How is S Quintin Demps doing today?
“Good to have him back out there. He’s doing good. We’ll just have to see, still probably day-to-day but doing good.”
You talked yesterday about how you knew at an early age you wanted to be a coach. About when was that and exactly why did you know you wanted to coach?
“I mean, I don’t know, it was just – I was probably nine or ten years old, just basically I had good experience with some of the teams that I played on, the coaches that coached me when I was younger, junior high, high school, little league, all that. I loved sports, and just wanted to get into coaching and knew it at a pretty early age.”
DE J.J. Watt has been in the background, facility and the sideline for the second half of the season. What has his role been has a leader of the defense? How has he helped you out?
“Well he’s rehabbing, so that’s his No. 1 deal. He’s working hard in the training room and the weight room to get back to being able to play. It’s great to have him on the sideline, he loves being a part of it, he’s a great teammate, he loves seeing guys go out there and make plays - you can tell it gives him a lot of joy to see his teammates go out there and play well. It’s been good to have him down there.”
The tight ends this year have matured a lot, especially TE Ryan Griffin, and this is kind of a homecoming for him being a guy from New Hampshire.
“They’ve done a good job. They’ve worked hard to improve every year that they’ve been here, both Ryan (Griffin) and C.J. (Fiedorowicz). Both guys have done a nice job in the passing game, and also done a nice job for us in the running game. Stephen Anderson is a young player that we think has got the chance to be good, also made some plays for us this year. John Perry does a great job coaching those guys, so yeah they’ve made a lot of improvement.”
On defense, you always want to make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. You coached Patriots QB Tom Brady - is he the toughest ever in the NFL to try to make uncomfortable?
“He’s, like I’ve said all week long, he’s great at what he does. He’s very poised, has great command of there of their offense. Look, like I’ve said all week is, it’s just a matter of us going out there and doing what we do, executing our game plan and trying to play at a high level on every play.”
Is OLB John Simon any closer to getting back?
“Look, I would say that’s in the day-to-day category.”
When you were young and knew you wanted to be a coach, did any coach you had influence you the most?
“You know, I don’t know if I can pick out one coach, I really mean that. I’ve had a bunch when I was growing up, obviously in high school. Even when I was younger, I grew up in a town called Andover, which is 20 minutes north of Boston, and it was a great sports town – little league, baseball, football, basketball, all those things. I had good coaches there, good people there, people that I still keep in touch with. I got a text from a guy name Joe (Arabino) who’s a guy that was an athletic director at Merrimack College and was my little league coach however many years ago – guys like that. Then in high school, where I went to high school in Massachusetts, was one of the best high schools and a lot of it was because of the sports teams and the coaches that they had there. Just played for a lot of good people that did a nice job coaching and teaching teamwork and things like that, and I loved that.”
Just your thoughts on the Patriots offensive line. What has the return of Offensive Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia meant to them?
“I was very fortunate to work with Dante for five years. He’s an excellent coach, very detailed, very hardworking, been doing it for a long time. A guy that really demands a lot out of his players in many different ways. The detail of the play, the detail of the technique, just does a great job and I have a lot of respect for him. I think that was big for them to get him back there. Those guys have played really well – obviously familiar with Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, those guys were there when I was there, they’re excellent tackles that have played well. The inside guys, those guys weren’t there when I was there, but you can tell how well coached they are and the type of players they are. (Joe) Thuney is an excellent player, he’s a guy in the tradition of the Patriots offensive line with guys like Logan Mankins and Matt Light, guys like that, Dan Koppen, guys that were there when I was there. That’s a lot to live up to and those guys have played well for them. (David) Andrews at center, Shaq Mason at guard, and even their sixth and seventh guys go in there and play well for them. It’s a testament to those players and to Dante.”
Because of the way you watch QB Brock Osweiler go through his preparations for each game during the regular season, do you anticipate him doing the same thing and preparing well for a tough environment and first road playoff start?
“Oh yeah, he’s very prepared. He works very hard at his preparation. He’s got the film at home, he’s got his iPad with him everywhere he goes. He’s very prepared, we had a good practice today. Everybody is excited about the challenge. We know it’s challenging, but we’re all excited for it.”
The night before a game, what are the basics of what you’re trying to do with your team and how sacred is that time together the last night before you go play?
