HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What have you seen from Colts WR T.Y. Hilton as he continues to progress in his NFL career?
“He’s an excellent player. They throw it to him a lot for a good reason. He can run underneath routes, obviously down the field routes. Got good hands, great speed. Excellent route runner. Very competitive guy. Very, very difficult challenge for our defense.”
Have you seen progress from Texans CB Kareem Jackson?
“It’s similar this week. It’s day-to-day. He’s doing a couple things out there, but it’s day-to-day.
Do you have any updates on the guys in concussion protocol?
“They’re still in the protocol. I think (Ryan) Griffin, J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and Jeff Allen are still basically in the protocol. Whatever that means. Again, I’m not an M.D.”
On Monday you talked about 4-2 still being there for you guys. How important is this Colts game for you?
“It’s an important game. They’re all important. Really. I mean, every game is important. Again, like I always tell you guys, it’s a 16-game season. I can’t think of one game that’s less important than another. I don’t look at the schedule and go ‘well, this game is not quite as important as that game.’ I don’t even enter into that world. This is an important game just like last week’s game was and next week’s game is. I thought the guys came out and practiced hard today. That’s what we’re going to try to continue to do and play a good game on Sunday night.”
You said that DE Jadeveon Clowney has been one of your best players. What does it say about him that he’s been able to go up against guys so much bigger than him?
“Maybe they are on a piece of paper, but he’s a big guy. He’s 6’5”, 270 pound guy. You can define size in a lot of different ways. Does he play big? He plays with a lot of explosiveness. He’s a very tough player. He plays with good leverage a lot of the time in certain situations. So look, does he weigh as much as some of the guys that he goes against in there? No. That could be said for a lot of different guys. I think he’s playing at a high level.”
Is DE Jadeveon Clowney’s strength one of the reasons why you felt comfortable playing him at DE?
“Absolutely. He’s got a nose for the ball. He’s a smart player. We play him in a lot of different places. I don’t know how closely you guys watch it, but we’ve got him off the edge. We’ve got him inside. We’ve got him over the center. We’ve got him at linebacker spots. He’s moving around a lot. He doesn’t just play from tackle to tackle. He’s moving around quite a bit.”
You and Offensive Coordinator George Godsey have gotten the best out of every quarterback that you’ve coached here. What will it take for you guys to get the best out of QB Brock Osweiler?
“We’ve got to just have a better game plan. That’s what we’re trying to do. Put together a better game plan. Give him a better chance to have a good game just with some of the Xs and Os. That’s what we’re trying to do whether it’s involving (DeAndre) Hopkins or (Will) Fuller or Lamar (Miller) or whatever it might be. We’ve got to do a better job of getting our playmakers the ball and I think that’s going to help Brock play better.”
Colts QB Andrew Luck is the most hit quarterback in the league over the last two seasons and he has obviously proven his toughness. Even as the opposing coach, do you ever wince at some of the things you see on film?
“You put it right, he’s a very tough guy. He’s a very strong guy. He’s an extremely competitive guy. He never thinks the play is over. He does a lot of good things with his feet. I was just telling our team this morning, 16 fourth quarter comebacks in his career. I think they’re outscoring the opponent this year in the fourth quarter something like 62 to 37. Something like that. That says a lot about him. The game is never over. If you have a lead, no lead is safe. The guy is a great competitor.”
Texans ILB Benardrick McKinney led the team in tackles for four straight weeks. How much more is being asked of him this year compared to his rookie year?
“I don’t know. Probably more. I don’t know if there’s that much more. I mean, he’s out there a lot. He played very well. He was one of the guys that did play well against Minnesota. He’s played well the last - I think he’s played well the whole year. I don’t know how much more responsibility. I think he has a lot of responsibility. He’s got coverage responsibility, obviously run game, blitz responsibility. He’s a very bright player. I think (Brian) Cushing has helped him a lot. Mike Vrabel has helped him a lot. I think he’s playing pretty well.”
Can you talk a little about the tight end situation in regards to having guys out?
“Griff (Ryan Griffin) is day-to-day. I think (Stephen) Anderson is day-to-day. C.J. (Fiedorowicz) was out there today. He had a good practice. So I don’t know yet the exact - who’s going to be active for the game. I don’t know if I’ll know that until the end of the week. I feel pretty good about it though. Feel pretty good. At least two of those three will be active.”
Can you talk about your offensive line situation?
