The Texans beat the Falcons by a 17-10 margin in Week 13 at Reliant Stadium. Coaches and players from both teams, as well as Texans' chairman/CEO Bob McNair and referee Bill Levy answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
OWNER BOB McNAIRHEAD COACH GARY KUBIAKDEFENSIVE COORDINATOR WADE PHILLIPSLB CONNOR BARWINT DUANE BROWNNT SHAUN CODYLB BRIAN CUSHINGTE OWEN DANIELSTE JOEL DREESSENRB ARIAN FOSTERWR ANDRE JOHNSONCB KAREEM JACKSONCB JOHNATHAN JOSEPHS DANIEAL MANNINGLB BROOKS REEDLB DEMECO RYANSDE ANTONIO SMITHT ERIC WINSTONQB T.J. YATES
CHAIRMAN/CEO BOB McNAIR
(on the win) "Well I think it proves that I have a healthy heart. It was a hard fought game. We have all the respect in the world for Atlanta. They have a team that is very much like ours. They're well balanced. They got a good running back, good passing attack and a great defense. We beat a very fine team and it just reflects the character of our team the way we deal with adversity and the job that Coach Kubiak has done in keeping these guys focused and ready to play in spite of all of these setbacks."
(on TJ Yates) "He did a great job. He's got a lot of poise and handled everything so well and just did an amazing job."
(on Andre Johnson's injury) "Well they say it's a hamstring but a typical hamstring injury and not a severe type of injury. Hopefully it's one we can deal with and he can be back in a couple of weeks."
(on getting close to making the playoffs) "It's wonderful and I'm so happy for the city because our fans have waited for so long for a team they can really be proud of. If they're not proud of this team they're not going to be proud of any team because they are absolutely astounding. The way they have performed and overcome adversity is a lesson in life for all of us. We just have to keep playing the way we've been playing. We're a heck of a ball club at this point. Our defense has just been magnificent and then when our defense eased up on the third quarter and they scored a touchdown our offense got geared up and we started running the ball. It's that combination, if you have a strong defense, you can run the ball and you can keep the other team from running it too much you're going to have a lot of success and that's what we are doing."
HEAD COACH GARY KUBIAK
(on WR Andre Johnson) "I have to wait until tomorrow. It's actually the other hamstring, you know, it's not the one that's been giving him problems. Right now it's described to me as not being severe, but I don't think you ever know about the hamstrings until the next day. Let's just see where we're at tomorrow."
(on the if this is the most satisfying win of his career) "It's a great win. I don't know where you put it. It's a great win because of everything this team has been through. I just told the guys, it's been three weeks, three different quarterbacks, but it's the same team, it's the same 46 guys going out there every week and just battling as a heck of a football team we play. We knew we were going to be in a slugfest. We kind of fed off each other all day when we did some good things offensively. Defensively we played very well. They went down and scored on us and we answered offensively. Special teams were pretty solid all day, except for the missed field goal. Just a great football game and we found a way to win."
(on the play of QB TJ Yates and telling him to play mistake free) "I didn't approach him that way. I think I told you all that this week. I think if you're playing one game or something maybe you have to approach something like that, but he's our quarterback for the rest of the year. I think it's important that we go ahead and move forward and leave our expectations the same. I don't want to cuff him; I want him to go play. I just want to see him get better every week. It's important that our team protects the ball all the time, not just because of the situation we're in now. My approach with him is going to stay aggressive because we need him to grow up real fast. That's what we're going to have to expect him to do. I'm happy, I'm proud of him. He did a hell of a job. He handled the football team very well."
(on what it says about the team that a 3rd string rookie quarterback managed the game so well) "The first place you need to go with this week, and I gave two game balls out, (Texans Quarterbacks Coach) Gregg Knapp and (Texans Offensive Coordinator) Rick Dennison have not slept this week. The job that they did with that kid in the quarterback room this week was tremendous. These things don't happen in this league. It's one thing to lose a guy, but it's another thing to have two out of your three quarterbacks in your room that don't even know your system that you're trying to teach them in the middle of the year. It's been a heck of a challenge and (QB) TJ (Yates) held up his end of the bargain very well. But those guys did a great job. But it's about the team and that's all we keep talking about is our football team and it's our chance to win another game as a team. And we found a way to do that today."
(on the injury to P Brett Hartmann) "I don't know right now. I actually thought he got hit and he did not get hit. It's my understanding that he just got caught in the seam or tripped or something. We'll see. So, could be another issue we have to deal with."
(on the interception by Atlanta and the penalty that took the touchdown back) "That was a big break for us. I think they had some big breaks in the game. We got the fumble out; they basically made the same call on that play. There were a lot of flags out there today that made things swing a great deal. But obviously we're very fortunate on that play and that held the drive together. I think we had, what, a 20-play drive or something like that in there. We kept finding a way to stay on the field. And the big fourth down that we handled in that situation. So, it was huge."
(on the fumble by QB TJ Yates early in the game) "I thought his arm was going forward. He told me it wasn't enough to change it. So I have to go back and look at it. You guys may have a different opinion right now as you sit here, but we sure thought his arm was going forward."
(on the officials today) "That's part of it. I think one of the things we've learned is that you're going to get some calls and have some go against you and just keep playing. We've grown up a lot from that standpoint. Can't worry about those things."
(on the defense as a unit) "They've been exceptional all year. This is one of the top offenses in the league, probably the best we've played since New Orleans early in the season. We get two big turnovers early in the game, gave us great field possession. Of course we turn the ball back over again. They have been exceptional. They take on a bigger load there at the end of the game. For us to punt the ball at the end, you like to stay on the field, but that's how much confidence we have in them as a group. They've been exceptional."
