HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Why do you think coaches emphasize stopping the run on defense this time of the year? Is it the weather or the fact it’s getting closer to the playoffs?
“I think it has a little bit to do with both things. I really do believe that you’ve got to be able to run the football, possess the ball on offense, get in manageable third downs by running the ball on first and second down, sometimes running on third down and I think you definitely have to – everything you do on defense on first and second down has to start with stopping the run because if you don’t stop the run, you’re in trouble. I think that also in my mind has to do with the overall toughness of your team. I know we have a tough football team. Look, we haven’t always executed at a high level. We understand that. But we have a tough team and I think one of the reasons why is because we’re able to run the football and we’re able to stop the run.”
Do offensive lineman prefer to run block over pass blocking?
“I think that’d probably be a good question for them. But I think early in the game especially it’s probably something that they enjoy doing rather than going backwards right away. They’d like to be going forwards running blocking. But I think that’s probably something you should ask Duane (Brown) and those guys.”
How good is it to have RB Alfred Blue back at practice today with what he brings to the offense?
“It’s good. Hopefully he can be back. He practiced today. Looked pretty good out there. Hopefully for the reasons you just said: good size, good special teams player. He’s been productive for us in the past obviously so it would be good if we had him back.”
What do you think about the pistol formation the Packers run and how they run the triple option?
“Very difficult to defend. Like I said all week, Mike (McCarthy) is a very creative offensive coach. They line up in that, like you said, the pistol. They line up in a three-back look, like an inverted wishbone with the quarterback in the gun. It’s hard to decipher which direction they’re going and things like that. How to call the strength of their offensive relative to your defense, how to get the people lined up. We’ve practiced hard yesterday and today. We know it’s going to be a challenge but we know that it’s also a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”
Will you adjust the play calls and game plan depending on the weather in the Green Bay?
“I think you have to be really aware of what the conditions are as early as you can on Sunday. Obviously it’s hard to simulate those conditions here. Although I heard it’s going to rain tomorrow, the difference is it’ll be rainy and 60 degrees here where there it will be below 30. But if it does rain here, we may go out there and get some work in that type of weather, at least rainy weather. But I think when you get to the stadium, in preparation on Saturday night and those types of things, you better be aware of what your plan is. I’ve been in so many different types of situations. I remember one year we were playing in Buffalo when I was in New England, it was like 50-60 mph winds. I don’t know if you remember that game. I think we ran 60 offensive plays in the game and I would say 50 of them were runs. You have to adjust to what the weather is, no doubt about it.”
How much of an impact player is Packers LB Clay Matthews and what can you do to prepare for him?
“They line Clay up in a lot of different places. Obviously an edge rusher, he played inside linebacker a lot against Philly. They’ve obviously got some very, very stout linebackers and defensive line. (Nick) Perry is an excellent player. Mike Daniels, (Letroy) Guion. I mean, they’ve got some good players. Julius Peppers, obviously – Julius Peppers has been doing it for a long time. It’s a big challenge. Our front against their front. It’s going to be one of the keys to the game.”
Why do you think you’ve improved so much against the run defensively?
“Look, I don’t think we changed a whole lot. I think some of the teams we went against had some very difficult schemes early on. Maybe there were some missed tackles, some missed fits and things like that. We’ve practiced better. We’ve coached it better. These guys are playing better. It’s week-to-week though, you know you have to keep it up week-to-week, you can’t rest on your laurels, so to speak. You’ve got to make sure that you’re able to go in there against Green Bay and understand that their scheme is a whole lot different than the past three teams that we’ve played. So we’ve got to be ready for that.”
What are the challenges of facing Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s offensive scheme?
“I don’t even know where to start on that one. I mean, it’s different personnel groupings. Obviously great players at a lot of different spots, especially at the receiver position. Very athletic tight ends and obviously a great quarterback. Different personnel on every play, formations, motions, all the adjustments that go with it. You have to deal with all the different cadences that Aaron (Rodgers) has. There’s just a lot. You have to deal with their offensive line, which is I think very good. So there’s a lot of different things that make it a successful offense.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
At this time of year, everybody talks about running and stopping the run. You’ve coached in a lot of cold weather cities. Why does it seem to be so important in December?
