HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
"Like I said after the game yesterday, I'm very proud of this team. I really believe it's all about the players. The players have done a good job turning this thing around and putting us in position to be in this position obviously. It was a good team victory. We protected the football. We played good on defense. I thought we played really good complementary football. It was probably our best game of the year with regards to that. I thought that everybody contributed, so it was a good win. As far as on the injury front, Brian Hoyer has progressed well through the protocol. He's basically in the last phase of that evaluation so I'll know more on Wednesday. I'll be able to tell you more on Wednesday. JD (Jadeveon) Clowney, he's day-to-day right now. It's a foot issue. There's no structural damage there, so it's just day-to-day and we'll see how that goes as the week progresses. Charles James, just to tell you this one, he's been playing on a fractured foot for over a month. He's been trying to gut it out and tough it out. He has done that. He's practiced and played and he's done a good job. But it was fully fractured yesterday, so at some point this week, he'll go on IR and we'll update you on the roster when those things happen. But with that, I'll open it up to questions."
Do you think OLB Jadeveon Clowney has a chance to play on Sunday?
"I think there's a possibility that he would be able to play on Sunday. There's a possibility."
Do you expect QB Brian Hoyer to be your starter on Sunday?
"Well, he's in the last phase of the evaluation. So if he clears this last phase, then he'll start the game on Sunday."
Would there be any chance QB Brandon Weeden earns playing time even with QB Brian Hoyer healthy?
"Brandon has done a really good job. He did. He did a good job in the Indy game and did a good job yesterday. But if Brian's (Hoyer) healthy and cleared, he's our starter."
Would you think about resting some of your starters if the Texans clinch the division tonight?
"No, I believe that we have to focus on the Jacksonville Jaguars, I really do. Believe me, I understand all those things and the scenarios. But I think this team has to really do what we've tried to do all year, especially in the last half of the season is to show up every day and get better. Try to improve and try to win. Go out there on the game field and win. I think that's the most important thing. I think the best thing for this team is to compete and win."
Do you have any Bengals gear to wear tonight?
"No, I have a lot of respect for (Bengals Head Coach) Marvin (Lewis) and the Bengals. I have a lot of respect for (Broncos Head Coach) Gary Kubiak and the Denver Broncos too. I'm sure it will be a great game. But again, I'm in there watching the Jaguars. Our staff, we just got done this morning with the review of our game yesterday. Now, we're on to the Jaguars. I'm not trying to pull the wool over your eyes at all on that. We're just really focused on Jacksonville. I believe that Jacksonville is a very good football team. I really don't care what their record is. They are much improved. Offensively, they've got a lot of weapons and got a really good, young quarterback. Defensively, a lot of speed. Good on special teams. It's going to be a big challenge for our football team."
Is there some value to going into the playoffs having won a few games in a row versus getting rest?
"I think the most important thing is to win. So if that answers your question, I don't think there's any substitute for winning."
How well have S Andre Hal and S Quintin Demps played as a unit?
"Yesterday was a really good example of how that position has improved. First of all, I think the secondary – I'm going to give a game ball, one of the game balls, is going to go to the secondary. I think the secondary, when you watch the tape from yesterday, there were many, many snaps where there just really wasn't anybody open. There wasn't anybody to throw the ball to. That obviously helps our pass rush. We have some really, obviously, some really good pass rushers with J.J. (Watt), (Jadeveon) Clowney, John Simon and Whitney Mercilus. These guys really did a good job. But the coverage was a factor. With that being said, the safety position has really improved in their coverage, in their communication and in their tackling. Quintin Demps, Dre Hal, those guys, Eddie Pleasant, then the young kid went in there, (Kurtis) Drummond, and he did a nice job. There's been a lot of improvement at that position."
What do you think about the way WR Jaelen Strong has played over the past few weeks?
"I think he's a guy that, like I said last week, I think he probably could have been active before he was active, if that makes sense. He's really improved in practice. He's improved his conditioning. He's improved his knowledge of our offense. He's a good kid. He's a fun, fun guy to coach. Very intense and works hard in practice. I think he's got a good future."
What does it mean to you and the team that CB Charles James has been playing with a fractured foot?
"I've always thought that – personally, I'll just say personally for me, I'll let the other guys speak for themselves on that – I just think it means a lot to me personally. Just to watch guys, and I give Charles as an example because he was injured in the game yesterday, but there are a number of guys. I mean, you look at guys like, obviously J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Vince Wilfork, to do what he's done this year and play as many snaps as he's played, then you go over to the other side of the ball and you look at Duane Brown, he's had a really good year. He's played tough all year. Ben Jones, he has more injuries right now then you can shake a stick at and he told me 'It don't matter, I'm going to be out there at practice Wednesday.' I think that's the type of team we have. I'm not saying it's always pretty, but it does make me proud to stand up here and talk about those guys."
