Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and running back Chris Johnson spoke to the Houston media via conference call on Thursday to discuss tjeor team's upcoming game against the Texans. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher(on if he has ever been through a roller-coaster season like this one before) "Well, no. The expectations certainly were high during the offseason and at training camp. Preseason had prepared us to play well, and then of course, the first three games, in close games, you look at them and say, 'Gosh, these could've gone either way,' and they could have. The three after that, Jacksonville, Indy and New England, it just didn't go well for us for a number of reasons, but we were able to regroup during the bye week and get some key players back. When you're a minus-10 in takeaway-giveaways after six weeks, you're going to struggle, and we were. Since the bye week, we're plus-seven, and we're protecting (the football) and that's the difference."
(on if they needed the bye week after the New England game to regroup) "It was important for a number of reasons: To work on some things that needed to improve, to get away, to get as far away as we could for a few days. Then we came back, re-charged and refreshed and we got the run game going and since then, things have been working."
(on if it is special coming back to Houston each year) "It's always a fun trip. It's one that we all look forward to. As I've said year after year after year, personally and professionally, Houston was a great experience for me. It does no longer seem like yesterday. I think we've been gone for quite some time. "
(on if told he would be the longest tenured coach in the NFL when he first arrived in Houston, what he would've said) "Yeah, I would've taken that then. To have three kids attend the same elementary, middle and graduate from the same high school in this business is rare, so I'm very, very fortunate."
(on if it feels the Texans-Titans matchup is now a rivalry) "Yes, it does, in light of what has happened, especially in the first matchup and last year. Yeah, it is. I think the matchups in our division, the three different ones are all unique, but they're all becoming rivalry-like. I believe that the Texans have done a great job in all areas, and their improvement speaks for itself. It was just a matter of time. Now, obviously, we're the bottom looking up, just trying to win the next game."
(on RB Chris Johnson) "What C.J. is able to do is—I think everyone knows that he's a step away from going the distance and he's not going to be caught. As a result, you have to be very, very careful and aware of where he is. He's not just a one-dimensional outside runner. He's got terrific inside-run skills and quickness through the hole. He can take a hit and he can bounce off and he's also proved that he's very effective out of the backfield in the passing game."
(on if he thinks QB Vince Young has cleared his head of issues from a year ago) "He's done a nice job. His completion percentage, everything that statistically out on the field, but more importantly than that, just the way he's been preparing. He's having fun. The experience for him, even though it was difficult, it was positive and a tremendous learning experience and it's paying dividends now."
(on what the Texans are doing better on defense) "They've settled down. They've healed up and settled down. They're going at the football very, very hard. Their front is creating problems. They have not given up the big play. They are making people drive it and getting people into third downs. I think in the last six weeks, their defense against the run would be first in the National Football League."
(on if the Texans' defense looked confused in their first matchup) "Unfortunately, for every defense, they're going to have their moments. We've had our moments in the first four or five weeks. We also didn't play as well we thought we were capable of playing in that ballgame. As far as confused, no, it was just simply one play."
(on the play of QB Matt Schaub) "I think the numbers speak for themselves. He's third in the AFC and he has 17 (touchdowns) and 9 (interceptions). Those are good numbers. They're doing a much better job protecting him and they've surrounded him—I'm very impressed with the skill level at all positions."
Titans RB Chris Johnson
(on if he knows Texans RB Steve Slaton) "When I met him at the rookie of the year ceremony and when I see him, we speak or whatever like that, but like not as far as really talking on the phone or anything like that. But I think he's a great back and I think he's been doing well since he's been in the league."
(on Slaton struggling with fumbles and teams trying to strip the ball) "Yeah, defenses are so good these days, they have special techniques on how they strip the ball from you and make you fumble or whatever like that. But you've just got to be cautious of it. It's a bad thing: He's a good running back, but he's been having some fumbling problems. So I don't know if he's playing as much now, but he's a good running back."
(on if he's still amazed at how open he was against the Texans in Week 2) "Oh, yeah. I wouldn't never think that would ever happen, to line up out that wide and nobody stick you. It's like they're giving you a touchdown, so I wouldn't never think that would ever happen."
(on what went through his mind) "I was just like, 'I've got to catch this ball.' That's the hardest balls to catch, when you're wide open."
(on his 91-yard touchdown run in that game) "I had to make a couple of cuts, and my linemen… (inaudible) … I had to do what I had to do to make them miss. I guess they were in a good defense, but I guess we just had a better play call."
(on if he's expecting to see a much different Texans defense on Monday night) "Of course. We know they're going to give us their all. They're out on Monday night, they have their all red on or whatever like that. They're going to give us their best effort."
(on how he avoided a sophomore slump) "Just how hard I worked in the offseason. In fact, that was my biggest fear after my rookie year was a sophomore slump. I didn't want to have no sophomore slump. I didn't want nobody to say my rookie year was a fluke. So that was my number one fear, so that's why I worked so hard in the offseason."
(on how the attitude on team has changed with Vince Young at quarterback) "We're just out there having fun, basically. We're just having fun out there on offense. We get in the huddle, Vince says, 'Don't worry about anything.' We just have fun, and if we have fun we're going to win. We're going to get victories. Basically, all positions out there, we're having fun on the field."
(on if Young has changed the way defenses attack with him) "I don't think it's changed. I think they're still going to game plan to stop me or whatever. Only think that changes, they've got to game plan to stop him, too, because he's a great athlete and he can make plays through the air and can make plays through his feet. So any time you have a quarterback like that, they just can't key in on one person. And the first time we played them, Kerry Collins was starting. So they're going to prepare for Vince this time, so it's a little advantage because I don't think they're sure what they're facing because they haven't played with me and Vince in the game at the same time. And a lot of teams around the NFL, they haven't played with me and Vince in the backfield at the same time, because my whole rookie year, basically, I played with Kerry Collins."
(on if he feels different with Young being in the game) "No, I feel the same, basically. I've got to do my job; I've got to do my part. Like, when I go out there and play, I just worry about doing my part, and I've got great confidence that everybody out there on the field is going to do their part necessary. Because if everybody does their own part, then that's when you have success, that's when you're running by everybody doing everything else."
(on if he thinks the Texans' defense will resemble the one he saw in Week 15 of last season) "I'm not sure. I know they're going to try to play hard or whatever like that. I know they're going to try to play hard. And basically, I'm just going in there and I'm competing against every other back in the league. That's how I look at every game. I'm competing against every other back in the league to be the best back in the league, and I feel like if you want to be the best, that's how you've got to compete, against all the best. So you've got to look at who's everybody claiming to be the best. If they say Adrian Peterson, Cedric Benson or whoever is the best, then that's who I'm competing against."
(on if he has noticed a difference in Young as he prepares to play in Houston) "I don't know. I only played with him like for a half in my rookie year, so I really don't know. I've never really played with him like that before this year."
(on if Young seems excited to be coming back to Houston) "Yeah, he's real excited. That's his hometown or whatever, so that's like if I'm going back to Florida, I'm very excited. So basically, I know he's very excited and I hope we can get this victory for him."
(on if he stands by his prediction of 10-6 for the Titans this season) "Yeah, I'm still standing by that prediction. Ten and six, that's going to be our record."