HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
“Just a couple things before we get going. One thing is after the game, I was told about Brian Cushing and the record that he set (most career tackles in franchise history). I just want to kind of talk about that a little bit. Career total of 639 tackles passes DeMeco Ryans. I think you guys know how I feel about Brian. I just think in this league to be able to break a team record like that, the things that he’s had to overcome in his career, the injuries, to be able to come back and be as productive of a player and one of the top leaders of our team says a lot about him. I think everything that he does for the city of Houston, on the field, off the field - great guy, definite captain for us. Congratulations to Brian. With that, I’ll open it up to questions.”
How long do you enjoy a game like yesterday’s win against the Colts?
“Not long. Not long. I like the locker room scene. I’m happy for the players, really happy for the players. But I’m speaking for the coaches, I think as soon as we get on the plane, we’re reviewing that game. Our video guys do a great job, Tim Brog and his crew, they do a great job of getting the video right to us so we’ve got it on the surface. We’re watching the Indy game, put Indy to bed at some point in time and then move on to Jacksonville. That’s what we’re doing.”
How much credit should your coaching staff get for the team being where they are right now?
“I think the two most important groups of people during the season for us obviously are the assistant coaches and the players. I mean, the players are the most important. They go out there and play hard. Our team plays hard. I know it’s not always pretty, but one thing that’s always gratifying for me as a head coach is to watch the film and see the effort and the enthusiasm, the way that these guys attack it every day. I have a lot of respect for that. Then our assistant coaches, they work very hard. They work long hours to put together as good a game plan as they can to teach the players so the players can go out there and execute. I think the assistant coaches, led by our coordinators. Our assistants do a great job. A great job.”
What did you think about the job the offensive line did yesterday vs. the Colts?
“Mike (Devlin) does a really good job. We were lucky to be able to hire Mike when we did a couple years ago. Guys have a lot of respect for him in the room. Those guys, I really enjoy being around that group of guys and those players. They come to work every day. I don’t think it’s the easiest thing here to play for us. We demand a lot in practice, meeting time. There’s a lot of contact involved during the week with the line. We want them to be ready to play on Sundays. Led by Duane Brown, those guys did a good job. I thought (Oday) Aboushi went in there and played well. I thought Xavier (Su’a-Filo), when he went in there, really played physical and played well. Chris Clark battles every week. Greg Mancz battling. Jeff Allen battling. (Kendall) Lamm with his role. I thought all those guys played well.”
What is the message you have for the team for this stretch run to end the season?
“Jacksonville. That’s it. Jacksonville. Everything that we’re doing when they come into the meeting on Wednesday will be about the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
What’s the key to winning nine in a row in the AFC South and the key to playing well at this time of the year?
“I think the league is – I’ve said this before – it’s a progress league. You have to try to improve every week. Would we like to be better than 7-6? Absolutely. But I think the team that showed up yesterday was one that has really improved. I think we’ve improved a lot. We haven’t always had the wins to show for that. I think now is the time where that needs to show. Hopefully, we continue to do that. Jacksonville is not easy. I don’t care what their record is. I just got done watching a few hours of tape. They’ve got a lot of good players, guys that can run. It’s going to be a very tough game. As far as the division, I think it’s a very tough division. I don’t get into whatever the narrators, authors, journalists think about the AFC South. I think it’s a tough division. I think anyone who writes that, again, you have to grasp how hard it is to win a game in this league. These divisional games are very difficult. Give our players a lot of credit, they’ve played well in the division lately but it needs to continue on Sunday.”
Do you have any hope of getting OLB John Simon, CB Johnathan Joseph and WR Braxton Miller back this week?
“Definitely have hope for some guys but I would say that all three of those guys that you just mentioned are definitely day-to-day. I don’t know, as I stand here right now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you ‘yes, they’ll be playing’ and I wouldn’t be able to tell you ‘no, they’ll be out.’ So we just have to see come Thursday or Friday.”
What did you think about the job the secondary did with CB Johnathan Joseph out?
“Again, I think the combination of pass rush and their ability to stay in coverage, our ability to try to do the best we could to contain Andrew Luck in the pocket had a lot to do with those guys being in tight coverage. I thought all of those guys starting at the corner spot with A.J. (Bouye), Kareem (Jackson), Robert Nelson stepped up and made some nice plays for us. (Quintin) Demps and Dre Hal, those guys with their interceptions, big plays for us. I thought it was a real good day for them.”