(on RB Arian Foster during the 19-play drive and the whole game) "I don't know what we ran the ball for, but whatever the yardage was, it was a grind. It was not easy. They are very good against, the run; they are number two (ranked run defense in the NFL). We didn't really make big plays, but we just stayed to it in the second half and it was the difference. One thing about Arian, the more he carries it he seems to bet a little better. And (RB) Ben (Tate) came in and gave us some juice. So, it was important that we run the ball well. And before the day was over I think we did."
(on fourth-and-1 and not attempting a field goal late in the game) "I didn't because of who we are playing. They are just too good on offense and I think right there we needed to make a statement that first off, we can get a yard. I had actually called the same play earlier in the game when (G Mike) Brisiel jumped offside when we were going for it. We handled it right there like a sharp football team. I think we needed it. It was going to take more than three to win that game."
(on the offense and defense feeding off one another) "When one group is down and not playing well, the other group has got to hold down the fort until they can get it going. We have kind of been doing that. And obviously our defense knows the situation we had on offense. Then you see (WR) Andre (Johnson) going down. They kept us in that ballgame. They were the ones that finished it at the end. And like I said, and I know you all are tired of me saying it, but it's been about the group all year and it definitely was today."
(on not changing the offense and if he had different plays for QB TJ Yates) "I really didn't. That was one of the messages that I told the team last night. I said 'I want you all to know I've approached him just like I do (QB) Matt Schaub every game.' I test my guys the night before every game, and when I tested him, I was so impressed. I went in there and told the whole team, 'I wish you could have been in there. He is ready to play. He's going to be fine.' But like I said, with so long to go, and so much riding on it, I think we need to ask him to grow up real fast. That's what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna keep pushing him."
(on QB TJ Yates' mobility) "It's a little bit different. He left the pocket that one time, and he got us in that fourth down situation. But he's got the ability to do that. I just like the way he handled the group. We might have had a false start or two, but he handled group well and never had any problems with the clock and that's a lot to ask of a young man. He took care of it."
(on what it is about Yates, as far as poise) "He is kind of a quiet kid, and he's got a lot of confidence in himself. I'm always with those quarterbacks and he handles himself very well. He's had a great example. When you're in a room with (QB) Matt Schaub you can't help but do things the right way. Matt deserves a lot of that credit. This kid played a lot of ball and North Carolina and had a lot of ups and downs. When you studied him, he had a lot of good times, he had a lot of bad times, and that's being a quarterback. So I think that is what has kind of got him to where he is right now."
(on the injury status of CB Jason Allen and LB Brian Cushing) "Allen got dinged. So we'll see how he's doing, obviously on that tackle. Cushing has a banged up knee. He's been pretty beat up the last few weeks, really didn't practice this week. I think Cush will just keep pushing to the next one. And that was it, and (P Brett) Hartmann and (WR) Andre (Johnson)."
(on the field conditions at Reliant Stadium) "I think our field is pretty darn good. Its put together different than most fields, but since I've been here I thought it's been pretty darn good. I don't know statistically or whatever how to answer that, because I haven't noticed that it's been any different than any other place we play."
(on if QB Matt Schaub was talking to the sideline today via headset) "Actually I think Matt was sitting up with his wife today. He's just coming off the surgery and he's been feeling pretty rough. But he was around here for his teammate. There is no way he could be on the field, could get run over. I was going put him in the box but he just wasn't feeling good enough so I told him to go enjoy the game with his wife. I'm sure he enjoyed it."
(on the Texans' long drive and how it affects the other teams defense) "Obviously you've got control of the game when you're doing it, but you're controlling the clock. You're keeping one of the great young quarterbacks in the game on the sidelines. I don't know how long the drive was in terms of time, but it was just a huge boost for our team. It was huge. You could tell. But we seemed to make every little play"
(on if he has started looking to the postseason yet) "Absolutely not. I've gotta do Bob Allen (interview) next, that's about as far as I've been."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR WADE PHILLIPS
(on the performance of the defense) "I thought we had another outstanding game. This is a really good offensive team. They threw it 47 times. When they throw it for that many times it usually results in 300 or 400 yards. I thought we played well holding them to 10 points. I thought the best part was the team effort. The pressure was on our team in the fourth quarter and they came through."
(on the last play of the game) "Well, I thought it was the last play and then I looked up and there was one second left, so we had to run it again. Our guys have been making plays all year and that is what you have to do when the pressure is on—you have to make a play."
(on the 11 minute drive by the Texan's offense) "That was great. Tremendous drive. We were getting a little tired on defense. That drive really refreshed everybody."
(on WLB Connor Barwin's performance) "He said he hit the quarterback about 10 times and I think he did. I thought he played really well."
(on what made the defense so effective today) "Anytime you get a quarterback that goes 20 of 47, then you got a lot of pressure and a lot of good coverage."
(on CB Kareem Jackson getting his first interception) "They went after us deep early. We had two big interceptions in the first half that set the tone for us. They got them out of the deep game, so I thought that really helped."
LINEBACKER CONNOR BARWIN
(on being able to pressure the quarterback) "Matt Ryan is known for getting the ball off but we had a number of hits. It felt like we had ten plus hits. Those are almost as good as sacks."
(on the play of the defense in stopping the run) "I thought the most important thing was the drive the offense had in the third quarter after giving up a long drive that tied the game up. Our defense was exhausted but our offense came up with a 10-minute drive that got our energy back. That made the difference at the end of the game."