“Look, going on the road is a good time for your team because it’s basically just you and the players and the coaches and the support staff, the trainers, the equipment guys, the video guys, the operation guys, that’s the crew – it’s a good crew. It is a sacred time. The night before the game basically, it’s just reminding these guys what the keys to the game are for the Houston Texans – what those keys are in all three phases. It’s pro football, it’s about going out there and trying to perform at a high level on every play. Again, being on the road, being with your team, that’s something that we all enjoy as coaches.”
They had Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett in there for the first game you played against them in this year. Are there any takeaways you can take from that game that you can apply to this one?
“There were things that they did with Jacoby (Brissett) that they do in their offense, they’re a game plan offense though. I think you have two different teams from what they were in September – certainly we’re different – and certainly they’re different. Obviously, Jacoby (Brissett) was in that first game - obviously Tom (Brady) now in this game. There are some things that we have to definitely be prepared for that they do in every game, but then there’s things that we’re going to have to get lined up quickly, communicate and understand that there are maybe some things they show us that we haven’t seen. That’s the type of offense they are, that’s what makes them go, and we’ve got to be able to handle that.”
How do you read Patriots QB Tom Brady before the snap without showing him what you want to do because he’s so good?
“I don’t know, he’s seen it all. It’s really just a matter of really fundamental football. The thing about the Patriots is that they’re a very fundamentally sound team. You’re going to have to go in there and beat them – they’re not going to beat themselves. They’re not going to jump offsides, they’re going to take care of the ball, they don’t beat themselves. So I think that’s more the key than it is all the exotics that you can draw up to try to do this or do that. You have to go in there and you have to play good, smart, tough, disciplined football, and you have to play every play. Every single play in the playoffs is a very, very important play. Everybody has just got to go in there and do their job at the highest level. That’s a difficult task against the Patriots, but that’s what we’re talking about.”
What has QB Brock Osweiler done better in the last two games to protect the ball that he wasn’t doing before?
“He’s done a good job of understanding what the defense is showing him, the type of play that we have called – maybe it’s a choice of two plays - and he’s been able to get us in the right play. He’s done a nice job of like you said, taking care of the football, and he’s thrown the ball accurately, and he’s done a good job of managing the offense.”
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
What have you seen from TE Ryan Griffin this season?
“He’s helped us in the running game. He’s helped us in the passing game. His flexibility has been a tool we’ve been able to use as coaches to put him in different spots. He’s coming in early. He’s studying his personnel. He’s prepared each week so it’s helping him perform on game day.”
What have you seen that has allowed QB Brock Osweiler to not turn the ball over as much in recent games and why are you confident he can do it again?
“Well I mean those are the keys to the game. We emphasize that we can’t give the opponent any extra opportunities, can’t give them a short field, can’t give them anything where they can get momentum. He understands that. If the route isn’t open, he’s been able to tuck it and run, get a first down that way, and that’s how we play. We play team football and if it’s not there we’re moving on to the next series if it may be, but protecting the ball is the number one key to every game especially at that position.”
The Patriots are tied for third in run defense. What makes them so good – is it their personnel or the scheme?
“Well it’s a lot of things. They’re a physical defense. They put pressure at the point of attack whether it’s at the tight end side, the split end side, even with the receivers blocking in support. They’re a contact team and so we’re going to have to match that intensity from our standpoint. We like to run the ball. So it’s going to make sure that the edges are protected whether it’s tight end side with the fullback or receiver and at the point of attack be clean.”
G JEFF ALLEN
What did it mean to you to receive custom suits from QB Brock Osweiler?
“Very special. He got me looking right. I look all professional now.”
What did it mean to you when QB Brock Osweiler said he was going to do this?
“It meant a lot. It showed his appreciation for us. He shows it every day with the way he comes to work with a good attitude. Sometimes he gets hit because of us, he never places the blame on us, so he always shows that trust and appreciation.”
QB Brock Osweiler talked about you guys getting banged up all the time, but not getting recognized often. This is a way of saying thank you.
“Yeah, definitely. I appreciate that, getting some appreciation from him. That’s what we do it for. We don’t do it for the fame, we do it to protect him and we do it to let the other guys shine.”
How do you handle preparing for the Patriots defense when they can change so much?
