Head Coach Gary Kubiak
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on the team’s health at practice today) “Health-wise, today we’re good. Everybody is at practice today.”
(on the past history of teams that get beat badly by an opponent in the regular season but beat them in the playoffs) “I like that history if it’s true. I think it’s so tough to win in this league and everybody is so evenly matched and on any given day I think the ball bounces your way things can happen in this league. I think that happens all the time in the regular season, too. It gets magnified in the playoffs. Obviously, we’ve got to play a heck of a lot better than we played last time. They were excellent the way they played. We understand all that, but I think in this league anybody is capable of beating anybody. You just got to stay concerned with yourself and how you play.”
(on DE J.J. Watt being named the Pro Football Writers of America Defensive MVP and LT Duane Brown being named to the PFWA All-NFL team ) “I would think that 99’s (DE J.J. Watt) got a few awards coming here at some point. It’s a good a season as I’ve ever been around, but we’ll wait and see what happens. He’s a special player, special person. For me, with (LT) Duane (Brown) it’s really kind of special because Duane’s a tight end in college, goes to tackle, comes to us. We throw him to the wolves in year one. We start him from the get-go. I think he’s been a Pro Bowl player for a few years now, but this league really makes you work at it. The players really make you do it over and over again before they recognize you. It’s a well-earned situation for him and very much deserved.”
(on what they saw in DE J.J. Watt and if they predicted he’d have a season like this) “We thought he was a heck of a player. I think a couple things about (DE) J.J (Watt), he always played big in big situations in big games. I think the thing that people forget about J.J. is you go back when you studied him coming out as a player everything told you this kid was going to continue to not only succeed, but to get everything he could out of himself. You go back to his story of how he got to Wisconsin, how he became a good player, how he became a number one draft choice. It just told you what he was made of. You knew that if we were lucky enough to get him that he was going to keep getting better, keep pushing himself to the limit. That’s what we got. He’s a heck of a player no doubt about that, but his drive to be great is off the charts. That’s just something that it’s only in certain guys and he’s definitely got it so we’re fortunate to have him.”
(on if he’s ever been with a team that knocks down passes like this defense and DE J.J. Watt) “I’ve done that before. I’ve been a part of that. He’s just excellent at it, good teams that knock balls down, they’re following quarterbacks’ eyes. (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line) Bill (Kollar) does a great job of teaching our guys up front and it’s not just (DE) J.J. (Watt). I can think of (NT Shaun) Cody getting his hands on some balls this year, (OLB) Connor Barwin. It’s just something Bill does a great job of teaching. For you as a coach, you’ve got to do everything you can. That really makes you work on your quarterback’s eyes because if you’re staring people down, guys like that, if they’re not getting to the quarterback they’ll find a way to knock the ball down.”
(on how the team’s practiced recently) “It’s been good. It’s been really good the first two days. Anytime you play this football team there is a lot of information coming your way because they do a lot of things. They’re a type of team that you could show up on game day or a good chance you’re going to show up on game day and play against a lot of things you haven’t worked on because they’re a veteran team that can jump from this defense to that defense this scheme to that scheme offensively. You’re trying to prepare your guys for that and throw a lot at them even though we’ve done that over the last two days our tempo has been excellent. Our attention to detail has been good and that’s the most important thing. We’ve got to play fast. You know what I mean? We can’t let all the mental stuff bog us down. We’ve got to go play fast.”
(on how important the personnel department is for the Texans) “It’s extremely important. I think I said this yesterday. People talk about this, to me this team is totally different than last year. We had 21 new faces when we got lined up to play last week against Cincinnati, so it’s a totally different team. We lost some key players on this team, big-time contributors on this team that we had to go find a way to replace and bring along some young guys very quickly. They’ve done a good job of giving us the guys to work with and I think that coaches have done a tremendous job of bringing some people along very quickly so we could get back to this point that we were at last year.”
(on RB Arian Foster’s learning ability) “He’s a real pro. First off, the thing that helps players really take their game to the next level in my opinion is when they don’t have to work so darn hard on game plans because they know things. He’s very smart. You could walk in with 40 new runs and 100 new passes. It’d take (RB) Arian (Foster) about an hour to sit there in a meeting and study it and he could go right out. It’s no problem. His talents take over all the time because he is such a smart player. He’s a three-down player. He never has to leave the field and you can’t say that for a lot of backs.”
(on preparing for new things from the Patriots) “I just think that’s part of this league when you play people whether you’re playing them twice in a season, a division game, or the way we’re playing these guys twice. It’s just only natural that you’re going to show each other stuff that you haven’t seen. Part of that is our players having the confidence to adjust and those types of things, this team especially in my opinion because they have been so successful for so long. They had the same guy running the show offensively for so long and the nucleus of the defense that they have. They’ve been together so they can throw a lot of new things at their players and they handle it very, very well. It’s something we got to prepare for.”
(on being in an underdog role) “I don’t know. I know we’ve got to play real good. I know that. We understand where we’re at as a team and the challenge we have going back into New England and playing a tremendous football team and franchise that’s been at the top, rock solid for a long, long time. We understand all of that. We’re battling our tail off as an organization to get to this point and play in these types of games. We want to do that for a long, long time and if we’re going to do that we’re going to have to go in and compete against people like this and play well. That’s a big, big challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”
(on comparing his past playoff experiences to now) “I think all these games are different. I know through my times in the playoffs I don’t know how many playoff games this will be for me, but I’ve been a part of teams that look like they were in great shape and things didn’t go good and teams that looked like they were in trouble and then they played their tale off and win a championship. I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen, but I know the team that plays the best football is going to win on Sunday. That’s what I know so trying to stay focused on that doesn’t matter where you do it. You just got to do it well.”
(on RT Derek Newton helping in the running game) “Yeah, he does everything good. He’s a young player. He’s going to make mistakes and our whole right side is first-year for us as a football team and that hasn’t changed from the Miami game since the day we stepped on the field. He’s got a lot of football under his belt now and I think he’s got a chance to be an excellent player.”
