HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
You said yesterday that you’re not going to change starting quarterbacks. What do you see that gives you confidence QB Brock Osweiler can play better and be more consistent?
“There’s 160 plays in yesterday’s game. The game usually turns on between eight to 10 plays. Some of those plays weren’t very good. I’m talking about the whole team. But a lot of the plays were good, so what happens is when you get into these games where San Diego makes a few more plays than you do, a few less mistakes than you do, you’re not going to win the game. Now as it relates to the quarterback spot, one of the things that I really try hard not to do is to – obviously, the head coach and the quarterback take the most criticism when you lose, that’s the nature of the business and we all understand that – but there are 11 guys on the field. There’s an offensive line, there’s running backs, there’s receivers, there’s tight ends. Could Brock have done some things better yesterday? Absolutely. Could the offensive line have played better yesterday? Could I have coached better yesterday? Absolutely. It’s a team sport. Brock is our starting quarterback and that’s the way it is.”
You changed quarterbacks a few times over the last couple of years.
“Some of that was because we had injuries. We had a guy tear his ACL. We had several. Last year is last year. Two years ago is two years ago. If you look at specifically to every instance in the last two years where we changed quarterbacks, there were different issues that came up. A lot of it was injury. We had concussions, we had a torn ACL, we had a broken leg – I think Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick) broke his leg in the Indy game. That’s two years ago or last year. That has nothing to do with this year.”
We talked to QB Brock Osweiler about the first interception he threw to WR DeAndre Hopkins and then the second one to the tight end. What happened on those plays?
“It was a play-action pass where three blocks were missed up front. He was flushed from the pocket and he tried to make a play to Hopkins. Hopkins was on the sideline and the guy made a nice play undercutting it. Look, in the end, could he have thrown it away? Yeah, he could have thrown it away but a lot of things went wrong on that play, the interception wasn’t a great thing. The other play you’re talking about, that was to (C.J.) Fiedorowicz. He threw an interception. He tried to hit a seam ball versus Tampa coverage to Fiedorowicz, which I thought was the right read on the play. He just made a poor throw. That’s one play out of 160 plays. Of course we have to take care of the ball better. We can’t turn it over. He was going to Fiedorowicz on that play, made a poor throw, made the right read, but got to make a better throw. There’s 159 other plays in the game that we could dissect. Again, it’s all about 11 guys doing it as consistently as they can on the same page. It’s all about correcting those things and understanding how close you are to getting it right. It’s all about understanding that this league is a very tight league and that we all have to do a better job, starting with me, leading into the Green Bay game.”
What about QB Brock Osweiler’s accuracy passing?
“I think one of the keys to being a good quarterback is being accurate. We work on accuracy with all of our quarterbacks all the time. I think that’s a key. I think Brock will be the first one to tell you. I think there’s been very many times where he has been accurate and there’s been other times where he hasn’t been as accurate as he needs to be. He’s working very hard to be as accurate and improve his accuracy all the time. We work hard on it with him.”
Can you talk about the throw down field QB Brock Osweiler made to WR Will Fuller V?
“Fuller ran a, what we call, a special seam route. Brock made a really nice throw over his outside shoulder. Will did a great job of catching it and keeping his feet inbounds. It was a very, very well executed play.”
What have you seen from the team in the red zone this season?
“We got to be better in the red zone. We got down there a few times. We can execute better down there. We can design better plays down there. We all have to do a better job in the red zone, there’s no doubt about it.”
Are you encouraged with WR Will Fuller V’s progress this season after dealing with an injury?
“I thought he played well yesterday. We put him back there on punt returns. I think he can do a little bit better back there on punt returns. I thought receiving-wise, he made some really nice catches, some tough catches. I thought he played well.”
What about ILB Benardrick McKinney reaching 100 tackles on the season?
“He’s had a heck of a year. He had a great game yesterday, had multiple tackles, had a sack. Does a lot for us. He’s had a really, really good year for us.”
Where have you seen QB Brock Osweiler make the most progress this season and what areas would you like him to improve moving forward?
“I’m not going to get into all the different areas. I could get into areas where I need to do a better job. Where can I do a better job? I’m not going to dissect where each player what areas they need to do a better job in. I mean, we could be here all day. Every player on our team – we have a great locker room. They’re all looking to improve in any way that they can. Coaches are looking to improve. Look, we’ve got five games left. I know everybody out there has given up on us but there’s nobody in here that’s given up on themselves or on this team. So we’re going to fight, we’re going to try to improve and we’re going to try to do a little bit better job next time out.”
