Can we get your thoughts on how QB Tom Savage did in his first start? Do you expect to start him against the Titans?
“Yeah, he’ll start against the Titans. I thought that the first half was a combination of some missed assignments, he held the ball a little bit, could have been some better play calls by me in there. It was a combination of just bad some offense obviously. We came in at halftime, we regrouped. I thought the players did an excellent job of understanding the way we wanted to kind of change our attack in the second half, and it helped. So as it relates to Tom, I thought he got into a rhythm in the second half and he was much better. I think everybody could see that. What did we learn from that? I don’t know, we’re still talking about that right now. You know, obviously Tennessee is a different opponent, different defense, the whole thing. But I thought Tom played better in the second half.”
You said last week you play every game to win. Now, what is your philosophy for this game?
“I think anytime you line up, you play to win. I mean, I think that’s we’re all about here at the Houston Texans. I mean, I think it’s important to win anytime you play, in this case on Sunday. Look, we’ll be smart about it. We’re going to go out there and do everything we can against a very difficult opponent. Dick LeBeau on defense, Mike Mularkey and those guys are doing a good job offensively. We’re going to go out there and play to win.”
What are some of the things you guys have done on defense moving players around and do you think that’s helping DE Jadeveon Clowney?
“I think it’s important to do that. It’s something we really believe in because I think if you line a guy up in the same spot on every snap, it’s pretty easy to get a beat on where they are. You know, as far as chipping, the different ways to slide the protection to help, and things like that. I think RAC (Romeo Crennel) and his crew of guys on that side of the ball do a good job and I think, like I said after the game, most of the credit should go to the players. The players execute at a very high level, they play very hard, and they’ve done a real nice job for us this year.”
In what ways do you change your preparation with Titans QB Marcus Mariota out for the season?
“Well, he’s a different quarterback. Obviously, it’s terrible what happened to Marcus. I’m sure he’ll be back, he’s a guy that we got to know a little bit pre-draft a couple of years ago. He’s an excellent young quarterback. But he’s a different quarterback than Matt (Cassel). Marcus is a guy that has tremendous speed. Obviously, he can throw the ball. So we’ll have to really study some of the things that they’ve done with Matt, whether it was Jacksonville or in the preseason or during this season, and see how we want to try and defend that.”
What’s the balance between working on your team and your identity, and preparing for Tennessee?
“We’re preparing for Tennessee. Now, there’s going to be different things that we do off the field, as far as treatment in the training room, and things that we do in the weight room as far as trying to get guys as healthy as we possibly can at the end of the year here. But, as far as on the practice field and things like that, we’re definitely offensively, I can tell you this, we’re going to work on the red area every day. I mean, it’s not very good in the red area, starting with me, with the coaching. We got to coach it better, but I think overall that still points towards Tennessee. We’re going to be working very hard on Tennessee.”
Have you determined how much your starters will play against Tennessee?
“We’re playing to win. We’re playing to win. We’re not even talking about that. We’re playing to win. We’ve got a chance to win 10 games. You know, I don’t know how many double-digit win seasons the Texans have had, but I think that’s important. I think every game counts. I don’t really care what - you know, I think any time you line up in this league, I think it’s really just out of respect for the National Football League and football in general. You play to win. That’s what you do, you play to win. You know, we’re going to go out there and do the best we can to try to win, and I think that it’s a very difficult opponent, and that’s what we’re studying right now.”
What did you see from the breakdown on the touchdown pass to Bengals WR Brandon LaFell? Did you think DE Jadeveon Clowney was going to catch him?
“It was a great design by Cincinnati. We had two guys on the same level in man coverage, and they got picked off, they picked each other. Brandon can run. It was a quick slant pass and he took off. You know, that’s the thing about our guys, even though that was a bad play obviously, an 87-yard touchdown, there was tremendous hustle on that play, and I think that the guy to point to there especially was Clowney. I mean, he was rushing in on the quarterback, turned around and ran basically – whatever that was - 90 yards in his case to try to chase the guy down. That’s an example of the type of effort led by (Brian) Cushing, and (Benardrick) McKinney, (Whintey) Mercilus, Johnathan Joseph, that’s the tone that they set in practice, those veteran players that we’re going to rally to the ball, 11 guys to the ball, and I think the younger players here have taken to that.”
The pass protection help up really well against the Jaguars two weeks ago but struggled against the Bengals, what was the difference between that week to what we saw on Saturday?
