HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
"Okay, like I said yesterday, just proud of this team, faced some adversity and dedicated themselves to having a good season and finished the regular season the way that we wanted to. So proud of that and quickly turn the page here. We're on to a big challenge here. Kansas City is a very good football team, won 10 in a row, great coaching staff, great players, so it's a big, big challenge for our football team, and we've already met today. We started working on these guys, and it's going to take a lot of effort from a lot of different people to try to come out on the winning end. On the injury front, Duane Brown obviously suffered a bad quad injury. He'll undergo surgery on Wednesday. Just a little bit about Duane, from the day I arrived here, Duane has been one of the leaders of this football team, one of the best left tackles in football, always out there at practice, always in early, staying late, meeting extra, working in the weight room, doing everything that you would want a leader to do. We're going to miss him, next guy is going to have to step up, but I just want to tell you my feelings on Duane. Then Jadeveon Clowney, I'd say he's day-to-day still. I think he feels pretty good today. We'll see how it feels tomorrow and then Wednesday obviously. Nate Washington is in the same category, day-to-day. Then I would say that Cecil Shorts has a chance to play in the game on Saturday. With that, I'll open it up to questions."
What do you think is the most important thing you can do as a coach to get ready for Saturday?
"I don't know if there's one thing – I think there's a few things. I think we've got to make sure that we're fresh. At this time of the year, a lot of guys have played a lot of football. So we have to understand the game plan. We've got to work in practice when we do practice, but we can't be out there forever, and we have to be fresh on Saturday. We've got to be able to play fast. I think our job as a coaching staff is we've got to leave no stone unturned. When you're playing in the playoffs, every single play is important. Every play call, every situation, every decision you make is vital to the success or not success in the game. Those are the things that we're going to try to do as a staff."
What about the Chiefs makes them so difficult to deal with?
"First of all, they have a lot of good players and then they have a really good coaching staff. You combine that, that combination just is tough. I mean, they've got on defense really good pass rushers with (Tamba) Hali and (Justin) Houston and they've got a good secondary playing at a high level. Linebackers fly around, their front seven is very, very good. Offensively, Alex Smith has had a good year, receivers, (Jeremy) Maclin, I know Jamaal Charles is on IR now, but they've still got running backs, (Travis) Kelce, the tight end. I mean, really good offensive line. So it's a big challenge. Special teams is a challenge. (Chris) Conley is a returner for them now, guys like that, so we've got a big challenge ahead of us. That's basically what makes them tough."
How is the Chiefs' offense different now from before RB Jamaal Charles got hurt?
"Well I think that's again where the coaching comes in. Coach (Andy) Reid has a tremendous amount of experience in this league and so he's seen it all, so he's able to adapt when he loses a player, the next guy can step up and he knows how to use that player. I think that their staff does a really good job of putting their players in the right position, and then the players go out there and execute. They've got good players. When they lose a guy, another guy is able to step in and fill his own role in a really good way. I think it's a combination of good coaching and good playing."
What are some things you learned from Patriots HC Bill Belichick that prepared you for the playoffs?
"Well, I learned a lot from Bill. No doubt about it. I think one of the things that I learned is something I already said and that's you really can't leave any stone unturned. So for instance, if you're getting ready for a regular season game and you may look at the last three or four games, or maybe you go back and look at a common opponent, something like that, but in this instance you're looking at all the games. You're looking at all the snaps. You're looking for any edge that you can find to try to put your players in the best position to make plays. You've got to look at it by down and distance, situation, personnel, road game, home game, special teams on the road, special teams at home, quarterbacks and how Alex Smith operates on the road, how he operates at home, different things like that. We've got to be really detailed in our preparations."
What do you tell the young players about the atmosphere of a playoff game and what to expect?
"Yeah, you know it's interesting. We talked about that a little bit this morning. I think that the NFL is a very difficult league. I think it's so hard to win on Sundays in the regular season, then when you go to the playoffs you better jack it up another notch because everything is faster. There's more on the line. Every play counts, every guy has to really concentrate and focus on every play to do his job to the best of his ability and be dependable in doing that. That's basically what you tell really every player and for those guys that haven't been in the playoffs, the younger players, they've just got to prepare. They've got to understand, look they're going to have to do a little bit extra this week, whether it's in the training room, the weight room or the film room, everybody's got to put in a little extra this week."