“(Derek) Newton I would say is day-to-day. Jeff Allen, same thing. We were out there today in shoulder pads. Those guys were getting after it. Thought we had a good practice. You look at any team in this league right now. I’m not sure who has the best health situation, but I’m sure it’s not great. You watch the game from the sidelines and I know I get a ton of injury questions in here. I always think about it. I always wonder why you guys are so into the injuries, but I do understand. You watch the game from the sideline. It is a very violent game. If you’re not prepared for injuries, you’re crazy. When you guys ask me that question, I get it, but the next guy has got to step up and play. What are we going to do? ‘Hey look, can we take another week before we play this game so these guys can get healthy?’ That’s not even on the table. Next guy steps up. We go play the game. Let’s do the best we can.”
You talked about offensive game planning. Is there anything else on the offensive side of the ball that you need to see happen for your offense to take that next step forward?
“Yeah, there’s a lot of things. We need to, really again and I know it sounds redundant, but I have to do a better job. We’ve got to do a better job of running the football. I think at times we’ve run the football pretty well, but it’s not been consistent enough. We need to get the ball down field more in the passing game. We need to do a way better job on third down. That was atrocious the other day. That’s the worst third down deal I’ve been a part of. That was bad. We need to do a better job there and we had been. I think in one game, I think we were 60% on third down, so it’s not like we haven’t done it. We’ve done it but it hasn’t been consistent. That’s the big thing is figuring out quickly here how we can get this team to play more consistently. We think we have a chance to be a good football team, but consistency is the key. You look at the standings. There’s one 5-0 team. There’s a bunch of 4-1 teams. There’s 3-2 teams, 2-3 teams. There’s one team that’s 0 and whatever. It’s an 8-8 league. That’s how the league is set up. It’s the team that becomes the most consistent over the last half of the season or 11 weeks of the season that’s going to end up being where they want to be. That’s what we need to do. That’s what it is. It’s kind of a race to see who can improve the fastest and who can become the most consistent.”
Can you talk about how Texans NT Vince Wilfork’s season is going?
“I think he’s played well. He’s in there to stop the run, to help us stop the run. I think he’s rushed the passer and helped us rush the passer a little bit. I think the guy, just thinking about Frank Gore, another guy in that category of 30-plus years of age that are playing at a high level. I mean Frank Gore, 12 years at running back. Vince, you know, 12 years as a nose tackle. Those are ageless wonders, those guys.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
What do you have to do to get the best out of Texans QB Brock Osweiler like you have for the other guys who have been here?
“Currently for Brock, it’s managing the highs and lows of an NFL season. Some good things that happen early, maybe some things aren’t going our way this week, last week. It’s a new week. That’s how we approach it. Try to clear his mind and look forward. No sense looking in the rearview mirror at all. And then, together as a group offensively, we all have to play better. As a unit, the better each individual players play, the better the offense will go. It’s not necessarily one person. Certainly Brock knows he can play better, I know I can coach better, and at every position we know we can play better.”
Specifically with Texans QB Brock Osweiler, how do you keep a guy’s confidence up when he’s struggling?
“Well, his work ethic is above average. He’s in there still putting the same hours in, still asking me the same diligent questions. For him, it’s kind of taking a step back here and focusing on his job. We have to do a better job of coaching the individual players at each position so that they can perform and help him, whether it’s protection, route running, and whether it’s play design, too.”
How do you feel about how the offensive line is playing right now and how much of a role do they play in what’s going on with the offense?
“Well, ideally, we want to be balanced. In the games we’ve been productive, we’ve been pretty balanced as far as run and pass. When it becomes one-dimensional, it’s hard to make a grade right now. But week-to-week, that’s kind of what we’re striving for. A little bit of it gets skewed because you become one-dimensional. We didn’t really get a chance to run the ball based on the first 12 plays and the score, so it was a little bit, I’d say, off balance.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you guys need to do a better job with the game plan. Can you talk about what that looks like, and at what point does it become more incumbent on the players because you have a system in place?
“Football is never about one play, one coach, one player. It’s a team game and as a unit, offensively, we’re all in it together. So, as far as game planning, producing, we’re all in it together. That’s the way we look at it. We all have to do a better job at it. Fortunately, you get another game, another opportunity. We’re really looking forward to the opportunity. It’s a challenge, it’s a division opponent, and the team’s playing well.”
Your former quarterback, Bears QB Brian Hoyer, had a really good game against this Indianapolis defense last weekend. Is there anything you can take away from the game last week that may help Texans QB Brock Osweiler?
“Yeah. I mean, it’s personnel-driven. So, defensively, it’s looking at the matchups and how they relate to us. Certainly they’re going to play us probably different than how they played Chicago, just based on whatever tendencies Chicago had going into the game. That’s really it to an extent.”
How imperative is it to get Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins involved right off the bat?
“In every phase of the game, you want to get your best players involved and get them involved throughout the game. Give credit to Minnesota, give credit to New England. They did a good job of that. It’s up to us from a schematic standpoint to make sure we do some things to help DeAndre and help our unit out with him getting the ball.”