“I don’t know what the difference was as much as we just have to do a better job. Geno Atkins got us, he’s a tough guy to go against. (Carlos) Dunlap and (Michael) Johnson, those guys off the edge are not easy. I thought in the second half, with a combination of guys doing a good job of running the right routes, the ball coming out a little bit quicker, obviously the protection looked better. But that’s something we’re going to have to really work on this week. You know, we can’t start the game like that with whatever it was, three or four sacks in the first half. That’s not good, and again it’s not always the line. I mean, certainly there were breakdowns and the line has to play better than they did in the first half. But a lot of it has to do with the whole unit. That’s the beauty about offensive football, you’re working to try to get 11 guys on the same page every play, which is virtually impossible to do that every single play of a football game, but that’s the key because sometimes things breaks down and you don’t really know what’s going on behind. That receiver maybe didn’t run the right route, or maybe Tom’s (Savage) making the wrong read, whatever it is. So we’ve got to get everybody on the same page to start the game. That’s for sure.”
Can you talk about QB Tom Savage not throwing an interception and leading drives for the win in back-to-back weeks?
“He’s done a good job of taking care of the ball, knock on wood. That’s the big thing, we have to continue to have 100 percent ball security, that’s going to be the key going forward, especially in this time of year and in the playoffs. I mean, you have to have 100 percent ball security. You’re not going to win if you turn the ball over. Tom’s done a decent job. There were a couple close ones but they didn’t intercept it. It was a good job by him of taking care of the ball. You know, look, we’ve got to score more. Look, we have to play better on offense. We get that. We work very hard to put together a plan, we have to put together a better plan. But I think what’s happened is we’ve played pretty good complimentary football. The defense has given us the ball in pretty good field position. I think the special teams played pretty well and helped us with field position. Eventually, we broke through and put together a drive where we were able to score. But you know, a lot has to do with the fact that our defense is playing at such a high level that we can get away with that right now. But that’s not going to be the case going forward every single week. I’m not saying the defense isn’t going to play well, I’m saying we have to score more than one touchdown. And that’s what we’re going to work hard to try to do this week.”
Is RB Lamar Miller starting to feel better?
“Yeah, I think he’s feeling better. You know, he ran before the game on Saturday night. We felt like it was in his best interest not to play in that game. And then we’ll see how he looks when we get back in here on Wednesday.”
What did you see from G Jeff Allen? Can you give us a comparison between what you’re seeing from him and G Oday Aboushi?
“I’m not going to get into the comparison game, but I think Jeff plays tough, I think Aboushi plays tough, and I think Xavier (Su’a-Filo) plays tough. I think Greg Mancz has done - look, they can all do better, all of us can, starting with me, but I think that the guys up front are great to coach because they show up every week, they’re tough, they work very hard to know the game plan, they’re all doing the best job that they can. We just need to keep trying to get better.”
What do the good red zone teams do that makes them successful?
“No penalties, no tackles for loss, no sacks, throw it to the open guy, make the right read, make the catch, make the play, block very well down there. There’s just a myriad of things that good red zone teams do. And look, I’ll say this, we’ve been a good red zone team in the past. It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing in the red zone anymore. It just looks that way because we haven’t been good in the red zone. So, you’re only as good as your last journey into the red zone and it hasn’t been very good. We have to figure out how to stop committing penalties, how to stop getting tackles for loss in the running game. We got to design maybe some better plays. We like the plays that we have down there but maybe give them a little bit different picture and things like that. But we have to do a better job down there.”
Is there less margin for error in the red zone and do you have to work quicker because of where you are on the field?
“No question. There’s a lot less room to defend, so the window opens in the passing game and it closes just as fast as it opens. So the pressure down there is faster. There’s less room to defend so they get to the passer quicker. Look, we know all these things. We’ve got to just do a better job of coaching it and get our players to execute it better.”
CB A.J. Bouye had a lot of opportunities to make plays against the Bengals. How did you think he did under that pressure?
“He played a good game. He played, really, a good game. He’s had a good year. He played well. I thought Kareem Jackson played well. But going back to A.J., he had some key pass breakups, a couple on third down, made a real nice play on third-and-1 when they tried to take a shot down field and he was in good leverage on the receiver and stayed that way. It was good. He’s doing a good job. He’s a very focused guy. Can’t say enough about the way he has played this year.”
You coached Raiders QB Matt McGloin at Penn State and now he is taking over as the Raiders starting quarterback. What can you tell us about him?
