Q. You’re up to No. 5 in rushing. Are you proud of that ranking?
The importance of rankings is where you finish. We’re off to a good start, but we’ve only played four games. Too much was made of our run game in the past, and even more is being made of it now. We want to be balanced. Each game plan is different and specific to the opponent. Our players did a very good job of executing the specific things we needed to do against Detroit to have success in the run game. We need to continue to build off of that focus and success. Our backs are doing a much better job, but it’s a combination of the runners and the run-blocking unit.
Q. How’d you do it so quickly?
Anytime you have success, it’s important to give credit to the right people, and that’s the players. We adjusted our schemes and we took a hard look at all aspects of our offense. We changed some things in the run game, and our players have been working on those changes since April. The players have done a good job executing in these first four games. A standard has been set and we have to continue to meet and exceed the standard.
Q. Are you going to be able to overcome the injuries at linebacker?
Yes. I never want to see our players get injured, and when we have multiple players injured at the same position, it’s a challenge. I have great faith in Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington. Jamari has done a very good job on special teams. He’s prepared and has been waiting for this opportunity. Sam needs to take a big step, especially on special teams. Based on Clay’s status, we’ll also prepare Nate Palmer on the outside. We’ve had to play some younger players a little earlier in the season than we thought, particularly at defensive back with Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward being out, but that’s the way the NFL goes. It happens every year and there are always challenges. I have great confidence in our players.
Q. What did you like on defense on Sunday?
I liked the attitude, I liked the edge and I loved the pursuit. There are multiple pictures on film of five, six or seven hats on the ball. Our defense did an excellent job of controlling the line of scrimmage and playing with good leverage. We had a couple of missed tackles, but for the most part it was a good tackling day. They stayed true to their keys. Limiting Reggie Bush’s production was definitely a focus of ours, and the game plan was adjusted with the absence of Calvin Johnson. I just liked the way our defense flew around.
Q. You mentioned stepping up to another level. What’s the next level?
Playing a total football game. If you look at the first four games, Detroit was the first time we played a total game. The style of play in all three areas was evident from start to finish. Whether it was the way the offense was running the ball or the way the defense was swarming to the football, or Mason Crosby’s big day – it really was our first complete performance.
Q. What happened in the red zone?
Red-zone production starts with how many times we get there, and I’m pleased with the number of attempts we’ve had. We’re creating a lot of opportunities with our offensive flow, and we need to keep that up. We need to get as many at-bats as possible. Secondly, it comes down to execution. It’s the little things, such as a route or protection. We have an excellent package down there schematically and challenge our opponents with the way we attack them. We’re just not quite there yet with our execution.
Q. Are you seeing signs of opponents showing an increased respect for your running game?
Yes. Last year, Detroit played us with split safeties defense the vast majority of the time (84%). This year we saw more three-shell coverage, with a single-high safety in the middle of the field and the other safety down near the line of scrimmage in normal down-and-distance. I do believe they respected the run more.
Q. What did Eddie Lacy do well on Sunday?
Eddie did a really good job with his reads and decisions. His second-level running wasn’t quite where it needed to be in the first half, but he came on really strong in the second half. The most impressive part of his game was his pass protection. He did an excellent job helping out our tackles and guards by chipping and getting out for the checkdowns. Eddie definitely took a step forward.
Q. How about your offensive line?
Excellent. A very good performance. Our interior three played very well, especially our guards. T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton had their finest performances of the year against one of the biggest challenges they’ll face. I was very pleased overall with the offensive line. We ran the ball well, and Aaron was protected with a good pocket pretty much the whole day.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Ravens?
They’re the defending world champions. They’re holding the belt right now, and everybody is giving them their best shot. It will be no different when we go there. They’re a very well-coached football team and an uncommon opponent. Because of that, we’ll have to increase our film study this week. This will be a tough, hard-nosed football game on the road, and we need a road win.
To see previous editions of Tuesdays with McCarthy, click here.