getting it from our starting linebackers and our backups. We're getting it from the receiving corps, and out of the running back group. We're making a significant impact that way. We're getting productive snaps from offensive and defensive linemen in the return game. We're stealing some snaps. Every week there's 24 to 30 snaps in the kicking game, and we're really stealing some productive snaps from guys that way. That has helped us to have more flexibility to go heavier in one spot if that helps the game plan on offense or defense. We have done that on the defensive line, in the secondary and at linebacker, based on injury."
Q: After watching the film, how did Andre Smith look in his first game?ML: "Andre finished better than he started, which is always our key. That's what we're shooting for every week with everybody, and he held true to form. So it's good to get him in there and get him going. Again, we'll see what happens this week as we go through things. But it was a good start for him, and hopefully I can keep him up and playing and getting more and more opportunity."
Q: What's the importance of having a capacity crowd for the upcoming home game against the Lions?ML: "Well, obviously the crowd yesterday was fantastic, and it has an effect on the opposing team, it really does. You saw them have to take timeouts. You saw them with a procedure penalty late in the game where they're down by two scores and they get the ball back with four minutes, or whatever it was, to go. So those things are significant.
"Obviously (regarding a possible sellout for Detroit), it's tough economic times. I realize that, and I think everybody realizes that. But this is a good thing going on right now. The guys are playing good football. We play hard. It would be great, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But it's a very cool thing (to have a full stadium) and hopefully everybody gets here and has a great time on Sunday, because that's what we started out to do when we got started in 2003 (to begin the current 50-game sellout streak), and we're still trying to do it in 2009."
Q: You have said that sweeping the AFC North doesn't really mean anything, but how difficult is it go unbeaten in the division considering the caliber of teams playing in it?ML: "I think it's difficult. I know it's difficult because of what we were just talking about – homefield advantage is very difficult in this division. You've got sold out stadiums in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore each and every week, so to go in there and win on the road is very, very difficult. Our football team was able to do that this year. It's tough, physical football. You know how it's going to be, it's going to be a slugfest. You can't give up an explosive play, because if you give up an explosive play it puts you behind the eight-ball. Then, you're out of sequence a little bit and you have to find a way to make one yourself, and they're tough to come by in this division, as are 18-play drives. They find a way to get you off sequence a little bit, some way, somehow. So it's a difficult thing. It enables us to have a great opportunity this week and continue to control our own destiny, and I think that's a part of it."
Q: Running the ball and stopping the run has been the formula for success in this division for a long time. You're seventh in rushing offense, and third against the run on defense. You guys seem to play playing into that formula:ML: "You watch football week in and week out, and so do the people in this room. You see what happens, that's why there's no cause for alarm. You know the formula works. If you do those things, you're productive and you don't turn it over, you have a great opportunity to win. There were games this year where we've turned the football over, and we've lost – other than the Denver game, and we had a couple in that game. But even in the preseason games. When you turn it over, you lose, and that's the way it goes. It doesn't change. It's a hard thing to make up for, not having the football. If we get turnovers on defense and give the ball back to our offense, that makes us that much more productive. Yesterday, we weren't able to get any. But we've just got to keep staying at it, and keep our head down and chop wood, and good things will happen. Keep batting balls in the air and getting deflections and stripping at the ball, and we'll get some. When we get them, they'll come like they did a few weeks ago, they'll come in bunches. But right now, this week, we didn't have any and we've got to get back after it and get some, because that will put more pressure on the opposing team."