“Matt McGloin is a guy that’s very important to me in my coaching career. I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, this was a guy that when I got to Penn State, had played some. Had been a walk-on there. I don’t know what the perception of him was when I got there but when I got there, everybody started with a clean slate because I didn’t know about anybody there player-wise or anybody. So when we started spring practice, I mean, it was just obvious to me after about nine or 10 practices that this was the starting quarterback for that year. I think the guy is smart. I think he’s accurate. I think he works very hard to improve. Look, the guy was fun to coach. He was a captain there. He’s a big part of why that – you know, those players on that 2012 team are a big part of why Penn State is where they are now and he was a big part of that. Then to have a shot to make it in the pros, I knew that it was going to be hard for any team to cut him. That’s the type of kid he is. He’s from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Do you guys know anything about Scranton? I mean, they’re born with a chip on their shoulder so to go into a pro football team and perform the way he did, especially in Oakland, a really talented team a few years ago and he made the team. Then Coach (Jack) Del Rio gets the job, obviously he likes him. He keeps him. So the guy has done a nice job. He’s a great kid.”
It seems like your red zone possessions have started at the eight or 10 yard line instead of closer to the goal line. Does that change your approach and what can you do differently?
“It’s a good question. Look, there’s different ways to approach the red area. Sometimes in the past here or wherever I’ve been, we’ve tried to score from the fringe area which is about the 30-35 yard line and then maybe try to score from the high red, which is about the 20-yard line. We’ve used different approaches here. Now, the one thing about it is that we’ve been in the red area quite a bit. So there’s a positive there. The problem is, when you get in there, you have to score touchdowns. You can’t kick field goals. Now, what’s good about us is our defense is playing at such a high level. But again, at the end of the day, we’ve got to score touchdowns down there. You do not really want too many third-and-goals from the eight yard line or third-and-goal from the 10 yard line. Like, those are very difficult play calls. We’ve had a lot of those lately and we have to figure out how to stop that. What do we do better? Can we run it better? Can we throw it quickly better? Can we do something a little bit different to get us down to the goal line so we can put our goal line offense in and try to score? So, we’re working hard on that right now and we’re going to continue to work on it and try to get it improved.”
What are your thoughts on the way S Quintin Demps is playing lately?
“Demps is another guy in the secondary – you know, we were talking about corners before and I mentioned Kareem (Jackson) and obviously Johnathan Joseph there all the time. Robert Nelson at corner, by the way, too has come up and played good for us. I’ll say this with Demps, he has had a good year for us. His interceptions, he’s got good hands. He’s very instinctive. He’s a leader back there. What I’ve been impressed with is his tackling. He’s really been a guy that’s been kind of an eraser back there when a play has kind of broken free, run or pass, he’s been able to tackle the guy and get the guy on the ground. I think that’s been a big key that maybe goes unnoticed sometimes. He’s done a nice job in all areas.”
Even though you’re playing to win on Sunday, how much does it benefit you guys that you’ve wrapped up the division and this game does not have any effect on that?
“Well, I think there is a point to that where your quality control guys in some sense can begin to maybe look ahead to whoever you think might be the opponent. The problem is you have three teams that it could be, so you’re not going to – how much work are you going to get on three different teams? I mean, you’re going to try to do the best you can. The first priority, though, right now for our quality control guys is to finish up their Tennessee breakdowns and make sure that those are correct. Our coaching staff is concentrated on Tennessee.”
What would it mean to you guys to finish 10-6 and 6-0 in the division?
“It means a lot. I mean, I think it means a lot. To finish with a double-digit win season in this league is very difficult to do. To be 9-7, 9-7 and then have a chance to be 10-6, I think it’s great. I don’t think you can substitute winning. I don’t think there’s anything that is better than winning. I don’t care where the game is played, what the game is about, winning is good for everything and everybody. So, I think for this organization, for these guys in the locker room, the work that they’ve put in, I think it’s important that we go out there and we do the best we can, again, versus a very difficult team with Matt Cassel playing quarterback now. We’re going to have to figure out what they’re doing with him. We’re not going to really know. Mike Mularkey’s done a great job with that team this year. I know they had a tough day against Jacksonville but two big running backs, their offensive line with (Taylor) Lewan and Ben Jones and (Jack) Conklin playing well for them. This is going to be a big challenge for us. Our guys, they’ll come in here Wednesday and we’ll put together a plan and we’ll go in there and try to play as hard as we can.”
How do you explain your strong finishes in each of your three years?
“I don’t know. I think that’s probably a better question maybe for some of the players. I don’t know. I just would say that – I talk to the players a lot about, and our coaches do too, about this being a progress league, being an improvement league. We just want them to go out there every day, individually, unit, team and try to improve. I think that’s one thing that I learned in this league early on was you’ve got to be decent in September. You can’t go 0-4, you can’t go 0-6. Like, we get that, but you need to be playing your best football at the end. I’m not saying we’re playing unbelievable football. Obviously, offensively we’re not scoring 30 a game but we’re winning. I think one of the keys is that you get into good position in December, you’re playing meaningful games and hopefully you’re playing good football at that time, and that’s what we try to do.”