What's it like just for you to be back in this position?
"It's definitely as a coach, it's just exciting. It's where you want to be. I mean, you walk in the building this morning, everybody here is excited, everybody. The people who work in the media office, the coaches, the trainers, the equipment guys, the people that work in the dining room. I mean everybody is excited. I think that's part of it, and then I think it's always pretty neat because you get a second wind. You really get a second wind. The season is a long season. You're game planning for 20 games, four preseason games and 16 regular season games, and you're getting your team prepared and, look, it's a long season. It's six months, and then you're able to get to the playoffs because of how these players have played and it's like getting a second wind and it's a pretty good feeling."
T Chris Clark has big shoes to fill, what do you think about his ability to step in?
"I thought he played well yesterday. I thought he went in there yesterday and he fought and he knows what to do. He's played in a Super Bowl as a starter, so he knows what it means to play at this time of the year in this league. He's a really good veteran presence, he's got good leadership skills, the guys know that he's going to go in there and do his job because he's played for a long time. It's never good to lose your starting left tackle. That's not easy to overcome, but when you have a guy like Clarky, that's good. That can help you."
When you threw your headset when you were talking with the officials, what happened?
"I dropped it."
What was the dispute about?
"I'll just leave that between myself and Terry (McAulay)."
How did you talk him out of throwing a flag on you?
"Two Irish guys, he forgave me."
What makes Chiefs TE Travis Kelce so difficult to deal with?
"He's big, he's fast, he's got really good hands, very good route running ability. He's able to come in and out of breaks using his size and his length with his quickness. He's just, he's one of the best in the league. He's a tough matchup. He's a tough matchup, and you've got to figure out different ways to defend him because it just, it takes more than one guy to defend him."
How nice was it to see DE J.J. Watt back to his normal self yesterday and were you worried about him playing without the cast for the first time?
"I never really get worried about J.J. I think he knows, he obviously knows how to play, and I'll say this. Even when he was playing with the club, I mean he was still a very, very disruptive player. I think obviously having the use of his fingers and being able to grab is a whole lot better than having the club on there. I've been around this guy for 32 regular season games now, that was a hell of a football game he played. He played one really good football game. I mean, he was sacking the quarterback. He was batting balls. He was tackling guys for losses. He was doing his job and then some. I think that he just, he did a great job for our defense yesterday."
A lot of people say Chiefs HC Andy Reid is doing his best coaching job. What is it about this season and their 10 win streak that he's able to do such a good job?
"Well I'm still studying them, but just in studying them initially here, they play smart football. They understand what type of team they have. They've got a good defense. They're very efficient on offense. Sometimes you get, if you look at the stats it may not bear out that way, but I think you've got to really study them on film. He's a very smart coach situationally. He knows what type of team he has. They've been decent on special teams. I think they've been opportunistic. They've won games by playing great defense, playing great special teams, playing good on offense. They've won a lot of games in a lot of different ways. I think that goes a lot to their players, but also his experience in the league."
How big is it to have this game at home with this crowd?
"This crowd is I think the best crowd in the league, and I'm not just saying that. I've been to just about every stadium. This crowd is loud, they're here early, they never leave, seems like they're always in their seats, except for right after halftime, sometimes they're a little late getting back from wherever they're at, but no they're a great crowd and we need this crowd. Our players really feed off of this crowd. You can see it on the field, and our players get really excited to play in front of this crowd. I know what it means to the city of Houston to be in this situation. Part of our motivation is to go out and play well for this crowd."
Talk about OLB Whitney Mercilus and his success.
"I would say in the two years that we've been here, he's had a lot of good games and yesterday is near the top. He played a really good football game. Here's a guy that has worked very, very hard to get to this point. He's put a lot of time in, he's here very early in the morning. He stays late. He's a great teammate. He's always out there. He stays healthy, knock on wood. He's done a really good job for us and yesterday was in that respect, that was kind of the culmination of all of his efforts. It's just great when you see a guy like that be successful. It's good. It's a good feeling. Here's a guy, I think he had 12 and a half sacks on the year. That's a really good regular season, so now he's got to keep it going. That's the trick now is keep it going in the playoffs."