At times you’ve talked about the identity of the team. What would you say the identity of the team is right now, or are you still trying to find that?
“I mean, I think we’re a tough team, I think we play hard, I think we have a good defense that plays hard, I think we run the ball well on offense and I think, overall, we’ve been OK on special teams. I’d like to be a little bit better. I know Larry (Izzo) would, too. But that’s what our identity is. We’re a tough football team, a team that is going to play 60 minutes, and that’s what we are.”
It looked like RB Lamar Miller limped off a little bit at the end of the game. What happened to him? Is he going to be OK?
“I don’t know. Yeah, I think he’s going to be fine.”
You touched on ILB Benardrick McKinney. What has made him so special so quickly at this level?
“Well, he’s an excellent player himself. I mean, he’s very instinctive, he understands the defense. We line him up in different spots. Yesterday he played a lot of what John Simon’s role would’ve been in the game. He just does a lot for us and he’s just an excellent player.”
You just said you think everybody has given up on you. Why do you feel that way?
“Well, I just think that any time you lose a game, it’s tough. Did I say that? I didn’t mean it that way. Look, what I mean is, when you lose a game in the NFL, it’s terrible for everybody involved: the home city, the team, the players – everybody understands that. But what we have in our locker room is a bunch of resilient guys that know that they’re 3-0 in their division, that there’s a lot of football left. If I could take that back, I’d take it back. I didn’t mean it that way. I meant that there’s a lot of ball left and it’s football. The league – I’ve said this to you guys a thousand times – the league is set up to be an 8-8 league. So, we’ve got to understand what it takes to not be 8-8, not to be 9-7, to get over the hump of that, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’ve got to do a lot to improve, we understand that, but we’ve got a bunch of guys that want to fight in that locker room.”
What were your thoughts on WR Will Fuller V returning punts and will that continue going forward or will RB Tyler Ervin get the job back when he’s healthy?
“Ervin probably will not be back this week. You know, look, I really wanted Will back there because, obviously in the Tennessee game he really gave us a big boost there with a touchdown return. So, in this game I thought there was a lot that he could learn from. One of them, we had a wall return set up and I think he went the wrong way, another one, I thought he made a good decision on fielding the ball, fair caught it. You know, it was a little inconsistent. So, I think having him back there helps us and I think it’s just us, it’s me overall doing a better job of coaching him when he’s back there.”
The last two years you’ve had stretches where you were down and had to fight your way out. Does it feel like you’re at that point right now at 6-5 with two road games coming up that could be a defining point in the season?
“Oh yeah, this is big. No doubt about it. I don’t think there’s any question about it. I know you guys have a job to do. I just mean it’s very difficult to lose in this league. It’s just a hard thing because you put so much work into it. What I mean is we all realize the tough games. Every game is tough. We’re going into Green Bay. It’ll be a very difficult team, very difficult opponent, great coaching staff. I think we have the type of team, though, that understands – I just watched, basically, most of the game with them as a team today. There’s maybe this play here or that play there, this technique there, this technique there that we could all do a better job of. If we can clean those things up, coaching-wise too, we’ll have a shot to play well in all these games. If we don’t, we won’t. But I think, you know, the sun will come up the next day, but it’s just the way it is. We’ve got to clean these things up and try to coach them better and get everybody on the same page.”
Do you see a common thread to the penalties in terms of what your guys could do differently?
“We had some defensive holding calls, we had some neutral zone infractions where we were lined up in the neutral zone. We have to realize, I think, as coaches and players, how the game is being officiated right away, as soon as we can. If it’s being called tight – every crew is a little bit different. That’s just the way it is. It’s human nature. If it’s being called tightly on the perimeter of the defense right away, then we’ve got to understand, hey, maybe we can’t use our hands as much or maybe we have to make sure we only check them under five yards, things like that. If it’s being called – the same crew called the neutral zone infractions against us against Minnesota, so we should know that. We know that. That’s what I’m talking about, 160 plays. There were 156 plays in the game and we made 20 mistakes and San Diego only made 15. That’s where you win and lose the game, and part of it is what you’re talking about – we didn’t win the penalty battle. Even though the numbers suggest maybe we did, we really didn’t. We had too many first-and-5s, first-and-5, first-and-5 because of the neutral zones or first downs because of the defensive holding.”
What are the challenges of facing the Packers offense?