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(on whether there are any similarities in this game and when the Houston Oilers beat the San Diego Chargers in the 1979 playoffs) “Well, we were 20-point underdogs in that game. They had the No. 1 offense in the League. They had the No. 1, Hall of Fame quarterback, two 1,000-yard receivers, one of them a Hall of Famer, (and) a Hall of Fame tight end. We had a tremendous day. That’s one of the greatest days I’ve ever been around. And obviously (RB) Earl (Campbell) and (QB) Dan (Pastorini) and (WR) Kenny Burrough were out. (QB) Gifford Nielsen is still a hero here, which is amazing.”
(on the mismatches the New England tight ends create) “They give you problems, obviously. They’ve got two great tight ends, two Pro Bowl-type tight ends, besides a receiver who has set all kinds of records; and (WR Brandon) Lloyd is a really good receiver too. They’ve got threats all over the field.”
(on if he has considered using CB Johnathan Joseph to cover a tight end) “Well I really don’t want to answer any questions about who’s we’re going to put on who.”
(on if CB Johnathan Joseph could handle covering one of those tight ends) “Yeah, if they put them out wide, not inside. They push off quite a bit, so it’d be hard for him to cover him.”
(on the season DE J.J. Watt has had) “He had the best season ever. I mean, nobody has had a season like that. Nobody has made that many tackles, that many sacks, that many pass breakups and that many tackles for loss or tackles for no gain in the history of football. Nobody has had a year like that. It’s the best I’ve ever seen, sure.”
(on whether it surprises him that DE J.J. Watt was named the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America Defensive MVP) “No. He should be unanimous, I would think. He’s just a great player and he’s had the best year ever. He’s had the absolute best year any defensive lineman has ever had. And I had Elvin Bethea, who’s in the Hall of Fame, and he had some great years, and Bruce Smith had some great years, and Reggie White had some great years, but they didn’t make that many tackles, that many tackles for loss, that many knock downs and that many sacks in one year. Nobody has done that, so I can’t say enough great things about him because he’s a great player.”
(on if there are benefits to coaching as an underdog) “I don’t know. I’ve always said each game is its own entity. This game could be completely different than the last game. You play teams twice during the year in your division and usually the games are completely different. There’s no way to tell in football. That’s the great thing about the NFL – there’s no way to tell.”
(on QB Tom Brady’s play) “Their quarterback is one of the all-time best. He’s got to be in the top five of all time for sure. They’re scoring more points than everybody else, and he’s behind a lot of it, although, they have a really good running game also. You can’t put enough accolades on the guy. And how many games has the guy won? It’s amazing. His record has to be unbelievable.”
(on how much different the New England offense is with TE Rob Gronkowski back) “It’s scary, but they’re better with a great player, and he’s a great player. Having him as a threat also, that just gives them another threat on the field all the time.”
(on New England Head Coach Bill Belichick’s career) “He’s obviously a great coach. His career is an all-time career, just like his quarterback and the team itself. They won more games and are winning more championships than anybody. You can’t say enough great things about him.”
(on how much OLB
(on if OLB Brooks Reed return counterbalances TE Rob Gronkowski’s return) “I don’t know, they played against each other in college, they went to the same school. He (Reed) says he knows him. I said, ‘Can you beat him?’ He said, ‘Well, we’ll see,’ so we will see.”
(on what the team should do to slow down New England QB Tom Brady down) “There’s no simple answer on him, obviously. He’s great against the three-man rush, a four-man rush, a five-man rush and even blitz coverage. We played a lot of zone against him last time and he did a good job against that. You have to put pressure on him somehow, but you’d like to be able to do it with a four-man rush and play man or zone, but the reason you can’t do it is he’s so good and he’s got such great receivers.”
(on the Texans’ defense being more effective during the second and third quarters the last time the teams met up) “Yeah, the guy’s not perfect, but he’s as close as you can get.”
(on if the team was encouraged by being effective at times last game between the two teams) “It’s hard to say when you get beat like that that you did well, so I won’t say it.”
(on how much CB
(on the play of CB
(on the speed of TE Aaron Hernandez) “Yeah, he does have a lot of speed. The other guy (TE Rob Gronkowski) is a more powerful guy and both of them catch the ball well, but he’s (Hernandez) is closer to a wide receiver. Gronkowski is just an elite tight end and the other guy is an elite H-back.”
OLB Connor Barwin
(on if being an underdog is a motivational tool) “It’s fun to be the underdog sometimes, but I think when you’re in the playoffs there is so much motivation that just goes with that that you don’t need any added motivation, really. If you’re not excited to play in a playoff I don’t think you’re doing the right thing.”
(on the Patriots’ two tight ends) “Well they’re both very talented. (TE Rob Gronkowski) Gronk’s obviously a big guy and he catches everything that’s thrown his way. (TE Aaron) Hernandez is really tough because he’s like a tight end-wide receiver type. He can really run and runs all the routes. They create a lot of challenges also with all the formations that they line up in.”
(on QB Tom Brady doing well when facing pressure and how he does it) “It’s just because he’s better than the other quarterbacks. That’s all. It’s not too complicated. He makes the right decisions. He knows where his guys are at all times. Those quarterbacks have to decide and throw the ball quick and he usually makes the right decision.”
LT Duane Brown
(on being voted to the PFW/PFWA All-NFL team) “It’s a huge honor. I’ve been trying to play my hardest, play my best all year long. I’ve been against some pretty tough competition. There are a lot of great tackles in this league, a lot of people that are playing at a high level. I’m just honored, humbled, by the award.”
(on if it has hit him that people are paying attention and he’s getting this recognition now) “Yeah, and it motivates me getting the recognition. I know a lot of eyes are on me, a lot of people expecting me to perform and none bigger than this week. I’ve got some pretty good talent I’ve been lining up against, so it’s motivating me. It’s a great feeling.”
(on being on top of the hill at the left tackle spot, and staying there) “I like it. I like it. I feel like no one works harder than me. I come in every day trying to find something to get better at. Trying to be a master at my craft, and I like the challenge. Like I said, there’s a lot of guys that I have to face. And every day, every week at the left tackle position is a challenge. You’re going to get some of the best athletes in the world, and I like it. I like the recognition. I like that people are going to give me their A-game when they come to face me.”
(on the challenge for the team against the Patriots this week) “It’s a huge challenge. Everyone saw that last time we went up there. They have a lot of talent on their team, on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they work well as a unit. They have some pretty good players at all levels of the defense. We have a pretty good game plan going in, a pretty good mindset and it’s just all about going out there and getting it done.”
