The Texans practiced Thursday and after, head coach Gary Kubiak, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and some players answered questions from the media. The following is a transcript of their respective interviews.
Head Coach Gary KubiakDefensive Coordinator Wade PhillipsOLB Connor BarwinILB Brian CushingFS Danieal ManningILB DeMeco RyansDE Antonio SmithRB Ben Tate
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on his thoughts on the progress of OLB Brooks Reed) "He's been exceptional. I go back to him coming out of college being a hand-down defensive end and moving to linebacker and then having to replace our top player, so you take all those things into account, how he's played. He's been absolutely exceptional, so he's got a great future ahead of him, prepares very well, and just very excited about how he's played."
(on what he sees in QB Joe Flacco) "I think he's dang good. He's won a lot of football games, and that's the bottom line in this League. Against us, the thing that stood out to me was how he was able to buy himself time. A lot of great quarterbacks in this league seem to buy themselves that extra second to make a play. We did a good job of getting some pressure, and he'd find a way to move around and slip a sack or something and get the ball down the field, so I've been very impressed with him as a player since he's been in this league. I was very impressed with him when I interviewed him in Indianapolis – very smart, young man. It's about winning, and he's been doing his job."
(on if he is worried about the deep ball) "Oh, yeah. Yeah, the young receiver can really fly, and then (Anquan) Boldin hurt us downfield, too. They're built around running the football and finding ways to take their shots kind of a lot like us from that standpoint, and they took them the first time we played, and they made the plays. We had about two or three really jump ball-type plays way down the field, and they went up and got the ball, so it's obviously something we got to do a good job against."
(on how much sympathy he feels for QB Matt Schaub being injured and not playing in the playoffs) "It really is. It's difficult. I actually saw Andre (Johnson)'s comments regarding that. Every game for me to go out on the field and be following there for about seven or eight weeks, us following him and Andre and Mario (Williams) out. They'd walk out. I'd walk out with them, so that was difficult. This past weekend, the high was tremendous after the game, but the first guy I saw coming up the tunnel was Matt. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for him, and our team knows that. He's done a tremendous job, and his unselfish work over the course of his injury with T.J. (Yates) has been exceptional. That just doesn't happen. He's with us. I know it's very difficult for him, but from all of us, we appreciate everything he's done, and I appreciate him continuing to work with us."
(on Matt Schaub helping QB T.J. Yates even before Schaub's injury) "Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's Matt. He's unselfish. A lot of guys don't give up the tricks of the trade, so to speak, to guys that may want their jobs someday, but he's very unselfish. He helps anybody who comes in here. He's been excellent."
(on CB Johnathan Joseph's response to the challenge of overcoming his performance in the regular season game against Baltimore) "Yeah, he really has. You go back in Cincinnati, (A.J.) Green made some plays on him. We come in here last week. They came after him again, and he steps up, has a great day. He's always on their best. That's how much confidence we have in him, so he's going to get tested at some point in the game. When he plays well, we play well because we give him such a big responsibility from a defensive standpoint, so he's done a hell of a job."
(on his strategy if the team can't establish the run) "Well, we're going to have to throw it. It's like I said the other day. I don't know if we'll throw it 15 times or 35. I don't know. We gotta see how the game goes, but I know that we need to stay committed to running the football. That's important to our team and has a lot to do with the flow of the game probably. What's going on? Are we in a one-score game? In a tie football game? Those are the type of things that are important to us, continuing to do what we need to do to be successful, so we'll see how it goes."
(on his concern over the large size of Baltimore's linemen) "Well, they're as good as you can be. (Haloti) Ngata's gotta be the best in the business. Then, they got the great edge players that keep the ball squeezed, so it makes it very difficult. They're tough to run the ball. They've been exceptional all year long, but at the same time, as I've said before, our commitment to it is the key. Hey, we're going to have to run the ball effectively to win this football game. We know that, so we're preparing to do that this week. We know it'll be a difficult task, but we're preparing to go do it, and it's been a good week of work, so we'll see what happens."
(on the improvement in QB T.J. Yates since the regular season game against Cincinnati where he led the team to a comeback victory) "We'll, he's just much better in what we're doing, running the two-minute drill, those type of things. He's comfortable. It is nice to know that we got one of those type of games, and he was able to bail us out. You're right and in a very tough place to play, so hopefully we're not in that position as a football team. He's found a way to do what he needs to do to keep his team in the game and give them a chance to win. Even through that stretch where we lost those three football games, he really rallied us against Carolina and got us back in position. He had us in position to win down in Indy, and he didn't play much against Tennessee, so he's kept his football team in position to win, and that's what we gotta be doing this weekend."
(on why his first few passes have been high ever since his first start) "Well, adrenaline flying. In warm-ups last week, we came in the locker room, us coaches, in warm-up, and I said, 'What did he have against Andre?' In warm-ups, he threw the heck out of the ball, but every time it went to Andre, it wasn't on target, so I don't know if Andre makes him nervous or what, but we just kind of laughed about it. Emotions were flying last week. Arian (Foster) struggled early in the game. T.J. struggled early in the game. We struggled a little bit defensively, a couple of the things we were doing, so that's this time of year. It's going to be that way, and hopefully you can keep that in check, and you don't so something to hurt you."