“Well, you know, it starts with Aaron Rodgers. Great player, very athletic, great arm, just does a lot back there. Very different player than ones that we’ve played so far this year. Big, physical offensive line, a lot of good receivers. Obviously, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery is a great special teams player for them. They line those guys up everywhere. Mike (McCarthy’s) scheme is very hard to go against. Good backs, big backs – James Starks. It’s a big challenge for us. Our defense – look, our defense has played well. Our offense needs to play better. I mean, let’s put the cards on the table. The defense has given up less than 100 yards rushing in three straight games and played really hard. Like, could they play a little bit better on a couple shot plays yesterday and here and there? You know, yeah, but like, our defense has played well. We’ve got to play better on offense, but I know our defense understands the challenge of going into Green Bay.”
You had to shuffle some personnel on defense without OLB John Simon. How do you think that went and do you think there is a shot that Simon will be back this week?
“I don’t think John will be back. John will be back before the end of the season, but he won’t be back this week I don’t think. We did. Give credit to a lot of different guys up front. Obviously (Jadeveon) Clowney. Move him around a lot. We ask him to do a lot. He’s playing banged up too. Give him a lot of credit. Whitney Mercilus had a really good game for us. I think he had three TFLs, had some quarterback hits. Played very tough on the perimeter of the defense. (Benardrick) McKinney we’ve already talked about. Brian Cushing always plays tough for us. I thought Vince (Wilfork) did a nice job. D.J. Reader did a nice job inside. D.J. Reader made a lot of plays. Quintin Demps played well. He had the one double move on him but other than that, the guy played a good football game. (Andre) Dre Hal, you know, solid game. A lot of guys contributed and anytime you lose somebody, the next guys got to step up but sometimes that involves more than one guy.”
During your first two years, your team had to dig out of some holes but it worked and you were able to get to the playoffs and make it to 9-7 your first year. What did you find as a coach worked and do you have to go back and see what worked for you to be better in the next five games?
“I think the best thing you can do, for me personally, is - just for me personally to answer that question - is to just be yourself. Be real with the players. Like, this is what it is. I mean, these are the plays that we executed well. These are the plays that we didn’t execute well. These are the plays that shouldn’t have been called. Got to eliminate those plays. We’re all in it together. I don’t know I just try to go into those meetings. I’m not trying to mind-trick anybody or do anything like that. I’m just saying, ‘Hey look guys, it’s all out there for us. We’re 3-0 in the division.’ Like you pointed out, I think every week is tough. I told you this story before. I remember being on a Patriots staff where we were undefeated and we were playing a Miami team at the time that was 1-11 and I can remember that was I think an overtime game. I mean these games are all tough and our players understand that. We have tough players, you know, you watch the film and you watch our guys fly around. We just need to clean some things up and be more consistent. Now you can say to me, ‘Why are you saying that in December?’ I don’t know, but I am. We got to keep working on it. What choice do we have? We’re going to keep trying to work to get better.”
Penn State University has come a long way since you started there in 2012. What do you think about them being in the Big 10 Championship game considering where they were when you first got there?
“Couldn’t be more proud of that program, those kids. A lot of those kids were there when we were there as a staff. I could answer this forever. In 2012, I will say this, in 2012 people gave up on that program and you can go back and look it up. Numerous experts gave up on that program and it’s a great testament to that school, that coaching staff, James Franklin’s staff, that’s there now and especially those kids to come back from that and to be 10-2 playing in the Big 10 Championship game when it was basically very close to death penalty SMU-type sanctions. That’s a testament to those kids that are there now.”
What do you think about Tom Herman taking the head coaching job at the University of Texas?
“I think he’s a great coach. I think Texas got a great coach. I’ve gotten to know Tom a little bit when they practice over here. I’ve watched them on TV. Obviously Mike Vrabel holds Tom in very high esteem. I think that Texas is an unbelievable job and they hired a great coach. One thing I would like to say though is - to make sure on that - is I really respect and admire Charlie Strong. I think Charlie Strong is a hell of a guy and an excellent football coach. Like we all know, sometimes it doesn’t work out. It’s not from lack of effort or lack of toughness and things like that. Charlie is a tough guy, good football coach, and now Texas has moved on to Tom Herman and Tom Herman is an excellent football coach.”
T DUANE BROWN
Should you guys be scoring more touchdowns?
“I think so. We have the firepower to, we have the plays to. I feel like we should. Can’t really put my finger on why that’s not the case, but I feel like we definitely have the talent to do it.”
Do you guys have to keep QB Brock Osweiler’s confidence up? Do you say anything to him to make sure he’s still thinking the right way?