(on whether the team was concerned with the Hail Mary's at the end of the game) "No, we weren't getting concerned. We were putting pressure on them and we knew that the (defensive backs) back there were going to make a play."
TACKLE DUANE BROWN
(on the performance of the offensive line) "That is what the NFL is all about. That's where games are won and lost—in the trenches. (QB) T.J. (Yates) had his first start. We knew he had enough poise and confidence to get the job done. We knew that we had to get the job done up front. We needed to get the run game going and everything else is predicated off of that. The defensive was the same way. We knew they could dominate the line of scrimmage, and if we did the same then we wouldn't have any trouble leaving here with a win."
(on RB Arian Foster's effectiveness) "Yeah. You have to give him a lot of credit. Some of those holes were hard to find. He did a great job getting up in there and getting the tough yards—those third and short, fourth and short yards that keep us on the field. You just have to break the defense down little by little before we can get the long drive."
(on going back to the blind side with the right-handed QB T.J. Yates) "It didn't affect my game at all. First and foremost your job is to stay in front of your guy and keep him away from the quarterback. They have some great pass rushers in (RE) John Abraham, (LE) Ray Edwards, and (LE) Kroy Biermann. We knew it was going to be a challenge for us. (RE) John Abraham got a couple pressures early. (QB) T.J. (Yates) stayed comfortable in the pocket and delivered some great passes."
NOSE TACKLE SHAUN CODY
(on the play of the defense) "We are flying around out there. We really played hard out there on defense today."
(on being able to pressure the quarterback only rushing four) "(We) were pushing the pocket all day. He had a couple good scrambles, but we kept him in the pocket."
(on whether the team had good controls of what they were doing on defense) "We knew what they were trying to do run game wise. When they were passing the ball, guys back were covering all game long so we had a chance to get at the quarterback. I don't think we had as many sacks as we wanted but we were putting pressure on him and that's all you can ask for."
LINEBACKER BRIAN CUSHING
(on his injury) "It's fine. I think it was more of a scare than anything going down like that and just feeling what I felt, but I was fortunate to walk off the field, jog a little bit, get x-rays at halftime, which were negative and play the rest of the game. How I feel right now, I know I'll be okay."
(on how he felt when he went down) "Yeah, I was nervous to be completely honest with you. I was a little nervous, especially with the way it got caught under me. It just felt awkward and especially the next 30 seconds after that felt very strange. But I started feeling better, got off the field and went into the locker room at halftime and I was pretty sure that everything was okay."
(on how the defense played) "I really think as best as we could have. There's obviously some plays I think we might want to get back, but no one's perfect. But for the most part, I think giving up 10 points to the Atlanta Falcons with what kind of weapons and firepower they have from running the ball and passing the ball, I think we did a pretty good job."
(on how big of a win this is) "It's big, but it's big because it's the next one on the schedule and it's big because I think it proves a lot of adversity we went through, there's no question about it. Coming in here with your number three quarterback against a defense like that and playing against an offense like that as well, I think it really says a lot about our team."
(on the team getting stronger despite the injuries) "Yeah, I think it says a whole lot for our team again. With what this team's gone through and the character of the guys in which we have in this locker room and the coaches and just everyone in this organization, I think it really says a lot about us."
(on QB T.J. Yates) "Couldn't be more impressed to be honest with you. As a rookie, in a huge home game against a defense like that, just the way he held up under pressure, the throws he made, the hits he took and just kept getting up and continue executing, really says a great deal for him. I think just the vibe around the locker room is just complete, not awe, but everyone's very impressed with how he did and just very proud of him."
(on the defense having to do more for the rest of the season to protect the offense) "That's fine with us. I think the attitude around here, especially on the defense is we want that kind of pressure and I think that the guys that we have on that side of the ball really want to step up and would rather prefer that. I think the two years previous to this and being the weak link of this team as a defense and now being strong and now kind of being 50-50, I think the guys want to be a part of that. It's the character of guys we've drafted. It's the character of guys we've brought in and the guys that have been here have always wanted to be winners and now we finally are and we want that role."
(on if he's ever been on a team that's had so many injuries) "I've obviously been on teams that we've lost some good players, but I mean, this consistently and how we've stepped up and answered the challenge every week and these are no small-time players going down, this is huge. But like I said, I think it just says a ton about the guys in this locker room to come back every single week, lose someone, next guy steps up and just go out there and just continue to beat good teams. I really think it says a ton about this football team."
TIGHT END OWEN DANIELS
(on the 85-yard drive) "That was such a long drive, I don't think we even realized it. We were just working. I think we realized it when we scored that it was huge at that point in the game. We knew we had to get it done. And we knew they had to be tired. After we got back inside, we were like, 'Man, 23 plays? We must be in good shape.' The defense kept us in it the whole first half and then ended up tying the game at 10, and we had to go to work and give them some rest. It was a fun drive."
(on Quarterback T.J. Yates) "T.J. is great. He's so cool in the huddle, so confident in the huddle, even after he's taken hits. He took a pretty good shot, bounced up and shook it off. It's been pretty impressive to watch him after coming in for the two-minute drill last week and then this week at practice. I know he was getting coached up hard, but you've got to go out there and do the job. He handled it really well."
TIGHT END JOEL DREESSEN
(on the play of quarterback T.J. Yates) "I thought he was outstanding and he's only going to get better."
(on the play of the defense) "I would have loved to get a first down so we didn't have to put them out there again, but we couldn't get it done and that's okay. They went out there and won the game for us."