Talk about LB Brian Peters' contributions to special teams and S Andre Hal and his transition to safety from cornerback.
"Brian was a really good pick up for us. He's enthusiastic. He loves special teams. Shane Lechler is the captain basically of our special teams, and then Brian along with Max Bullough and Kurtis Drummond and Akeem Dent, those linebackers, those guys have really done a good job. In fact, Max got the game ball yesterday on special teams. He had three tackles in the game. Brian's done a good job, all those guys have and the linebackers that help us on special teams. So it's good to have those guys. Then Dre Hal, Dre is one of those guys that is just a great teammate, works very, very hard, is very coachable, very coachable. He's going to ask the right questions. He's going to try to do it the way you're coaching him to do it, just a good guy to be around, good guy to have on the team."
Does the one-season mentality help going into playoffs?
"Yeah I think that's a good question. I'll tell you this though, we've got a lot of guys on the coaching staff that have been in this position. So we've been here before. A lot of us, it's not necessarily new to us even though some of us haven't been here in a couple years, but we know what's at stake and we know how to prepare. I think a lot of our players have been in this position. We've got guys on this team that have been to Super Bowls. We've got guys on this team that have been to the playoffs, won playoff games. You're counting on that veteran leadership and I think it's still very much so obviously a one-game season. That's what it is now. The fact that we've kind of had that theme all year is something I hope will help us this time of the year."
What do you attribute WR Jaelen Strong's success in the later part of the season to?
"I would say it's probably more the natural progress of a rookie. I think a rookie wide receiver, it's very difficult to play early on in this league. You just don't understand the speed of it, the strength that you need, the conditioning level that you need to be in, it's just a totally different ball game than college for that position, and I give him a lot of credit. He's gotten himself into shape. He's lost probably about 20 to 25 lbs. maybe more than that. I think you can just see it, you compare pictures of him when he was here in minicamp to where he is now, it's like a totally different guy. All the credit for that goes to him and his hard work. He went in there yesterday and made some plays for us and that was good to see. I think he's got a bright future."
You always get uncomfortable when we give you credit for things, how did that make you feel when Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob McNair gave you the game ball?
"Oh I feel good about that, I really do. I'm very appreciative of that, but I'm uncomfortable mainly because it's a group effort. It takes so many different people to get to this point. It takes players obviously, great players, role players. It takes a coaching staff, it takes a personnel department, it takes the strength coaches, the trainers, the equipment guys, the video guys, the people that serve us the food that make great food in there every day for us. It takes everybody, the people that work in media relations, the people that work in the ticket office, everybody. That's why there's no way that one person gets credit. Obviously as the head coach, you accept that ball and you're very appreciative of that, but that's a team football to me."
His name doesn't get brought up as much anymore, but what does ILB Brian Cushing mean to this team?
"He means a lot. I wish his name was brought up more. I should probably bring his name up more. He's a leader. He's a tough player. He's a guy that hustles. He made a couple plays yesterday on the sideline that were quick throws out to the flat where he was showing up from his position over in the center and flying out there and making the tackle. I think he's got over 100 tackles. You're talking about a heart and soul guy that's had a career in which he's been injured, he's come back from injury. Obviously I'm a little biased because he's from New Jersey, East Coast guy, although I'm not a huge New Jersey fan but, I'm just kidding, I'm from Massachusetts, but he's a great guy, tough guy, and good guy to have on the team no doubt about it."
T CHRIS CLARK
How do you think you've done in the past against Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali?
"I feel I've done a great job against Tamba. He's a great guy. You have to really prepare for him every time you're playing him because there's always something different. You just have to go out and just do your thing."
What's Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali's toughest move?
"He's a guy who has pretty much – he can do a little bit of everything. You can't just focus on one thing. You have to really prepare for him because he makes the Pro Bowl almost every year. He's definitely one of those guys that's a future Hall of Famer."
What do you think makes you suited for this assignment?
"Just always being ready. Being a good veteran and a good leader. Being in this situation before, helping guys come along in playoff situations who haven't been here, younger guys. I feel that will be much needed this weekend because I really know what it's about."