(on the importance of P Matt Turk) "Well, yeah, ever since we brought Matt back, he's done a heck of a job. He was our special teams player of the game last week. I'm sure y'all know that. The fact that Matt's been to a lot of football games and kicked in a lot of big games. He goes in there and has all that under control, and he's always done the same thing. They've got an excellent kicking game, too, so it's important we played well in the kicking game last week. We'll have to do it again this week, but I've been proud of Matt since he's come back. He's held up his end of the bargain."
(on any injuries he hasn't discussed) "No, we're good. Everybody worked today. Troy Nolan worked very good, and as I think I told y'all that yesterday, it's probably our toughest decision. Do we suit Troy? If we do, then somebody's gotta go down, but we're about as healthy as we can be."
(on if there is something different about playing in Baltimore as the Ravens are 8-0 at home) "Well, first off, the noise obviously is tough, but they get even better on that turf. To me, they get even quicker coming off the edges and setting the edges and what they do, so that makes them even more difficult. I think Ray (Rice), as great a player as he is, he even gets a step better on that turf running the ball, so I think that has a lot to do with it, but we understand that. We try to simulate that the best we can in practice like I'm letting our defensive guys line up offsides because that's about the way it's going to be and trying to get it as close to game speed as you can, so we understand those things, and we understand the challenge that's before us."
(on if he is impressed with how T.J. Yates has been able to keep consistent despite his young age) "Yeah, if I said anything other, I wouldn't be telling the truth. With what he's been in and the team that he inherited at – what were we at the time? 8-3? 7-3 when he inherited the football team – and the games he's had to play in. Even though he's made rookie mistakes, which we know were going to happen, he's always found a way to just kind of keep it under control and keep going. He's also played beat up, which is very impressive to me. For a young guy to be put in the position that he's been put in, he's handled his end of the bargain. I've been very impressed and hopefully there's some more to come.
(on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' status and if he will on the sidelines this week) " Y'all just saw him in here. How'd he look? He look good? Yeah, he's doing good. I think he's getting stronger every day. We take a chair out to practice, so he gets a break in between periods, but I think coach has gotten stronger. His day's gotten longer throughout the course of this week. Just excited to see him getting back to full health, and I know the players are great to have him back around throughout the course of the day, practice, and everything we're doing, so I think he's doing a lot better."
(on if he envisions the weather affecting the strategy on offense) "I don't think you know until you show up on game day. This was good today. We got to practice in some very windy conditions, cool conditions, so that was good for us from a noise standpoint and the conditions. I don't know. We'll see what happens. Whatever we gotta do, we gotta handle it. That's part of it."
(on why he thought the team was so prepared to play in a playoff environment last week despite relatively little playoff experience) "The best way I can answer that is when I came out the Tennessee game, the first half, and I think I've mentioned this to our local guys here over the course of the last two weeks, I thought we went back and found an edge as a team that we have had over the course of our seven game win streak. We went back, and we played clean football. We were explosive coming out early in the football game. We played a lot smarter. We got rid of the penalties, so I saw that comeback, and it just gave me a lot of confidence. I know it gave the players a lot of confidence, too, because that's what we're about. We know how we have to play to be successful, and we went and found that before the playoffs started, so that was very important."
(on practice today and yesterday) "It was good. We're practicing well. We're flying around, getting our hands on a lot of balls, getting turnovers in practice. Our guys are really locked in. I've made it very difficult on them this week and how we're practicing with the noise. I won't even let them huddle without it. That makes it very tough, but we're turned in. We're locked in. We understand the challenge ahead of us, but we're working to meet that challenge, so I've been very impressed."
(on how valuable players like NT Earl Mitchell, CB Brice McCain, and S Quintin Demps are to the team) "Oh, those guys are the…those guys become kind of the heart of your…those guys that play special teams and those guys that are specialty players, nickel players…those are the guys that are the difference makers when it's all said and done. We've had to pull from a lot of places because of our injuries this year, and we can go across the board. Like you said, you watch a guy like Earl play his best football last week, and if we're going to continue to play, that's what's going to have to happen."
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(on the weather) "Well we set the weather the same as it's going to be in Baltimore so we could work out in it. Like my dad used to say, you don't need to practice being miserable, but we got out there in the weather today and I thought we did a really good job. I liked our enthusiasm. You know the weather can't bother you. You've got to do what you do and you've got to do it well and our guys were focused and concentrating on that. It was an important practice for us and I thought, the big practice of the week and I thought we really did well."
(on if he has changed the game plan dramatically in the past due to weather) "Well sure we've changed the game plan because of weather before. You know we've had rain when we didn't know it was going to rain. Certain calls you make that you wouldn't make you know some situations you play a lot of zone, some situations you may play a lot of man considering the weather conditions. You can even blitz in certain situations more than you normally would depending on the weather so the weather is always a factor. The wind blowing, especially in the passing game is really the wind more than anything. Cold weather, you know, even snow, there've been a lot of big passing games and not much running so yea, it's different factors over the year, there's going to be different factors that decide kind of what you're going to do defensively against whatever offense, whatever weather there is that day."
(on some of the Texans secondary team saying their last meeting against Baltimore was one of their worst games as a unit) "Yea I thought it was bad in one way, but it was good in another in that after the game we made some changes. We realized we couldn't give up big plays, secondary-wise I'm talking about, and overall, but we flipped both outside linebackers changed positions after that game and I think it fit both of them better and then we made some mistakes in the running game. We weren't playing the run great early in the year. Everybody said we weren't going to be very good against the run, that kind of stuff and we didn't play great in that game against the run, but after that I think we played tremendously strong against the run. I think we ended out fourth in the League and we played a lot of good backs after that. So, you know I think we improved a lot even though we didn't play as well as we wanted to I think we improved a lot after that ballgame, because of the mistakes you make. You learn from your mistakes, too."
