Q: What are your first impressions of the Lions?
BB: I’d say good. They’re pretty good at everything – their record reflects that. Defensively, a real experienced team, strong up front. A lot of experience in the secondary: [Rashean] Mathis and [James] Ihedigbo, Glover Quin, guys like that. They have experience at linebacker, too, with [DeAndre] Levy and [Ashlee] Palmer, [Tahir] Whitehead and a bunch of guys that play in there. [They’re] hard to block up front, very disruptive. A lot of good skill players on offense: quarterback, running backs, tight ends, receivers can score from anywhere; very explosive and solid in the kicking game; good return game. They’ve got the same guys that we talked about on defense that can run. They’ve played in a lot of close games, made a lot of critical plays at critical times to win in all different areas. They’ve been very good when they had to be, made the plays they have to make to win, they’ve won.
Q: With so much attention given to Ndamukong Suh, does it set up plays for guys like Mathis or Levy? It seems to me they play very alertly defensively. Also, their special teams play is very good. That play by Jeremy Ross was amazing even though they called it back. Can you talk about those two factors?
BB: Yeah, sure. I mean, I think defensively Suh is a real disruptive guy. He definitely creates some opportunities for other guys in there, but that’s a good defense – [Ezekiel] Ansah and [Jason] Jones, [C.J.] Mosley has done a good job for [Nick] Fairley. They’ve really, all those guys are hard to handle – [George] Johnson – they roll them all through there and they do a good job with their pressure defenses, bringing linebackers and secondary guys. They do enough to keep you off-balance and they do enough where you can’t really, there’s enough movement up front that you can’t really count on everybody being quite where they are when the ball is snapped. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they’re not. As much as you try to double anybody, say Suh, sometimes you can’t because the guy you would have doubling him has to block a blitzer in pass protection. So, they create some single matchups like that. Yeah, Ross has done a good job for them on punts and kickoffs. They’re, again, another aggressive special teams unit that’s run fakes and has some other plays in the kicking game to keep you off-balance [that] you can’t go to sleep on. They’re aggressive. They’re not afraid to take calculated risks and make plays.
Q: Could you talk about your evolution and thinking regarding your decision almost unilaterally to defer on the opening coin toss? It seems to be a trend going forward, but what is your thinking on it and how it evolved to what you do now?
BB: You know, we’ve done it. But again, it just comes down to each week. We make the decision prior to the game based on all the circumstances that go into the game, what we want to do. Each one is individually based. It’s what we think is best for that particular game based on all the factors that go into the game, so each one is an independent decision. So, that’s how we do it.
Q: You really maximized your red zone opportunities on Sunday and converted about 75 percent of your third downs. How much weight do you put in those two statistics and what might be at the top of the checklist that any team would have to do to have success in those two areas?
BB: Well, yeah, I definitely put them up top, along with turnovers. You talk turnovers, third down and red area, those are big; big situations in the National Football League. They’re critical. We spend a lot of time on all situations, but particularly those. We try to do a good job in preparing our team for what in general to expect in those situations in the red area and third down based on the yardage, the personnel, sometimes the formation and then we obviously do it specifically for each team. If there’s particular, which there always are, but whatever the tendencies are. Again, all the things that go into it, whether it’s their protections, their coverages, their coverage adjustments and other subtle things that are part of all that. Yup, it’s something that we try to devote a lot of time to, starting right from the beginning. Right the start of, probably late in the second week in the offseason and then the second week of OTAs. We started on red area on the first day of training camp, so it’s a priority.
Q: What did you think of the performance of Alan Branch on Sunday night? He got in there a little bit more against the Colts and you guys played well against the run.
BB: I think Alan’s definitely making progress. Just in terms of, he missed most of the – well he was in training camp, but then he missed a big part of the start of the season. In terms of his conditioning and recognizing block reactions and schemes and so forth, I think all those things have gotten better each day in the last few weeks that’s been here, three weeks, whatever’s it been. He’s a smart guy. He obviously has a lot of experience. I don’t think there’s really anything that we’re doing that he hasn’t done before. It’s just fitting it in with our communication and the guys he’s playing with up front and so forth. But I thought he gave us some good plays in the game and we had a little production from there both in the pass rush and in the running game. We’ll keep working on it going forward. The last two games had their own uniqueness to them with what the Broncos did and what Indianapolis did. As we see different teams, different opponents, our situation might change a little bit different. I don’t know. But if it does, that might open up different opportunities for him or somebody else. I’m not sure, but like I said, these two kind of had their own elements to them.
