In this week's edition, the head coach discusses coming off the bye week, the joy of coaching in the NFL, and the challenge the Detroit Lions will present, among other topics.
The Festival Foods Facebook question of the week is from Phillip from Eau Claire, WI: What is the key to coming out and playing well after a bye week?
The key is to utilize the extra preparation time. As coaches, we have additional time to game plan and the opportunity to incorporate more ideas. However, it's important to primarily focus on the concepts that our players are familiar with and keep new wrinkles to a minimum. We don't want to do too much schematically. From a player's standpoint, they have to get it cranked back up, and that starts in practice. We got off to a good start on Monday, and while we'll make sure Wednesday and Thursday's practices are a little shorter in length, the energy level and intensity will be heightened. It's important for us to get back to practicing at the proper speed to prepare us for a game. There's nothing like game speed, especially at this stage of the season, and even more so in division games.
Jennifer from Cleveland, TX
After all the years of coaching, is it still as much fun and exciting as when you started?
Absolutely. I love coaching. I love everything about the preparation, gameday and the opportunity to compete. There's nothing like the NFL and working with these extraordinary athletes. The NFL player is a special human being and what they endure physically, mentally and emotionally to play this game is, in my opinion, unrivaled in sports. That's something I have great respect for, and I love being a part of it. I love every aspect of coaching.
Jesse from Des Moines, IA
What is the difference in the team now, coming out of the bye, compared to its 2-3 start? How do you think the team has improved?
The statistics and film definitely illustrate that there are some fundamental areas we've improved upon. However, there is still work to be done. We're a much better tackling team than we've been in the past. We're doing a better job with our fits in run-blocking and run defense. The timing and execution have started to come together in our base fundamentals, forecasting bigger and better things ahead. We have to continue to do the little things, because those are what create the big-play opportunities. Our football team is headed in that direction.
Q. One game back with seven to go. Your thoughts?
You can throw out the first part of that question. Seven games to go is what I'm focused on. I'm not concerned about anybody else in our division. My focus is clearly on the Green Bay Packers, what we're going to do to get better and how we're going to win games. Everything we need to accomplish is right in front of us, and it starts in Detroit. Our theme going into this week and the rest of the way is the division drive. We have five division games in seven weeks, and another NFC contest in New York. Everything we want is in front of us.
Q. Are the Lions the most explosive pass offense you will have played to date?
I would say so. They've put up big numbers and have definitely shown the ability to be very explosive. What's intriguing about their offense is the amount of points they've scored in the fourth quarter. Schematically, they're doing some things differently than they've done in the past. They have excellent players at the skill positions. Stafford can make all of the throws and everybody knows what a threat Calvin Johnson is. However, it's not just those two. They have other good skill-position players and this will be a big challenge for our defense.
Q. You mentioned the Lions as a team on the rise shortly after Super Bowl XLV. What did you see?
Young talent. It's obvious, when you look at the way they've built their team over the last few years. They have a lot of high draft picks and a lot of talented players on their team. It was no surprise that they were a playoff team last year, and it's no surprise that they're definitely one of the tougher teams we'll face.
Q. Have your players returned from the bye healthier?
For the most part. We still have some guys that are not quite where they need to be. We had a chance to look at some guys in Monday's practice, and they'll go through more rehab this week. Hopefully we'll get more good news on Wednesday and get some of these guys back on the practice field.
Q. What are the ingredients for a team getting hot late in the season?
If anyone could identify it and bottle it up, they'd be a rich man. The times in my career when the team was playing well down the stretch could be attributed to fundamentals and confidence. When a team's fundamentals are sound and confidence is high, that equates to big production. I believe we're headed in that direction.
Q. If you were addressing the fans this week, what would you tell them?
One game at a time. It's very important to keep the focus clearly on what's in front of us. That's our overall theme for this week. We're talking about the drive for the division, but our ultimate intangible is focus. Everything we need to concern ourselves with is in Detroit. There's nothing else to worry about. It's very natural in November and December to take notice of what's happening around us, but it won't be a distraction. If we take care of what's in front of us, we will accomplish everything we desire.
Q. What are the benefits of draft-and-develop, as they pertain to replacing injured players?
The benefits of draft-and-develop are that you're dealing with younger players that possess higher levels of endurance and the ability to practice more. Their habits are the habits that we've created and trained them to exhibit. They possess the mindset that there's one way to do things. The counter argument is we don't have the experience we would benefit from by relying on veterans, but there are positives and negatives with every approach. Draft-and-develop is our philosophy and it's an approach that we excel at and are committed to. We'll lean on that philosophy as we move forward through this phase of injuries.
To see previous editions of "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.