(on his interview for coaching position at Tampa Bay) "Well again, you know, my first priority is to be here. I like it here. I love it here. You know we've had such a magical year and we're going to keep it going so that's my first choice. You know I may not be their choice either, but I am gonna interview and you know take it from there. As far as distractions, they asked me two weeks ago, they asked permission to talk to me two weeks ago so we knew what was going on for two weeks, but we didn't let it be a distraction the week before so it won't be this week."
(on the value of being known as a physical defensive coordinator) "Well yea as long as you back it up. You know, they've been a top defense for 10 years now so you know, they had one of the greatest defenses that ever played that won a Super Bowl and they still have a lot of those players, or they have certainly the two star players from that team. So, they've got what we're trying to build. We're trying to build that type defense that, you know we've got a lot of young players right now that are on their way up that I think can be star players and we're second in the League this year and you know all those stats and all that stuff, but I think they mean something in that we're good on defense and we want to remain that way and I think we will for awhile too so that's what we're looking to be."
(on how to get to that point defensively) "You win. You just keep winning you know, like I said, they won it all with that defense. They've been in the playoffs the last four years. They've won in the playoffs the last four years, you know with that offense and defense so they've got a good football team and have had for awhile."
(on the development of the Texans defense and how much they have improved since their last meeting against Baltimore) "Our guys? Oh. Well, probably quite a bit more than we had you know I don't know about percentages, but probably about 30 percent more than what we had last time we played them, but I just think our fundamental play, like I say, against the run, against the deep ball, I think, I'm pretty sure we gave up the least number of 20-yard passes in the League and we gave up several in that game. So you know those things we improved on."
(on OLB Connor Barwin and OLB Brooks Reed's improvement since the teams last meeting against Baltimore) "Well, both of them have really come through for us. You know, neither we knew, one we didn't know he was going to play and the other one we didn't know how he was going to play. Both of them we didn't know for sure, but you know Connor's come through with you know, 11-and-a-half sacks and been a dominant, a Will linebacker, you need a Will linebacker that can rush the passer and that's what Connor's become for us and made it where they have to slide the line towards him and that give the other teams problems. So, you know with his 11-and-a-half and Mario's (Williams) five, that's 16-and-a-half from that position so we really got a great production from there, the kind that we got from DeMarcus Ware and people like that so. And then Brooks Reed has come in and really hasn't played like a rookie. He's played like a good player. I mean he's played well, he's relentless as far as the running game and the passing game and that's helped him get better and better and he's improved throughout the year. You know he got another sack last game in the playoffs and it's not too big for him. He's showed that from the first play on. He's ready to play and he's playing well."
(on quarterbacks like Joe Flacco and Tony Romo getting heat for losing games) "I think the coach probably got more criticism than the quarterback but yea I'm surprised and again the guy, I mean they've won, what? Four years in a row in the playoffs on the road and he's, I mean the quarterback has to be a big part of that. You know, I told Romo when I went there, anytime when you're head coach, the only two guys that counts your record are the head coach and the quarterback. Well, if they count your record and you've won all those games well, it's hard to be critical. The guy's won 44 games I think. Something like that, so I think he's a top-notch quarterback that's going to be a challenge for us."
(on QB Joe Flacco having playoff games with turnovers or low scoring) "Yea we're looking for one of those. Why they come about, you know we've got to play well to make those things happen."
(on if he sees two different players in QB Joe Flacco) "No. I just see, I mean the guy's what? Four years in the League. It's not a guy that's played eight or 10 years so I think you see those things with a young quarterback as you go. I mean (John) Elway, what, you know they said he was never going to be a Hall-of-Famer even back when I was there and then at 38 and 39, he wins two Super Bowls, so you know, it takes maturity sometimes. It takes experience. Just like anybody."
(on feeling better besides being cold this week) "Yea I'm colder than I was last week, but I feel better. I feel a lot better today."
(on if he will coach from the press box Sunday) "You know I'm not sure. We haven't decided on that so this week was kind of a test as far as how we were doing."
(on SS Glover Quin's transition from cornerback to safety) "Well you know I hope for more interceptions because he was a corner, but as far as his play he's been part of a defense that you know I still go by if you're third in the league in pass defense, you've got a pretty strong secondary and he's part of that secondary that I think makes a difference. He's made a lot of plays for us, he's made a lot of coverage stuff, and he plays the dime in our third down defense, which is a key factor for us. So he plays inside there so I think he's had a good year, you know the great years come when you have a lot of interceptions, but I think you know going from corner to safety, you know, he's not a huge guy. He's tackled well. He's done the things we've asked him to do and done them well."
(on the Ravens tight ends) "Well they've got good receivers and tight ends so when they put two tight ends in the game they run a lot of different formations and things and they gave us some trouble last game. Again, earlier in the year we hadn't seen as many formations, those kinds of things so hopefully we can adjust better than we did in that ball game, but they give you a lot of different looks when they get in two tight end offense whereas when they get in a two back offense, we're used to playing that and have played that throughout the year, but the two tight end offense, you know they're going to try to give us problems and we're going to try and work on those things."