“We just have to stick with our rules. Offensively, we know what we have to do. We know our offense. We have seen a variety of fronts from different teams throughout the year, so we have to be ready for everything going up there to Foxboro.”
QB Brock Osweiler said he noticed on the Raiders film that he finally let himself have fun. Did you sense that?
“Yeah, you definitely could sense he was having fun out there. I felt like he was free out there. We were just playing the game like we were children, having fun. That’s what it’s about. Sometimes we forget because we are professionals and it’s a job. But it’s fun for us. That’s why we play the game.”
What’s fun about this challenge and facing the Patriots on the road?
“It’s just another opportunity. You don’t want to look too far ahead but it’s a stepping stone to get where we want to get. And that’s here.”
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
How important and how detailed does it get preparing yourself both physically and mentally this deep in the playoffs against a guy like Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“It does. I mean we understand we have to play our best game both physically and mentally. You know our preparation is huge. It’s obviously more detailed and more locked in this week than any other week for it being the next game and obviously who we’re playing as well.”
Is Patriots QB Tom Brady the toughest quarterback to make uncomfortable?
“Yeah he’s up there. He’s up there. He’s seen everything before. I mean he’s played a ton of football and he’s just very experienced. He’s been through it all. He’s seen all different kinds of pressures and different looks and different disguises. So we just got to continue to mix it up on every single play and never really give away exactly what we’re doing.”
Why do you think you guys have struggled in Foxboro and do you sense a common theme?
“There’s a lot of reasons. There’s a lot of reasons. I think they play great in their home stadium. Obviously they play great everywhere, but definitely in their home stadium. I think there’s a certain energy and vibe and confidence that they have there. Obviously the quarterback, the defense, the head coach. They got a lot of good things working in their favor when they play up there.”
How different has it been this week preparing for Patriots QB Tom Brady and an offense you know very well than it was preparing for Raiders QB Connor Cook?
“There’s a ton of film on Tom and you can look at our previous matchups as well from last year and earlier this year and just see the things that we have to improve upon and last week was kind of – we kind of figured they’d probably do a lot of the same stuff that (Derek) Carr was doing and just try to insert Cook, but like I said, with Tom there’s just a ton of game film.”
Is it better to know what you’re up against with Patriots QB Tom Brady than to play against a guy like Raiders QB Connor Cook with no film?
“Yeah. Well I mean yeah I think it’s better, but unfortunately it’s Tom (Brady) you’re going against so I mean there’s nothing really fortunate about playing him. It’s just the fact that like I said there’s film out there and there’s different things we can look at from previous experiences.”
Does the point spread give you motivation and is there an ‘us against the world’ mentality on the team right now?
“We’re just going up there to play our best game. We don’t care about point spreads or who’s picking what or – it doesn’t really matter to us. We go up there and we’re just trying to play our best game possible and just try to win. That’s it.”
How smart is NT Vince Wilfork when it comes to knowing what teams are going to do on offense?
“Well he’s got a really good feel for especially the offensive line and where he feels that the ball might be ran, unbalanced - certain different things like that. He picks it up pretty quickly too, so anything that he sees that can help us obviously he’ll turn around and let us know and vice versa.”
How much have you guys missed having OLB John Simon and what kind of boost will it bring if he can play this week?
“He’s a tough, physical, relentless player that we enjoy playing with and it hurts us just as much as I know it hurts John not to play. Just knowing how much he loves the game and I think he really proves that and shows that with the kind of style of play that he has and goes out there every week. If he can come back this week that would be a huge boost.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien has talked about the way the staff breaks down film and how it helps you guys prepare. How much does that help and how well-prepared do you guys feel when you face a team like the Patriots on the road?
“Yeah we do. There’s certain things obviously that will come up during the game that we’ve seen before and feel like we can maybe have a beat on it, but there will be new plays too that they’ve never ran before. It’s the playoffs and people are going to bring things out that they’ve never done before and anything goes.”
How special is this moment and the chance to be in the playoffs?
“It’s special. It’s special. I mean I just want to win. That’s it. I mean every week is special from here on out and that’s it. I think we all know the end goal, so that’s all that matters. All that matters is winning. So I mean we talk about everything else and how special moments are, but the main goal is to win it all. That’s it.”
Are you motivated by past disappointments?