“Well, because of the weather itself. You know, it’s usually cold, wet, possibility of fumbling the ball, don’t want to throw it as much. So, if you can run it, then you eliminate some of the mistakes that could potentially happen, and so that’s where that mentality has come in. Now, I think that as we go forward and have gone forward and you got the stadiums that are covered, that is not necessarily a school of thought because if you have a stadium with a roof on it, you don’t have to deal with the weather, you know? So if you want to throw the ball, you can. But the stadiums that are outside and you have to deal with that, then you want to be able to run it and not turn it over.”
You keep playing really well against the run. What are you doing so well to shut down the run the way you have, especially considering the different schemes and different backs you’ve faced?
“Well, I think that our guys have focused on gap control and responsibility as well as the guys up front and the linebackers, and they’re able to win the one-on-ones and help win their gap and then when they get double-teamed they’re able to stay at the line of scrimmage rather than getting knocked back for five yards. So, I think that that’s a big item in being able to stop the run. I think they’ve kind of bought into it and it’s kind of a rallying point for them.”
Are there a couple of elements of DE Jadeveon Clowney’s game that have made bigger jumps than others?
“Well, I don’t think that we’ve totally seen the total guy, you know? We’ve seen his ability. He’s got explosion, got quickness, got length, he can run. But he’s been playing the defensive line a lot, and that kind of takes its toll on you because you’re in there with the big guys, so you get banged up a little bit. Eventually we’re going to see the total Clowney, and then I think that we’ll see what he brings to the table. I think it’s a good thing of what he brings.”
What have you seen opposing teams try to do to contain OLB Whitney Mercilus’ impact and how has he overcome that this year?
“Well, he’s been working really hard. Whitney is such a conscientious guy and he gets frustrated when he doesn’t have the kind of production that he had last year at times, and he wants to be able to make those dynamic plays. But the thing that Whitney does is he’s a consistent player. He gives great effort all the time and he knows what to do, and so that helps us in itself even though sometimes, you know, we’re not getting the sacks that we got last year.”
Can you talk about Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and some keys to try to keep him from going crazy?
“Aaron is a really good quarterback. He’s been doing it a while and has tremendous ability. As well as being able to throw the ball and make all the throws and throw accurately, he’s got good run ability. He has a great knack of feeling the rush in the pocket and being able to avoid it, and then when he avoids it, he’s got enough speed that he can run for the first down if he chooses to or he can make the big throw down the field. So, trying to defend all of those things makes it a little bit more difficult.”
What’s it like for a coordinator when you have a four-game stretch of Raiders QB Derek Carr, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Colts QB Andrew Luck?
“Well, there’s some sleepless nights because all of those guys are really good and you know what they’re capable of and what they bring to the table, and just trying to slow them down because you can’t really totally stop those guys. But if you can slow them down, then maybe they don’t score as much as they usually score.”
The pistol stuff that the Packers are doing with the triple-option and wishbone and everything, how tough is it to prepare for that?
“That’s part of football. They’re just dressing it up in a different way and then moving guys from one side and stacking them together, and it makes you have to think about those responsibilities and how you’re going to handle it. So, because we’ve seen it, it’s easier to prepare for. I think if you haven’t seen it and it gets thrown on you, then that’s more difficult. But I think that we’ll be in pretty good position to try to slow those guys down.”
Do your outside rushers have to be more disciplined because Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is so good at moving out and throwing on the run?
“Sure. They do. They can’t run up the field past him because he doesn’t care about that because he’ll step up, and if they run up the field past him that creates scramble lanes, so they have to be disciplined as far as how they’re going to rush. Then we have to get help from the inside guys, too. Those guys inside have to push the middle of the pocket so that he can feel the presence there and might not be able to step up and then he has to get out of the back of the pocket, which probably in the long run is better for us.”
Can you talk about the weapons that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is going to have to throw to?
“Well, you know what, he’s got a handful of weapons. He’s got some tight ends that can catch and run after the catch, he’s got several receivers and they use them all. They got a five wide receiver package they could put in there, and then one of their wide receivers is also a running back, so they’ll put him in the backfield and hand the ball off to him. So, he’s got a lot of different tools that he can use, so it’s just a matter of how they decide to use them in the game. Maybe if it does snow, that might limit the guys a little bit, you know? Because along with the receivers and the tight ends, he’s got a couple running backs that run really hard, and that’s one of the things that Green Bay has always had, is had hard-running running backs. It’s a total package that you have to defend, so we have our work cut out for us.”