(on the advantages of coaching on the sidelines as opposed to the press box) "It's just looking the players in the eye and talking to them on the sideline is the only difference, you know the calls are the same basically, or they are the same. You just make them from upstairs or downstairs. The information I get is pretty much the same. I can see it from upstairs, but those guys upstairs are still giving me the personnel things and things like that that I need when I'm upstairs. So, it's just being in the game more with the players. I think once things don't go well, you can help and once things are going real well you can settle them down and get back to you know, hey let's play what we're playing and do what we're supposed to do and good things will happen for us."
OLB Connor Barwin
(on his opinion of teammate J.J. Watt's nickname the "Milkman") "Well I can tell you're not on Twitter, because I completely endorsed the Milkman last night and it was trending in Houston and I will never refer to J.J. as anything other than 'The Milkman' from now on."
(on if he referred to him as something else prior to "The Milkman") "Well I called him J.J before, but now I'll only call him 'The Milkman.'"
(on if The Milkman is a fitting nickname) "Yea it's perfect. I mean he's making plays, he's from Wisconsin, he's white, he drinks more milk than anybody I've ever seen, I mean it's perfect."
(on if he's seen the photo-shopped picture of J.J Watt as the Milkman) "Yup. I've already seen it. I thought it was pretty funny, but whoever did it's got to get his, the guy had a wedding ring on I noticed that. They've got to fix that, J.J, the Milkman's not married yet."
(on the last meeting with Baltimore being a learning point for them and what it means to be able to play them again) "Well, just from my standpoint it was a huge checkpoint for me in the season, because that's the game I moved over to Will (linebacker). Well, after that game I moved over to Will and you know, whatever happened after that, but no I think it was a confidence gain maybe for our defense because we knew how good we played for three quarters and then gave up some plays in the fourth quarter and allowed them to win the game. But, you know, I guess it made us realize we can play with the best team in the League, because the Ravens were looked at, even at that point in the season as one of the you know, best teams in the League so I would have to agree with Wade (Phillips) and (Brian) Cushing and say it was an important game for us early on in the season."
(on what he learned went wrong after studying film from the teams previous meeting with the Ravens) "Well this may seem simple, but we just made mistakes. You know what I mean? You just can't make those mistakes. We had been more consistent and done what we needed to do and then in the fourth quarter we kind of had some lapses in there and made some mistakes and they took advantage of it."
(on if Ray Rice's draws and screens will limit how much the defense can attack the quarterback) "No, but there are certain plays where you have to be conscious of them as a rusher when we have coverage on them and things like that. So at certain points yea, it does to answer your question."
(on if Ray Rice's height makes him more difficult to tackle) "I mean his height makes him harder to tackle honestly for me, because you always feel like your tackling you know at his helmet, but no, he's a huge part of their offense, like you said, receiving the ball and everything so, to be successful Sunday we're definitely going to have to slow him down."
(on how much more confident the team is going into this weekend as compared to the team's last meeting with the Ravens) "Well I think we're a lot more confident, because we ended the season as the number two defense in the league and I think when we played the Ravens the first time that was our first week without Mario (Williams) so I think maybe there might have been some questions, you know in the back of our heads how we're gonna be with the loss of Mario. So we went on in the season and saw what kind of defense we could be and kind of got better as the season went on."
(on if he has had time to sit back and think about the future of the team) "Yea, obviously. I mean I'm excited about it. Right now we're locked into you know, Sunday and what we've done this year and what we want to continue to do this year, but looking long-term, we feel really good about the people we have here and you know the future."
(on what made his and OLB Brooks Reed's position changes click) "Well, it allowed me to rush the passer more and not have to cover tight ends as much and I think Brooks (Reed) did a really good job with his role, because in training camp he was playing a lot of Sam (linebacker). He was backing me up, because me and him had competed at that position at Sam, but when Mario (Williams) got hurt they just decided to leave me at Sam and try Brooks at will and it didn't go as good as we wanted it to and we switched and then Brooks got to as a rookie, he got to play the position that he played all in training camp so that allowed him to be more successful there."
(on Brooks Reed and how he's adjusted to the position change) "I mean it's been unbelievable really how good he's been this entire year. He's been consistent. I mean he had six sacks. He had another one last week in the playoffs. He's just been huge for us and even at that position, at the Sam (linebacker) position, to get six sacks is really good, because you don't rush that much or rush as much as I do."
(on if he's surprised at how much criticism QB Joe Flacco has received) "Yea, a little bit. I mean I think he does a lot of good things for them. I mean we just watched a tape today and I mean he throws a great ball. He can throw the ball over the field; his scramble tape is really good. He runs around to make plays so I don't pay attention to too much of the criticism that he gets from the media, but if he does, you know he looks good on tape to me."
(on if he has noticed an inconsistency in QB Joe Flacco and if he sees a way he can be taken out of his comfort zone) "Well I think the biggest part of their offense is running the ball. So he's not the, I mean, some other quarterbacks are known for throwing the ball around so I think the fact that they're running the ball around on screens maybe is part of the reason when they do throw the ball around, he is kind of the scapegoat for them."
(on if being in the playoffs is everything he has thought it would be) "Oh yeah, more. I mean it's unbelievable the ride we're on right now even just you know, going into the second week of the playoffs, it's so much fun. The buzz around the city and just being out there practicing is more fun than it was three weeks ago. I can tell you that, so yeah, it's everything it's cracked up to be."