“Yeah I mean you definitely don’t want to have the same experience that we’ve had the last couple times we’ve gone up there, so I mean like I said just it’s about winning. That’s all that matters. You go up there and you win, what happened earlier this year and the last two-three games we went up there won’t matter at all.”
S QUINTIN DEMPS
Do you think you will be good to go for the game?
“I’m still day-to-day. We will know soon.”
You are trending towards playing. Is that right?
“Yeah, no question. No question. Divisional playoff game – for sure.”
What is a chess match like with Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“It’s just that, a chess match for four quarters. You have to disguise. You have to play good technique. He will find your weakness real fast. So, we have to be on our A game for sure.”
How difficult is that against Patriots QB Tom Brady?
“It’s tough. It’s the National Football League and we’re playing against one of the best that’s ever played. You have to be on the top of your game for sure.”
Given all the talking in the media and everything about this game, is there a sort of mindset of us against the world this week?
“We’re not looking at it like that. At the end of the day, it’s football. We are underdogs, but who cares. We have to go up there and do our job and play good football and try to get a win.”
We heard Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick citing different players on your defense. He cited you for your turnovers. What does it mean to you to be mentioned by a guy like Belichick?
“It means a lot. A guy like him, a Hall of Fame coach, one of the best to ever do it. It definitely means a lot. I didn’t know that. Thank you.”
Are you motivated by the negative things that have happened at Gillette Stadium in games prior?
“You definitely what to use some of that as motivation for sure. It’s a playoff game. That’s all you need for motivation really. We are trying to win our second playoff game for this organization, for our team, so that’s enough motivation for me, for us, too.”
You said you don’t care about outside stuff. Everyone is saying that you can’t go up there and get it done. Is there some motivation in that?
“Lions don’t pay attention to sheep. We have our head down and we are pressing forward, trying to get it done.”
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
Dolphins Defensive Coordinator and former Texans secondary coach Vance Joseph was just named the head coach of the Denver Broncos. What are your thoughts on him and the type of coach he is?
“I’m extremely excited for him. I’m proud of him. He’s one of the guys that definitely helped me out in my career, brought me on board here. I’m sure he’ll do a great job there. He’s deserving of it so hats off to him.”
What makes Patriots QB Tom Brady special?
“He pretty much has a great command of the offense. He understands what defenses are trying to do to him. He knows every situation of the game. I’ve been playing against him for 11 years in my career and it’s always the same thing. He’s going to be very prepared for everything that you’re going to throw at him so you just have to do a good job of holding your disguise, being in the right leverage, everything. It’s not going to be an easy task to go in there and beat him.”
Do you think Patriots QB Tom Brady has a gift for keeping his eyes down field during a play?
“Yeah I think they coach him up really well. Part of it is being an extremely talented guy himself. But I think, like I said before, if you give him one look pre-snap and you stay in the same look, it makes it easier for him. So you have to switch it up as much as possible to keep him off beat so he doesn’t just sit back there able to look one way and go back the other way and know exactly what coverage you’re in.”
Are you offended by the large point spread for the game and is it motivational?
“That’s the way it is sometimes. Obviously, we don’t set the lines and you still have to go out there and play the game. I think if you take into account all of the lines that go into each and every game, if you were a betting person, you wouldn’t just put your money out there because somebody said something like that. For us, it’s about just going out and playing the game. Let the outcome speak for itself.”
How different has this week been preparing for Patriots QB Tom Brady after preparing for a quarterback who was making his first career start last week?
“As funny as it sounds, it’s probably easier because we know exactly what we’re going to get from Tom Brady. Guy has been playing at a high level forever in his career so it’s not something where we’re going into the game knowing in certain situations what’s going to happen? How is he going to react? We know exactly what he’s going to do at all times throughout the game.”
Do you prefer facing a player knowing more what to expect? Is it more fun to prepare for the best of the best?
“Absolutely. I think it’s always about being in a cat and mouse game. Competing against one another, the challenge. Every inch you get closer to playing the big game, it’s going to get harder and harder so I think this is definitely the next step and going up against a guy like that. If you want to get there, you have to go through him.”
What’s the fun part about going on the road and taking part in this game?
“Just the environment. The magnitude of the game. Everything, the buildup and the excitement. To be playing in the postseason, obviously getting past the first round, and still being alive to go to the Super Bowl.”