T DUANE BROWN
I know you take great pride in this as your teammates do, but Texans QB Brock Osweiler was hit 13 times, sacked four times in the game against the Vikings, does that bother you guys?
“We hate it. We take a lot of pride in keeping the quarterback upright, especially me personally. The left tackle, that’s their number one priority. It’s been a point of emphasis along with running the ball better. We want to keep him clean. We know when he’s upright, he can maneuver and operate the way he wants and we can make some things happen.”
What are some keys to this offensive line doing a better job as a whole?
“For one, on the running game, just communicating and being in sync with the backs, finishing plays better. Same thing in the passing game, just finishing blocks better and communicating. I think it’s all about being on the same page, picking up blitzes, line stunts, things like that. Something that we haven’t seen or done. Biggest thing for us is just having a more physical mentality going forward.”
Is there anything worse than seeing your quarterback on the ground?
“No, I hate it, man. I hate it. We are going to do our best to keep him upright this week.”
What kind of things can you learn from the loss to the Vikings?
“It just makes you self-evaluate and evaluate ourselves as a team and things you can get better at. The last thing you want to do is point fingers. You want to hold each other accountable as much as possible, but I think today we all came out with a purpose and with a new sense of urgency. You could feel it in the locker room, you could feel it out there on the field. I think we will have a better response this week.”
Is there something you could physically see or feel that you said the team came out with more of a sense of purpose?
“You can sense it. You can sense the energy. We are all competitors here. We know we all can accomplish something special when we all buy in and do it together. You can just see it with just the level of competition we have and the way we executed. You could see it out there.”
It’s just Week 6, but can you discuss the magnitude of this game?
“Means a lot, means a lot. Any division game is big. Trying to bounce back from last week is big. Playing at home, primetime game is big. Like I said, a division game against a big time rival of ours. It means a lot to us, so we are going to come in and do well.”
What do you tell your teammates about how to handle themselves during the week?
“You just have to strain as much as possible individually. Continue to be a professional, come in every day, do the work, study film, know the game plan inside and out. Practice well, if you practice well it will usually translate into playing well and just stay together. Stay together and continue to believe in the game plan. Believe in the philosophy and everything we are trying to get accomplished. Playing for four full quarters – that’s the main thing.”
I know you look forward rather than backward, but you have been here a long time. This team’s record against the Colts is not very good. How much does that bother a longtime veteran like yourself?
“It doesn’t bother me. Every year is a new team and this year’s team can’t be concerned with what happened with our matchups in years past. They have a new team; we have a new team. Some familiar faces, but we aren’t concerned about that. We are concerned about winning here, Sunday Night Football at home against them. We know they are going to bring it. We have to match their intensity and start playing.”
What do you see from their pass rushers?
“Very good pass rushers. Guys that have been there a few years now. One who’s a future Hall of Famer in my opinion, (Robert) Mathis. (Hassan) Ridgewater, a good pass rusher. Akeem Ayers is a good pass rusher. They have a good mixture out there. They do a good job with their blitz packages and third down. We are going to have to be in tune to what they have going on. Study the film. Get familiar with what they like to do and their tendencies.”
CB A.J. BOUYE
Can you talk about DE Jadeveon Clowney and how he has played this season?
“I’ve been here seeing him since his rookie year. Even when we’re walking out of the stadium or before the games, I’m always in his ear trying to motivate him saying something just to get him happy. Even if it’s about money or something like that just to get him excited. You see what he’s doing. J.J. (Watt) isn’t here, but you’ve got somebody who’s dominant like Clowney and you see it on a consistent basis that just gets you excited in the back end. We’re just going to keep covering tight like we always do. If we give up balls, we give up balls, but one thing about our, especially our DBs, we don’t quit. We just stay going at them. We’re just going to have to play complimentary ball on offense, defense and special teams. We’re just going to take it one day at a time and get ready for Sunday.”
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton is a threat to the defense. What is a key to slowing him down?
“Just finding out where he’s at. It runs through him and it runs through Andrew Luck. When you have a quarterback that’s that good, you just got to play good technique, play with good coverage. You know that he’s going to try you and just always competing. If you give up a ball just not letting it get to you. Just keep going because our mindset is, especially the DBs, make more plays than you give up. Just think about all the plays you’re going to make instead of the plays that you would give up. That’s the mindset that we have. We’re always going to go in and compete. We don’t care who’s on the other side.”
Quarterbacks like Colts QB Andrew Luck are going to make big plays. How are you able to move on from plays after you fail at your assignment?