NT Shaun Cody
(on trying to stop QB Tom Brady) “You’ve got to put some hits on him. We realized that watching a few of the games after our game. I think the Niners did a good job of getting some pressure on him. Jacksonville got back there, so we definitely are going to try to get back there.”
(on how much the last game at New England matters now) “It’s good to see what we did against them and what they did against us, but other than that no. We know the way we played wasn’t up to how we usually play.”
RB Arian Foster
(on if this season has met his expectations on and off the field) “As far as my play on the field, I think I had an okay season. There’s always things you can improve upon. As far as off the field, I guess I don’t really have any expectations.”
(on how much pride he takes in things like blocking and receiving) “A lot of pride. I try to be the most complete back I can because your value is higher, not just monetarily, but your value as a football player is higher to your coaching staff and your team if you can do all things well.”
(on LT Duane Brown being voted All-NFL by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America) “I think it’s about time, actually. He’s been playing at this level for three, four years, and it’s good to see him get the recognition he deserves.”
(on if there have been any differences in the mentality at practice between this time and the last time the team played New England) “No, not really, because in practice everything goes perfect. We’re having a good practice, a lot of energy, a lot of things like that. But it’s when those live bullets are firing, that’s when you can tell the biggest difference.”
(on if his personality drives him to play bigger when the games are bigger) “I don’t know, it’s just a combination of being prepared and my teammates helping me out. It’s nothing special or anything like that. You always try your hardest, but I think when your coaches give you opportunities to make plays and your teammates help you out, it’s a lot easier.”
(on if he has the mindset of liking to accomplish things that people say he can’t do) “I don’t care about people that much as far as what they say. From a philanthropy standpoint, I care about people. But as far as like writers, no, man. They like to create drama and they like to sit at their desk and say who’s going to do what. It doesn’t mean much to me.”
(on if he reads what is written by those writers) “I don’t look for it.”
(on changing his Twitter avatar to Dan Shaughnessy’s Boston Globe column that was written earlier this week) “I’m active on Twitter and a couple of my followers sent me that link. They kept sending me the same link, so I decided to click on it and it was that article, that guy that wrote that and I thought it was funny because the things he used to describe us, like the tomato cans are in line, or something like that. I thought it was kind of funny. I always have funny avatars on Twitter, so that was just one of them.”
(on being considered the underdog and people saying the Texans don’t have a chance) “I don’t really have any (emotions). Another man’s opinion of me is none of my business. I don’t’ really have an opinion about it. Think what you think.”
(on if he thinks that the Texans’ are the monster underdog going up to New England) “I don’t care about that. I don’t know what an underdog means. We’re not supposed to score more points than (them)? I don’t (know). It’s all stories man.”
(on what motivates him most in football) “Greatness. Being the best me I can be.”
(on how important it is for the offense to get off to a fast start) “I think if we play well and play our style of football early, I think we can keep their offense off of the field and they’re a rhythm offense, so if we can help them throw them off rhythm, that might sway the game in our favor. But I think it’s simple for us to play well in all aspects of the game, including special teams, because this team can beat you in every way.”
(on if there is one thing this team needs to do most this week) “No. Just make plays.”
(on if he thinks he has approached greatness, how close he is to approaching it) “I’m not done yet, so I could asses my career when I’m finished. Until then, I’m just going to continue to push.”
(on working to reach his goals) “I’ve only played what, three or four years. You just have to keep going.”
(on what makes it tough to run against the Patriots) “I think they have a lot of talented athletes on their defense. They have guys like (DT Vince) Wilfork, and that’s what he’s been doing for years. They have very fast, athletic linebackers. I think (ILB) Jerod Mayo is one of the best linebackers in the game, and that’s not biased just because I know him, but he is. And then (ILB Brandon) Spikes, he’s a very physical downhill player. And then they have safeties that fit well in the run game. That’s what makes them effective.”
(on how much satisfaction he takes in his career so far, being undrafted and teams not expecting much from him) “I don’t think this team expected much either, or else they would have drafted me. Any time you can achieve an elite level of performance in any sport, it doesn’t matter if you were drafted first pick in basketball or whatever. Any time you can push yourself to that elite status, I think it’s special. Me being undrafted, I don’t think had anything, it didn’t change my opinion of myself. Just that. And that’s in any facet of life. If you’re an elite businessman, I think it’s special.”
(on if being undrafted was extra motivation for him) “I think at one point it was. I think that training camp and that season, yeah it was. But after that nobody cares if you’re undrafted any more, except you maybe.”
(on when he was told he earned the right to start his first game) “Yeah, my first start was against New England in 2009. And at Miami I played well, so they decided, it wasn’t like it was like a ‘Hey, we’re coming to you’ thing. It was like a ‘He can play well. He’s going to start this game. We’ll see how he does.’ I just remember thinking it was kind of, it was an honor to be a starting running back in the NFL period, but to be a starting running back on an NFL team that still had playoff aspirations. We were still were pushing for playoffs, and we would have made it if one team would have beaten another, but that they had that confidence in me at a young age.”
(on if Head Coach Gary Kubiak just said ‘You’re starting son, have fun.’) “Yeah, that was pretty much it.”
(on if it feels different this year being in the playoffs) “Yeah, it feels different. I’ve never played in New England in the playoffs before. I don’t like to compare years because they’re totally different. We have new guys on the team. There’s a new feel. There are new coaches, everything is different. It’s a totally new experience.”
(on what he thinks of the field in New England) “I like field turf, as far as playing on it. I think it’s a faster track. It would be tough to practice on it daily. But it’s okay, I like field turf. I like grass better, though.”
(on if he appreciates that Head Coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t make the team practice on field turf) “I do appreciate that fact.”
(on not getting motivation from past losses) “I don’t know. I notice it, but I’m just not the type of cat that needs outside motivation for a huge game. Like this is a huge game. It’s not motivating me for the future that we lost last year. It’s over. There’s nothing we can do about it. All you can do is play the game that’s in front of you.”
(on if he likes winning more than he hates losing) “Do I like winning more than I hate losing? I don’t know. I’m not sure what that means, actually.”
(on some people getting a bigger enjoyment out of winning, but some people hate to lose so much that that’s why they love winning) “So they would rather not win than to lose? It’s the same emotion though. You’re winning. I feel you though. I’m with you, bro.”
