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Lions' Schwartz and Stafford Talk Saints

Lions HC and QB

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Detroit Lions Coach Jim Schwartz
Conference Call with New Orleans MediA
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can you just start with your thoughts on Sunday's game…

"We have been a good road team this year. We have played at some very difficult places. The Metrodome in Minnesota is about as loud as it can get. Dallas is a tough place to play. We were fortunate enough to come out with wins. We know how difficult it is New Orleans. We opened there two years ago. It will be a primetime crowd. It will be loud and the Saints have a lot of success playing at home. They are an 8-3 team and we are a 7-4 team. A big win on the road would pull us even and put us ahead when it comes to a tiebreaker. Obviously it is a big game for us."

Are you anxious to see how your team responds to almost a playoff-type atmosphere that Sunday night presents?

"We aren't going to try to do anything other than win the game. I am anxious to see them respond to a great offense, great defense, dangerous returners and things like that. That is the most important thing – the New Orleans Saints. It's not the time of the year, the atmosphere, the game or the playoff implications. It's Drew Brees, (Marques) Colston, Jimmy Graham…good gracious you could keep naming those guys for a half hour."

In general, do you feel like the increase in personal foul penalties is too many and or something you have to make your players more aware of?

"Our approach is that players play, coaches coach and officials officiate. People in the league office handle discipline and things like that. It's not our job to critique what is called or how it is called. It's our job to find a way not to get flagged and to still play tough and physical and play with great effort. We really don't worry too much about those kinds of things. Our job is to play and coach. We don't worry about how something is officiated."

Has it become more challenging to still play tough with those rules in mind?

"I think across the league, the NFL has taken a stance regarding players' safety. It makes it very difficult for defensive players who end up having a 'helmet-to-helmet' or something like that that they are not trying to get but everyone is responsible for what happens on the field. You have strike zones when it comes to hitting quarterbacks and hitting receivers down the field. You add to the fact that the officials are going to err on the side of players' safety. It changes a little bit but it is our job to adjust to that and play without getting penalties as it is for everybody in the NFL."

Has WR Calvin Johnson developed into more of a leader?

"Calvin has always had leadership characteristics. He is a very quiet guy but he is an extremely hard worker. He is one of the hardest workers on our team. There are a lot of examples of diva wide receivers in the NFL and Calvin couldn't be more opposite of that. He is a very humble guy. He is a very hardworking guy and a great player. He can do a lot of different things. His leadership comes from the example that he sets both on and off the field. The consistency that he plays and practices. He knows when he is on the field he affects the game. Calvin has always been an easy going guy and is very quiet but when he gets on the field, he is extremely competitive. Some people get fooled by his off –the-field demeanor. He is a very strong competitor. When you see him on the practice field he is always diving for catches and leaving his feet. It makes you cringe as a coach sometimes but you can't coach that out of him. It's in him to make the catch and be competitive. You see that on Sundays."

The 2009 game against the Saints was QB Matt Stafford's first NFL game. Obviously he has come very far since that game but is he eager for this return trip?

"I don't think you have a good feel for Stafford. He is certainly not thinking of things that happened two years ago in a negative way. Matt is an extremely smart guy. He learns from everything that happens. This will be his second time going against a Gregg Williams coached defense. When you are a veteran player at the quarterback position part of your comfort level is the fact that you have been in situations, with different teams and you get a feel for how people want to play and attack. I think those things add to Matt's experience and help him. We don't worry too much about things that happened (in the past). We don't have many players that are on the team that were on the team then."

Do you feel that the Packers and Saints are similar and if so does it help you that you face them back to back?

"I think they are different. They are completely different schemes. I think the things that are similar are very efficient quarterbacks that can not only run the offense but also make big plays. They can stay out of trouble and don't take very many lost yardage plays. They also have tremendous confidence to fit balls in. There are some throws that Brees and Rodgers will make that a lot of quarterbacks wouldn't risk. They trust their receivers. They trust their playmakers. Both teams have a lot of playmakers at a lot of different positions. The Saints leading receiver is a tight end (Jimmy Graham) and Darren Sproles is the NFL's leading receiver on third down. They have four different receivers that all have roles and can make plays. They all sort of fit different in their offense. Green Bay is probably the same way. Their schemes are different but they both have good quarterbacks and multiple playmakers. They are not just one-trick ponies. There are a lot of different places they can go and they are fairly balanced when it comes to run and pass. It makes you work defensively to try to keep points off the board."