Seems like you're pretty even-keeled about the whole thing.
"Yeah, no high too high, no low too low. Just stay even-keeled and keep it that way, you'll be alright."
How has this team embraced the 'next man up' mentality?
"It's been a lot of that going on this year. As a player, you understand what the next man up mentality is. When you get guys who are swing guys and they know situations, you don't get guys to be backups. You get guys to be potential starters because you know how dangerous this game is and at any given moment, it could be the next man up. We really prepare for things like that."
You played against Kansas City a lot in your career. How much does that help?
"I feel like I know Kansas City pretty good. I'm excited about the challenge, always excited about a challenge. Just looking forward to it, being able to help guys, younger guys, in a playoff situation who haven't been in a playoff situation. I think that leadership will be needed and just, like I said, looking forward to the game and being able to contribute to the Texans."
How much does having playoff experience help?
"It helps a lot as far as maintaining that composure. You must stay even-keeled, I promise you. You can get really antsy then things will start shifting on you. Just being cool about the situation, practicing hard, and knowing your assignments to the tee. You have to know every little detail because attention to detail is very important in the playoffs."
What's the environment going to be like?
"Saturday will be a great environment. Our fans will be out yelling and screaming. It will definitely be a good test for our team. Just looking forward to the game. We're all excited about it. Everybody is going to be ready to do."
What does it mean that you've earned the team's confidence?
"It means a lot to me. I just want to be accountable. I just want to do my job, that's it. I can't do the guy next to me's job. I just want to do my job and do it to the best of my ability. Not be a weak link on the team."
ILB BRIAN CUSHING
You've been playing for a while now. Do you relish these playoff opportunities?
"I think I'll really relish and look at the moment afterwards. But right now, it's more just focused on taking care of business and trying to do whatever we can to win this game."
How much do you take away from the first game against the Chiefs?
"We'll go back and look at certain plays in certain situations that happened in the game, find what we did wrong and correct it. But we're a completely different team from that first game. We understand they are, too. It's going to be an interesting matchup. We'll definitely look at the first game film, but like I said, we're pretty different from that first game and I think they understand that. Like I said, I think they are too."
What's different about this team now?
"I think we're playing completely better in all phases of the game, defense, offense, special teams. It might have taken us a little bit to find our identity, especially on defense, but we did and we're playing as good as we possibly could right now. Just hopefully, it will get better."
What message do you tell your teammates about the playoffs?
"I think we touched on it a little bit last week and Coach (Bill) O'Brien's done a great job really explaining to the guys it's like a whole new season. It's like a second wind. There's nothing really like it. The atmosphere, the energy is just electric, especially here in this stadium. The fans just go nuts. I remember the first time playing against Cincinnati here and just how wild it was. I thought I was going to pass out just from running out of the tunnel. But it's exciting. It's what you play for. That's why you play hard, that's why you win all those games to play in major, key games like this."
How big is the fan support?
"It's big. We know having a home game in the first round is huge for us. We're just excited for it."
Does that first playoff game feel like yesterday?
"It was crazy. It was just a crazy game. We played the Bengals and they actually jumped out first to a 7-0 lead. I remember just talking to Demeco (Ryans) on the bench and him telling me to calm down, settle down, and relax. Sure enough, we did and I did then took care of business from there on out. Just a really cool and special moment to be a part of."
How much does that experience help you now?
"We'll see how this situation goes Saturday, but definitely anyone I talk to about my experience - it's something I can share with them."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How does it feel to be in the playoffs?
"This is do or die, so guy's attention is a little higher than it would normally be."
What are your thoughts on playing the Chiefs again?
"It is a matchup that a lot of guys wanted again because they got the best of us the first game and we matchup pretty good against them, so a lot of guys are happy we are going to get the chance to see them again."
How special is it to be here in the playoffs?
"It is my job, so I am not going to sit here and say it is special because it is my job and I can't look at it as overwhelmed or excited about something that is my job."
What does it mean that you have played a huge role in getting this franchise this far?
"It means my teammates helped me get here, not just me. The organization trusts me to come in and be in this position that we are in."
What are some things that stand out about Kansas City's defense?
"They're talented. They're young. They are a good defense. They wouldn't be playing postseason football if they weren't."