RB ALFRED BLUE
How are you feeling this week?
“Feeling good. Back to normal. Back to myself.”
Do you expect to be out there on Sunday?
How good does it feel to be back?
“Feels great to be back. Feels great to be out there helping out your teammates and working to a common goal.”
How do you feel about playing in Lambeau Field against the team that you grew up watching?
“It’s a good experience. Going to be a great experience. First time playing in there so I’m excited about it.”
Is it tough for you getting back in the rhythm and knocking the rust off?
“Not really. You just go out there and practice hard. Coaches always teach it. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it fast, so I just try to go out there and play fast and correct it. Correct it on film.”
T DUANE BROWN
What is the importance of the running game at this point in the season with playoffs right around the corner?
“Yeah it’s crucial to have a consistent running game, be able to establish some new line of scrimmage every week. It’s crucial. Especially this week playing on the road in a hostile environment against that kind of defense the run game is important.”
Packers LB Clay Matthews has been banged up a bit. Is he still a dominant player from what you’ve seen on tape?
“Absolutely. He’s still a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Creates a lot of challenges for us whether on the edge or lining up inside at inside linebacker. He’s a great physical player, so looking forward to that challenge.”
Throughout the past couple of years your team has been the most successful in December. What do you think it is about the last quarter of the season that makes this happen?
“That’s when you have to be at your best. That’s when you kind of find out your identity. Find out what you’re really good at and you play as well as possible. Try to play clean football and that’s something that Coach (Bill) O’Brien emphasizes to us. We just try to lock in as much as possible because this is when everything kind of really matters.”
Do you remember much about your last trip to Green Bay?
“It was cold. It was negative three I think. It was a great game. Last second field goal to win. As a rookie, I remember exactly how cold it was. It was horrible.”
It is predicted to snow. What types of things change when it snows?
“Nothing changes for me. I’m still blocking guys, so I think it’s something more for the quarterbacks and receivers and the running backs to have to deal with. You know, it’s football man. Whatever the weather is, we line up and play. Looking forward to it.”
Yesterday Coach Bill O’Brien was talking about possible running no huddle a little bit more. Where do you stand on that?
“I like it. I think we’ve had some success with it. I think it keeps the defenses on their heels. Whatever happens, I’ll be ready to go out there and execute it.”
CB KAREEM JACKSON
What are your memories of when the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers played against you here?
“He can make every throw. That night he made every throw possible. It was a tough game. Like I said, he made some incredible throws that night, so we just have to be close in coverage.”
Is there a certain mindset playing the cold weather in Green Bay?
“It’s football weather. This time of the year, you get some perfect football weather. Not too hot and not too cold. Like I said, it’ll be perfect football weather and definitely looking forward to it.”
As a football player, do you want to play at Lambeau Field?
“I mean as a kid, you know, you always, growing up hearing about Lambeau so to get an opportunity to play there is definitely almost like checking off something on the bucket list. It’ll be a lot of fun. Thus far, we’ve had a good week of practice. Continue to go and have another good day tomorrow and finish up the week strong and get ready to go.”
From a football assignment standpoint, how much of the Packers running wishbone and triple option a challenge?
“I mean every week is something different. For us, we just have to be in tune with the game plan. Look at the little things that they do on film and then when they come up in the game we got to be ready for it and everybody execute.”
RB LAMAR MILLER
Is it even more important to establish the run this week with the possible bad weather?
“It’s very important every week to run the ball. Now, we’re in December so it’s important to run the ball.”
Does the fact you played games in Buffalo in similar conditions when you were with Miami help you prepare for this game against the Packers?
“Yes. Whenever your number is called, you have to be ready. Just playing in a game like this, especially in December, you have to be able to run the ball.”
Do you mind the cold weather?
“I don’t mind. I’m not playing in it all the time. I can take it. It’s cool.”
Do you have a different mindset playing the cold weather?
“It’s a mindset but, at the same time, you can’t control that. You just have to go out there and just play football. Growing up, you’re used to playing football in rain and any other type of weather so you just have to go out there and do your job and just play fast and just make plays when your number is called.”
How important is it to get RB Alfred Blue back this week?
“It’s very important. I’ve been messing with him for the past two weeks now. But it’s good to have him back. He does a good job for this team. I’m looking forward to running the ball with him again.”