(on his touchdown catch) "It felt really good because me and him have been working on that play every day after practice on Fridays all season. It was just like practice."
RUNNING BACK ARIAN FOSTER
(on the first start for QB TJ Yates) "I think he played well. Initially, we weren't doing a very good job around him to aide him. They're a good defense and made some plays but I definitely think we could have done better in the first half. As the game started going on we began playing better as a team."
(on if Yates is the quietest quarterback he has ever been around) "The quietest? No, not really. He might be the quietest in front of these cameras but in the locker room when we're all just clowning around, he's a pretty outgoing guy."
(on Yates' demeanor compared to QB Matt Schaub) "They're two different people. He commands the offense the way he does and Schaub does it the way he does. He did a good job. The most impressive thing about T.J. is that he is poised and he's a rookie. When you're a rookie, bodies are flying and on top of that you've got the pressures of the quarterback, an NFL starting quarterback, that's tough. He's doing a great job."
(on what he learned about TJ Yates as a starter today) "You can't judge anybody off of one game, but I think he played well for us. He played well when he was in there. You can't really look any deeper into that. All we can do is help him out. I can help him out with my pass protection and being the best running back I can be."
(on if the Texans can go as far with TJ Yates as they could with Schaub and why) "Yeah, because our defense is playing well, receivers that can make plays, he's an NFL quarterback, he may be a third stringer coming to starter but he's an NFL quarterback, he can make throws, we have a solid offensive line and we have running backs that can make plays. We weapons around him to help him, but I keep saying help him like he needs help. He's a good quarterback; it's fun to watch him grow and I think we're all going to see that."
(on fourth downs and him being a running back) "Absolutely, anytime your number is called in a situation like that you're happy. We stepped up and we got it done as a team. The offensive line got great push and that makes my job easy."
(on Atlanta having a hard time getting off of their heels) "We'd have to ask Atlanta that, but I think that we established what we wanted to do early in the first half. It's always good when you can stay on the field and rest your defense, especially when the defense is playing lights out. Anytime you can rest them, and then produce, is good for everybody."
(on the confidence the defense and offense have with one another) "In this locker room, I've said it before, this chemistry and camaraderie that we're displaying is just fun to be a part of. We feed off of each other. I find myself watching the defense just to watch them play, because I enjoy it. Anytime you have chemistry like that, you just give yourself an extra chance."
(on the injuries and not missing a beat) "That's just the NFL. This year we've had a lot of marquee injuries, but everybody keeps stepping up. That's attributed to who is at the helm, Coach Gary Kubiak and on down. All of these coaches are preparing the guys underneath them to step up and play well. As long as we do that I think we'll be successful."
(on how far this team can go without the key players that are down due to injury and playing a third string quarterback) "I'm not a soothsayer, but I think as far as we want to. You guys keep calling TJ Yates a third string rookie quarterback but he's first string now. He's a starter in the league and he's playing well so I think he deserves that respect."
(on the weather in Cincinnati affecting the game next week) "I'm not sure man I hope not."
WIDE RECEIVER ANDRE JOHNSON
(on his injury) "I pulled up with something in my left hamstring. I got an MRI scheduled for the morning and we'll find out exactly what it is. I know it's not as bad as the last injury I had, but I'm definitely worried about it. It just didn't feel right. I felt that I tried to pull and I was in full stride and I was trying to hop on one leg and I went down."
(on coming back from this injury) "If I came back from what I came back earlier in the season I definitely feel like I can come back from this."
(on dealing with injuries) "It's very aggravating. If you could have seen me on the sideline you would have seen my frustration. It's tough because you want to be out there doing everything you can to help the team. I just feel like I can't catch a break. I never had hamstring problems so I'm wondering where it's coming from."
(on being on the verge of making the playoffs) "It means a lot. It's something that I have been trying to help this organization reach for nine seasons and I think the most frustrating thing has been not being able to play as much and dealing with the injuries. I'm excited about it and every game is going to get bigger and bigger from here on out. We're 9-3 and on top of the AFC and hopefully we can keep it rolling."
CORNERBACK KAREEM JACKSON
(on T.J. Yates) "He played a hell of a game. He came out and had all the confidence in the world. He made some bigtime throws in practice and he came out here and did the same thing. He came out and proved that he was a player."
(on the defense stopping the run) "As a team, that's one of the things that we preach is stopping the run and not getting the ball thrown over our head and we were able to do that today."
(on the last play of the game) "It was kind of a desperation throw. He threw the ball in the end zone and let the best man win. For us we were in a prevent defense and just trying to keep them from making a play on the ball."
CORNERBACK JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
(on T.J. Yates) "Coming in, we didn't change our game plan one bit for T.J. Yates. We didn't tailor anything for him. This is week 13 he's been here all year and understands what he was to do with the offense and for us we just wanted to go out and play and do what we do every week. We had his back and everybody on this team had his back."
(on Atlanta going deep early in the game) "They start up pretty fast and want to get up on you early. We did a good job today of keeping the deep ball off."
(on the last 10 seconds of the game) "In big ball games you have to step up to the occasion. I think each time today that we were put in a situation where we had to step up, we made the plays that needed to be made to win the game."
(on the Texans' injuries) "It's late in the year and things like that happen. Hopefully Andre Johnson is okay but we have to keep moving on. Today you see Arian Foster and Ben Tate when Andre went down, they picked up and got a second wind and ran lights out, so good job to those guys and the offensive line."