Why do you think you all have struggled on the road against the Patriots? Is there a common theme?
“I think that’s why all the teams try to win and get into the postseason with home field advantage. If you look at us throughout the year, we had a great home record. I think those guys over the years have done really well at home also. They got a great fan base that goes there and they make it hard on you and the opponents coming in with the crowd noise and everything, weather conditions. But it’s something you have to go in there and block out. Coming into that environment, you know it’s going to be tough from the fans standpoint, the weather, whatever it might be. A night game and the players they have themselves on their team. It’s a challenge but it’s one that you can’t overlook.”
QB BROCK OSWEILER
Do you think there’s a blueprint to beating the Patriots?
“I think there are certain things when you look at a lot of games, when you really look at the past couple of years, playoff games, things of that nature. The first thing that jumps out, you have to protect the ball. If you are going to beat the Patriots, especially in Foxboro, you can’t have any turnovers. If you have turnovers, you are giving Tom (Brady) additional chances to score points. Sometimes on a short field and that’s never going to be good for your football team. So, I think that’s really the first thing that jumps out. We need to protect the ball. And, obviously, it seems quite obvious, but it’s the truth, anytime defensively that you can get turnovers and create turnovers and now give your offense the short field, that always seems to be a big advantage in playoff games.”
What did you it mean to you to be back out there with your team and play the way you did and help the team to victory in a playoff game?
“I loved it. I was a little kid on Saturday. I was having so much fun and I love every guy in the locker room across the hall so much. Just to see what this football team has gone through this year, nothing’s been perfect, but there’s a lot of grit on this team. Every single day everybody works hard to get better and we found ways to win the ugly way at times. I’m just very proud to be a part of this football team and to be able to help this team get a win in the playoffs.”
Can you talk about having custom suits made for the offensive linemen?
“It was part of their Christmas gift. It was one of the things that I did for those guys. The offensive line, in my eyes, has done a tremendous job this year. There’s been multiple games where there’s been no sacks; there’s been multiple games where there are very few hits if any. I just really appreciate everything those guys do. Playing in the trenches, playing on the offensive line, you don’t get a lot of credit, but you are going out there every day and you’re getting beat up. A lot of those guys this time of year are put together with duct tape and glue it seems like. It was just a way to say thank you and my appreciation towards those guys.”
Who did you have do the suits?
“There’s a woman, Paige Hut, out of Colorado. I was introduced to her from some of my old teammates and she did a tremendous job as she always does.”
How much of beating the Patriots is believing that you can beat the Patriots and where is your belief that this team can get this done on Saturday night?
“I think having confidence and believing in yourself and your teammates is huge in any game. This game is no different. If we are going to be able to go up to New England, a place that is very difficult to win in. They have a great home-field advantage. Obviously, what Coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady and the rest of that group have been able to accomplish is second to none, really in that past 14, 15 years. Very impressive, very, very tough place to win. You’re exactly right. It starts with believing and developing confidence and that starts in practice. It’s up to each and every individual to prepare themselves not only physically on this football team, but mentally. I think that’s just as important.”
Last week before the game, George Bush came out and pointed at you and smiled. You all shared a moment for a second. How special was that for you?
“I don’t know if special really puts it into words. Growing up in a small town in Montana, one, just to be a starting quarterback for a playoff team. That’s living a dream right there and then you are welcoming your teammates out on the field to kick off your first career playoff game and here comes President Bush. It was a very special moment to say the least.”
You’ve beaten Patriots QB Tom Brady before. Do you tell your teammates about your experience and what you were able to do?
“You know, I haven’t. I believe that as something that occurred with a different football team and a different year, but certainly it’s in the back of my mind and going back to some of these other questions, believing in yourself and having confidence, there’s proof in the pudding there for myself. The thing I would say to that is different team, different year. But, there are some things that correlate. It goes back to protecting the football. I think I had one turnover in that game and it was on a batted ball. It put our defense in a very tough situation, but it goes back to it’s the same recipe. You can’t turn the ball over. You need to play smart. There are going to play a lot of zone, but when they play man you need to connect on your downfield shots. You need to get your chunk plays at those times, but that’s something that I keep seperate.”
What did you learn from watching the playoff victory over the Patriots last year that you can apply to playing now?