Did you see more of your pieces where you wanted them to be yesterday as you build towards getting to be the best this group can be?
"I think it's an interesting point that you bring up. Ideally, you want to start the season like you played yesterday. It didn't go that way for whatever reason. I take the blame for that. I've stood up here and told you that time and time again. I think as the leader when things don't go right, you got to look yourself in the mirror. But at the bye week, we made a decision to be a better football team. I think you've seen improvement. It hasn't always been perfect. Quite obviously, we've lost a couple games. But to win six out of eight to this point where we're at is a testament to the players in that locker room. There's better communication. There's better play. There's better knowledge. There's better coaching. I think everybody has really contributed and the players have gone out there and they deserve most of the credit as always. They've done a good job, but the way that we played yesterday is really the way that this team needs to play. Tilt the field, play good field position, be opportunistic on offense, make some chunk plays and then play really good defense for 60 minutes. That's what this team did yesterday."
The players have talked about how much simplifying the defense has helped. When did that take place and what kind of a difference has that made?
"I'm not sure how simplified we've made it. I think that the players have really put a lot of time into this. I think one thing we've done in practice is we've allowed the players to – not to run practice, but when it's 11-on-11, it's the players practice. The coaches, (Offensive Coordinator) George (Godsey) and (Defensive Coordinator) RAC (Romeo Crennel), they're on the side and they just signal the play in and the players practice. I think we made a decision to do that, so that we could help everybody understand what we were trying to do better because let the players figure it out. We're not going to be out there on the game field to figure it out for them, so let's let them figure it out on the practice field. I think the players have done a great job of that. Our leaders have done a good job of that. They've put in extra time in the film room and we've practiced well over this stretch, which I'm a big believer in that."
How well has the offensive line played during this stretch?
"I give those guys a lot of credit. I think one of the keys there is that over the last few weeks, we've been able to stay fairly healthy. So you have the same five guys out there for the most part. Then we add (Kendall) Lamm into the mix when we do some heavy packages. But the same five guys, so you've got Duane (Brown) playing next to Xavier (Su'a-Filo), a veteran player playing next to a younger player. You've got (Derek) Newton and (Brandon) Brooks playing next to each other and that helps. Then (Ben) Jones in the middle, running the show there in the middle. I think that continuity really does help. You really don't want to have to move guys all around all the time, but we had to do that in the beginning because we had injuries. I think the continuity up front has helped us."
How much does it help to have an undrafted rookie like Kendall Lamm contributing?
"There's a couple guys like that. You talk about Lamm. I just really like his attitude. I think he's tough. I think he has a lot of work to do to have the type of career he wants to have in this league. But I think he's the type of kid that will put that work in. He's done a good job for us this year. You got another guy, I'll give you another example, and there's other guys. But Kurtis Drummond. Kurtis Drummond comes in here and starts out on the practice squad. Then we promote him. I mean, he's made a big difference for us on special teams. He's made a big difference. Alfred Blue was down there causing that fumble yesterday on the punt. But Kurtis was right around that pile and he's always around it. You got guys from last year, like Max Bullough, that's done a good job. Brian Peters on special teams has been a big, big addition for us. There's some guys that have really done a good job."
Has the mutual respect between the players and coaches grown since the season started and how important is that?
"I've said this all along, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the guys in that locker room and in that meeting room. We demand a lot of these guys. I think there's always been respect there, but I also know that it takes time. I say this at the beginning of every year and I really mean it, every year is different. This team that started this '15 year was not like the '14 team. We had different players, different things that we had to get straight schematically, and all those different things. But I know this, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way these guys work. They work very, very hard. There's good leadership on this team. We practice hard. We compete in practice. I think if you ask anybody in that locker room, they will tell you that we practice hard. We lift weights. We demand things of them in the weight room two or three times a week, depending on the type of week we're having. Extra film meetings. We're here early in the mornings, especially on Wednesdays and Thursday. Out meetings start at 7 a.m. and we're here until late into the afternoon. These guys put a lot of time in. That makes me really proud of this team, knowing that they have a chance to really do something here. But again, the key is that we have to finish it."
Do you expect WR Cecil Shorts III to be back this week?
"I would say that Cecil Shorts would not be ready this week."
As far as holidays go, what are your thoughts on New Year's Day and New Year's Eve?
"I like it. I really do. I've enjoyed New Year's Eves over the years. That's for sure."