SAFETY DANIEAL MANNING
(on the victory) "It started from day one and the preparation we had all week. Just great film days, great concentration in the classroom, and great focus on the field. Pretty much it just carried over (into the game). I don't want to make it sound like it was that easy because they have some wrinkles and plays that we haven't seen. We executed."
(on the defense being able to get two interceptions) "It was good because they came out firing the ball trying to get us on our heels. We expected that. It kept the quarterback from throwing the ball deep also. After that, I don't think he targeted the ball deep until the fourth quarter."
(on whether he was surprised Atlanta tried to throw the ball deep) "I've been in this situation with Atlanta maybe three times. Man, I was praying on the sidelines. With one second on the clock, that still was scary."
LINEBACKER BROOKS REED
(on being a rookie linebacker) "I think it's real fun to be in games like that where the game is dependent on your pass rush. What I think has been consistent all year has been the play of the secondary. They're doing a great job, and it's keeping that quarterback in the pocket. This game wasn't that successful, but it's been pretty consistent all season."
(on quarterback T.J. Yates stepping up) "That's been kind of the theme of this season, guys stepping up when other guys go down. We're just filling spots and guys are really stepping up to the plate and taking care of business.
(on the 85-yard drive) "That ate up a lot of the third quarter and fourth quarter, and that was just awesome. Drive of the game, probably drive of the year right there. And I thought T.J. (Yates) handled that awesome. That's what the defense needed, a big breather. We felt like we were going out on the field a lot and were pretty gassed, so that was a nice reliever right there."
ILB DeMECO RYANS
(on how the Texans are playing as a unit) "Our unit is gaining confidence every week. Everyone is accountable for what we're doing on the defensive side of the ball. Every man is stepping up and making plays where there is a chance to make plays. It's a credit to those guys, all eleven guys buying in and just pretty much doing their job."
(on if there was added pressure having rookie QB T.J. Yates start 'this week) "Yeah, but we have that every week. Even with T.J. coming in, as a defense, we feel like it's our job. If the offense gives us seven points, they gave us enough to go and win the game, so it's on us to go and close it out."
(on what they did to prepare to shut down the Falcons offense) "It was a tough week of preparation. They showed a lot of looks, a lot of different motions and shifts. It was a tough week preparing for them, but our crowd today helped us out tremendously. Our fans were so loud, it affected [the Falcons] on their checks and everything. We definitely had a home field advantage today and we thank our fans for that.
(on if this was the loudest the fans have been this year) "Oh yes. Hands down, this is the loudest I've ever heard the stadium."
(on their plan to pressure Falcons QB Matt Ryan) "We knew he got the ball out quick from watching him on film all week. It was three steps and the ball was gone. So, we had to get some pressure up in the middle, make him move around in the pocket, and we did a fairly good job of that. We got him down on the ground a few times. That was the game plan definitely, to get pressure in his face and make him make a tough throw."
(on if he was able to give a few pointers to QB T.J. Yates) "No, I didn't need to give the kid any pointers. He was ready to go. He was ready to go all week. He had a great week of practice. I was very excited coming to the game, excited for him because I knew he was going to play well."
(on his thoughts of the way QB T.J. Yates played) "T.J. did great. He was moving around in the pocket. He's a very athletic guy. He was making some big time throws. It was great to watch. I definitely turned into a fan watching from the sidelines, rooting him on. He made some big plays for us. He's going to continue to get better as he gets more reps in practice, so the sky is the limit for T.J."
(on what QB T.J. Yates is like around the defensive side of the team) "He's just a quiet, confident guy. He walks around here, has that swagger that your quarterback is supposed to have. He's just a natural leader."
(on if the effect of the first two interceptions) "Those were big for us but we knew that wasn't going to demoralize them. They were still going to come back and throw the ball around because they have a good quarterback. They were going to try to make plays. They have a lot of playmakers on that side of the ball. We knew they would continue to throw the ball and every time they threw it up, we had to find a way to get the ball up and get a pick."
(on the 19-play drive by the offense giving them leverage) "It was huge. It gave our defense a chance to rest up so guys were ready to go back. We were talking about it on the sideline that defensively, we were going to have to go and close it out. They were going to throw the ball, so we were going to have to make plays on the ball. We had to get to [QB Matt Ryan] and make hits on him and get pressure on him. That drive got the defense rested up, and guys were able to go out there and hunt."
(on if confidence continues to grow as they continue to close out games) "Oh yeah, that's our attitude. We're a good defense. Teams coming up against us are going to have to give us their best shot, because we're ready."
(on the blitz game) "We had a few but not as many because we knew [QB Matt Ryan] would get the ball out quickly. So, not as many blitzes as we normally have, but our front guys still did a good job of getting pressure on him. He felt the pressure in the pocket."
(on the importance of shutting down the Falcons rushing attack) "That's the first thing in every game. We can't let a team come in and run the ball on us. With [QB] Matt Ryan being a good quarterback, we couldn't have them running and throwing. So, we had to shut it down and put it in his hands and make him beat us."
DEFENSIVE END ANTONIO SMITH
(on whether it's more meaningful to beat a good offense) "You can say that it means a little bit more, but football is football. There are good offensive lineman, tight ends, and running backs on every team. I didn't think that just because Matt Ryan was back there that we weren't going to get to him. We put pressure on him just like any quarterback."
(on the play of the defense) "The way we play this defense, we play it for us. Sometimes you get a little bit of success and get full of yourself and it falls apart. You get a lot of individuals talking about 'me, me, me', but this is one defense that gives it up for each other."
(on the victory) "It feels good when you win a battle against an opponent everyone says should beat you. At the end of the day, the way that we approach each and every week is about us. This week is no more important than last week."
