Texans head coach Gary Kubiak answered questions from the media during a Monday afternoon press conference at Reliant Stadium. The following is a transcript of his interview.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on if he thought the Texans would ever rank No. 1 in defense when he hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) "It's just been fun to watch. We've come a long way and obviously the last three weeks we've played exceptional defensively. I didn't know it until this morning until I walked in and saw the League stats. But there's a long way to go and a lot of big football games to play. But the job that he's done and (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) and (assistant head coach/defensive line) Bill (Kollar), (defensive backs coach) Vance (Joseph), (defensive assistant) Bobby (King), (assistant defensive backs coach) Perry (Carter), they've done a tremendous job. The players have just bought into what we're doing and they're playing with a lot of confidence right now and a lot of young players stepping to the plate. Hopefully there's a lot more good things to come, but right now, it's very exciting to watch."
(on where he hoped the defense would rank coming into the season) "That's hard to answer. I just want to be good in all three phases would be a good way to answer that question. I tell you guys all the time, is hopefully get a team that's good enough when you show up on Sunday that you can win three different ways. Right now I think we're heading very much towards that. I think we feel like we can play defense with anybody in the League and we feel like we can move the ball with anybody in the League and to me, (special teams coordinator) Joe's (Marciano) done a great job with our special teams. The job he did yesterday, obviously we were facing one of the great returners in football. Right away we knew after two touches that we weren't going to let him touch it again and executed a game plan the rest of the way that gave up some field position, but did the right thing for us to win. That's the key is just getting the football team to where we feel comfortable in all three phases."
(on if DE Antonio Smith had an MRI today) "Yeah, he's fine. He's just got a banged up shoulder. He did take a shot going into the second half. I think he played eight or nine plays in the second half. Really, really sore today, he did not work out with the team. He stayed inside, but knowing Antonio, he'll be ready to go. He just may miss some time this week in practice."
(on the defense improving so quickly this year) "You're right. It's been absolutely special to watch. It started opening day very good and it's just continuously gotten better. Played a great offensive team early in the year in New Orleans, struggled there, but we came right back, bounced back. Like I said, I think the thing that's going on, the reason we're getting better is to watch these young players get better. Watch J.J. Watt get better. Watch Brooks Reed get better. Troy Nolan comes in and plays well. (Brian) Cushing, we know the level he's playing at. DeMeco (Ryans) is getting back to full health. DeMeco played really good yesterday. The key is toward the back end of the season you want to win every week, but are you getting better as a football team? Right now, we're doing that, so that's an exciting second half start yesterday and got to keep moving on."
(on WR Andre Johnson) "He worked out today. The workout went very good. Will he be on the practice field Wednesday? I don't know. We're going to take it a day at a time, but we're back on the track to Andre getting back on the field here very, very quickly. Hopefully that's this week, but I don't know. We'll see, but he's very upbeat, went through a tough little few days there the week before, but now we've come out of this thing fine and he's back on track."
(on how impressed he's been with the running game with WR Andre Johnson out) "We've missed him for five games and we've moved the ball really good. I think we've averaged over 400 yards a game if I'm right during that time. We've run the ball very well. Against Tennessee, we threw the ball very well also. To miss a player like that and still find a way to score some points and get things done, that's very important to the success of the team and that's been the case across the board, not just with Andre's situation, but with Mario's (Williams) situation, Danieal Manning. That's been the key to where we're at right now, guys stepping up."
(on what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips does successfully) "Well going against Wade for years as an offensive coach, he does a hell of a job of busting protections. Without me getting into a long deal, being able to bust people's protection schemes and get heat on the quarterback is the key in this League. It's what we face offensively. He does an excellent job of that. Us getting after the quarterback and the job that we're doing on the back end right now getting Johnathan Joseph I think has really been a key to our success so far. Some people have tried to run the ball on us. Yesterday we stepped up and stopped the run too. I just think it starts with the pressure that we're able to get on the quarterback and he does a lot of things and our guys have responded and done a good job of learning it at a very quick pace."