(on being motivated to win by hating losing so much) “I understand what you’re saying, that makes sense for like a golfer, but football is the ultimate team sport. Like in a 16 game season, you’re going to lose a game. You’re not okay with it, but you have to move on. But in golf, it’s like, ‘I have to win. It’s just me out here.’ It’s not just me out here. I think you have to take more of a team mentality look at it. But I feel what you’re saying.”
(on the team’s uniform choice last game, if there will be new uniform choices this week) “Yeah, we’re trying to go with the icy whites, all-whites. Or we call them Liberty whites. We used to call them icy whites. That’s what we’re trying for. I don’t know. The higher ups make all the decisions. I’m going to see what I can do.”
(on it not being just him that makes the decision about uniforms) “No, I gathered a couple of key members of the team and said, ‘Do you want to wear this certain color combination.’ They say ‘Yeah.’ And we got it.”
(on why he wants to wear the all-white uniforms) “Because they’re sweet. You know they’re sweet.”
(on the normal away uniform color combinations) “But when we wear blue pants and white jerseys, to me it’s kind of like average to me. It’s kind of mundane. It’s like, oh you know, we’re on a – but those all-whites though.”
(on if he would play better in all-white uniforms) “I’d probably play the same. You look good, you feel good, you play good. My opinion.”
(on what the team feeds off of on the road without a home crowd) “I think we’re a good road team. I don’t think we need a crowd to feed off of. It obviously helps, but I don’t think we need a crowd to feed off of. We’re going to feed off wanting to win.”
CB Johnathan Joseph
(on how he feels physically now compared to when Houston played the Patriots in the regular season) “Night and day. Right now, I can probably say this is the best I’ve felt all year. Obviously, back then I was good enough to play but I wasn’t at my best. Right now I can say I’m 100 percent right now.”
(on how excited being healthy makes him going into this game) “Iit’s good just to have the opportunity to play again, better yet to go up against those guys again. Just to be in the second round of the playoffs and now it’s a chance to go back and face those guys form earlier in the year. It’s just big for this team and just big for us moving forward.”
(on how the New England tight ends match up against defenders) “Those are two bigger guys. They try to create mismatches with those guys – 6-3, 6-4, one of those guys is 6-6, 6-7, actually. They can place the ball on his back side or throw it up top and those guys both have great hands where they can make the difficult catch in traffic. For us, it will be a task, but I think that we have the guys here that are up for the challenge. It’s just about making plays.”
(on if he could cover TE Aaron Hernandez) “Absolutely. During this game, sometimes it will probably end up like that, whether it be me or K-Jack (CB Kareem Jackson) because those guys line up out wide so much and they pretty much are a glorified wide receiver, just listed as a tight end.”
(on the mix of speed and size for the New England tight ends) “You just have to adjust. Obviously you’re not used to seeing guys that big run that well, but for us it’s just about adjusting. Last week we played someone similarly sized as in (TE) Jermaine Gresham from the Bengals. He’s built just like those guys are built. We faced him last week and I think that we pretty good job against him, so we just have to carry over from week to week and just take it to the practice field and take it from the practice field to the game field.”
(on how CB Kareem Jackson is playing) “He’s playing great. He’s doing everything he’s been asked to do. I’ve said it from day one: I thought he was always a football player and it just takes time in this league to adjust to the style of defense that we play. And obviously he’s growing into his own right now and just having a tremendous year. I wouldn’t say a year; I’m looking forward to doing the same thing each and every year, so I wouldn’t say just this year.”
(on what having OLB Brooks Reed back on the field means) “I think Brooks just presents – he can play the run and the pass, so he’s a two-sided guy. I think he had just experience from last year coming in. With Merce (OLB
(on Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ comment that DE J.J. Watt had the best season ever for a defensive lineman) “In my opinion, you have to say so. He’s right there. He almost broke the sack record, so for a sack standpoint he’s right there at the top of the list. Then you add in the tackles for loss and the batted balls, I think it just takes him over the top. You can’t put your hand on it. He’s just a phenomenal player. Teams see it every week and I’m sure they’re game planning each and every week to stop him and they still don’t stop him, so there’s nothing that I can say or anybody else can do about it. They just have to go out and try to stop him each and every week.”
(on if he and DE J.J. Watt compete for who is the best defensive player) “No, we don’t really compete for it because obviously J.J. has an upper hand on it because he has an opportunity to do it each and every play. For the defensive backs, you only have a chance when the ball is thrown into your coverage. And J.J., he has an opportuntiy each and every play because he is either rushing the quarterback every play or getting into the passing lanes every play.”
(on what Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips does for the defensive players) “He builds your confidence, puts you in the right place to make plays. It’s just up to the players. He does everything from a standpoint to putting the pass rushers in the best position possible where a guy can come free or just put you in a matchup where you have a favorable matchup; the same thing with the linebackers and with us in coverage. He puts us in the certain situation in certain downs and distance where we’re able to win and succeed, but at the same time, we just have to go out and execute the coverage and the game plan.”
(on what the team has to do to get a different outcome than the last game against the Patriots) “Just make plays. That’s each and every week. If you don’t make plays, you won’t win the ball game. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the New England Patriots or any team that’s sitting at home not in the playoffs right now. If you don’t make enough plays during the game, you will not win the game, and that’s just simple. I think that’s our biggest thing, just making plays and getting off the field on third down.”
(on if he is motivated by being called the underdog) “No, I’m just motivated to play. I think we all are. Of course, each and every game somebody has to be labeled as the underdog. So for us we just happen to have that label right now, but obviously once the whistle [blows] and the ball is kicked off, that doesn’t have any merit on the game.”
(on some people saying that the Texans have no chance) “That’s fine. That’s the way football works. If I’m watching a basketball game, I may say one team doesn’t have a chance the same way, and at the end of the game, the results are different. For us it’s just about blocking everything out and just playing football.”
(on how much the win over Cincinnati carried over into practice this week) “Guys are, just like last week, out at practice all week having fun, flying around, and I think today we had one of our better Thursdays that we’ve had in a while. Similar to last week, where guys were just focused from the walk-through period through the full practice, and at the end of practice we knew we had a speech and we talked about it and want to stay on course and carry over into the game.”