You guys have been able to ignore the noise of what people are saying about you. Does that carry into this week as well?
"You are going to have people doubt whether you win or lose, so that is not something that you as a professional athlete care too much about."
QB BRIAN HOYER
What's the mindset today?
"We got to get back to work. We have a quick turnaround playing Saturday. I started watching Kansas City film last night as I sat there and watched those games play out. Started getting ready for Kansas City, I think that's the biggest thing at this point. It's a new season. We have to do everything in our power to get ready to play. It's a short week, we're playing Saturday instead of Sunday."
Are you happy you got to play in a game before the playoffs?
"Yeah, for sure. I definitely wanted to play at some point before getting back out there in the playoffs just because it's not – you can say it's like riding a bike, it's just playing football, but nothing compares to live game reps and the speed of the games. It was good to get back out there, like I said, be a part of it, be with my teammates and win the division."
Have you been able to reflect on this season at all?
"I think for us it's really just focusing on Kansas City. There will be time after the season to really reflect back on that. But at this point, it's just sights focused on Kansas City and getting ready for them."
What do you see when you watch the Chiefs?
"Obviously, they're a great team. We same them first week of the season. It was a tough game for us. I don't know how many games they've won in a row. Nine or ten games. Obviously, they're a really good team and they're playing really well. It's going to definitely be a big challenge for us. Like I said, just started getting working on them last night. I know when we get in to our meetings with our coaches, that's where our focus is going to be."
How much does the first game against the Chiefs mean?
"I think you see how their defense plays you. How they played us the first game, you can see that. Then you have to go through because that's 17-week ago. Are they doing anything different now? Start watching some of their more recent games and see what they're doing now. If anything, it's something good to go and look back on, how you matched up against them and how they played our offense. But really, because it was the first week of the season, you really have to go back and watch some more recent games and see how they're playing now."
Do you see any similarities with these two teams?
"I really don't look too much into that. I think for us as a team, we've really come together and had a good run. We were down, so I really don't put too much weight into that."
How special is it to be in this situation?
"Yeah, this is what you signed up for when I came down here. To come back and be back from injury and be back out there with my teammates, it was a special day for me and now it's just moving forward and getting ready for Kansas City."
CB JOHNATHAN JOSEPH
What do you expect to see from Chiefs QB Alex Smith?
"He is the same guy, Alex Smith, always been a good starter in this league, number one overall former pick. I think he is playing lights out football. People call him a game manager, but he is one of those top tier quarterbacks because even with a different destination in San Francisco, it is the same results and same thing with the Chiefs."
What do you tell your fellow teammates about what it takes to win a playoff game?
"You've got to be all in. The environment will be totally different then a normal game day with everything surrounding it. The only game that is playing at the moment and everyone is watching. You have a little jitters, but you can't get too pumped up and psyche yourself out. You just have to relax and calm down and take it for what it is."
How cool is it to play this game at home in front of the fans?
"It is a big feeling. I think anytime you go into the postseason you would like to play all of them that way. Of course with the fans that we have here, we will take it however it comes. We have our first one here at home and we just take it one game at a time."
How would you say that the defense has found their identity?
"It is a defense of all 11 guys. Obviously, J.J. (Watt) is J.J., but I think it takes all 11 guys to put full maximum effort in doing their assignment and not one guy trying to do too much. I think it takes everyone hustling to the ball and when you have a chance to make a play, make that play and go on to the next play and do it each time, time again throughout the game."
We have seen DE J.J. Watt's dance moves. If you make a play will you have something ready?
"I think I will try something. I have no idea what it is. I will probably do what J.J. (Watt) did and mix them all into one dance."
P SHANE LECHLER
It has been a long time since you have been to the playoffs. How special is this?
"It's been a long time, since 2002, my third year going to Super Bowl and last year was my first winning record since then. This is special. It's not easy getting to the playoffs. I told the guys in our little special teams meeting, 'Don't take this stuff for granted. These chances don't come around too often.' I had veteran guys like Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice and Tim Brown tell me that and I didn't listen. I took it for granted my first three years and it took me a long time to get back."
How do you make sure you don't take moments like this for granted?