You’ve won in Indianapolis two straight years, which is something the franchise hadn’t done at all until you arrived. Can you put that into any kind type of perspective in terms of how important it is for the franchise?
“I don’t really think about that right now. I do know that Indianapolis over the years has set a standard, especially in this division, with how they’ve played. It’s gratifying to know that we’re able to go in there and compete with them. Every year is different. Again, it’s about the players, their ability to go to Indy. One of the things that stood out to me yesterday was how resilient our players were, and that’s big going into these games, starting with Jacksonville. If somebody makes a play, which is going to happen, play the next play. I think that’s how you win on the road and I thought our players did a great job of that yesterday.”
When you looked at the film and saw what you did in the red zone, what did you see?
“I mean, there’s just some things as a team and as an offense that we need to do better, and everybody’s involved. It’s 11 guys and the coaching staff – whether it’s a scheme or the execution or whatever it is – we’ve all got to do a better job. We’ve got to improve in that area if we really want to be where we want to end up being. We can’t be 1-for-5 in the red area. I think everybody understands that. Give Nick (Novak) a lot of credit. He did a great job of bailing us out with his kicks, but we’ve got to score touchdowns so we’re going to really work hard on that this week and hopefully it’ll be improved.”
Going back to playing well down the stretch the last couple years, when players do something consistently, does the mental part help them continue to do it?
“I think winning, it’s a cure-all. It’s something that when you’re able to go into a tough environment like Indy is and win, I don’t think there’s any doubt that – I think our guys have a lot of confidence but I think as a team, it helps your team. Everybody feels a lot better about the coming week, everybody can’t wait to get in here and go to work. Whatever their role is in the game, whatever they did to help us win. Just think about, like, our coverage units. On punt, the way that Shane (Lechler) punted the ball. Our kickoff coverage was excellent. I mean, there were guys flying around down there making big plays for us. Just that right there, man, if we can get that type of play from our coverage units over the next three weeks, it’s going to be huge for us. All those little things that guys did well yesterday, that needs to continue, and I know our guys have confidence that it will continue.”
After everything DE Jadeveon Clowney has been through since he’s been here, how nice was it to see him have a game like he did yesterday where he was disruptive in so many different ways?
“When he has played for us, when he’s been out there, and he’s been out there quite a bit this year, he plays very hard, he’s been disruptive. I know a lot of people talk about that that was the best game and the most important play – and it was a great play that he made on the strip-sack – but there were so many other plays that he made in the game that were good too. He’s played hard for us whenever he does play. He’s been disruptive. I think a lot of attention is paid to him because of where he was drafted, and I think we all need to kind of move beyond that. Meaning this: that game, defensively, was played well as a unit, led by Brian Cushing, who broke the all-time tackle record, led by (Vince) Wilfork up front, who just absolutely, they couldn’t move him. He made some plays in the passing game, not only in the running game. Christian Covington, Joel Heath, Whitney Mercilus, the corners and safeties I just mentioned. It was a team defense that played well, and then J.D. did his part and made some good plays for us. But I think it was a lot of guys involved there that did a great job.”
What did you see from FB Jay Prosch as a lead blocker in the running game?
“Jay Prosch has had a good year for us. He really went in there and made some real tough blocks yesterday, and it was good. It’s a tough position to play. When you play fullback in this league – and that’s something that we believe in with some of the plays that we run – it’s a car crash for that guy. He’s a tough guy, he’s a very improved player, he’s worked hard in the offseason to improve his flexibility, his overall athletic ability. He made some key blocks yesterday.”
G Jeff Allen is in the concussion protocol. Will G Oday Aboushi play right guard until he comes back?
“We’re going to have to look at that. More than likely, you’d probably go with Xavier (Su’a-Filo) on the left and Oday on the right, but we’ll have to look at that. There’s a lot that goes into that. Some of it’s the type of plays you’re going to run against Jacksonville, some of it’s who’s playing well next to each other, if that makes sense, things like that, as far as the tackles are concerned. We’ll look at that, but that’s probably their natural position.”