“It’s very important. Like I told other people, this is the NFL. They get paid too. They’re going to make plays. They have some of the best receivers in the league, just like we feel we’re some of the best in the league as far as a DB unit. Like I said, we’re going to give up plays but we feel we’re going to make more plays and that’s the plan for us to do.”
DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
Texans CB A.J. Bouye was saying you guys like to trash talk each other for motivation. How great is it to have that kind of chemistry in the locker room?
“All the time. It’s great. We all want to try to be on the same page, go out here and play hard. We get each other going and say whatever we have to do to each other to get each other going.”
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said you were playing as well as anybody in the league right now. What’s that mean to you?
“It’s great he noticed. I just have to keep going and play against them well and going forward keep getting better and better each week.”
How special is that for Colts Coach Chuck Pagano to say that?
“It’s great. Like I said, I have to keep playing. There’s a long season ahead. I have to keep getting better and better each week and keep moving forward getting better.”
Is there a side of you that is excited to face the Colts after seeing all the hits QB Andrew Luck has taken?
“Yeah, all the time. You want to get in there and make plays on him and get to him. We have to come with a good game plan this week, go out there and rush and try to get to him.”
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said even on special teams you’ve done a nice job going after punters.
“Oh yeah, I try to get them too. If I’m out there, why not? Whoever lines up in front of me, I’m going to try to run them over. Just a heads up for whoever, tackle or guard, wherever they lineup, I’m coming.”
Can you talk about where you are at this point in the season?
“It’s great. It’s a great feeling to be healthy and feeling good. Just getting better and better each week and hope I can sustain it for 16 games and keep going forward and keep getting better.”
How helpful is it that you’re able to practice regularly this season?
“It’s good, man. I get to work my technique. Go out there and work the scheme we have going into the gameplan. If you make plays at practice, you’re going to make them in the game.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien has also been complimentary of you. What does it mean to have this praise and be playing the way you are?
“It’s special, it’s good. My teammates noticed. He noticed. I just have to keep playing well. They come out and say ‘we need you this week’ every week. I have to keep playing for my teammates and keep trying to make plays for the team.”
How crazy has it been that the Colts keep coming back in their games?
“It’s crazy. They don’t quit. We know we have to play four quarters. We can’t play three. We can’t play two. We have to finish the game. When you’re up, you can’t quit against those guys. They don’t quit. They play through the whistle and until the end of the game. If you ever get a lead, you have to hold it on them and try to keep playing until the end of the game.”
Although last week’s game was difficult, does it help to know this week is against a divisional rival and for first place?
“We have to keep pushing forward. We lost last week. We took one on the chin. It was bad. But we have to prepare for this week. It’s a big division game for us. It would help give us a lead in the division. We need to come out here and play well and win this game.”
What can you learn from the loss to the Vikings?
“About your teammates and what type of guys you have on your team. Quitters or guys who are going to fight to get better and come back out here and prove themselves the next week. I think that’s what type of guys we have on this team. We’re going to come out here, try to have a good game and try to play well.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano said you’re a nightmare off the edge. What do you think about that?
“I appreciate that. Really, it’s just a testament to my hard work, developing and becoming the player that I am today.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said your success is self-made. What is he talking about?
“Just a lot of hard work that I’ve put in, just mastering the pass rush moves that I have while playing the run as well, just doing exactly what I need to do to make plays for this team.”
He said the other day that you used a move that he has rarely seen you use.
“Yeah. I don’t know. Honestly, I just go out there and try new stuff – especially in our team periods – and see if it works. If it doesn’t work I might get yelled at, but that’s just the process of it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But it doesn’t hurt to just try.”
Do you have certain moves in your repertoire that you save for certain games or is it random?
“Man, I can’t really tell you. Honestly, it’s just more of a feel. When I go through the games sometimes I may hold a move or so, depending, and I may break it out later. I can’t really tell you if I do hold it or not.”
So do you practice them in practice or in front of a mirror?
“Honestly, I practice them at practice during the team periods going against that live situation.”
Do you have some thoughts on Colts QB Andrew Luck and his toughness and ability back there?
“Yeah, Andrew Luck, he’s a great player, no doubt. Very, very smart, intelligent. Also, he’s a guy who just doesn’t quit. Even if he’s going down, he’s still going to find somebody to throw that ball to and make some plays.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien mentioned his ability to bring his team back late in games.
“Like I said, he’s a great player, and the thing is he doesn’t quit. It’s a testament to that fourth quarter. The team might be down but he’s going to find a way to come back.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
What do you think about this game against the Colts?
“It’s a big division game. We have to come out, play fast, play physical, and try to win at home.”
What are some keys to the running game being more effective than what you have been?
