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Saunders Media Session


Offensive coordinator Al Saunders

Q: Can you talk a little about Gunther Cunningham? You go all the way back to Cal, San Diego, Kansas City. What type of guy is he that you are facing this weekend?

Coach Saunders: Gunther is an outstanding football coach that is emotional and truly dedicated to the game. I have a great deal of respect for him. We coached at Cal together for several years. We coached the San Diego Chargers together. When I was a head coach there, I hired him as my defensive line coach. I talked to Marty Shottenheimer about hiring him in Kansas City and we worked in Kansas City together, so we have had a long history together. Our wives are closest of friends, our children grew up together, and I know when you compete against a Gunther-coached defense, you are going to compete against players that will play for sixty minutes in a very violent fashion, in a very emotional fashion. That's the way he coaches and that's the way his players play. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he has done as a coach previously and what he has done with this team and this group now.

Q: What do you see from [Ndamukong] Suh and that defensive line as a whole?

Coach Saunders: Well, they are as active and as physical and as impacting as any defensive line we have played this year. They are tremendously talented guys and they play with a tremendous passion. So we have got our hands full this week.

Q:Are they similar to the D-line you go against in practice? Is there some similarities?

Coach Saunders:Size wise and ability to be physical inside and to rush the passer on the edge, yeah very similar.

Q: What do you see from their secondary? So much has been made of the front four, but what do you see from them?

Coach Saunders: Yeah, usually when you have a front four like that, your secondary has a little bit of an easier time because the quarterback doesn't hold on to the ball a long time. Now, they have been banged up a little bit and they have got a couple of guys coming back, we will find out on Sunday, but their secondary is just like some of the secondaries we have played this year. They are opportunistic, and often times the quarterback, because of the violent pass rush and a lot of the schemes that Detroit uses, you don't see a lot of quarterbacks being real comfortable in the pocket, and being able to take their time to throw the football. You have to get rid of the football quickly and obviously the defensive backs take advantage of that when they break on the ball, so they play within the scheme very, very well.

Q: How much do you think the issues with getting Michael [Bush] going the last couple of games have just been circumstance, falling behind, and not being able to be persistent with the run and being able to stick with it?

Coach Saunders: I think after a period of time, people end up trying to take away what you have done best and what we have done best is run the football. So a lot of the schemes and the things that we have faced have been designed to take him away, and then we have become one dimensional because of the score, and obviously you go in a little bit different direction. So I think it is a combination of things, but if we can get on track early and get Mike in the rhythm, you need to get two guys in a rhythm initially. You need to get the running back and the quarterback in a rhythm so you can have a balanced attack and I think as we see as this game unfolds, and the games in the future unfold, hopefully we can get him back on track again.

Q: Carson was making a point about how 'we need to get off to a fast start.' Every coach wants to get off to a fast start every game obviously; how do you coach that? How do you make sure you get off to a fast start?

Coach Saunders: Well, I think the word is efficient. You want to have an efficient start and an efficient start generally translates into the potential to score points just like in Green Bay. The first drive we had a rhythm going, we took it down the field and then all of a sudden there is a turnover. You come back in the second drive and your moving the ball, your moving the ball, your moving the ball and then whoops, here is a penalty that erases a first down and then another subsequent penalty that puts you in first and 25. So those are the things that you have to make certain that in some fashion you avoid. If we can get into a rhythm and do the things that we would like to be able to do then I think the fast start takes care of itself.

Q: You mentioned you think the defenses are keying on Michael Bush and it is lowering his yards per carry; is it because of the one dimension, because you guys are showing that you are a running team? Do you think the reason they have been able to key on him so much lately is because of the injuries to the wide receiver corps?

Coach Saunders: Well, I think part of it is after a while people evaluate what you do and the good defensive coaches will try to analyze that, whether it is schematically or personnel wise, and so they will focus their defense on taking away the number one thing that you do well, and that was running the football with Michael. And then what happens is, when the score starts to get skewed in the other direction early in a game, you get out of the basic run philosophy that you started with. So I think that is probably a two-edge sword in what we were looking at.

Q: How much are you stressing ball security with Carson and the fact that it is okay to either throw it away every once in a while or check down and not try to make, he wants to make big plays every down obviously?

Coach Saunders: Well I think most quarterbacks that are aggressive in nature, are that way. They believe in their abilities and they believe they can make a play. There is just some times when you can't do that. And Carson knows that better than anybody, that is something that is worked on during a daily basis and he will find that true water level that will be even for him and we will be able to move forward. He is a real bright guy and he is a tremendously talented guy. He understands this game real well and he understands what we need to do to make sure that we prevent turnovers like we have had in the last couple of weeks.

Q: Hue [Jackson] has talked about no one player is going to win a game or turn the fortunes around, but getting Denarius back this weekend potentially, how does that help the play calling and the ability that you guys can do on offense?

Coach Saunders: Well, I think any time you add a player with tremendous talent in any position, it gives you more options in terms of what you can do, and certainly he is a very skilled young man. He has made some great plays for us and to have him back in the lineup gives you an added tool hopefully to be able to play at a more successful level. He is a special young man and we are really glad to have home back that is for sure.

Q: Hue and Chuck [Bresnahan] have talked about the atmosphere of practice this week being almost a little electric, guys really being into it, fired up, and ready for the challenge, and how often does that translate into taking it to the field, and can you ever really tell?

Coach Saunders: You know that is an interesting question and I think it is hard to tell. All you know is the practice we had today was good and one of the old coaching clichés – it's the best team on game day. So the preparation, you have a good feeling going in, the energy level is up, certainly, but it will transcend to what happens on Sunday. I don't know sometimes how you can equate that because you can be really, really excited and all of a sudden there is a fumble at an inopportune time, and it just changes the complexion of a game. But you certainly you would rather go into a game feeling like the week of practice has been very upbeat and guys are excited, looking forward to it, the focus has been good and the enthusiasm level has been very high and that is the way it has been this week.

Q: Would you say weeks of poor practices almost never translate into a good game?

Coach Saunders: I can't say that for a certainty, I just know that if you are the best team during that sixty minutes that you play on Sunday, you have the best chance to win. Sometimes it is hard to gauge from Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, how it is going to turn out Sunday for sure. 

Q: With Moore back, are all the other receivers kind of interchangeable?

Coach Saunders: All of our available receivers are capable of playing in each one of the positions.

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