(on QB Tom Brady being good against pass pressure) “Brady is just smart. You just have to be, I wouldn’t say cautious, it’s just you have to be smart on what you’re doing, the way you’re attacking Brady. Obviously, he can read your defense, he can read your coverage, he can feel you out and the things that you’re trying to do to him and the ways you’re trying to attack him and he counter attacks those things with getting the ball out quick, putting you in different positions. If you’re in man-to-man, he puts ‘stacks’ routes where he knows two guys are working together and one guy will be at a disadvantage by the time those guys come out of their routes, things like that, so I think he just uses those things to his tools; different formation sets and things to throw the coverage off a little bit.”
(on how important it is for the defense to get off of the field) “For us, like I said, third downs are big because any time we’re over there sitting and the offense has the ball, it takes their offense off the field. And for us, I think it works hand-in-hand with the offense keeping the ball and moving the chains and things like that and us getting off the field on third downs.”
DE Antonio Smith
(on pressuring QB Tom Brady and his unique play) “When it comes down to it, you’ve got to win your one-on-one battles. That’s it, even when you’re running blitzes. If nobody beats nobody and they called a good protection, he can just sit back and throw the ball. It just comes down to one-on-one battles even though you’re blitzing, you still have got to beat a guy.”
(on being an underdog) “Yeah, I love being the underdog. It’s my claim to fame.”
(on why he enjoys being an underdog) “I don’t know. I’ve just been an underdog all my life. I grew to love it, feels good.”
(on if it bothers him that people say the Texans don’t have a chance on Sunday) “That’s the secret weapon of the underdog. Yeah, it bothers us and you just sit there and you take it and you let it harbor and you let it fester and grow into what you need it to grow into.”
(on if Deion Sanders sold his Super Bowl tickets that year) “No, he was at the game.”
(on having OLB Brooks Reed back) “(OLB) Brooks (Reed) is an explosive player and you could see that when he was on the field this last past week. I think all of our ends, it’s like they all got their own niche so they all got good things about them. (OLB) Whitney (Mercilus) has got his good techniques and then Brooks has got his, then (OLB) Connor (Barwin). Brooks coming back gives us that extra element in the pass rush.”
(on DE J.J. Watt winning PFW/PFWA Defensive MVP) “Defensive MVP? That’s good. That’s good for (DE) J.J. (Watt). I think it’s an underachievement and I think he’s going to say the same thing for me knowing how J.J. thinks. I still campaign for him for MVP of the league. That’s just me.”
(on if he talks about his postseason experience to the team) “I would if it’s needed, but I think that we’re past that. I’ve used that card early on when I got here and I guess my feelings were just a couple years off so now we’re in the prime opportunity to be able to grab a hold of our destiny. I started saying that when I first came because it was the same feeling I felt when I was there and I knew this team could be what it is now.”
(on if he feels like there is something special about this team) “Definitely. Like I said, I said that from day one. I truly still believe it.”
(on if he still remembers the New England loss) “Everything, this is just me though. It doesn’t go for everybody else. Everything about that game is a vivid memory to me. I’m just going to carry it with me until I get to unleash it one day, hopefully pretty soon.”
(on how tough it is to force QB Tom Brady into a mistake) “Not really that tough, you can force anybody into a mistake. You’ve just got to be able to do it. Everybody has got to be on the same page in disguising things. I think we’ve got some pretty good stuff on this week.”
(on how it makes him feel as a defensive lineman to have the secondary ) “It makes you feel awesome, man. Whenever your secondary is playing good, you know you’re playing good because sooner or later the quarterback is going to hesitate from being scared to throw interceptions. That leaves it open for us to get sacks. That’s one thing I’ve always said is DBs and defensive linemen work hand-in-hand.”
(on if the game really comes down to putting the heat on QB Tom Brady) “Yeah, regardless, we’ve got to make the plays that are out there for us to make, but you’ve got a better chance to win if you put more heat on (QB Tom) Brady. I think the more hats you can get on him, which they don’t ever let you put too many hard hats on him, but whenever you can, it gets all quarterbacks a little bit rattled. Some falter and some stand tall and I’ve seen him stand tall in the past so he’s a great quarterback in that aspect, but still when you hit a quarterback he’s going to know you’re coming. He’s going to look for you the next time.”
DE J.J. Watt
(on being awarded Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America Defensive MVP) “It’s an honor. I appreciate everybody voting for me. It’s more an award for my teammates and coaches. I really appreciate everything they do for me. I wouldn’t be able to do this without them. And hopefully I get it for many years to come. Obviously that’s my goal. I hope I make Texans fans proud, and I’m always going to work my hardest to make you proud for years to come. I love you guys and thank you again and let’s go win a couple more games.”
WIDE RECEIVER BRANDON LLOYD
January 10, 2013
Q: How important is execution this week?
BL: It’s very important. Coach Bill [Belichick] has talked about us getting off to a fast start a lot this year and how it sets the tempo for the game and gets us in a good rhythm and just keeps the positive plays rolling. So, it’s very important to start off the game in a positive fashion, because the Texans are a team that can really take advantage of a game early and they can maintain the advantage with the way that their offense is able to stay on the field and the way their defense is able to put pressure on the office.
Q: Can you mimic fast starts in practice? Is it just practicing faster?
BL: That's something that every team I’ve been on, you try. I’ve been on teams where you have a round of practice before you warm up or you try to sub from the sideline or after warm-ups, there’s all kinds of different things that you try to create a sudden change or you have a period and then special teams come out and then they put the offense back on the field. So there are all kinds of different ways for coaches to try to simulate it, but what it comes down to is just executing in the game and getting on a roll in the game, having positive plays and not putting yourself in negative situations.
Q: Coach Belichick said one of the keys to the win last time was this team’s ability to beat man coverage. As a receiver, how important is it going to be to defeat your opponent when you are facing single coverage?
BL: It’s very important. I think it just comes down to doing our job. We all have a responsibility and we’re all doing our best on any given play. At the receiver position, we have so many weapons, you just never know when we’re going to get the ball. So my goal is to try to be open every time we’re running a pass play, so that if my number is called, I’ll be able to make the play.
Q: With the presence of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez on the field at the same time, does that impact the coverage that you might see? Do guys maybe try to double them up or try something exotic against them that might create some opportunities on the outside for you?