“We just have to be consistent starting with me being more decisive running the ball and just trusting my offensive linemen, so they can get to the right guys. We just have to feed off of each other and make plays.”
What are some keys to being more decisive?
“I’ll say just being more comfortable and just start feeling it early. Once the running back starts feeling it, it should mean some good things. I just have to start feeling it and just go after those guys.”
A lot of quarterbacks have said that the offense is difficult to learn. Is it difficult for the running backs as well?
“You just have to know your pass protection, the different type of schemes, how the offensive line is blocking, the routes outside of the pass protection. It is pretty difficult, but I think the coaches have been doing a great job of just telling us about the details and what we need to do to get open.”
You feel comfortable in your knowledge of the offense?
The guys put in good effort today. Did you sense that?
“Yes, a lot of guys came out with some juice. This is a big division game for us. It’s Sunday Night Football and it’s a division game. You just have to come out, play fast, be physical and make plays.”
What kind of things can you learn about your team from the Vikings game?
“We have to be more consistent on the offensive side of the ball. You have to make plays when your number is called. You have to move the chains to put points on the scoreboard.”
There have been some changes on the offensive line. Is it a cohesive unit no matter who is on it?
“Yes, you have to have that mentality – the next man up mentality. I think all of those guys do a good job regardless, because we put in a lot of work in the film room, so I think those guys will do a great job.”
What do you see from the Colts defense?
“They are a fast defense. The linebackers, they run to the ball. We just have to get a hat on those guys. I have to do a good job of making the offensive linemen right. We should be good.”
A lot of teams have been able to score. Is that something you see out there?
“Yes, they have a good offense as well. They’ve been a shootout for the most part. I know from the offensive side of the ball, we have to put points on the scoreboard, because they have Andrew Luck and he has a lot of weapons over there. We have to put points on the scoreboard to help our defense.”
If you can run the ball early, does that make a statement to the defense?
“It makes a statement. I know from me as a running back, it gives me that confidence to be like ‘OK, we are moving the ball and running it, so let’s keep it going and we should be good.’”
QB BROCK OSWEILER
When you watch the tape, what are three or four things you’d like to do better?
“Wow. Well, I think it all starts with offensively I’d like to be more consistent. I think we’ve shown some really great flashes of when all 11 guys are on the same page, we’re moving the ball, we’re scoring points, we’re having a good mix of runs and pass, we’re popping some runs, we’re hitting some throws downfield, we’re hitting some check downs that turn into big plays. Then other times you turn on the tape and you see three and outs, you see us not being able to convert on third down, you see us getting down into the red zone and having to settle for field goals. I’m sorry, I’m not going to give you four but I think the most important thing is we need to be more consistent because we are a great football team. We have a great offense. We just consistently have to be that offense.”
What do you think is the key to getting Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins involved early?
“I think some things, as far as getting Hop going early, as we should. He’s a tremendous wide receiver. He works extremely hard in practice. He’s a very consistent guy and he has great hands, so we should. I think some of that starts with me making sure that when we break the huddle, depending on what the pass play is, I’m scanning the coverage and seeing if I can get him the football in that coverage. Then I think some of it is schematically, making sure Hop is the primary guy on that play or maybe a No. 2 guy. But you know, it just goes hand in hand. I think it starts with me breaking the huddle and basically just saying to myself ‘Is there a way for me to get Hop the ball on this play?’ because, like you saw last week, when you throw him the football, good things happen. We’re well aware of that and that’ll definitely be a focus.”
Do you feel any pressure when you’re not playing well after the contract you signed and the fact you don’t want to let your teammates down?
“No. I think everybody in that locker room, regardless of what position they play or where they’re at on the depth chart or anything like that, I think we all respect one another and know that everybody in that locker room is doing everything within their power to be successful. There’s no pointing of fingers or anything like that. But certainly, I take great pride and put a ton of preparation in throughout the week because I want to be great for my teammates. I don’t want to let them down. At the end of the day, I think having your teammates respect is a huge thing in this league.”
Do you feel like Head Coach Bill O’Brien and Offensive Coordinator George Godsey are the coaches that can get you to play the way you’d like to play?
“I think between Coach O’Brien, Coach Godsey and myself, I think we have great communication throughout the week. I think going into the game on Sundays, we’re on the same page. I understand what they’re looking for and I think they explain very well throughout the week what they want me to accomplish. You say that throughout the week and you talk about this look and that look that you might get. But there’s always un-scouted looks. That’s where you really rely upon what you learned in training camp and what you learned in OTAs to stick to your rules, if you will, and get yourself through the down. I have great trust in them. I think they have great trust in me. We’re all offensively right now working to be more consistent.”
As tough as last week was, does it help to still be leading the division with a big division game coming up?
