Q: Is this about as formidable a defense as you'll see this year?
Coach Saunders: Yeah, they're a talented group. They've had great success in the red zone. They've been magnificent. They've kept teams 10 different occasions from scoring down there and I think they have the best ratio of points per play down there. They've done an outstanding job. They're physical, they've got great linebackers, they're physical up front, their secondary has played very well, they're real disciplined and they're very well coached.
Q: How tough is it to practice this week with so many receivers being banged up?
Coach Saunders: We've kind of had the mantra 'the next man up,' and that's what we've done. We have a talented group of guys and now for some of those that might not have played very much up to this point, will have to step up and play at a very high level. And we have every reason to think that they'll do that.
Q: In terms of the practice reps, you don't have a lot of men to put up at this point for practice, right?
Coach Saunders: We've got guys kind of doing double duty. They have to work with the offense and they also have to work with the defense, but that's just the nature of the game and they've done a great job these last couple of days and hopefully it'll continue into the game on Sunday.
Q: You guys put in some no huddle stuff in preseason. Have you used it more now that Carson [Palmer] has come on board?
Coach Saunders: Yeah, we've used it a little bit more. He has a real great affinity for that and he does an excellent job and feels very comfortable in it. Of course, when you go no huddle, your play menu isn't quite as extensive as it is when you call them so he's been able to really focus on the things we've tried to ask him to do and he's done an exceptional job of it.
Q: What's the key to doing that well?
Coach Saunders: Well, his experience, understanding defenses, understanding the personnel that he has available to him with the plays that are available. He gets us in the right play and does a very, very good job of doing that.
Q: You've played against some very aggressive front sevens the last few weeks. How does that prepare you for this game and how does Chicago compare to, say, Kansas City or Denver or Minnesota?
Coach Saunders:There's three good defenses the past three games that we played and this defense presents its own problems because of the linebacker corps that they have. They're as physical as any defense we've played and they're also as disciplined as any defense we've played. They don't give up many big plays so we have to do a great job of trying to orchestrate what we're trying to accomplish against them.
Q: You hear a lot about cover-2 and tampa-2 and Coach Smith from the Bears - it comes from that school. How does Chicago utilize the cover-2?* *
Coach Saunders: They're a little more multiple than a lot of teams. Rod Marinelli, who is with them, has done a terrific job with those guys up front. It's a conservative shell defense, but they do put enough pressure on you and they put pressure on you with the four rushers they have. Plus, they tackle real well and their corners are physical corners even though they're not real big guys, they're very physical and create a lot of turnovers. They thrive in the turnover game and they do a lot of things that give you some real problems.
Q: What jumps out at you about [Jared] Veldheer? Is he already, now, an elite left tackle in this league?
Coach Saunders: He's a young guy. He's two years in the league, he's learning, he's playing better every week. He's developed his techniques to a much higher level than he had from our observations from him playing last year. And he just continues to get better. He's a very competitive guy. He's real smart and he does everything he can to improve on a daily basis so I think he will eventually be an elite tackle in this league. He certainly has the makeup and the capability, but he's such a young guy – he's only played a year and a half. But he's got his best playing days ahead of him and he will, before he finishes in this league, which is going to be a lot of years, he'll be considered one of the elite tackles in the game, I'm sure.
Q: After what he did against Jared Allen, obviously, people take notice. People don't usually notice lineman, but when see someone like Jared Allen disappear, it's a big deal.
Coach Saunders: He gets help from the backs and the tight ends and the quarterback getting rid of the ball and all those things, but he's a special player and we're certainly glad we have him. I think a lot of people were probably surprised when the Raiders took him as high as they did, but I think he's certainly lived up to every expectation everybody in this organization had of him. He's going to be a solid left tackle for a long, long period of time.
Q: You've talked about [Marcel] Reece catching the ball, but he showed last week that he can also run the ball pretty well. That must be nice to have with the injuries.
Coach Saunders: Yeah, Marcel is a three-dimensional player and at that position, it's really special to have a guy like that. He catches the ball extremely well, he can run the ball and he can also do a very efficient job of blocking. He's had a nice season this season, number-wise probably hasn't been as much as it would normally be because we haven't gotten the ball to him quite as much as we anticipated earlier in the year, but now he's fulfilling those expectations of him and he's doing a terrific job.
Q: Thoughts on why the team has struggled at home more than on the road?
Coach Saunders: I don't know. I think we've really played very, very well on the road given the circumstances and the teams that we have played. We just have to carry that over to our own stadium. You think the home field advantage and the crowd that has just been extraordinary since we've been here – gosh, we've sold out every game and it's been terrific. Hopefully, we'll play up to that level this week, but I don't have an answer to that question.
Q: Also, a lot of talk about how you guys haven't scored in the 4th quarter the last five weeks. Is that a big deal in your mind or is that just one of those weird…?
Coach Saunders: You'd always like to score points on every drive that you have, but sometimes the management of the game sometimes dictates how aggressive you are and I think several of those weeks we've probably had a significant lead going into it and you'd like to be able to run the football effectively like we are capable of doing. And it takes a little bit of a different turn sometimes, but hopefully we'll…whether you are ahead or behind, you still want to score points when you have the football.