"Definitely, I don't let moments like this slip by. I don't know how many more I'll get. This is what you play for, to get to the postseason. We're in it and you never know what can happen."
What has it been like for you to watch the transformation of this team?
It's been awesome. When I got here, on paper, I guess what the team had looked like before I signed as a free agent looked like a playoff team, then all of a sudden we go 2-14 after starting 2-0, that was hard to swallow. You kind of look around like, man, I didn't think this was how it was going to be. To watch everything kind of come full circle and now we're back in the postseason, it's something we're all excited about. It's sad losing Duane (Brown) like that, the guys have all put in a lot of work, but we're all proud of what we've done in turning this thing around from 2-5 into a postseason team."
WR Jaelen Strong said he knows not to take this opportunity for granted since the last time that you went to the playoffs he was 8 years old. Is it funny to think about it like that?
"Yeah, it is. It's one of those things. I hate the fact that I am that old, but it's good. I try to talk to Jaelen (Strong) as much as I can. He's come a long way since day one from camp and when we signed him. He's come a long way. He's been a great player. He's getting it now. For a young guy to get it in his first year, that means he's working on it. Yeah, it's been a long time since I've been in the postseason. Some of these guys are young."
What do you remember about your first playoff game?
"It was exciting. It was a home game because we had the Bye that year. It was the Jets.. The game seemed to go fast to me. You don't wait around to make something happen, make something happen right now. It seemed like the game went by fast because it is one of those things, you don't have a schedule to look forward to. You don't have another opponent next weekend unless you take care of this one, so if there is nothing to look forward to I felt like it went fast. I remember that and even playing in the Super Bowl, I remember it was a quick game. Granted, we got beat pretty bad, but you have to enjoy it right away. You have to play well right away. If you don't, it will slip by you."
What have you seen from K Nick Novak and the way he is kicking the ball?
"Nick is hitting the ball well, he's hitting it better than when he first got here. I think that comes from confidence with our group with our little three and the operation. He knows what to expect from me and I know what to expect from him. I think he has come a long way, he's hitting the ball really well. I was really surprised with the miss because he hit the ball square, it sounded good. I was surprised."
In that Super Bowl in 2002 did it ever cross your mind that it would be this many years since you would be back in the playoffs?
"No, it never would have crossed my mind. I went my first three years, I thought for sure I would be back before now. I mean that's over a decade ago, but I'm not going to take this one for granted. I'm very happy to be in the postseason, but kind of like Bill (O'Brien) said last night, we are not just playing for the hat we won last night. Granted, I am going to appreciate that one, but we will see how it goes."
What has a guy like ILB Brian Peters meant to the special teams unit?
"I've kind of been mad at the Texans for not finding him a little sooner. That guy's a hell of a ballplayer. I've got to play with some great ones in Oakland and he is one of those. He gets it. He's fast. He's smart. He's instinctive. He's a special team's player that's very top of the line."
WR CECIL SHORTS III
Do you think about the unique opportunity to play in the playoffs that you have in front of you?
"Opportunity of a lifetime. You want to take advantage of it. I watched it on T.V. a lot of years growing up. Then you know, my fifth year in the league is my first time being there. Like I said, we're going to take advantage of it. Just really excited about playing at home for our first playoff game."
How meaningful it is to be at home?
"It's awesome. These fans go nuts every week. I'm sure the atmosphere is going to be crazy come Saturday afternoon."
What do you think about going against the Chiefs?
"They're on a roll. They've won 10 straight, so they're a good football team. We played them at the beginning of the year. I got some reps against them. I'm pretty sure they're a much better team now than they were in Week 1. We got to clean some stuff up and get ready for them."
How much does that first game vs. the Chiefs matter now?
"I'm not sure. I think a lot has changed since then. I think teams grow up. I think we've grown up since then. I'm pretty sure we'll look at that game, but we also have to look at more recent games for them. Because during that time, there's injuries. Teams naturally just get better throughout the year and obviously they have."
Are you ready to play?
"It doesn't matter this time of year. You just want to go. You just go. You get your mind right. You get your body the best you can. You just have to get ready to go."
Have you made much progress with your injury?
"It's good enough for me. This opportunity doesn't come around often. I'm just going out there and trying to be the best I can for my team."