ILB Brian Cushing
(on where the defense is now and where it was the last time they faced the Ravens) "I think anytime you start something you have to have a good core guys and I feel that we do. You know, as far as comparison or anything, they've done it for so long and they've been good for so long and that's something eventually we hope we can do is to emulate the way they play. You know, it's their identity. When you think of Ravens, you think of defense. You think of Ray Lewis. You think of Ed Reed and all those guys, Terrell Suggs, of the ones that have just been holding it down for so long over there. You know that's just something we hope to do one day. We know we've got a good start with a good beginning with a good bunch of core guys and that's something hopefully we can evolve and stay the way we are."
(on how big it is to have so many young core guys) "Yeah, that's huge. That's huge you know, because obviously you can't play the game forever and we've got good guys that we've drafted over the years and guys we've brought in and I think the most important thing about this unit is there's no selfish guy and it's a team first kind of attitude and everyone just wants to win."
(on if he's surprised at how much QB Joe Flacco gets criticized) "Well, I mean, you know like I said again and I think it echoes back to Baltimore's whole identity is defense, so I think their offense gets overlooked a little bit. But he's a good player and he's a good quarterback and he's a winner. He's done it the entire time he's been in the NFL and he's got a lot of big-play ability, too and that's something we obviously have to take care of and be aware of."
(on what defenses are doing when quarterbacks like Joe Flacco have big turnovers in the playoffs) "I think that just anytime you get a quarterback off his rhythm, get a lot of pressure in his face and get the ball back for your offense as much as you can you have a better chance to win the game. Controlling the ball is so huge and taking care of that and really just making a quarterback not be able to be comfortable back there can really disrupt his game plan."
(on what keys have helped the defense grow since their last meeting against the Ravens) "Well, I still remember after the game coach was just talking to us and basically just telling us it wasn't acceptable and it kind of, I think it hit home to a lot of guys, because it was probably, as a team, as poor as we could play and we felt that we kind of fell apart defensively. We gave up some big plays and we really look back on it and really just emphasize a lot of small things and we just started playing a lot better team defense. I think there was a big key switch between Brooks (Reed) and Connor (Barwin). I think that helped out a lot and it's just a game of confidence. When you start playing better, when you start feeling better, making more plays, it starts to grow and you know I think this team and its defense has really got that confidence."
(on how much it helps playing a team they've already faced in a game where they learned so much) "It does, and we know what we want to eliminate and we know what we don't want to do again and that's for sure and you have a familiarity with playing a team like this and knowing how they want to attack you and knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are. So, and it's vice versa. It's the same thing. They can do it for us too, but you know, I think that's what you get when you get an opponent that you've played earlier in the season, but as far as where we've come, we feel we're a lot better team than the first time we've played them."
(on how well OLB Brooks Reed has adjusted to coming off the bench and switching positions) "I think he's really comfortable where he is now and for what he's done coming in as a rookie, him and J.J. (Watt), they haven't played like rookies. They really haven't. They've came in, they've played hard, they've played smart, and you couldn't ask for more out of those two guys for what they've done and the impact they've had on this team it's been really big."
(on what makes RB Ray Rice so special) "He's a fast, physical guy and I think he's just as dangerous catching the ball as he is running the ball and I think anytime you have a guy that's as talented as he is, he's a huge part of their offensive game plan and he's tough, he's small, which he's real low and tough to tackle. I think he's got a real good balance and he's a big playmaker. He has been since his first day in the NFL and he's someone we're going to have to limit."
(on how to limit RB Ray Rice) "Really focus on him, really focus on him. Put your best players on him and once again I mean, you've got to stop him at the line of scrimmage running, you've got to be physical on him when he's going in for passes, and on top of it you've got to put pressure on Joe (Flacco) so he can't get the ball off."
(on what he notices about the Ravens tight end core) "Well, you know, the two of them are both very fast, physical guys and I think they're more along the lines of receivers. Which, anytime you have that is obviously more of a vertical threat than the passing game and it creates a lot of mismatches with linebackers and outside linebackers, d-ends and what not. I think they're very athletic, I think they're talented, I think they've obviously helped their offense a lot."
(on how much the defense has improved since the first meeting with the Ravens) "Yeah, you know, we were still new to the defense. I'm not sure what week it was, five, six, when we played them, but we were still new, growing, finding our identity I think as a defense and I think we're a whole lot better now and I'm sure they are too. You know, the good teams play their best ball later in the season and we've felt that way and from a learning standpoint and just momentum, where we are now compared to that game, we're a lot better."
(on if he agrees the defense was still trying to get comfortable with the scheme and absorb a lot in the regular season game against Baltimore) "Right. Yeah, like I said, it was still just a learning experience. We go back and watch that film now, and there's a lot discussed in our room just of how we played, but at the time, we didn't know any better because just watching it, we thought that that was it, and it was standard, but the way we've evolved and just built so much momentum and learned a lot more, we're way more confident now going into this game."
(on his thoughts about getting another shot at Baltimore after growing since the regular season game) "I think it's good. I think it was kind of a checkpoint in our season to see where we were – to play one of the best teams in the NFL in their place. We felt that we played good football for about three quarters, and that last one we kind of fell apart, so we know going into this Sunday, we obviously have to play four tough quarters to win this game. It's going to be a tough, physical matchup, but like I said again, from where we were then to now, we're a lot more confident about it."
(on how he feels about LB Ray Lewis' comments from his conference call) "That's just so special because it's a guy that growing up, you watch all the time. In my opinion, I think he's probably the best linebacker to ever play the game, and to even be mentioned in the same sentence as him and for a quote to be coming out of his mouth about me, it's really special."
