Texans coach Gary Kubiak and wide receiver Andre Johnson spoke to the St. Louis media via conference call on Wednesday. Following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak(on the problems that led to the team's four-game losing streak) "I guess it was a lot of things. The bottom line is we lost some very close games, not just in that stretch. You go back early in the season at Arizona and Jacksonville at home, we've been right there just in about every game we've played other than opening day – (when) we got our butt kicked pretty good. We haven't been making some plays in crunch time, whether it is a field goal, whether it is a play on the goal line, whether it is a play defensively and we've got somebody backed up. As a team trying to learn how to make those big plays in games, late in games that are the difference in winning and losing. No excuses; it's got to come from a little bit of everywhere, and we've got to be better in crunch time."
(on how hard it is to get over the hump in Houston) "It is very hard. We started at the bottom two years back and our initial goal was to just do things the way winning teams do things and to operate that way as an organization, a football team and a coaching staff, and I feel like we made that progress pretty quick and now we've got ourselves competitive, being very competitive in this league and being a playoff team and a team that has a chance to win a championship. That is the big step in this business, and that is what we are trying to get done in Houston. I think we are close to doing that, but yet we've got to find a way to get over the top and do that. It has been frustrating. It was a tough month last month and through stuff like that in the league, you either get better or go backwards and we are trying to find a way to get better through it."
(on Texans WR Andre Johnson) "I can only speak for the guys that I have had. I have been fortunate to be around some great ones like Jerry Rice and Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey in Denver for all those years. Usually, those great players all have one thing in common and that's their work ethic. I came here, Andre has been fighting the good fight here in Houston ever since he was drafted. He's been the one constant here on this team, and he's as hard a worker as we have. Great young man, very quiet, doesn't say much, just works very hard at his trade and you are going to get his best week in and week out – very impressive young man."
(on how Johnson's size helps him) "He's very explosive off the ball. He's got big-time speed, and it's hard for DBs to get their hands on him as far as at the line of scrimmage because of his strength and stuff. But the big compliment I can pay him, and I have probably said this many, many times is when you've got a great receiver, people can find a way to shut those guys down and do some things defensively, but when you've got a guy that is very knowledgeable of the game, and Andre is. You can move him around and put him in various places – it makes it tougher on defensive football teams. I think his knowledge, his brain for the game of football has really helped him to continue to improve."
(on QB Matt Schaub) "He is becoming a good player. He has been hurt the last couple years. When he has been healthy he has put up some good numbers and he is trying to get up there with some of these elite quarterbacks in this league. If he can stay in one piece and we can continue to get better as a football team and improving our running game will definitely help him as a quarterback, I think he has a chance to be a really fine player for years to come."
(on what Schaub does best) "He is a very accurate player, very smart. He handles massive game plans. He can get everybody in the right spot. There is no limit to what we can give him week in and week out – getting the protection right. (He's a) football junkie that lives here, lives in the film room, lives up in the coaches office and usually all those good ones kind of have that in common."
(on RB Steve Slaton being placed on reserve/injured list) "We've really struggled running the ball. We lost both of our two starting guards as of Week 3 this year so that was a big adjustment for us. We lost (TE) Owen Daniels in Week 7 and so that was another adjustment. Steve played hurt for us for a couple weeks. We have kind of been running back by committee back there and we haven't helped those guys much either. We have got to do a better job up front. It has been a struggle for us, but we are trying to do everything we can to stay as balanced as we can because we know that is what is best for our team."
(on if he is proud with how the team played on Sunday in response to his Saturday night speech) "There's been a lot to that. I think as a coach, we've got one for them every Saturday night – maybe some are better than others. We had been through a really tough month and when you go through tough times in this business, coaching and playing, you either work your way out of them and you come out even better or you don't work your way out of them. I was pleased with the step we took forward last week, but we have to continue to do that. We've got to show enough poise and maturity as a football team that we can do that over a long period of time, not just every now and then."
(on how he is approaching the last three games of the season) "We're really just trying to stay focused on ourselves. We're disappointed in that stretch and some of the things we did. We had games under control in the fourth quarter in almost all those games except Jacksonville and found ways to lose them. We are really trying to stay focused on ourselves, our football. I gave them some things I want to see them improve upon over the next month, and let's see if we can do that and then let's see what happens. We are not talking about more than just the next one and that is of course this week against (the St. Louis Rams)."
(on what challenges the Rams present and how he prevents a let down from his team playing a 1-12 Rams team) "To me, it is easy for us because we have been so inconsistent so it is something we are battling as a team. Last year, I think it was this same week or maybe it was next week, we went on the road against Oakland and were playing very good and had a four-game win streak going and went and got our butt kicked. It shouldn't be a problem for us. The biggest problem you all present is obviously (RB) Steven (Jackson). He is one of the best backs in the league and that has been a problem for us defensively is stopping the run consistently. If (QB) Marc (Bulger) plays, he can beat anybody on any given day. We've just got to stay focused on ourselves and find a way to play good football for us and protect the football and not hurt ourselves."
(on how the defense is playing overall) "They have been very good. The past five or six weeks, we have been making a lot of progress. We started the season very slow – I think we were dead last after three weeks and have made progress ever since. We have been fortunate on that side of the ball. We haven't had any injuries other than one, so they have played a lot of football together and we have had two rookies come in and play very well with (LB Brian) Cushing and (CB Glover) Quin, so I have been very fortunate there."