(on the challenge of coaching the team now and how they've handled success) "Well, they've been great. They've been fine so far. We still got a long way to go. I know I've said that a few times, but at this point, we're working well. Our guys are very focused on what's going on. We had a great meeting today. We got another big game coming up this week. I see our guys ready to push forward. I think they understand that the key is getting better. Are we going to get better throughout the course of this back half of the season. They're very challenged. They push each other very hard. They ask a lot of each other. As long as they continue to do that, then they'll be happy with the results. We got to just make sure we stay focused on each game."
(on FB James Casey's health and the job that FB Lawrence Vickers has done) "Well the first thing, Lawrence has come in and boy, has he played well. That's the third week he's started and that's the best he's played. You guys see how we run the ball here lately, so you got to give him a lot of credit along with our guys up front. Lawrence has taken to what we're trying to teach and do. We ask our fullback to do a lot in our offense and it takes some time and he's really starting to take to it. He's playing very well. James is okay, as I've told ya'll before. He needs to continue to get a week or two under his belt where he continues to come out of the game healthy. He's been playing nicked up for us, but there's a lot of guys doing that. We'll need them both before we're all said and done, but Lawrence has taken advantage of an opportunity. That's probably the best way for me to put it."
(on the difference between ILB Brian Cushing this year and last year mentally and physically) "I think it's just the time on the field. I really do and I've said that many times. Cush has not missed any time at all in practice. He's had a good camp, so his knowledge is growing every day. (Defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) creates a lot for him in a lot of the blitzes and schemes that we do and really creates for him. He walks in here on Wednesday and he sees that and he gets very excited about it. He's just playing at an extremely high level and the people in front of him are playing well too. Cush has become a big leader of our defensive football team and I think that's kind of helped him as a person as well as a player. I just think he feels more responsibility and he's taken it well."
(on if ILB Brian Cushing head butted Browns G Shawn Lauvao with his helmet off) "Well first off, he did a great job on the play of keeping his poise. He took a pretty good shot about 10 yards behind the ball. The guy continued to come after him. He could have lost his poise right there and we could have came away with nothing. I show the guys smart plays all the time after the game. That was the number one smart play in the game, just his poise in the tough situation, taking a heck of a shot was the difference in us being able to kick a field goal there. If we retaliates, that ball's coming back and we don't get nothing out of it. That tells you how far Cush as come."
(on how much he's enjoying everything now compared to this time last year) "Well I always enjoy coaching. I think we all enjoy our jobs more when things are going good, so, so far over the past three weeks, it's been very exciting. You're in this business to get to this point where you're playing very important football games and we'll be doing that the rest of the way. But the key is you have to keep your composure, keep your focus. You can't get ahead of yourself and that's what I'll continue to do, the coaches will do. We got to make sure the team does that too."
(on what worries him about the Buccaneers) "Well the first thing that's jumped at me, they've played some good people. They've played the Saints twice already. They got beat by Detroit on opening day. San Francisco's 7-1, so you got to look at this football team sitting there 4-4, but they've played a very tough schedule. A big quarterback, makes a lot of plays. They've come back on some football teams. They battle for four quarters. It's always been a tough place to play when I've been in the League. We know we'll get their best. They're coming off a tough division game last weekend and like I said yesterday, everything's going to get tougher. The games will get bigger. Everything will get a little tougher on everybody, so we just got to continue to raise our level of play."
(on how he gets the players to understand that the games get more important down the stretch) "Well you just talk about it. I think they know it. We've got enough guys around here that have been through enough tough times to know how hard they've worked for this opportunity that they're fixing to go into here over the course of the next seven weeks and we've got a lot of coaches here who have been in a lot of big games and been on a lot of good football teams. We'll just keep them focused. There's a long way to go. There's seven weeks to go, but when you start breaking it down by days, there's not many days left. We just got to make sure we make each day a good one."