BB: Well, when we do, you’ll be the first to know. We’ll whip it right over there to you and make sure there won’t be any delays in our announcements when anything in his situation, his status, changes.
Q: In terms of receivers blocking, how much progress has Julian Edelmanmade as a blocker in his career? Second, how much did Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell’s ability and willingness to block make them attractive to you?
BB: That’s definitely a part of it. It’s part of the job. A big part of the job is getting open and catching the ball at that position, too, so you don’t want to overstate it, but I do think it’s important. Those guys do a good job of it and it helps our team win. So, it is critical in the big picture, but at the same time, they’ve got to be able to do their job as receivers first and get open and catch the ball. I couldn’t put it ahead of those qualities, but it’s still an important quality to have. As I said, it helps our football team. The better we run the ball, the more it opens up the passing game. I think everybody understands that. They try to do their part in it to make that successful.
Q: What about Julian and his blocking?
BB: Julian is a tough kid. We knew that right from the beginning. He’s always been a very willing blocker. Technique and angles and really understanding where the running play is intended to go based on what happens on the play can definitely affect the blocking and certainly we get a lot of different looks from the defense relative to different run-force combinations and alignments and so forth. We have to all be on the same page on those to try to, A: get a hat on a hat, but, B: to get the most dangerous guy. I’d say that’s key part of the blocking for the receivers is getting a guy, of course that’s part of it, but it’s getting the most dangerous guy. Who in the overall blocking scheme is being accounted for? Sometimes we have a back or a puller assigned to a secondary player. Even though when the receiver looks in there and sees, ‘OK, here are the guys that are available,’ which guy is it actually that belongs to him and which guy belongs to the running back or the fullback or pulling lineman? That’s something that sounds a lot easier than what it really is. I would say that’s probably the biggest thing for Julian, just in terms of somebody who hasn’t played the position of learning all those – it’s not just going in there and blocking the guy and setting up a one-on-one drill. It’s getting the right guy when there are two or three of them there. I’d say that’s probably been the hardest adjustment for him in terms of experience.
Q: When it comes to punt returning, how do you coach returners when it comes to fielding punts inside the 10 versus letting them go? What are the coaching points there?
BB: That’s extensive. It depends on a lot of things. Really, it depends on the type of punt you’re talking about. There are some punts where the balls have a tendency to bounce forward, which you definitely want to let those go more than catch them. There are other punts that have a backspin on them, the end over end kicks that are designed to not bounce into the end zone. You can let those go all you want, but the chances of them bouncing into the end zone probably aren’t real high if that’s the type of kick. The hang-time on the ball, where the coverage is, if the coverage has already gone behind you and you’re standing there on the eight, nine-yard line and you’re just going to let it go and you’ve already got a couple guys standing behind you on the goal line, then that could put your team in a worse situation. Instead of having the ball on the eight or nine, now you have it on the two. It’s all those things. The most important thing at the end of the play on a punt return is that we have the ball. That is above and beyond all else. It means not committing a penalty that would turn the ball over like an offside or some roughing the kicker or the type of play that would give them the ball back. That’s number one. Ball security by the returner, making good judgment and handling the ball cleanly so there’s no question that we’re going to end up with it at the end of the play. That would be No. 1 and 1A. Then creating the best possible field position we can. That’s the returner’s judgment on handling those balls relative to, again, the type of kick, hang-time, field conditions, score and situation. Yeah, you have to factor all those in there. Again, that’s what those guys are getting paid for. That’s why they’re back there doing and [why] they’re called specialists. That’s one of their primary jobs. You have to factor all that in and as the ball is coming down, they have a second or two to figure all those things out, whether they’re going to try to draw the coverage and let it go in the end zone, whether they’re going to try to catch it, whether they’re going to fair catch it, whether they can handle that thing cleanly. It could be a risky catch and again it’s something we don’t want. Then they have to execute it with guys standing around them and dealing with the wind or the lights or whatever the conditions are. But they have to make those judgments. That’s the job. It’s not easy.