“I don’t feel like his confidence is shaken at all. I think he’s been the same guy every day in here. From what I can tell, from what he shows us, he’s always a positive guy, very motivating and even-keeled. So, from what I can see, I don’t think there’s much we have to do. Just play better as a unit. I think we didn’t really do as best as we could in pass protection to keep him still and give him the best chance to operate, so that’s probably what we can do to help his confidence, if anything.”
Is it puzzling that you’ve had such a difficult time scoring?
“Yeah. I mean, it’s not easy. It’s not easy in this league. We’ve been against tough defenses with our schedule, but I definitely think we have the talent to put up more points. We need to. We got to stop putting so much pressure on our defense. Whatever it is, we have to correct it.”
Is it worrisome to have this sort of thing going on when it’s almost December?
“Not worrisome. I mean, we just have to correct our mistakes. Like I said, everything we want to attain is still in front of us. We know it’s not going to be easy. The games aren’t going to get any easier. The lead that we have has tightened even more. So, we have to correct our mistakes and have a sense of urgency about it. Worrisome isn’t the word I would use but we definitely have to play better.”
What is it about your locker room that makes you feel like you guys will snap out of a two-game losing streak and get back to winning?
“I think we’re a resilient group. I think everybody in here knows that this season isn’t lost and we have a lot to play for, so we have to snap out of it. We have enough veterans in here to relay that message to the younger guys that may not understand. We have great leadership in here. But, it all starts this week. We have a big challenge ahead of us in Green Bay, and things that weren’t working, we have to turn around pretty quickly here.”
Why do you think you guys have struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone?
“Execution, man. That’s all I can say. I’m not a coach. I don’t really have a theory on what works and what doesn’t, we just have to execute, whether it’s a run or pass. That’s been the main thing. It’s not easy once you get down there. The field’s shorter, the defenses don’t have as much room to cover, so we know it’s harder to score in those positions, but we have to.”
When you have penalties like false starts and holding calls, what can you do to overcome those obstacles?
“It’s hard for anybody. You get a holding call, I mean, that’s 10 yards going back. Against a defense like San Diego, second-and-20, you know what I mean? It’s kind of hard to overcome that for anybody. Just got to stay the course, you know, don’t panic, execute the next play. I think you have to have a short-term memory and not let the last play linger and try to make up for it as much as possible the next play. That’s always been my mentality. But we have to eliminate those as much as possible.”
Do you guys still have confidence in QB Brock Osweiler? What have you seen from him behind the scenes that the fans and media don’t see?
“Yeah, we have confidence in him. He’s an extremely hard worker, he’s a great leader in this locker room, he comes to work every day, like I said, he’s very even-keeled, he’s the same guy – no mood swings or up and down. We can all respect that. No matter what’s being said about him outside of here, he comes in with the same attitude and the same positivity every day. So, he’s a great leader. We definitely have a lot of confidence in him.”
Is the best thing going on that you still lead the division and you control what happens to you?
“That’s the best thing, yeah. We’ve had a tough couple of weeks here but everything we want is still in front of us. Like I said, the games aren’t going to get any easier. We have another tough defense that we’re going to face up in Green Bay. We have to find ways to produce and win these next few games here. Win this next game and then worry about the rest after that.”
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
Are you focused on Green Bay now?
“Of course, obviously you come in, correct your mistakes, look at it, see what you can do better and it’s on to the next game. Nothing different than any other week.”
Green Bay doesn’t seem like the normal Packers team this year, but everyone knows what Packers QB Aaron Rodgers can do. Can you talk about that?
“Can’t take no team in this league lightly. Each and every week every team is capable of beating another team, so you have to prepare for every team the same way and go out there and put your best effort forward.”
What’s the mood of the team right now since you guys have been up and down this season?
“Just correct the mistakes and on to the next game and trying to get a win.”
Even though you guys have had a tough stretch, is it encouraging to know you’re still at the top of the division and control your own destiny?
“That’s one way to look at it. Obviously you hold all your cards from that standpoint. You go out there and win the ball games you need to win, you still kind of control your destiny, but for us I think it’s just about taking it one game at a time.”
If you hold the Chargers to eight points less than their average, should you win that game?
“You would think so, but you know I’ve seen crazier things happen in this league and take your hats off to those guys. They found a way to get the win and we came up on the short end of the stick yesterday.”
Do the veterans have to step up at a time like this behind the scenes to keep everyone else motivated?
“I think definitely so. That’s our part of being leaders on this team and being the veterans we are. We have to pull the guys together and stay close together as a team and let guys know there’s bigger things down the road and just take it one game at a time.”