BL: Yeah, I think it’s pretty much a mix bag when you get out there as far as what the defensive coordinator is going to do. Like I said, I just have to do my job. And Coach [Josh] McDaniels is going to do his job and call the correct plays in the correct situations, and as players we have to execute.
Q: Was the opportunity to play in games like Sunday’s and compete in the playoffs part of your decision to come to New England?
Q: This is the 10th postseason the Patriots have been in under Coach Belichick. It is only your first and you've been a few different places, so what have you noticed here about Coach Belichick and how he conducts business that has this team in this position?
BL: He’s a great teacher. The way that he teaches the game, it’s almost like I’m not being coached, I’m actually being taught. That's been the part of this experience that has stuck out the most to me.
Q: How many times have you been in the playoffs?
Q: So that means a lot, obviously. What would you do before in the playoffs and what was it like not being in the playoffs?
BL: I’d be at the Sundance Film Festival [laughs] on my way to the Bahamas, all kind of different stuff.
Q: How did that make you feel when you knew what you wanted to do?
BL: It was part of the decision…ever since [I was] a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl and the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs. This is a step along the way to the ultimate goal for all of us, for all the teams that have entered the playoffs, this is just the beginning. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to get there.
Q: With that in mind, have you noticed an increased focus in your own preparation?
BL: No. It’s been the same all season.
Q: When you were with teams that did not make the playoffs, did you watch the playoffs at all?
BL: Not really. If it was on the television in the hotel lobby or something [laughs].
Q: Will you talk a little about how the Junior Seau report came out today linking brain trauma –
BL: You know, I'm talking about the playoffs and the New England playoffs today. I'm sorry.
Q: We have bugged you all year about getting comfortable with Tom Brady. Now that the regular season’s over, what has it been like?
BL: It’s a work in progress.
Q: It is still a work in progress?
Q: Can you talk about the comfort there? It is the third year in a row where you catch over 70 passes. Has it been a different process than in the past or relatively the same?
BL: It’s been different than the past just because of the organization. It’s been different than the past because of Tom and his style of preparation, but it’s been similar in the sense that we have to put the work in during the week in all the weeks and during the camps, and then we’ll go into the game and that’s where we’ll really find out about one another. That's what makes it similar. In playing with the less experienced quarterbacks like in St. Louis playing with [Kellen] Clemens, it would be different. When he was thrown into the staring lineup, it was more of a situation where I was like, ‘Where do you want me to be? I’m not going to tell you where I'm going to be; you tell me where you want me to be and then I’ll do my best to get there.’ With Tom, we have a little bit of give and take. Some plays, I have that freedom and there are some plays where I can say, ‘Hey, I want to be here’ and then he’ll work it out. Other plays, he’ll say, ‘You need to be here and that’s the way the plays go. It’s similar and it’s different, but it’s equally rewarding.
Q: How much has your relationship with Josh McDaniels helped with that bridge with Tom?
BL: I think the bridge with Tom is Josh because Josh gives me credibility. Being with Josh the last three seasons, that’s what gave me the credibility to come here and be accepted as a productive member of this team.
PATRIOTS G LOGAN MANKINS
JANUARY 10, 2013
Q: After three days off during the bye week are you feeling like a new man?
LM: Well I was until the last three days of practice. You know you always feel pretty good after a bye, after a couple of days off. Not having a game, you freshen up a little. So yeah, I feel pretty good.
Q: Is the bye particularly beneficial for the offensive line given the physical nature of the position?
LM: Yeah, if you make the most of it. If you get a few good lifts in, some good running and get off your feet when you go home, it’s always beneficial, if you use it to your advantage.
Q: How much progress have you seen from Sebastian Vollmer during his time with the Patriots?
LM: Sebastian is a good player. He’s been a good guy for us for a few years and he only continues to get better.
Q: Even though you have seen them before, how tough is it going to be to go against J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line?
LM: Well it’s going to be really tough. You have probably the best D-lineman in the league in J.J. Watt and then you’ve got Antonio Smith, another very good defensive lineman. So those two together are very tough and then you put all four of them out there at one time and they’re a tough matchup for anyone. You see the problems they give teams every week. Cincinnati scored six points on offense, so that says a lot right there, to hold a team to six points in the playoffs.
Q: What makes J.J. Watt so special?
LM: Well it starts with he’s got all of the physical tools: he’s big, strong, fast and then he plays relentless. He’s a high-motor guy that hustles a lot and he’s got a great playing style, so that’s why he’s good.
Q: This is the 10th postseason appearance for the Patriots under Bill Belichick and you have been here for a bunch of those. What is it about Coach Belichick and the way he conducts business that has you guys in this position year in and year out.
LM: Well he’s a good coach first and foremost. He works us hard, but he puts in the work himself too. I think he’s great at breaking down film and getting the message across to us, what we have to do to beat teams. He’s had guys that buy into his system and the way that he wants us to play and I think that works well.
Q: Does being in this position feel the same to you as it did in each of the previous years that you have been to the playoffs?
LM: Yeah it feels great every year. This is what you play for. These are the games we want to be in and it’s always easy to go to practice when you’re preparing for a game like this. It makes it nice. You want to get better, you want to prepare and do your best in these games.
Q: The Junior Seau report came out today and linked head trauma from his playing to pressure and anxiety. Is that worrisome for all athletes from kids to pros?
LM: I’d say so, probably if you sit down and really think about it. But it’s the playoffs right now, so that’s the least of our concerns right now. You could probably say we’re meatheaded and ignorant not to think about it, but maybe in February after the season we can think about that.
Q: There have been a number of defensive players that have noted there is a moment of panic when they realize how quickly you guys get plays off. Do you notice when you have caught the defense off guard?
LM: Yeah, they’re not lined up where they are supposed to be. A lot of teams play the same front all the time and you’re prepared for them to be there and then you get lined up fast, run a play and they’re all over the place scrambling around. So, you know they’re off balance.
Q: Does that give you a gleam in your eye when you see that the speed of the offense has done what it is supposed to do?
LM: Sometimes, [but] sometimes it screws us up if we’re expecting them to be somewhere and they’re not there [laughs]. So it works good and it works bad sometimes.
Q: Can you talk about the job that Ryan Wendell has done this year replacing an All-Pro like Dan Koppen?