(on if he thinks the defense can rattle QB Joe Flacco this week due to his streakiness) "Well, I think really you could with any quarterback. It just depends on how physical you are with him and really getting him off his game plan, but he's got a ton of big play capabilities. He can be a little streaky, but when he's on, he's on, and we've seen that before, so we'll try to make him uncomfortable. We're going to be as aggressive as we can be and just play smart."
(on if not making the Pro Bowl motivates him even more) "No, I don't think so. I think it's more motivation when I play against Ray Lewis because I want to play knowing that he's on the other sideline as best as I can to show him I can stay on the field, show him I can play middle linebacker, a position that I watched growing up him play, so that's my motivation. On top of it, we don't need to be motivated for a playoff game. This is huge, and everyone's going to be excited and ready to go."
FS Danieal Manning
(on the potential of the team's young players to grow into the type of players Baltimore has) "Oh, yeah. These guys have been putting together just the emotion they have here and the want-to. That's always big. You can always bring coaches in and the best coach you want to bring in, but it's up to the players to get the job done, and these guys have been doing it since camp. They want to be the best, and it's been proven."
(on the key to developing and sustaining the long-term defensive success and reputation) "It's just buying into what the scheme of your defense is, and once you get that started, of course you're plugging in those type of players like Brian Cushing here and DeMeco (Ryans), Mario (Williams), those guys like that. You start putting those guys in, you just start to develop this model of what type of players you want and what type of system you want, and guys just buy into it. It's basically that, and then you can stay consistent with it."
(on if there is an advantage of having a reputation as a physical group going into a game) "Yeah, because you put it on tape. Every week, you're going out. Teams see that, 'Man, this is a physical team. They play great on defense. They're not going to give you anything. Don't concede anything." You gotta come in there with your best 'A' game, and that's exactly what we're trying to do here in Texas. We're trying to make sure that we're playing the best way we can every snap, every play, and not conceding anything. It's been working for us so far."
(on how he sees QB Joe Flacco) "I see Flacco just the same way. He just wants to make plays, and then some of those times, he may just get maybe a little careless with the ball or see something in the defense where they may roll a certain disguise, and he locks into that one disguise, and it's not that defense that they're running, and he ends up throwing the ball away or just making bad plays."
(on if he can get into Joe Flacco's head or frustrate him) "I don't know if you can just get into his head in that way because when he came, he was always in that position to play y'all's head in those type of games, went in early as a young player, and he's been with that team for a while. Then, we always talk about their defense. I'm quite sure he's seen a lot of looks, so in order to get in his head if you can is just, like I said, just disguise and staying true to your defense, staying true to your coverage. As the snap progresses, then you rotate your coverages. That's what we may try to do here."
(on benefitting from the mistakes that were made in the regular season game against Baltimore) "We're looking at film right now, and we'll go back, and we're just seeing the plays that we left out on the field. We didn't really attack the ball like we should have in the secondary. Those guys were making plays on the ball, and we weren't. Now that we look at that, we see how important that is, where the mistakes came from, and what we need to do, and it's pretty much just getting in front of those guys and making those plays."
(on his approach to sharing his playoff experiences with the younger players) "Well, I'm a type of guy. I just lead by example. I definitely tell them, 'Don't concede anything. Every snap out there, make sure we're reading all of our keys. Don't take it for granted. When we're in this classroom, get all the notes you can because those notes that you miss or those plays that come in that game.' Like I said, you can get about 60 snaps a game, but five of those snaps, you never know when that big play is coming, and you don't want to be the one, 'Man, I should have studied just a little bit more. I should have made this play.' I feel like now that it's the playoff, you gotta put all that stuff behind you, and you have to make those plays."
(on his thoughts about DE J.J. Watt's nickname "The Milkman" because he delivers) "I like that. We tease him about that all the time. J.J.'s been having a great year with us, and I'm happy for him. The guy to come in with no offseason workouts, just jump right into training camp, and the way he picked up this defense, and the way he comes in the starting lineup, and making plays the way he's been playing, it's phenomenal. I'm glad to be playing alongside of him also."
(on his thoughts about OLB Brooks Reed) "Both of those guys are in the same position. Rookies, come in, getting in the starting lineup off injuries, may not have been ready, Brooks, in his case, but all of the sudden he just developed this mentality, this skill, this playing habit that he's been playing every week. He's been playing the same way through lights out. Like I said, it's so promising that you see these guys for a long time. They're just rookies, but you can play with these guys for a long time. We got a chance to be a great team around here for a very long time."
(on if it crosses his mind to never have made it back to the Super Bowl after making it his rookie year) "All the time, all the time. I basically have nightmares about it. I talk about it over dinner, since every time you get to this point around this year, playoffs. When I wasn't in the playoffs, I thought about it like, 'Man, it'd be good to get back into the playoffs again,' and when I'm in there. Again, my biggest thing is I try my best not to concede and lead by example and show those guys there's no tomorrow. You don't get a second chance because if you lose this game. You don't get to go back and watch film. 'It's okay. We'll get it right next week.' It's over with. You gotta wait a whole 'nother offseason before you get that chance again. You may not even get that chance again."
(on his nightmares) "Well, I'm just saying like the play that haunts you the most or the plays in those games. Again you're, 'I wish I would have made this better. I should have made this call,' or, 'I wish I would have enjoyed this a little more.' That's what comes with the playoffs."