“It goes back to some of the things that I said. It starts with ball security. And then No. 2, anytime you play in Foxboro and you’re playing against Tom Brady, he’s going to find ways to score points. He’s going to try to find a way to start the game fast. Whether they score the first touchdown of the game or even the first two touchdowns, one thing I learned watching Peyton (Manning) play a couple of times against Tom (Brady), you have to stay patient. It’s probably the best way to put it. You have to stay patient and you have to believe in your game plan for the full 60 minutes. You have to stay the course. You can’t get down three points. You can’t get down 10 points, 14 points and then hit the panic button. You need to stay on course with what you talked about all week. You need to take what the defense gives you and you really need to play the 60 minute game because anything can happen in a full 60 minutes. You can’t get rattled from just the first, second or third quarter.”
Do you feel that last week against the Raiders was a little bit better between you and WR DeAndre Hopkins? If so, why do you think that was?
“I think Hop and myself, as well as the other skill guys, I think we found a way to have some success last week and I think part of that is we were playing on the ball in an up-tempo system and we were really just running our bread and butter plays. We weren’t doing anything flashy. We were just running plays that we’ve been running since OTAs. We kind of call it the back of our call sheet plays – things that we all know inside and out. I just feel like everybody felt very comfortable with that game plan and because of that we were able to execute at a high level.”
Do you watch and learn from Patriots QB Tom Brady? What is it about him specifically that quarterbacks can learn?
“I can only speak for myself when it comes to that. As a young player and especially in my first couple of years in Denver when I wasn’t playing much, I would always dedicate a day in the week to study a different quarterback. A lot of times, it just so happened to be Tom (Brady) and then I think the thing that really stands out to him is when you watch Tom, his completive fire jumps out to you. He’s one of those guys that no matter what, he’s going to play the full 60 minutes. He’s a tough guy. You can hit him, but he’s going to keep getting up. And, he’s going to keep firing the ball downfield. I have a lot respect for what he’s been able to accomplish in this league. He’s a lot of fun to watch play. He’s one of those guys when you’re playing against him, you usually don’t sit down on the bench to have too many conversations when their offense is out on the field because you want to see what he’s going to do. I have a lot of respect for him and he’s a very tough, competitive player.”
What are your thoughts on Patriots CB Malcom Butler and his matchup with WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“Give a lot of credit to the Patriots defense, especially their secondary. I think all those guys, Butler, (Logan) Ryan, the whole group, (Devin) McCourty, they are just tremendous players. They are athletic, they are physical. They are not afraid to get up at the line of scrimmage and challenge wide receivers to get off a press. They know where to play zone coverage. They know which holes to fill. One thing that’s very evident on tape is they are very good at understanding down and distance and pass concepts. They understand what’s coming to try to defeat a certain coverage and they are a very talented group.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH PATRIOTS QB TOM BRADY (Transcribed by Patriots PR)
Q: What jumps out to you about this Texans secondary and the way they’ve been playing?
TB: Well, they’ve been playing as well as any secondary that we’ve faced all season. Their cover guys have done such a great job for that defense and there is a reason why they’re ranked number one. They don’t give up any easy yards in the pass game. They don’t give up any big plays. They’re really well-coached, which is very easy to see. I think they’ve just really come on over the course of the whole season. I’ve just been very impressed with what I’ve seen.
Q: What kind of thoughts do you have when you see Jadeveon Clowney on film?
TB: Well, he’s an incredible player. I mean he’s obviously had so much promise since he came into the league and he’s really shown everybody why he was picked one overall. He does so many things well. He’s obviously got all of the size, but the speed, the quickness, and how hard he is playing. He’s chasing guys down from behind and making plays. The plays last week were huge in the wild card game; the interception, the tipped balls. He kind of does everything for them. He’s really come on, and like I said, they’ve got a good scheme. They’ve got a great scheme. They’re well-coached, and then with players like Jadeveon [Clowney], Brian Cushing I have a lot of respect for, all of their guys in the secondary, Vince [Wilfork] and what he does. Whitney Mercilus is a great player. We’ve played against him a bunch. Antonio Smith comes in some passing situations and does a great job of getting after the quarterback. It’s a big test for our offense. They don’t have any weaknesses on defense, so we’re going to just have to play good, sound football and try to take advantage of our opportunities if we get them.