You mentioned CB Robert Nelson making some plays but he also had a tough day. When a guy gets extensive playing time like that, what do you do to make sure he bounces back?
“I think the two plays you’re talking about, the two pass interference calls? Yeah, look, I think the one call was a good call. I mean, he’s probably got to play the ball better on the one down the sideline, the go route. But the one, the crossing pattern where the feet got tangled up – again, I’m trying to do a good job of not being fined this year. Anyway, I think the guy made a lot of good plays, too. Covered an in-cut, broke up a pass, tackled really well. If you play man coverage, you’re going to get defensive pass interference. So, I think our coaches did a nice job of getting him ready to play and I think he’ll come back ready to go and looking to improve on some of the mistakes but also knowing that, ‘hey look, I played pretty good.’”
Your commitment to the run and your run strategy yesterday seemed more important to you in yesterday’s game. Will we see more of that going forward?
“It’s a good question, but I think it’s important to understand like how we approach every game. Basically, with the exception of a couple positions, every single game, if we bring 46 guys to the game, we like to play every guy with the exception of - maybe the backup quarterback doesn’t play or maybe the seventh or eighth offensive lineman doesn’t play. That’s only two guys. There’s going to be 44-45 guys that play. So at the running back position, it’s very important this time of the year to make sure that guys are sharing the load because it’s a very physical game and this time of the year now when you’re headed into your 14th game - you know, these guys, we’ve run the ball quite a bit. These guys have taken a pounding and they’ve run the ball well. I mean to run the ball for 185 yards is a big deal and I think the way we divided up the chances, the reps, I thought it was good.”
We’ve talked about everybody but the head coach. This is your third year in a playoff run situation. What is your role when it comes to making sure your players are staying on course and how much has previous experience helped you?
“I view my role as just making sure that the guys know that we’re all in it together. This is how I see the game. This is how the game I believe is going to be played. This is our big picture view of how we want to play the game in all three phases. My role is to make sure that these guys know that, like I said, we’re all in it together and we’re all working very hard for the same common goal. I have a lot of respect for the guys in this locker room. I always have. I know that there’s guys in that locker room maybe that don’t always agree with me and how I do things, but there’s a lot of respect in there and I think to be where we are right now, could it be better? No question, but it is what it is and we’re 4-0 in the division and we’ve got a great opportunity in front of us, so it’s my job to make sure that these guys - that I show up with energy every day and try to do as good a job as I can of pointing them in the right direction.”
Does it help that this is your third year making a late-season playoff run?
“I think there’s no substitute for experience. I think there’s no substitute for, you know, maybe you’ve been in some of these situations before. Like yesterday, I thought it was good that we took a timeout there at the end before they ran that fourth down play. We took a timeout there because we weren’t sure what they were in, whether we had the right people and that ended up being a good timeout. That wasn’t just me. That was from experience of talking about that with the staff and having been in that situation before. Maybe not handled it the right way, handled it better yesterday and helped us win the game so I think there’s no substitute for experience.”
You had a lot of big playmakers in yesterday’s game. How did you decide who to give the game ball to?
“I’m going to give the game ball to the whole team. I know that sometimes people look at that as a cop out, but I think for a number of different reasons, for this organization, and for the guys in that locker room and the work they put in. I think that they all deserve a game ball. I’m going to give a special game ball though to (Brian) Cushing because of the record that he broke and what that record means to him and to his family and to his teammates.”
How important is it for you to stay the course after losing three games and not making any major changes to the personnel or game plan?
“I mean, I think what you see is what we are right now. I don’t see any major changes coming around other than, you know, a tweak of the game plan here and there based on who we’re playing. I still think that the Jaguars are a different football team than the Colts, so you’re going to see different plays and things like that, but as far as like major changes, you’re not going to see major changes. You know, even in the three-game losing streak, there were a lot of things that we did well. There’s no moral victories. We understand that, but there were a lot of things especially in two out of the three games that I thought we did well. I didn’t think we did enough good things at all against San Diego, but I thought we did in the Green Bay and the Oakland game. We’re on the right track, but every week’s different and we have to continue to stick to our philosophy of practice and detail and meetings and going out there with a lot of energy on Sunday.”