TACKLE ERIC WINSTON
(on what was said before the game by the coaches about T.J. Yates) "(Head Coach) Gary (Kubiak) said, 'We're not changing. I'm giving T.J.(Yates) the same load that I would give Matt Schaub. I gave him this many passes, I gave this many runs, and he's got to do it.' That said all you needed to know about the confidence that he had in him."
( on whether the defense was disrespected by being called underdogs) "I thought it was a little bit ridiculous but Vegas does their thing and we do our thing. We are going to continue to do our thing. A lot of teams can't win with their second string quarterback. It's a situation that's tough but we knew what we needed to do to win this game."
(on being able to clinch a playoff spot soon) "Don't even say it. It's like a no hitter. Don't even talk about it. If it happens maybe you can douse me with some Gatorade if you want. We aren't even going to talk about."
QUARTERBACK T.J. YATES
(on his thoughts coming into the game) "I was extremely comfortable going out there. I had a good week at practice, good week of preparation. You know, Coach Kubiak, throughout the week we had a lot of talks. And you know he instilled a lot of confidence in me. Telling me we're not going to hold back on the offense, we're not going to do anything like that, we're just going to go full speed ahead and continue on."
(on his performance on the test the night before the game) "You know, usually we just go through all the plays and go through all the reads and all the keys we have to the game and it's about a twenty minute cram session, a whole bunch of questions and I've seen Schaub do it all season and he prepared me well for it."
(Follow-up to how well he did on the test) "Yeah, I did pretty good. You know, I was studying my butt off all week long and it paid off."
(on how being around Schaub throughout the season has helped prepare him as starting QB) "Absolutely. Ever since I got here in the summer since we were working out at Rice, Matt has been helping me along the way every single day. Whether it's watching film or little tidbits he gives me during practice, or even during the games when he comes off the field. You know, he's always doing a great job of teaching and it's awesome."
(on hearing the crowd chanting his name during the game) "I didn't even hear it."
(on how his week was in terms of preparation in comparison to other weeks) "It was a little different. You know, as far as practice went I was getting all the physical reps on the practice field, so that was good. You know, I tried my best throughout the week to keep my routine exactly the same and not doing anything different, so I could be comfortable going into today."
(on whether or not he had to come earlier or later than usual for practices and meetings) "You know, I had a couple extra meetings, and a couple of days with Coach Knapp. But, pretty much I've been preparing the same all season long"
(on how it feels to be starting in a game again) "It felt good. It helped, definitely, getting in the game the previous week, so it kind of wiped out some of those butterflies and I was pretty comfortable the first play of the game"
(on his reaction to the fumble during the game) "Fumble? Oh, you know, I was just trying to get out of the pocket and throw it away and get off the field and I thought I heard a whistle. You know, everyone kind of stopped so I didn't really know what happened and I was just trying to throw the ball away."
(on whether the fumble affected him for the rest of the game) "Oh no, not really. I just shook it off and got off the field and our defense did a great job getting us the ball back so I was able to do that quickly."
(on suggestions from Schaub that helped him) "You know, a lot of stuff about coverage and reading their guys and picking up on signals that the defensive guys are doing on film and just ways that you can kind of delete decisions out there on the field if you see a certain coverage, you know, that kind of kills a read for you. So you can move on to the next thing and it helps you play a lot faster."
(on whether or not Schaub taught him his dance moves) "No, he didn't teach me those."
(on how he would grade himself today) "I thought I played alright. There's definitely some things, some mistakes, I can delete to get our team in better situations. You know, the interception was totally on me. I went to the check down without looking first and threw it right to the guy. Making plays like that is definitely going to hurt our team and that's something I have to get better at."
(on if he ever thought he would be in the starting QB situation he is in now) "Absolutely not. You know, I knew we had two great quarterbacks in front of me that had been playing all season long and it's definitely unfortunate circumstances that I'm playing, because those guys got hurt, but I never thought I'd be playing this quick in my career."
(on having Arian Foster with him on the field) "It's great. You know, we did a great job having a twenty play drive there in the third and the fourth quarter that we just kind of grinded out and got all the way down there. Running the ball and passing the ball when we needed to, but we did a great job kind of killing some clock there, getting a long drive, and getting a score."
(on whether his nerves affected his first few passes in the game) "A little bit. I had a little bit of nerves the first couple of passes. I just kind of wasn't following through. Once I got out there for a couple of series I was able to get out there and make some throws."
(on his concerns about Andre Johnson being injured) "Yeah, I haven't heard anything about Andre. I saw that he left the field and I haven't seen him since, but, you know, every game somebody has gone down and the next game somebody else steps up. This is what this team does. We do it every single week from all different sides of the ball. And if it's one thing we can do we can step up and somebody is going to step up next week."
(on the coverage against Andre Johnson) "You know, they were playing a safety over on top of him for most of the game and trying their best not to let him get down the field. You know, we have a couple things we like to do where if they are playing the two on top of Andre, which we were expecting, we can take advantage of it. But, they were rolling different coverage's all game, playing a lot of zone."
(on the deep pass completion to Andre Johnson) "Yea, I kind of stumbled coming out of it. And I knew that Andre was going to make a play. We got the right coverage. He rolled out and made a great double move and went up there and got that 50-50 ball."