Q: What about the play of Vince Wilfork when you look over the center and see him down there?
TB: Well, I’ve looked over center for many years and seen him. He’s just in a different jersey. But he’s still just a force. I mean both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince [Wilfork] has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He’s been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I’d much rather have him on our team, but that’s not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it’s still great to see him playing and playing well.
Q: How much has the continuity on the offensive line made your life easier this year?
TB: Well, it’s been a real blessing for our team, because your right, last year was so challenging. Guys were in and out. We had some big, kind of catastrophic injuries with guys being out all season, and then we had some week-to-week stuff where guys were coming from center to tackle, and tackle to guard, and switching sides of the line which is a big challenge. This year we’ve had a lot of stability, which is great for any offensive line, and it’s really been a big part of the reason why I think our offensive line has played so well. We’ve had a great season up front and the guys have done such a great job in the run game and the pass game. Joe [Thuney] playing next to Nate [Solder] all season, and Dave [David Andrews] really kind of anchoring the middle, and then Shaq [Mason] and Marcus [Cannon] have been together, so I think you gain a lot of trust in one another when you’re playing next to each other, and there’s a lot of things that come up where maybe it’s a lot of anticipation, a lot of non-verbal communication that goes on that needs to happen over the course of an entire game to be productive. Our guys up front have really taken to that. They’ve just done such a great job for us all year. It’s really been the strength of our offense.
Q: Do you think Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney have helped fill the pass-rush void missing from J.J. Watt’s absence?
TB: Well, it’s phenomenal. It’s hard to imagine taking away J.J. [Watt], who’s been Defensive Player of the Year three times, and then still being the number one ranked defense in the league. They just stepped up to the challenge. They’d obviously much rather have him in there, but you know, sometimes you face these situations and the rest of the guys really pick up the slack. I think they all do a good job with what their role is. They move guys into different spots and I think they do a good job with their front. They move guys around and they still find ways to get to the quarterback and force the ball out. Certainly in the wild card game last week they did a lot of that and really made it challenging for that offense. We’ve just got to hone in. There’s a lot of great communication we’re going to need. We’re blocking a very good scheme, but also great players, so it’s no easy task for us.
Q: What are your thoughts about Bill O’Brien?
TB: Well, I met Billy [O’Brien] in 2007, in the spring of 2007 when he got to our team, so I’ve known him for almost 10 years. I just have a great admiration for him and what he’s accomplished in his career. I got to know him very well when he took over as offensive coordinator. We got to spend a lot of time together. He did such a great job for our team and then got a great opportunity to be a head coach in college and then to move on to the pro level. To do what he’s done has been pretty remarkable. He’s an incredible coach. I know the guys play so hard for him because he just – you guys know – Billy is a straight shooter. Sometimes you might not always like what he says, but you respect it because his goal is the same thing that yours is, to get the best out of the team. I really enjoyed my time with him. I consider him a friend and I’m always wishing him luck except when he’s playing our team. We’ll always have those type of friendships, and then other guys down there that I’ve played with – Mike [Vrabel] and Larry [Izzo] and what they’re doing coaching in their second career has been pretty cool. Also George Godsey, I mean I was real close to Goose [Godsey] when he was here. There are some great ties, but they’re on the other side of the field this week. We have a job to do and we’ve been pretty focused on it now going on almost two weeks of preparation and hopefully it all pays off on Saturday night.
Q: When you played with him did you think that Mike Vrabel would become a head coaching candidate?
TB: Well, I think anything Mike [Vrabel] chooses to do in his life he’ll be successful at, because he’s just that type of guy. He was an incredible player when he got to our team in 2001. He just made a mark. His leadership, and his play style, his toughness, his versatility, his dependability, and I think he’s really done a great job transferring all of those traits that he learned as a player into being a coach and trying to get his guys to see the nuances of the game. I know they speak very highly of Mike. I do as well, because Mikes a great guy. I loved the time that I had with him because I just loved being with him. He’s just doing such a great job as a coach. I’m glad he’s out of Ohio State now, because I wasn’t rooting for him at all when he was there. Now with the Texans I can root for him a little more often.
Q: What do you remember about some of the colorful moments you had in the meeting room with Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator and teammates such as Brian Hoyer?