“I don’t think it’s ever easy to just shake off a loss like we had last week, but this is a week-to-week league. Bottom line, what happened in Minnesota is over and now are focus is on the Indianapolis Colts. It certainly does make you feel a little bit better that you’re still leading your division, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t really matter. It’s a week-to-week league. You’re only as good as your last game. I think it’s all about, especially early in the year and throughout the year, it’s all about improving. If you can improve week-to-week, hopefully come Week 17 or Week 15, as a football team, you’re where you want to be.”
What is it going to take for you to get more comfortable in the pocket?
“To be honest with you, I’m comfortable. I really am. I trust our offensive line. I trust our tight ends. I think our running backs do a tremendous job in protection. All those running backs throughout the course of the year have stuck their nose in there and blocked linebackers and have done a tremendous job. I trust those guys. I trust those guys that they’re getting their job done. I can promise you my eyes are staying down field. I’m trying to find the open guy. I’m working my progressions. But like I said, at the end of the day, we’re all on offense right now striving to do our jobs more consistently and doing them better week-to-week.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien took the blame for some of the poor play and said he needs to make better play calls. Is that something you see too?
“I think Coach did a tremendous job last week. I really don’t want to dive into it because, like I said, our focus is on the Colts. But I think Coach did a tremendous job. At the end of the day, like I said, everybody on offense needs to play more consistent. We all need to do our jobs better. It starts in practice. Today I thought we had maybe one of our best practices of the year as an offense. The offensive line worked extremely hard. The wide outs did. The tight ends did. The backs did. So it starts in practice. From practice, it carries over into the game. I think we have a great start to our week.”
Do you and Colts QB Andrew Luck know each other? What do you think about him as a quarterback and his toughness?
“We know each other just kind of by playing in the same conference in college and going through all the pre-draft stuff together. When I was in Denver, it seemed like we played the Colts every year so we would visit pre and post-game and things like that. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Andrew Luck. I think he is a tremendous quarterback. I think, like you said, he’s been hit the most and he’s a tough dude. He’s a really tough guy because he just keeps dropping back no matter how many times he gets hit. He keeps his eyes down field. It seems like he makes big play after big play. I have nothing but respect for him. I love watching him play and he’s a tremendous quarterback.”
Where do you see improvement happening with you in this offense?
“Obviously when you lose a football game like the way we did on Sunday, it’s hard to say ‘Hey Brock, where is the improvement?’ But when you turn on the tape and you see little things that we’ve been coached on, maybe it’s technique, maybe it’s timing, maybe it’s as simple as the receiver running in and getting a great block on a safety on a run play. It would take a lot of time to really dive into where that improvement is. But I can promise you the way we study the tape as an offense, the way our coaches prepare us, the way our coaches coach us up throughout the week, especially after games when we break down that film, I can promise you we’re getting better every single week.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS HEAD COACH CHUCK PAGANO
Can you assess where your offensive line is right now and the struggles they’ve had protecting Colts QB Andrew Luck?
“Obviously, it’s been one that’s brought up on the hour, every hour, whatever. What else are we going to talk about? Especially this week and having to face the guys that we’re going to have to face. It’s a good group of guys. We’ve had some guys in and out. We’ll make no excuses from an injury standpoint. We’ve got some young guys that work their tails off. Credit the people we’ve played. The guys we’re going to face Sunday night down there in Houston, a bunch of game wreckers on that defense. Everybody wants to protect the quarterback. Everybody wants to keep their quarterback up right. We’re no different than anybody else. We’re working extremely hard to do that.”
How has Colts QB Andrew Luck handled the poor offensive line play?
“Andrew is great because he understands the game, he understands the position that he plays. He is tough as nails. Everybody is well aware that the object is to keep him clean and keep him up right. A lot of things go into that. You’re ability to run the football effectively opens up things in the pass game, spread guys out and do whatever. He focuses on his job and what he has to do in order to get himself prepared. He trusts those guys with his life. He’s not a guy that worries about that stuff because he’s got a lot on his plate as it is. He’s got complete confidence in all those guys up front.”
Are you worried about the amount of hits Colts QB Andrew Luck is taking, especially with his injury concern?
“Yeah, I mean, you don’t want your quarterback hit. Period. We’re trying to do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen and limit that. He knows that and everybody knows that.”
Is Colts QB Andrew Luck doing anything to try to help his offensive line and correct the situation?
“No doubt about it. He’s done a good job. He’s making good decisions and taking what the defense gives him. He’s hitting the check down, throwing the ball away when it’s time to throw it away, getting on the ground when he does extend plays. He’s a big, tough, durable guy and athletic guy. He can extend plays. We saw it last week. He bailed us out a bunch. He’s doing everything he can to manage things the way they need to be managed.”