(on whether he felt the need to pump up the team prior to or during the game) "You know, not really. Every once in awhile you've got to pump them up a bit, but I'm kind of a laid back guy and the guys know that and they're not expecting me to be the rah-rah guy and head butt and pump them up or anything. "
(on whether his teammates have been pumping him up this week) "Yeah, you know, a lot of guys on the team and the coaches have been saying a lot of nice things to me throughout the week and just to relax and be confident and go out there and play football and it's been really nice coming from all angles. It gives me a lot of confidence."
(on who is helping him the most on the sidelines during momentum swings) "You know, every time we go off the field we go over to Coach Knapp and just kind of sit down and look at the pictures and talk about what we're seeing out there. We try not to reflect too much on what is going on out there emotionally. Just short-term memory, move on to the next play, the next series."
POSTGAME QUOTES FROM ATLANTA FALCONS
HEAD COACH MIKE SMITHDE JOHN ABRAHAMWR JULIO JONESCB DUNTA ROBINSONQB MATT RYANRB MICHAEL TURNER
HEAD COACH MIKE SMITH
(opening statement) "I felt like today we didn't take advantage of several opportunities that presented themselves throughout the ballgame. Of course, we didn't get the outcome that we wanted to. I liked the way our guys fought to the end. They showed a lot of resolve, and we fought back from that ten to nothing start. We simply made way too many mistakes in the ballgame today to get the win."
(on the touchdown drive that put the Texans up 17-0) "We misfit the run upfront. It felt like it was twenty-plus plays. I'm not exactly sure how many plays it was, but it was a lot. We had a touchdown that was called back on an interception that kept the drive alive. We had a couple of misfits. We misfit the run, we got knocked out of our gap that's a very good running game. We did not perform defensively up to the standards that we needed to in order to win the ballgame on that particular drive."
(on QB Matt Ryan's play) "We played in spurts. We didn't do the things that we wanted to accomplish today. We had way too many dropped footballs. Way too many things that we normally don't do in terms of not seeing receivers, dropping the football, having two procedural penalties where we let the clock expire. One was very crucial at the end of the ballgame on a fourth down that took us out of a fourth and three and got us back into a fourth down and eight. Not the kind of performance that we want to have, especially at this point in the season. I give my congratulations to [Texans Head Coach Gary] Kubiack and his staff. It was a hard fought ballgame, and they ended up scoring more points than we did."
(on if he is concerned with today's performance in regards to good/bad separation at this point in the season) "Well, [the Texans] are a very good football team. They've got the best record in the AFC. It's a measuring stick for our team here in December. We did not meet the challenge today. It is a concern, but that's by far, here of late, the best team that we've played. Defensively they're very strong, and they played better than we did today. We did not execute. Whether we win or lose, we've always got things to fix. We'll be back at it tomorrow as a coaching staff and as a team working on the things we need to work on."
(on (S) James Sanders touchdown that was called back and if he thought there was a whistle blown) "It was offsetting penalties from what I was explained. There were players from both sides of the field, our bench and their bench, that came onto the field. They gave us the ball where he possessed it. That was another big play in the game as well. There was no whistle involved to my knowledge. Again, it's a very loud atmosphere and there very well could have been."
(on the Houston Texans injuries) "Well that team that won the Super Bowl last year had eighteen guys on the injured/reserve list. This is a league of teams that have a lot of depth and that have very talented players. It is a system offense. When I say a system offense I mean it is based on the running game and so regardless of whom the quarterback is, there are the same actions. They hit a big play down the middle of the field right after a screen conversion on a third down and they hit the big play where we did not have defenders. That fault on our part ended up being their first scoring drive."
(on the Falcons advantage they had coming into today's game) "This is a league of talented players. First teamers, second teamers, third teamers; I think we had an advantage on paper but you've always got to go out and play the game. They obviously executed their game plan and got the win. It doesn't matter who was on the other side, first, second or third team, we've got to go and play. We know those guys on the other side of the field are very talented every week that we play."
(on QB TJ Yates' performance) "He threw a nice deep ball down the field. That was an outstanding throw; a very poised performance. He led his team to the win today so he got his job done, we didn't."
DEFENSIVE END JOHN ABRAHAM
(on TJ Yates' calm performance) "It was our fault for not getting him down. I got a few good pressures on him, but there's a difference between making him move and making him take hits and getting him on the ground. We didn't get him on the ground that much, not as much as I wanted to."
(on the pick-six being called back) "That would have put us in a perfect situation. But small mistakes end up being big mistakes at certain times. We didn't know there was going to be a penalty. We didn't know it was going to happen like that. It was deflating, but you've got to keep playing the game."
(on the 19-play, 85-yard touchdown drive) "On third down, they were running the ball and getting seven or eight yards and getting first downs, instead of trying to pass it. It was deflating, but we still had a chance to stop them."
WIDE RECEIVER JULIO JONES
(On the illegal touching call) "I thought it was defensive pass interference. I still caught the ball, and I didn't feel like I went out of bounds."
(On not getting into a rhythm) "For offense, we just couldn't put drives together. That's something we need to continue working on and get better at."
(On not making the final catch of the game) "You put any receiver in that position, and you'll know you should have made that play. I think about stuff I could have done differently, but that's football."
CORNERBACK DUNTA ROBINSON
(on how Texans WR Andre Johnson and TE Owen Daniels were able to get open underneath) "They just found the soft spots in our zone. They have a great scheme so we knew they were going to make great plays. They have an explosive offense. They found our soft spots, we made adjustments then did a better job stopping those guys."
(on Houston Texans' 19-play drive) "They just stuck with it. They didn't go away from what they like to do and that's run the football. They have a very good offensive scheme and they're going to make some plays in the run game. That's what they did at the end to put those guys up by seven."