How similar or different is this year's Saints team to the 2009 team?

"Obviously the quarterback is the same. Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles are similar type players in that offense. (Jeremy) Shockey was the marque tight end and now it's Jimmy Graham. The faces change but Sean Payton is still there. Drew Brees is still there. Those fingerprints are all over it. There are some similarities but this game will have nothing to do with what happened two years ago in the opener."

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Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford
Conference Call
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you excited about playing in a big December game that could be similar to a playoff atmosphere?
"Yes, absolutely.  Anytime you come down to New Orleans and play there, it's always a great atmosphere.  The fans do a great job of giving the hometown team some support.  It's going to be a big challenge for us.  It's obviously on Sunday Night Football.  They're going to be excited and ready to go as we will too.  We're excited.  It's going to be a fun game."

Do you remember coming here for your first start a couple of years ago and do you draw on those memories?
"You watch the film of it and try to forget about it.  It wasn't a great game for myself or our team, but I remember that game.  It's obviously a game of different circumstances.  We're excited.  The Saints are playing great football right now.  They have a great record and it's going to be a big challenge for us."

Is the film of Monday night's game against New York more relevant for you now?
"Obviously, it's more relevant than my first start there.  I think they did a great job.  The Giants have a lot of playmakers and they can run the football extremely well, and they did a great job of shutting them down and still taking away the big plays.  Gregg (Williams) has that defense playing really well right now and they're playing at a very high level."

Can you tell from the film if the noise from the crowd affects communication at the line of scrimmage?
"I don't think so much of watching film as much as watching the games.  They had to get real close to the offensive linemen to try to make calls and things like that.  Obviously any time you're playing an away game, communication is paramount."

Can you talk about your appreciation for Calvin Johnson?
"Everybody sees the physical tools that he has and the plays that he makes on Sundays.  What separates him I think from some of the other guys in this league is his work ethic.  Everything he does is full speed, one hundred percent.  All of our receivers and our skill position guys look up to that, and I appreciate it a ton."

What has the mindset of the team been in these last five games?
"I think it's in a good spot.  I think we understand it's go time.  It's time for us to put the pedal to the metal and start playing our best football at this time of the year.  That's what great teams do.  If you want to make the playoffs, you have to do it on Sundays.  You have to prove it and I think that's where our mentality is right now."

Going back to the first time you faced a Gregg Williams defense, what was so hard about being a young player and playing that type of defense?
"The toughest thing really was when I was a rookie that was his first game really coordinating (the Saints).  You really didn't have a lot of film to look back on.  You didn't really have a lot of tendencies to try to find what he liked to do with his personnel in New Orleans.  Now you look back on that and you have two full seasons of film and can understand what he's trying to do and how he's putting his players in great positions to excel."

Do you ever find yourself just throwing the ball up to Calvin Johnson even when he has coverage around him?
"You follow your progression, but at the same time you may give Calvin a couple more chances a game than you might give somebody else.  I think the Saints have a guy with similar leaping ability and size in (Jimmy) Graham.  There are times especially in the red zone where you're going to put a ball up and let a guy go make a play, not at the expense of making a poor decision, but one-on-one good coverage doesn't mean you don't give a guy a chance."

Do you have any thoughts on the SEC Championship game this weekend?
"I'm excited to watch it.  It's going to be a good game.  I think both teams match up pretty well against each other.  It's going to be a big test for our young wide receivers to go out there against a great secondary.  Our quarterback is playing pretty good football right now, and when your quarterback is hot it means a lot."

How does the Ndamukong Suh suspension affect the guys in the locker room?
"The next guy has to step up.  That's the mentality we've had all year.  We're going to stay with it.  We've had injuries all over the field just like every NFL team has, and the teams that battle and understand that the next guy has to step in to play at that same level are the teams that succeed.  We trust the guys that are going to step in for him and we're taking this just like any other game and trying to do our best to get a win."

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