What have you seen from Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney on tape this season?
“He’s a different guy. The guy is playing as good as anybody in the league right now up front. He’s playing with a ton of confidence, a ton of physicality. We know the athleticism. We know the God-given dominant traits that he has as a football player, but his motor is running and it’s running hot. It never stops. He’s a guy that, it doesn’t matter, you turn on the special teams tape and I’m watching him rush punters. He’s picking up guards and tackles and trying to dump them on top of the punter and things like that. This guy is playing at an extremely high level and, like I said, as good as anybody in the league right now.”
What are your thoughts on Texans OLB Whitney Mercilus?
“He’s a threat. He sets the edge in the run game and he’s a nightmare off the edge. He has a couple great moves that he has mastered as far as pass rush technique goes. He’s athletic and he’s relentless. Romeo (Crennel) does a great job with that bunch and they play a tough, physical brand of football, they play together, well-coached, and, again, they’re suffocating. It’s a dominant, dominant defense.”
What have you seen from the Texans defense without DE J.J. Watt?
“Obviously, any time you lose the best player, one of the best players in the league, and certainly off your own team, you’re going to miss him. But you see a bunch of guys that have stepped up, and they’ve always had a ton of talent across the board on that defense, and this year is no different. You see a bunch of guys like (Jadeveon) Clowney, (Benardrick) McKinney, (Brian) Cushing and Vince (Wilfork) in the middle, still a dominant, dominant football player. And John Simon on the outside – I mean, this guy is a hard-charging, rugged, tough son of a gun who has sack production himself. I know they miss him but everybody else has put it on themselves and on that unit to step up their game. They’re ranked fifth in the National Football League for a reason. They play really, really well.”
The Texans’ offensive line has had trouble protecting Texans QB Brock Osweiler. What are your thoughts about what you can do defensively?
“I think you have to be good on early downs. We’ve struggled on early downs. You have to be productive. We have to get ourselves to where we can get people in third down. We’ve been good on third down, but that’s another whole deal where you try to get people in third-and-long. We have to have early down success in order to be able to get after any quarterback, let alone Brock and this offense. Our deal is going to be you have to be good on first down. They do a great job running the football with Lamar (Miller) and the play-action pass. They’re getting the ball into playmakers’ hands – Brock’s doing a great job there. We have to be good on early downs in order to give our guys a chance to maybe get after him some on third down.”
How have Colts C Ryan Kelly and Colts QB Andrew Luck performed together?
“From day one, it’s been good. It continues to get better. There’s going to be rookie moments in every game, and moments for anybody, for that matter. Ryan, he’s a tough kid and a really good football player. He’s a dedicated guy, he’s mature beyond his years, he’s a really good pro already, he really works at his craft and prepares himself really well. I think that synergy and that chemistry and the continuity there has been good.”
When you look at Texans QB Brock Osweiler, do you see a guy who feels comfortable behind center?
“Yeah. I mean, Brock’s a good player. You can tell that he trusts his guys and the calls that are coming in. He does a nice job. He’s a good game manager, he keeps his eyes down the field and is able to extend some plays and make some plays outside the pocket. Yeah, he’s doing a nice job.”
You are 2-3 coming into the game on Sunday, but if you win you will be tied for first place in the AFC South. How important is it to be close to tied for first despite the struggles you have had this season?
“This is the National Football League and we know how long the season is and what a difference a week can make. You’re sitting there at 1-3, doom and gloom, sky’s falling, it’s the end of the world, you win a game and it’s a whole different feel. Whole different complexion and now, like you said, the opportunity is there. Our focus isn’t on the end result. The focus has got to be on where it needs to be and that’s the preparation for the ball game. You got to put the time in, you got to earn these wins if you will and you got to prepare extremely well. It’s a huge, huge challenge on the road. Defending champs in our division. We’re grateful to have the opportunity. We’re grateful to be sitting in the position that we’re in considering our start, so we’re fortunate that way. But really it’s a matter of winning each day and we’re going to try to go out and win today first.”
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins is a big part of the Texans offense, but he has been limited the past couple of weeks. Are there things that you’ve picked out from other teams on how to play against Hopkins?
“Anytime you got a game wrecker like him, obviously over 100 catches a year ago, 1,500 yards, big play guy, he’s going to garner the respect and attention of everybody that plays him. No different than a guy like T.Y. (Hilton) on our team. Week in and week out, everybody goes in and says ‘OK, we got to take #13 out of the game.’ The onus is going to fall on everybody else to take care of the other guys. You have Will Fuller V, you have the other guys that you have, you have the running game, the quarterback, (Jaelen) Strong, you got guys. That’s just how this league is. Everybody is going to try to make you beat them left-handed. T.Y. (Hilton) is the same. They’re doing a great job of moving him around and trying to get him loose and get him some free access if you will. When you’re a great, great player and a Pro Bowl type player, that’s what happens.”