(on playing against former teammate Andre Johnson) "It was tough, man because we won together and lost together. We've been through 2-14 seasons, so we've been through tough times. We talked earlier in the week about how awkward this game was going to be for both of us. At the same time, I have and job to do and he has a job to do."
(on reaction he got from Houston fans in his return) "Most of the fans I talked to, they were Texans fans. They were nice and they appreciated the things I did for this organization for six years so I didn't hear a whole lot of bad talk. They clapped when the game was over and I walked off the field. That was heartwarming and I appreciated that because so many great things that's gone on with me and this team from rookie year all the way to year six to becoming a free agent. A lot of memories I hope I gave these fans. "
(on missed opportunity with a third string QB and Andre Johnson getting hurt) "It was a huge opportunity. One thing we knew about this team is it isn't about the players—it's scheme. They can replace guys and the next guy can do what the guy in front of him did. They're never going to go away from what they do. That's how good an offensive scheme they have. We knew they were going to run the ball, we knew they were going to use ( WR) Jacoby (Jones) the same way they use (WR) Andre (Johnson) and that's what they did."
(on QB T.J. Yates) "I thought he was very poised for a rookie. Like I said, when you're surrounded by that many talented athletes, you don't have to do a whole lot. He came in and managed the game well. He made plays when he had to and he didn't try to do too much. The best thing to do was let his playmakers make plays and that's what he did."
(on talking to Houston Texans GM Rick Smith) "I actually talked with Rick before the game. Handshake and hug and that's it."
QUARTERBACK MATT RYAN
(opening statement) "I thought it was a tough loss. Obviously it was a very good football team that came in and played against today. We had opportunities to make some plays and we didn't make them. When two good football teams are playing, I think it comes down to who makes those plays. We were on the short end of the stick today so it's disappointing but we'll have to move on and get ready for next week."
(on if he agrees with Coach Smith's comment that the team played in spurts today) "Yeah. You come into the game knowing that this is one of the top defenses in the league and there's going to be some ups and downs. We had opportunities, specifically early. We had some shots designed in that were really good and we just missed on those. When you're playing against good footballs teams like that, you got to make those plays and unfortunately today - we didn't make them."
(on if he was referring to the first down throw to WR Roddy White and third down to WR Julio Jones in the opening drive) "Yes. In that first series, the first three-and-out, we had two shots in and we had opportunities to make those plays and I didn't make them."
(on if the ball came back high on the flea flicker) "Yeah, but you know what, you have to handle the ball and get your eyes back down the field. I just made a poor decision there in letting the ball go with some deep coverage. That was just a bad decision. "
(on what the rationale was in throwing deep early in the game against a good defense) "I think they were very stout against the run and they bring their safeties down into the box. Our rationale coming into the game was to try to hit some of those balls down the field. Design them to have one-on-one match-ups with our guys and kind of push their safeties off. We just didn't make enough plays when we needed to."
(on if they abandoned the run at times during the game) "We tried (to run the ball), we certainly did. They are very good against it and we felt like when they had seven guys down in the box and eight guys coming down with the safeties in quarters coverage but with eight or nine guys in the box, we were better suited to throw it. We had chances in the pass game, we really did, we just didn't make enough plays."
(on going against #1 defense in the league) "They are good. They are a solid defense. I think their scheme is good. Wade Phillips does a great job with them. They are talented. They are talented in the front set and talented in the back end."
(on what he thinks makes the Texans' defense so effective) "I think their effort is one of the best things about their defense."
(on how the Falcons are going stick together in the middle of the playoff race and with a 7-5 record) "I think it is going to be important for us. This is the time of the year where it gets hard. And this is the time of the year where it gets fun too. We are right in the mix of things. We have everything we want right in front of us and it is going to be important for us to stick together through thick and thin and I think we will. We have a great locker room, offensively, defensively and on special teams and I think that is going to give us the chance."
(on finding security with TE Tony Gonzales and working with him to get back into the game) "We had some design shots on the outside early but to get us moving back down the field Tony made some big plays for us in the middle of the field. We backed their safeties off a little bit. Although we didn't hit those plays, we definitely backed their safeties off a little bit in the passing game and that opened some things up for Tony and he did a great job moving us down the field."
(on how QB T.J. Yates did and Matt's observations) "He did a good job. I didn't see a whole lot. When we are on the sideline, we talk about the adjustments we want to make. But he certainly did a good job, he didn't turn the football over and gave them a chance to win."
RUNNING BACK MICHAEL TURNER(on his health coming in to the game) "I'm fine. The groin is no issue. They were just resting me to make sure I was ready for today's game."
(on running against the Houston Texans' 3-4 scheme) "It's a good scheme. We couldn't get in to the flow of what they were doing. They were doing a lot of blitzing and getting a lot of pressures on us. They crowded the line of scrimmage. They were bringing that safety down to stop the run. "
(on assessing where they are in the season and how they'll finish) "We just need to stick together and that's what we'll do. We're not going to point the finger and we'll keep fighting all the way until the end."
POSTGAME QUOTES FROM OFFICIALS
REFERREE BILL LEVY
(on the TJ Yates fumble) "The ruling on the field was the ball was dislodged from his hand before his hand went forward so the fumble was ruled. No whistle was blown and the returning team man for the recovering team took the ball back for a touchdown. However, before he scored, players from both teams came on the field. They did not interfere so it was not a 15-yard penalty it was what we call a double foul after a change and what we decided to do is offset those penalties at the spot where the Atlanta player came on the field and we started first and ten for Atlanta."