(on if the play from the playoffs while with the Chicago Bears still haunts him) "Nah, I mean, that play probably haunted me, especially in Chicago, probably about three years straight after the Super Bowl. I still thought about that because the year after the Super Bowl run, we were picked to go to the Super Bowl again, and we didn't make it. We had a 7-9 season, and that haunted me again. It was just heck trying to get over that haunt, but I got over it, and we ended up making it to the playoffs my last year there, and here I am again at the playoffs here. I've been trying to improve my game every year, and I feel like I've been improving it pretty much."
(on how you can't count on the playoffs because of the young players) "Yeah, I mean J.J. (Watt) played in some big games in college also. I'm quite sure he understands, but it's different in the NFL. I tried to explain it to those guys, and you pray and hope that they understand that. Again, there's no tomorrow. There's no second chance because one big play. J.J. knows that pick that he got right before the half changed that whole game. They were sticking neck-to-neck with us, Cincy, and he got that pick and turned that game around, and the whole game changed after that."
(on if he thinks he'll get a chance at a return this week) "I'm praying that I'll get a chance, the wind, something falls my way, but that's what helps them a lot on defense. The guy has a phenomenal leg, and he doesn't get a lot of returns on that team, but in other words, you practice that enough. Hopefully that team hasn't been working on their coverage a lot, but I'm quite sure he's going to come out doing the same thing, booting that ball out the end zone."
(on if he thinks he can be a game changer if he gets a chance at a return) "I really do feel like I can do that. Kub (Gary Kubiak) put me back there for a reason, and this whole time that I've been healthy now, he put me back there, and I feel like he's calling me to do something back there, and if the opportunity comes, I gotta step up."
(on how he feels about CB Johnathan Joseph's comments about how he is the "old man" in the secondary) "It doesn't make me feel bad. He just gave me kudos about the experience I have, and those guys look up to me, and at the same time they looking at me, I'm looking at those guys, too, just how hungry they are about staying in the League, staying focused, working hard, enjoying the game again. Sometimes guys may lose focus throughout the season. Things go on outside the field. You may, 'Oh, I don't feel like getting up. I'm sore this morning,' but those guys come after every day, and that's good."
(on if he had to work on the younger players' confidence when they first came) "Well, when I first got here, I didn't know what to take with these guys. I just knew they had a lot going with them about, 'We're not this good. We're young.' So when I got here, I just wanted to see where they were mentally and physically. The first day at camp, I just see those guys running around making plays, and the way they picked this defense up so fast, it blew my mind. It really did."
(on the transition of the defense from last season to its current state) "Well, when I first got here, I always knew that they had a great offense. I never really paid attention to their defense, and when you're a defensive player, you're not watching another defense. You're just watching the offense, and that's all I've seen. But when you read the papers and you hear stuff like that, one thing that stuck out about this secondary is when, I forgot what game they were playing, and it was a Hail Mary play, and they tipped the ball, and the guy scored. I forgot. I think that was maybe Jacksonville. Sitting at the house, I was just like, 'Man, these guys can't get a break,' so the opportunity came for me to come here, and I felt like, 'Okay, there's a chance to show them how it's done, and maybe I can learn something from these guys.' That happened, and with Johnathan (Joseph) coming along and just Wade (Phillips) being here, again, it's hard to pick up a defense as fast as this group has done without any extra work, OTA, preparation, anything like that. With the guys that are free agents, myself included, just come in, not even having anything or opportunity or knowing where you're going, to pick up the defense as fast as we did, kudos to the coaches here and just the want to of the players, just wanting to learn, want to be the best."
(on if he agrees with Wade Phillips' comment about the defense knowing 30 percent more of the defense than they did in the regular season game against Baltimore) "Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. We played them early, and we were still adding stuff to our defense. A lot of packages that we weren't going over, and now we're putting some of that in and understanding more of the terminology and understanding really how offense is trying to attack this defense. A better way we can actually say that we are a better team than what we were the last time we faced them."
(on if there is something special about Baltimore's football field this time of year) "It's just go back to old football. You're playing in that cold weather, leather hitting on top of leather, just guys running, grinding that ball. It's going to be a great, grinding-out, physical game. You play in this cold weather in their backyard, just can't wait 'til it happens."
ILB DeMeco Ryans
(on what it means that Ravens ILB Ray Lewis spoke highly of him) "It means a lot coming from Ray. Ray's a good guy, spent a little time with him at a couple Pro Bowls and he's a good guy, a good guy for this League. He's been around a long time and continues to play at a high level for such a long time. Any time you can get kind words from a future Hall of Famer is always a credit to the guys in the locker room."
(on getting another shot at playing the Ravens) "It feels good to have the opportunity to get back out there in front of these guys to face them again because watching the film last time, we're so much better now. I'm just excited to see how we'll go up there and play against them now that Connor (Barwin) and Brooks (Reed) have flipped positions and they're more settled in. I feel like we know what we're doing a lot better. We know the defense in and out now, so I feel like we're a lot better as a defensive unit going back this time around. They're a good offensive team running the ball, good offensive line, so it's going to be a good test to go back there again."