In spite of your problems with the offensive line and Colts QB Andrew Luck getting hit a lot, he has still thrown 10 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Do you ever question how great Luck could be if you get everyone on the same page?
“Yeah, yeah. No doubt about it. It’s easy to see the glass half empty if you want to go down that road. We always try to see it half full. I don’t think any of us are sitting in the position that we’re in today without the guy and the cast of players around him. Tremendous, tremendous competitor and a great, great talent. Again, like we talked before, he’s managing things as good as he has and making great decisions and spreading the ball around and utilizing all the weapons. Coach Chud (Rob Chudzinski) and Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer are doing a great job with him and he does a great job preparing. We feel blessed and fortunate that we have him.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS QB ANDREW LUCK
You’re still getting hit a bunch, and several of the Texans have talked about your toughness. How tough do you have to be to be you these days?
“I don’t know. I think maybe a bit too much is made out of that. I think just go out, play football. Getting hit can be part of the position and part of it.”
You used to get hit a lot in high school. Do you just like getting hit?
“No, I wouldn’t say I enjoy it but I do realize it’s part of the position.”
A couple years ago everyone was saying you guys were going to be winning the division every year. Were the struggles of the last year a reminder of how tough it can be to win in this league?
“Yeah. Every week is a reminder of how hard it is to get a win in this league. From our perspective, it is a tough division. Every team brings it each time. Houston, certainly, as the defending champs, are the leaders of the division right now. We would like to get back to that spot, but it’s always tough.”
You guys enter at 2-3 and they enter at 3-2. Does it still feel like the season could go in one of two directions?
“I think it could go in more than two directions, obviously. Anything is possible. Secondly, from our perspective right now, we’re worried about a game – this game versus Houston. We’re not into big picture. We’re just worried about trying to get a win on the road in the division.”
What did you learn about yourself by missing so many games last year?
“One, it’s no fun to miss games. You feel like you’re letting people down. That being said, I tried to be as positive as I could and help whoever the quarterback was for that game. As a teammate, you want to be available. You want to be available for your teammates, for your fans, for your coaches, and be out on the field.”
Did you get to step back and maybe look at some things that you ordinarily wouldn’t have?
“Yeah, I do think it gives you a bit of perspective and then makes you realize how fortunate you are to be playing football for a living, how much fun it is to play a sport for a living.”
When you were going through that, how much did you rely on the counsel of your dad?
“As you know, I have a great relationship with my dad, and obviously they’re living in Indianapolis now with him working for the NCAA. My mom and dad have always given great perspective and insight into anything going on in my life, good or bad, positive or negative, so I certainly talked to them a lot and they helped me keep it as positive as I could.”
Does your dad come to practice?
“No, the nice thing is he has never come to practice. Our conversations actually probably center way more around life than football. He’s a father, not a coach.”
You’re facing a Texans defense that has lost DE J.J. Watt, but can you weigh in on how DE Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus have elevated their play?
“Yeah, those are two premiere players, premiere pass rushers on the field and in the NFL. You see it on tape. Obviously, J.J.’s an incredible player and a premiere player, but it doesn’t seem like any slack has dropped off. They’re two really good players, and it’s not just them out there. They’re surrounded by a bunch of good players. Obviously Vince Wilfork is still playing at a really high level. (Brian) Cushing, (Johnathan) Joseph, (Kareem) Jackson, everybody. It’s a really good unit. A lot of respect for the unit, especially playing them twice a year.”
How are you and Colts C Ryan Kelly adjusting to each other?
“Doing really well. He’s a heck of a kid, heck of a player, he’s tough, he’s smart, he’s athletic. He’s a pleasure to play with.”
When you’ve played, you’ve beaten the Texans five times in a row. What’s the key to beating them so many times in row?
“I think, one, understanding it’s always a dog fight. It truly is a tough division game. And then understanding what happened in the past has no bearing on the next game. It’s all about that one, that moment.”
Do you still find it special to return to Houston and play?
“Yeah, I do. I had the chance to play a high school playoff game at what was then Reliant (NRG Stadium), so that was cool. Just coming back and family, it’s an opportunity for them to come to the game.”
Do you have to get more tickets for these games?
“The nice thing is my parents sort of handle that and keep the stress off of me.”
What did you think about General Manager Ryan Grigson saying it’s going to take time to build up the defense because of your contract?
“I guess the nice thing about having a job is you just have to worry about your own job. I have no thoughts on that.”