Q. How do the styles of Eddie Lacy and James Starks complement each other?
Anytime you have two big backs that have two different running styles, it’s a nice advantage for your offense. Eddie is a big man. I don’t think people recognize how good his vision and balance are, and he’s always moving forward. James is more of a downhill slasher, and the pace that James brought into the game in Minnesota was uplifting for us. It’s important to run the football, and when you have two big men running and falling forward, it definitely adds to your production.
Q. What’s made the difference in your offensive line since last year? Is it the left-right switch?
It’s a different offensive line from last year. We have new players at a couple of different positions, and they’ve been able to work together since Family Night, which has allowed them to jell. Josh Sitton is playing excellent football, and T.J. Lang is healthy. We’re seeing what T.J. is all about when he’s able to string together healthy games. Evan Dietrich-Smith is clearly a year better. The inside three are as good as we’ve ever had, and the two young tackles keep getting better. They’re aggressive; they do all the little things you look for in a lineman. As a group, the ability to solidify, grow and mature week to week has been very important for us.
Q. What is it about David Bakhtiari that’s allowed him to be so successful as a rookie?
Number one, David is a talented young man. His approach and professionalism at a young age has helped him transition from college to pro football. That’s a hurdle some players don’t ever get over, or it takes some players longer than others. It’s been very impressive to watch him earn the opportunity to start, and to see him prepare and focus on the fundamentals while stepping up to the challenges put in front of him.
Q. What’s the next level for your defense?
We’re doing a really good job of not surrendering big plays and our run defense has set the tempo. The next level is shutting down an offense by forcing turnovers and finishing in the fourth quarter. We’re doing a lot of good things on defense, especially up front, where it’s supposed to start. Commanding the line of scrimmage is something we’ve been able to do all year and that needs to continue. Our linemen have done a great job of letting our linebackers run and make plays. Our coverage units are doing a good job competing on every throw. We have to continue to stay true to the fundamentals. The key component is for everybody to get healthy and to play with the same guys week in and week out. That always helps any unit.
Q. Your running game is ranked higher than your passing game. Did the earth just move?
I’ve always looked at offensive production as total yards. I’ve always possessed confidence in our players, our scheme and our coaches. If we need to run it, we run it, and if we need to throw it, we throw it. The way it shakes out is a product of our players stepping up and taking advantage of their opportunities. It’s also our coaches doing a great job each week and coming up with a good plan.
Q. How did you do it so quickly? When was the commitment to it made?
We definitely wanted to improve. It goes back to the spring. We went through our scheme evaluation and put some things in we hadn’t had before. It was really the advancement of our offensive line and our quarterback. We felt we could give them more responsibility, and they’ve done a great job with that. We also added some new players. Between the acquisition of players, players taking advantage of their opportunities and some scheme adjustments, we’ve made an impact.
Q. You coached Joe Montana. How are Montana and Aaron Rodgers similar?
They’re both very accurate with the football. They’re also great communicators with their teammates, as far as timing, routes, etc., and being on the same page. They have the full picture of how it all fits together. I learned a lot watching Joe communicate with the receivers, running backs and tight ends, and how he did it within his personality. Aaron has that same attribute. Ball accuracy, the way they communicate, the relationships they have with their teammates, their vision of the field, their ability to make plays in the pocket and out of the pocket. Most importantly, they’re both winners.
Q. The Lions kept the pressure on with a dramatic win. Good thing?
I don’t really pay attention to that. I saw the end of Detroit’s win. It was a great two-minute drive. Anytime I have a chance to watch a game, there are things I look for that I can emphasize with our team. In the four-minute offense, Dallas had that third-and-12 running play, and the result was a critical holding call. It stopped the clock. That’s a hard lesson for any football team. We’re always teaching things about situational football, and how important it is not to hold, particularly on a run play in that situation. If the clock runs down under 30 seconds left there, it’s a whole different situation. It was a great job by Detroit’s offense to go the length of the field and score. They had a couple of big-time throws and heady plays in that sequence.
Q. What are your emotions for and fondest memories of games against the Bears?
It’s important for all of us to respect the history of this game and what it means to the organization, to the fans, and really, to the NFL. It’s the longest rivalry in all of professional football, and I have an appreciation for history. As far as the actual game, we need to prepare and stay focused on our opponent and the changes they’ve made. They have a different coaching staff than in prior years, so you look for the variations in their scheme and how they’re utilizing players we’ve played against in prior years. At the end of the week, we want to make sure we’re focused on winning and that our quality of play is as high as possible. It’s a great game to compete in. There’s a reason we’re on Monday Night Football, and this is a big game for us and our fans.
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