(on if he's surprised by how well the defense is playing with how young they are) "I'm not surprised. We continue to get better over the years. We continue to add good, young players, like (Brian) Cushing, J.J. (Watt), Brooks (Reed), Connor (Barwin). We just continue to add good players through the draft and this past year through free agency, getting Danieal (Manning) and J-Joe (Johnathan Joseph). It's just constantly bringing in good, quality players that have the ability to make plays. That's been the key to our defense is that added depth, that added addition of great players and us coming together, putting all that together has made us a really good defense."
(on if he sees a connection between the Texans' defense and Ravens' defense when they first became good) "I just feel like this year starts for us, Houston Texans, the organization, starts when we set a standard defensively and we don't want to turn back. I think this is a starting point and this is the type of defensive unit that we want to put out there. We want to be known for playing great defense and I think it starts this year, so I feel like we built something this year and we don't want to see it go back. We want to see that this is the standard we've set and let's see how much better we can get from here."
(on if the Texans can confirm their defensive reputation by playing well in Baltimore) "We'll have to see. We'll have to see if we confirm it. I feel like we're having a good week of preparation. It's going well. Guys are into what we're doing, making plays. It's all about going there on Sunday, making the plays we need to make and like you said, playing great defensive football, finding a way to get turnovers like we did last week and I feel like everything else will take care of itself."
(on if people will say the Texans are an elite defense if they play well against Baltimore) "It really doesn't matter what people think if we're an elite defense or not. The goal for us is to go win. If people think we're an elite defense and we lose, it really doesn't matter. If we go win the game, I don't care if people think we're elite defense, we're a sorry defense, it doesn't matter to me. It's all about getting the W."
(on what defenses do when they shut down Baltimore's offense) "It first starts with stopping the run game, Ray Rice. You see teams that have played them well, they've done a good job stopping the run game and then putting the ball in (Joe) Flacco's hands and putting pressure on him, making him make those tough decisions, to make the right throws. I feel like that's definitely the formula for beating these guys. It's tough going in their place, but it's going to be first and foremost shutting down their run game and then putting it in Flacco's hand and trying to find a way to get pressure on him and locking the guys up in the backend."
(on if it surprises him that QB Joe Flacco is criticized as much as he is) "I don't know. Everybody gets criticism no matter if you're good or bad. Everybody's going to receive criticism in this League, so everybody has their fair share."
(on OLB Brooks Reed) "Brooks has grown a lot as a player. He's grown, he's coming into himself. He's doing a lot, lot better in his coverage, his pass rush. Every week, he continues to get better and Brooks finds a way to make plays for us and that's something that as a young guy coming in, it's huge for him to get this opportunity to play as much as he has and for him to go out and be an impact player for us has been great."
(on changing the mentality of the team to winning football) "That's something that, for me, the only reason I come to work is working to win, working to win. That's the mindset, that's the attitude that we demand from each other is we're working to win. Of course, it was a slow start from when I got here up until now, but now we've built a program with (Head) Coach (Gary) Kubiak. We've just built a program to where we're setting a standard how ball should be played here. I can still say that from this year going forward that I feel like this is the standard of our team of our organization of what it means to be a Houston Texan, that's winning and playing good defense, playing great offense, all-around ball just being solid. That's what we've been waiting for for six years. That's what we've been working towards for six years. You work hard at it and it doesn't happen right off the bat, but you continue to come back and work, continue to work at it and it's definitely gratifying to see it come to fruition after six years."
DE Antonio Smith
(on what he expects from Baltimore) "I expect to play a hard-nose, rough, tough football game. I think that's how it's going to be. I think they're a tremendous team. I think from our behalf, or my behalf, it's a little bad-blooded about the winning last time, so it's going to be fun. I think this is a perfect playoff game and I think that it's going to be a great one."
(on if the key to stopping Baltimore is to stop RB Ray Rice) "Yeah, I agree with that. You stop the run, you make any team one-dimensional, you got a better chance at winning. I think that with Ray Rice, he accounts for a significant amount of their passing yards and running yards with catching the ball out of the backfield and things like that. I think if you put the clamps on him, you'll have a pretty good day against their offense."
(on what the next step is for the defense to get a good reputation like Baltimore or Pittsburgh) "Just keep doing it. That's what has to happen, have to keep doing it and get more TV games because that's the only way they got their defensive name out there. They were a team that was constantly on TV and defense kept consistently being in the top five each and every year. That's just what we got to do, consistently be a good defense."
(on if he sees the potential for the Texans defense to get the same reputation as Baltimore or Pittsburgh) "That depends on the media and the fans and all that. I think that this defense is not a fluke. I think that what we've done this year is what we expect and what we're capable of doing. So, right now, we are the defense we are. If it stays that way, we should be one of the defenses with those type of names and things like that."
RB Ben Tate
(on what the running backs can bring to the table on Sunday) "I think it's going to help a great deal if we can run the ball. It helps us not get behind the sticks and stay on schedule. They're a team that likes to blitz a lot, so the more that we stay ahead and stay on schedule and keep it third-and-short and things like that, then the better off we'll be."
(on what they need to do differently to run the ball more effectively against Baltimore) "They're a good defense. Sometimes it's not going to be those huge numbers. You're just going to have to keep pounding and pounding and eventually, maybe late in the third, fourth quarter, hopefully some of those runs will start to break. But I mean, they're a good defense. When you're going against a good defense, there's not too much that's going to really give."
(on what it is about him that allows to him have big runs every game) "I guess it's the hard work I do in the offseason, my explosiveness. I'm an explosive guy. I feel like I'm an explosive runner. It's the Nike's? It could be the Nike's. It could be the shoes."