(on preparing to play a team that they don't face very often) "The preparation is not different. You don't have the recall that you do in the division or in the AFC so that is a little bit different for the players, but how we go about it this time of year this deep in the season, I'm sure everybody has the same problem. Right now we are trying to get people healthy to Sunday and ready to go. Practice is a battle every week as far as healthy bodies. We are doing a lot more mental work than physical work right now, but just trying to get them in the position to be successful."
Texans WR Andre Johnson(on if they are driven by still being in the run of making it to the playoffs) "I wouldn't say just the playoffs. I think guys know that things didn't turn out the way we wanted them to. I think just the attitude of the whole team is totally different now than what it used to be when I first got here. I think when I first got here, we was in this same situation. Guys would have pretty much shut it down. Around here, we're not letting anybody shut it down. We still have three games left to play and we're going to approach those three games like we approach every game. We're not going to let anyone shut it down around here."
(on what it would mean to him to lead the NFL in receiving yards) "It would be great. It would be a very great accomplishment. I would rather be playing in the playoffs than leading the NFL in receiving. Like I said, it would be a great accomplishment if it was to happen."
(on how his size helps him in the NFL) "It helps out a lot. A lot of times guys like to get real physical with you and things like that. A lot of times when guys have good coverage on you, you're able to put your body in a way to block them out and wall them. It definitely works to my advantage."
(on not playing the Rams often and how that affects his preparation) "I don't really think it affects preparation. You just try to watch as much film as you can on them. You just try to find some holes in their defense that you just try to attack. Like I said, you just approach it like you approach every other game."
(on what OB Matt Schaub brings to the table) "Matt is very confident. I think when Matt first got here, when he first signed with us, he called me and told me how excited he was to be here and be a part of the Texans and the organization. He was ready to get to work and when I came back, we were out on the field working together. As we went a long in practice and the game, he would tell me why he wasn't throwing me the ball and things like that. I just noticed that all the work had paid off because we were seeing the same things out on the football field. He is definitely a good leader and he's a tough guy. He's been battling through a lot of injuries since he's been here. This is just the first year that he has played every game."
(on him not reacting to all of the attention he gets) "That's just me. I really don't care about all of the attention and things like that. I think the biggest thing is just you having the respect among your peers and the guys you play against in the NFL. Me being talked about on TV every day or being on the cover of a magazine, that really doesn't matter to me. I really don't care about that."
(on if he owns a sombrero) "No."
(on if he realizes that if he were on a more heavily marketed team the attention he would get) "I've been told that. I've been told that several times. People have come up to me and said if you were on another team they think things would be different and a lot of people would know who I am. Like I said, I've never been a guy…even since I've played football as a little kid, I've never been a guy who's wanted the attention. I was always a guy who just loved to go out and play and if someone recognized me then they did and if they didn't then they didn't. I really wasn't worried about everyone knowing who I was or anything like that."
(on if he gets a lot of fan mail) "Yeah, I get a lot of fan mail. Actually, this offseason, just about every time I was walking in the airport I had several people come up to me and tell me thank you for helping them win their fantasy league and things like that. It was pretty cool and just lets me know that what I'm doing is being recognized by the fans and things like that. I'm fine with that. I really don't need any more attention. I'm cool with what I have right now."
(on what the most fun part of the game is for him) "Just being out there playing. I think being in the NFL period is a great opportunity. I have friends and stuff who ask me about how it feels. I tell them I just try to cherish every moment of it because you never know when it can be taken away from you. You can go out there and have one injury and it's all over. When we were all little kids we all dreamed of playing in the NFL and I'm living my dream. Every time I get a chance to run out of that tunnel and I get a chance to go out there and play, I'm out there having fun and enjoying the game I live to play."
(on if it is tough when January comes around and he's not playing) "Yeah, it's tough. It gets frustrating. Coming to a new organization I knew everything wasn't just going to be oh so perfect. When I got here I knew things were going to be a little tough. Did I think it would take seven seasons for it to happen? No, I didn't. That's something I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of helping the Texans get their first playoff birth. Hopefully, win it's first Super Bowl. That's something that drives me. It just keeps me motivated and makes me work harder and harder every year."
(on if it seems like they are further along on having a break out year) "Yeah, it is. We're a much better football team than in past years. I just think that this year we just haven't made the plays for us to get to that point. We had two games that we lost on the one-yard line. We have Indy (Indianapolis Colts) down and we blow the game. It's just always been something where we been in games and we just do something to hurt ourselves that takes us out of winning those games."
(on the Rams defense) "I think that they disguise their coverage's pretty well. I think that things just haven't been going right for them. I've been in situations where we've went 2-14 one year here. I can imagine what those guys are going through. When you watch them on film, those guys go out there and play hard. You have to be very disciplined in what you're doing. It's a team that you just can't overlook them because of their record. They just haven't had the ball bounce their way this year. You just have to go out there and prepare for them like you would prepare for any other team."
(on if he can believe that DT Jeff Zgonina is still playing and if he has a famous story from him) "No, I don't really have a favorite Zgonina story. Jeff, he's real cool. Me and him, we bother each other everyday on the practice field. He will run up behind me and push me in the back or something. I mean it's always something with him everyday. He's a real cool guy. I love being around him. He is a funny dude. I really don't have any funny Zgonina stories for you."
(on if he is a disturber) "He can be at times especially if it's something that he doesn't agree with."