LM: Yeah Ryan did a great job. We all knew what Ryan was capable of. He had a good camp, won the starting job and he’s been out there every game for us and has done a very good job. He’s dependable, he’s coachable and he does all of the things that we want in a center.
Q: Having played a guy like J.J. Watt once already, do you feel like you are more prepared to take on a guy like that who is obviously a good player or is it a new challenge every time you face him?
LM: Well it’s going to be a new challenge every time, but I think to play against him, you see him on film and you say, ‘That’s a pretty good player right there,’ and then to go against him and you really know what he’s capable of doing. So it helps you a little bit, but it still comes down to one man versus him and either you’ve got it or you don’t.
Q: Have you done things in your career to address safety issues? Have you tinkered or adjusted any of your equipment—
LM: No [laughs].
Q: So do you wear the same helmet now that you have worn since you came into the league?
LM: Yeah they just came out with that helmet my last year in college and I’ve had that since then.
Q: Has it been a difficult year for you personally?
LM: Physically? Yeah. I’ve missed some games; of course it’s been tough. You’d like to be healthy for the whole season, but it just doesn’t always go that way.
Q: How have you noticed your role change being the elder guy on the offensive line?
LM: Yeah I’m the oldest guy in there now, but I think guys have always looked to me about the same way, a hard-working guy that plays hard football and tries to do the right things. So, I haven’t changed and guys still look at me the same way.
Q: How do you lead on the offensive line? Having been around as long as you have, what have you found is the best way to lead a group of younger offensive linemen?
LM: Being coachable, doing what the coach wants of you, putting the team before yourself. You might not feel good and you might not want to practice, but you still go out there and practice as hard as you can.
Q: Can you contrast how you were feeling last year going into the divisional round of the playoffs to how you are feeling this time around having benefitted from three days off, the bye week and some rest?
LM: I feel a lot better. Last year at this time I had a torn MCL and a torn ACL. So I feel a lot better.
Q: What was the recovery like for you? How long did it take and what was the most challenging part?
LM: Well it took a little while. I was ready Week 1 though, so I was back. I don’t know if I was ready, but I was back.
Q: As a group you guys have been pretty banged up for most of the year and have had to shuffle the line up a little bit. Have you noticed that this has been a challenging year for Dante Scarnecchia as he tries to shuffle all of those pieces around?
LM: As usual Dante’s done a great job. I think the guys in our room, the guys that Dante has to put up with, it’s always challenging for him, but he’s done a great job. The guys that have played that aren’t starters, they’ve done a great job for us. For us to keep winning games and those guys playing good, it says a lot about them.
Q: When you beat a team like you did Houston earlier in the season, is there a psychological advantage or is there more risk associated with how that might carry over?
LM: I guess there could be some risk, but our coaches, Bill has so much experience of being through pretty much every situation, that he’s not going to let us take them for advantage. They’re a good team, we know that, we’ve seen what they’ve done all year; we got the better of them the first game, but we know we’re going to have to play very well to win this game.
Q: Coach Belichick said earlier in the week that lessons can be learned from what happened in 2010 when you beat the Jets in December and then lost in the playoffs. Do you look back at past playoff situations and what you can learn from having the bye week, not having the bye week, playing a team that you have already played in the regular season and figuring out how you can use that to your advantage going into the next game?
LM: Oh yeah, 2010 is a good example. Beat the hell out of the Jets and then come back and lose to them. Then last year we beat Denver and they come here and we beat the hell out of them. So it can go either it, it’s just what you do on that Sunday. If you execute and play good football, you give yourself a chance to win.
PATRIOTS DB DEVIN MCCOURTY
January 10, 2013
Q: What kind of changes are you expecting from the Texan offense?
DM: It’s hard to say exactly what they’ll do. I’m sure they’ll watch the game that we had before and they’ll feel differently about some things they did. The biggest thing when you watch film, no matter whether you won or lost, you realize there were opportunities probably in that game that they came in thinking and they’ll probably still think that way. I think the biggest thing we have to think as a defense is they’ll play better. They’re going to be ready to go. It’s the playoffs. We know they’re preparing for us right now. They’ll be ready to go and they’ll be better than the last game.
Q: Do you put any numbers on it and say, ‘If we hold Andre Johnson to this, we’ll be fine’?
DM: No, I wouldn’t say numbers-wise because you could hold him to what you can see as good numbers but he could have two catches over the top and they’d be big touchdowns. I don’t think it really matters that you only held him to 70 yards if it’s a 30- and 40-yard touchdown. I think we’ll just have to do a good job of staying deep when they try to throw the shots down the field. We’ll just try to compete with him. He’s one of the best receivers in the game and it’s going to be tough. I think Alfonzo [Dennard] and myself and Aqib [Talib] and Kyle [Arrington] and the guys that are going to be on him just have to do a good job of going out there and trying to make it tough for him.
Q: How much of a concern is play-action for you guys, especially in the back end?
DM: It’s huge. If you watch them throughout the year, they’ve made big plays against almost every team they’ve played. We have to always realize when we’re needed in the run game, we have to show up and be there but as players in the secondary, the pass is important to us. We have to be able to play the pass and those guys up front have to rely on us to do our jobs when they’re up there handling the run.
Q: How tough is it to take down Arian Foster?
DM: That’s why he has the numbers he has this season because he’s able to break tackles, he’s able to make guys miss. That’s when we’ll be needed, when a run breaks out or something like that and we have to show up as safeties, as corners. We have to do a good job of just trying to get him on the ground. I think we always talk a lot about, as secondary members we all help each other out a lot if we just get to the ball. If we can get to the ball and gang-tackle running backs when they break out and they get in the open field, it makes it a lot easier to get those guys on the ground.
Q: What do you like most about the secondary group?
DM: I think the biggest thing is we just go out there and play. Throughout the year, people criticize us, people say different things. I think the biggest thing is we all play for each other. When we go out there we have confidence in everyone that steps on that field that we’re going to go out there and make plays. I think this latter half of the season, we made a lot of plays and I think we have to continue to do that throughout the playoffs. The first thing I realized, when I’m only in third year, everything you did in the regular season doesn’t matter once you get into the playoffs. The key for us is to go out there and just try to make plays when they come to us. if we can do that, we’ll help our defense out a lot.
Q: How much different of a secondary are you with Aqib Talib on the roster?