In what way were you messing with RB Alfred Blue?
“I was just telling him that we need him back. Nothing is wrong with him. Just stuff like that.”
In a game like this, is it important to have the full stable of running backs?
“Yeah. Anytime you have all your running backs going into a game, it’s always great. When the next guy gets in, they try to take full advantage of their opportunity. We just stay on each other and make sure everybody is accountable and doing their job.”
Will this be a game where you have to lean on the running backs more?
“I think it is. Obviously, a person would need some type of blow. So when the next guy gets in, just knowing that guy will do their job and keep the run game going is always good.”
NT VINCE WILFORK
What are your experiences with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and what do you think about him?
“I mean, he’s a great quarterback. It showed last week and got back on track a little bit. So, we have to be able to execute well. It’s tough going into Lambeau and walking away with a W, so we have our work cut out for us, but at the same time we understand how important this game is. Every game is important but both teams kind of have something they’re playing for. Just seeing them play last week, this past game, they kind of look like they got some things on track, they fixed a few things and they played well. We have to go up there and match their intensity on the road against a good football team to be successful.”
Is there a mindset when you play in bad weather like that?
“No. I mean, you have to block out everything. The only thing that matters is playing your opponent, not mother nature. You know, we live in Houston where it’s hot, so a lot of teams have to come down here have to deal with that. We have to go on the road and deal with another weather. This is football. Any time that you look back on the days and they show commercials of football, you normally see the Chicago Bears or Green Bay – smoke coming out of their mouth and playing in snow. This is football weather. That’s how it is in December. You have to be able to win in December. They’re very tough to play in December up there. We understand that. We have to be able to execute. If we can’t execute, we’ll have a long day.”
What is it about December? The Texans have done very well at the end of the season the last couple years.
“Well, I mean, everything comes together and you kind of put all your eggs in one basket at this point. To be successful come January, you have to be able to win in December, later. You kind of understand where you’re at as a team, you know what you’re working for, you know your opponents pretty good, your opponents know you. So, it’s like a chess match. After Thanksgiving, football normally gets very interesting because you have teams that understand if they have shot or don’t have a shot. The past couple years we’ve been in the hunt. We’re in the hunt now. We understand that. We have to play well. We have to play well.”
How much tougher is it to prepare for a team with a variety of schemes on offense and a guy like Packers QB Aaron Rodgers who can pull it down and run it?
“Well, I mean, you can’t pinpoint one thing. They do so many things well. They have receivers playing running back, so they’re not afraid to put anybody back there and use Aaron to run the ball sometimes, too. They have a lot of guys that can catch the ball. We understand that. They have an explosive offense. They can explode at any second, so we have to be disciplined. This game is going to come down to being very disciplined and understanding our rules and doing our jobs. So, we have to continue to practice well, put another good practice together tomorrow and Saturday will be our walkthrough and everything, and be ready to play come Sunday.”
How tough is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers the way he’s able to move around in the pocket?
“I mean, very tough. Sometimes you say you want to keep people in the pocket or get people out of the pocket, but he seems to make every throw. It doesn’t matter where he’s at. The most important thing is to get him down, to get to him, but he’s very smart. He doesn’t take a lot of sacks. He knows where his guys are, and I think the receivers and the backs and tight ends do a real good job – and the offensive line – do a real good job of uncovering and getting to an open spot so he can find them. The offensive line does a real good job of blocking. It’s hard to ask an offensive line to block for a long time, and they do. So, obviously they’ve done it for a long time and they play well when they’re rocking. Right now, looking at last week, they’re rocking. Like I said, they fixed some things and it showed last week. It’s the Green Bay that you’re used to seeing the past couple years.”
How important is this game right now?
“Every game is important. It’s December. Every game counts, so you can’t go in there and test the water. I don’t care if you play at home or away. We can’t test the water.”
With all this talk about weather, is it appropriate for guys to wear sleeves?
“You can wear what you want to wear but when sleeves get wet, you get colder, you get heavy.”
I’ve heard it’s an unspoken rule that linemen aren’t supposed to wear sleeves.
“Well, I won’t. Everybody – to each his own. If some people feel comfortable wearing it – however you feel comfortable. I mean, it’s not a rule. You just have to be ready to play.”