TB: Yeah, that teapot got pretty full by the end of the year because it would just – Billy [O’Brien] simmers, and simmers, and simmers and then he just unleashes. We had him marked down in the teapot. It was pretty great. As the season went along we’d just fill that teapot up more and more. I think we tried to give it to him as a gift at one point. I don’t know if he still has it. But there was a lot of funny memories. That teapot had a lot of really funny moments on it.
Q: We’re not used to calling Coach Bill O’Brien ‘Billy’ down here.
TB: Yeah, he’s Billy [O’Brien] to me. I’ve called him Billy since I met him. Yeah, it’s always been Billy; Billy O.
Q: Why do you think teams always have such a tough time coming into Foxborough? Do you ever think that teams sometimes may outwit themselves by doing things they don’t normally do?
TB: I’m not sure. I’ve never really paid much attention to that. I think for us Coach [Bill Belichick] always says ‘It’s how we play; it’s not who we play or where we play.’ I think for us playing well at home, I think it does help offensively, just the communication because you can make some last second adjustments to run stuff, protection, you can change routes or change concepts with very little time left on the play-clock, which is I guess challenging to do when you’re on the road. We try to build some things in on the road that make it a little bit easier to communicate, but it’s certainly easier to communicate at home.
Q: What have you seen from the Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye?
TB: Yeah, he’s had an incredible year. What a great young player and great future that he has. I mean he’s just shut a lot of people out over the course of the season. He seems like he’s a feisty young player. He’s certainly not afraid to get in there and play in the run game, but really his coverage skills are very impressive for someone of his size. He’s got all of the makings of what it takes to be a great corner in this league. He’s surrounded by Kareem [Jackson] and Johnathan [Joseph], who I’ve played a lot of football against. I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they do. Quintin Demps is a hell of a player. He’s had a great season. [Andre] Hal has had a great year at safety. They’ve got a great group back there and I think that along with their pass rush is why [they’re effective]. They have great coverage at linebacker with [Bernardrick] McKinney and [Brian] Cushing. They can get after the quarterback, so they stop the run, play on their terms, get after the quarterback. They’ve got a lot of good scheme stuff that Romeo [Crennel] does that is challenging to prepare for. There’s nothing easy about it. There are no plays off. They challenge you in every aspect, so we’ve just got to be very sharp. Our execution has to be at its highest level, and it’s going to be the toughest defense we’ve faced all year. We’re going to have to see if we can meet that challenge.
Q: Coach O’Brien has called Brian Cushing the heart and soul of the Texans defense. Could you elaborate about his play a little bit?
TB: Yeah, I could see that because he plays so hard. He’s on the field every snap. He’s obviously smart. He’s got all of the instincts. He’s got the experience. He’s got all of the athleticism. He does well in the run game and the pass game, is a very strong tackler. When those plays are running through you as the ‘mike’ linebacker you’ve got to be on top of everything and it looks like everybody can really count on him every time and he’s had a phenomenal season.
Q: What kind of a luxury has it been to have LeGarrette Blount healthy for a full year?
TB: Yeah, you know he had a great season. I think he really dedicated himself this year and it’s really paid off. Just to see what he’s accomplished as an individual with the amount of rushing touchdowns, his yards-per-carry. He’s got a great comradery with the offensive line. I love being with him. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great friend and he’s just been a great player for our team. So our backfield has really been a strength as well with what James [White] provides as a sub-back, with Dion Lewis, him coming back and the role that he plays, the leadership of Brandon Bolden even though he doesn’t have much opportunity at running back, what he does for us on special teams and when he does play running back he does a great job. That’s been a great positon for us this season as well.
Q: The view nationally is that this game could be a blowout. How do you guard against a letdown, and how do you view this game?
TB: I view it as the biggest game that we’ve played all season against the best defense that we’ve played all season. I don’t see any letdown from us. That’s ridiculous to think that. I’m preparing like this is the hardest game we’ve faced all season, which it will be, and it means the most. There’s only one priority for all of us this week, and that’s to be at our best mentally, physically, emotionally for three hours on Saturday night starting at 8:00 p.m. All of my attention is focused on those three hours and getting prepared for that moment so that we can go out and play with anticipation and confidence against the best defense we’ve played all season. There’s nothing easy about it.