Is taking it one game at a time the message that the veterans are sending to other guys on the team?
“Absolutely. I think for me and the rest of the guys who have been in this league a long time, I’m pretty sure that would be the message from top down.”
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
What will the team do to help shift focus to the Green Bay Packers?
“We’re just going to prepare, watch film, watch film on the Packers and, as a defense, just try to do our job.”
You are the seventh player in the history of the Texans with 100 tackles in a season. What do you think about that?
“Coach (Mike) Vrabel does an unbelievable job of just putting me in a great position to make plays. I’m just trying to help the defense out, force three-and-outs, get the defense lined up, play my style of football and just try to help us win games.”
How special is it to reach a milestone like that in just your second NFL season?
“We have a great defensive line that does an unbelievable job keeping the offensive line off the linebackers. (Mike) Vrabel does a great job putting the linebackers in great spots to make plays. I’m just taking the coaching and doing my job.”
You must be doing something right though.
“Just try to play with energy. Just trying to do my job.”
Are you still confident this team can finish this season out strong?
“Yeah. If everybody just stays focused, takes it day-by-day, does their job, we should be where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Have you surprised yourself at all this season?
“Not really. I know what I can do. I know I can be better. There’s a lot of things I can correct on the field. Just taking the coaching, watching film, flying around and playing with energy, that’s my style of play, playing with energy, and it’s helped me out a lot.”
How is it that you always seem to be at the right place at the right time?
“Really just watching film. Understanding the play, understanding the formation, watching film with (Mike) Vrabel and the linebackers. Just kind of knowing what’s going to happen before it happens. Just knowing the formations.”
How much has Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel helped you?
“Just a lot of film study. We watch film a lot. He gives us a lot of keys, a lot of formation indicators. Just understanding what back is in the game, if they are in (shot) gun. Just looking back at film and reacting to the play as fast as possible.”
What are your thoughts on facing Packers QB Aaron Rodgers this week?
“He’s a great quarterback. We’re just going to do our job and prepare and have fun doing it.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What are your thoughts on yesterday and moving forward?
“Pretty much just got to be more consistent. Play better ball, both sides of the ball. Offense, defense. Special teams did a good job. We just got to improve on some things. Just move forward. That’s it.”
What are your thoughts on going to Green Bay and going up against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers?
“Still impressed with the outfit. Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback. Have some trouble with the offensive line of course. Tennessee did a good job a few weeks ago. We’ll take a look at the film, see what we can do to exploit them. Go out there and try to get this W.”
As a guy who played in the Big 10 in college, how do you feel about going and playing in 39 degree weather on Sunday?
“Just a walk in the park right there. Easy. Playing in the cold. That’s my life, so it shouldn’t be a problem. It doesn’t matter what the elements bring. It’s ball at the end of the day.”
Are you concerned about this team right now?
“I’m not worried about a thing, man. We’re still at the top of our division. Still got a winning record. Still got guys. Somebody’s got to go out there and play ball at the end of the day, so we’re going to go out there. We’re going to that. All we’ve got to do is just correct a few mistakes and play our best ball come here in December and try to get that invite to the big dance at the end.”
Some of the fans have lost confidence in QB Brock Osweiler. Is there full team support behind him?
“Yeah, of course. Whoever we got out there on the field, we’re always going to ride with. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, like I said, somebody has to go out there and play ball. We’re going to ride with the 11 guys that we have on offense, on defense and special teams and go out there and play at the best of our ability.”
How tough is it to finish against Chargers QB Philip Rivers because of his quick release and in terms of getting him down?
“He’s a good quarterback. Hats off to him. There’s a reason why he’s played so long in this league. He understood how to not allow the rush to get there as quick as possible, to dump and release that ball as soon as he could so that he could have his guys just go out there and just make plays.”
How big of a challenge is it for you guys to travel to Green Bay in the cold and play against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers?
“Like I said again, it doesn’t matter about the cold. It’s ball at the end of the day. Play anytime, anywhere. Going against the Packers, still they got guys that can make plays on defense, on offense and things like that, so we just got to go out there and play consistent, correct the things that we didn’t do so well in the past games, move forward and play consistently all around. Complimentary football.”
How is the confidence in this locker room?
“Everybody panicking and all that, I don’t understand why. We’re still at the top of our division and the thing is we control our own destiny, so we just got to be able to play better ball as we move forward in December and, like I said, get that ticket to the big dance at the end. That’s it.”