DM: He’s been a big part just because he’s a good player. When you add a guy at that position, at the corner position, that’s a very good player, it helps your defense a lot. He’s been able to pick things up. We’ve inserted him into the lineup and he hasn’t missed a step. I think with him playing well and also Alfonzo [Dennard] playing well as a rookie, I think that’s helped us out a lot.
Q: This is the Patriots 10th postseason appearance under Bill Belichick. What is it about Coach Belichick and the way he conducts business that allows you guys to be in this position year in and year out?
DM: I think it’s what he expects and what he demands from the team. There’s no year since I’ve been here that expectations have dropped or he’s changed his standards. We have to meet his standards each year. Every year I’ve been here, he’s told us from the start of the season, wherever we got last year is going to be harder to get there and if we want to improve that, it’s going to be even harder, we have to work even harder. I think it’s an understanding of his coaching and his teaching and you put that together with some great leaders – when I got here, guys like Tom [Brady] and Vince [Wilfork] were here and Jerod [Mayo] and Logan [Mankins]. When you have guys like that that have been here for awhile and the young guys come in and those are the guys you look up to. Those are the best players on the team and when they follow in those footsteps and they’re preaching the same thing, I think guys just follow along and listen.
Q: Does being in this position feel normal for you?
DM: You understand, you don’t take it for granted how hard it is to work to get here. I think we also realize as a team we put a lot of work into this. I think we’d be disappointed if we didn’t get to this spot. All the work you put in and extra days of watching film together an workouts and things like that, I think it would be a little disappointing if you didn’t get here.
Q: As a young man who plays football, do you worry much about what life might be like after football when you hear the studies and findings about Junior Seau? Does that resonate with you?
DM: I think hearing that is definitely sad but right now, you don’t really think about that. We’re going into a playoff game. For me, that’s where my focus is. It’s definitely sad to hear that but just all the focus right now is just playing this game against Houston.
Q: Would you have specific advice for a younger player or younger cousin about playing contact sports?
DM: I don’t know. I don’t think I got much advice about that so I wouldn’t even know what to do or what to say really.
Q: How much different is the energy level on the field in a playoff game?
DM: It’s definitely heightened. When you talk about, win or go home, that’s it. Guys have more energy. I think the sense of urgency is there. Guys are hyped, guys are ready to go. There really won’t be any quarters or plays guys take off because you just understand, it’s now or never. On our team the veterans do a good job of doing that because when you’re young, I remember my first year we made it to the playoffs, you kind of think this will happen every year, it will be automatic. But when you hear older guys talk about how hard it is to get there and now understand that, I’m one of those guys preaching that. you put that together with guys who have been playing in this league so many years, guys are amped up and ready to go when they get on that field for game time.
Q: Is it weird that you have been in the league for three years and been to the postseason all three years and a guy like Brandon Lloyd, this is his first? You’re kind of a veteran to talk about the postseason to guys who have been in the league for a number of years but never been in the playoffs.
DM: I think for them, their sense of urgency is there. They understand that they’ve played ‘X’ amount of years in this league. I know a guy like B-Lloyd can’t wait to step on that field and play in the postseason. Usually there isn’t much you have to say to those guys. They’re gamers and they’ll be ready to go.
Q: Can you shed some insight on what the transition from corner to safety was like for you? Did you feel as natural at safety as you did at corner?
DM: Not at first. Like any time you change positions, you have to get reps and get used to it. But last year, moving a little bit of safety on pass downs, I think the biggest thing was just adjusting to playing it every down of the game. Once I got more and more reps in practice and then actually being out there in the game, I felt like I started to get a good feel for it. I was able to make a couple plays. Now I feel that I’ve gained a good amount of confidence in playing either position. Now it’s just going out there and playing.
Q: Is the biggest different the last line of defense mentality you have to have as a safety?
DM: Yeah, I mean that’s one thing. But I think you also put the communication level and the importance is way greater at safety. At corner where you’re only one side of the field, you’re not asked to communicate as much to the rest of the defense as you are at safety. With [Jerod] Mayo making so many calls, he has to really worry about handling the linebackers and the front four. I think once you talk about the secondary, the safeties have to worry about handling everything with the coverage aspect. When you’re at safety, you have to really make sure everyone gets the calls and everyone is listening. Whenever I’m back at that position, I put a lot of that on myself. Along with Steve [Gregory] and Pat [Chung] being back there, just making sure everyone gets what we’re doing.
Q: Do you know what you are going to play on Sunday?
DM: Somewhat. You always know somewhat what you are going to do.
Q: Do you want to share?
DM: No, I think I’ll keep the game plan to myself.
Q: What do you remember about the interception in the first meeting?
DM: Just catching the ball. The biggest thing is just trying to read the quarterback and go from there. It sounds simple, but at different times against quarterbacks in this league, sometimes they do a good job of looking you off and doing different things like that. Just trying to read the quarterback. Bill [Belichick] is big on telling on us, ‘Just do your job’. I felt like that was a play where they threw the ball down the middle, I’m supposed to be in the middle of the field and just made a field.
Q: What has pleased you the most about the journey that the defense has made from the beginning of the year, going from the perception people had about the defense at the beginning of the year and ending with a shutout?
DM: Just improvement week in and week out. I think everyone on this defense, on this team, has done a good job of taking all the coaching that we get each week – after wins, after losses – and putting it to use and going out there every day at practice and improving and do things better. I think it speaks to the character of this team that guys don’t just think that we’ve got it or just think that things are going to be easy. We go out there each day and work and practice and try to improve. It feels good when it shows.
Q: How has Aqib Talib been able to step in? You guys have embraced him quickly.
DM: As soon as he got here, he was kind of just like one of the guys. I don’t know if it’s just with athletes in general but it seems like any time we get a new guy on this team, even a guy like Marquice Cole that came in the offseason, it seems like he’s been here for years. It’s always a lot of transition in the NFL. I think guys know each other from playing against each other, some guys played together in college, guys come in and it seems like they just fall right into the group. I don’t think there’s a group that has more fun than us in the secondary, just being in the locker room around each other, cracking jokes and doing things like that. He’s fit in well.
Q: What is the hardest thing about fitting into the Patriot Way?
DM: I don’t know how hard it is. I think it’s kind of simple: just do your job, follow what the other guys are doing. Just look at it in the simple aspect of, if I do my job, everything will work out pretty well.