HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
"Just on the injuries, Jadeveon Clowney was moving around decent today, but I'd still put him in the day to day category. Nate Washington moved around a little bit today, and I'd put him in the day to day category. On the roster, we obviously, unfortunately, had to place Duane Brown on injured reserve. He had surgery today that went successfully, and then we signed tackle Andrew McDonald to the active roster, so with that, I'll open it up to questions."
Do you think because of the nature of one and done in the playoffs that coaches are more important?
"Well, I think that No. 1, I think coaching's always important. I think what's important about coaching is that you prepare the players during the week to make sure that they know what their roles are, what their jobs are, what they need to do to win the game, the keys to the game from a team aspect, situational aspect, all those different things, and then on Saturday in this case, they go out there and play the game. The players play the game. And you have to be able to adjust during the game. I think it's a lot of different things that work together. And I don't put this is more important than that or anything like that."
What do you think of QB Brian Hoyer's growth through adversity to be where he is now?
"Well, I think, obviously he's improved just from his knowledge of the guys around him. I think it's difficult to come in and be brand new. You get some off season training with them and training camp, things like that, but once you get into live games, you've got to get used to the guys you're playing with, and vice versa. I think they've all done a good job of getting used to him. He's had to overcome some injuries during the year. He's had a very solid year for us. He had a good practice today, so he's looking forward to the game."
What does it say about WR DeAndre Hopkins that he was so consistent for you no matter who was throwing the balls to him?
"It says a lot about DeAndre. It says a lot about his ability to work with different quarterbacks. It says a lot about the quarterbacks that they know that he's a guy for us that's been consistent and dependable and a play maker for us. So both groups of guys, quarterbacks with Hop and all the receivers, all the skill guys really put a lot of extra time in. They meet early in the morning. They stay after meetings and meet on their own. So I think there's a lot of credit to go around there for those groups."
What do you think of Chiefs' QB Alex Smith as a passing and a running threat?
"Yeah, he's a very, very athletic guy, very smart quarterback, very efficient quarterback, really understands Coach Reid's offense well, understands the players around him and really executes at a high level. He's very, very fast for a quarterback. So it's imperative that the players understand that. Then, obviously, he's an accurate passer. So it's a big challenge for us. I think he's a really good quarterback, and it's a big challenge for our defense."
Can you talk about the challenges Chiefs' TE Travis Kelce brings?
"Yeah I mean you're talking about a guy that's one of the best in the league at what he does. He's a big guy with length, athletic ability, quick, fast, really good route runner, understands leverage, how to attack different defenders based on how they're lined up on him, just very instinctive. He can block. So he's a good player."
I know we talked about this before, but a lot of players said they appreciated it when you tell them you made a mistake at the beginning of the season with the quarterbacks. Did you do that because of what QB Brian Hoyer did when he stepped in or what QB Ryan Mallett did at the end of the first regular season game?
"No, I think that when we got to halfway through the season, I asked every player in that room to really study their own games and think about what they could do better, and I talked to them about what I was going to do better. I talked to them about different decisions that I had made during the year and how I was going to try and improve because it started with me. Whether it was schematically or personnel or situational or whatever it was. I think as a leader, I've said this a bunch of times, I think you have to be able to sit there and tell the truth to your players, and that's what we try to do, and then players did a good job of making sure that they did what I asked them to do, and they've improved. Now we're in this position, which is a good one."
When this team was 2 5, you said it was one-game-seasons. How does that mindset prepare you for the post-season?
"I think that's the way we've approached it really for two years here. I know it hasn't always looked that way. But we've really approached it - no team is anything like any other team in this league. I mean, every week is different. Every week has different defensive schemes, offensive schemes, special teams, different players. So I think you really have to approach it that way in this league. That's just something our staff and myself, that's what we believe in. You have to make sure that you definitely put that last game away, learn from it, but move on quickly to the next game, and I think our players really understand that."
What have you and your coaches done better throughout the season?
"I think there's a few things. I mean, first of all, I give the players credit. I think the players deserve most of the credit. They've done a really good job of going out there and executing the game plans and I think as a staff, it's not like we've worked any harder. I mean I think we have a hard working staff. I think we've approached practice differently in certain ways. We've, you know in some ways let the players handle some things. I think that's important in this league, especially when you have good leadership, which we have in that locker room. The players meet extra, the players on the practice field, I've talked about that. When it's 11 on 11, let them play. Make it more like a game atmosphere. That's what we've tried to do. But I think everybody has approached it one game at a time. That's where the players should be really commended."
What kind of specific improvements have you seen from OLB Whitney Mercilus not only in terms of production but how he does it?
"Yeah, he's worked very hard, he's worked very hard on, first of all, start with the running game, on taking on blocks, the use of his hands, leverage, his stance, all the different things that go into helping us stop the run. Then in the passing game, he's really, really worked very hard at his pass rush moves. You know, you never ask these guys to have five or six moves. You ask them to have two or three moves, and if they do, they're going to be successful because they can counter whatever their first move was. So he works really hard. He works in the weight room. He works after practice, and I think that's why he's having success."
What makes the Chiefs' secondary so good?
"They're really smart. They communicate well, very well coached, really good ball skills, athletic guys. You look at the rookie Marcus Peters, I think he has eight interceptions. He's got a ton of pass break ups. (Sean) Smith, we've known him for a long time from when he was in Miami. We're very familiar with him, very, very good player. Eric Berry, always around the ball. He's been doing it for a long time. So very well coached secondary with a lot of good players."
From the first match up with Kansas City, it seems like you all are two different teams from then and now.
"I think you have to study it. I think you have to look at it. I don't think you can just ignore it, but both teams are very different. That was a long time ago. But there are certain things that you have to look at, whether it's situationally or personnel wise, whatever it may be and you have to learn from the mistakes you made in that game. We were down 27 9 in the first half. That's not going to win any playoff games. I think we have to look at it to learn from some of the things we did there. But, again, we've to make sure we know both teams are very different."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR GEORGE GODSEY
Was it good for QB Brian Hoyer to be able to knock off some runs in that last game you played?
"Yeah, I had a week of practice, and the next week it was getting game ready and then the game. So I feel comfortable with where he's at right now. It was good."
Does it matter if a player's never been in the playoffs?
"I think you can get really enamored with a lot of things. And I think the way that we try to coach the players and really try to keep the players focused on their responsibilities. So we're throwing a lot at them. It's a shorter week, so to say. So really don't have time to think about things like that. As much as we'd like to keep them from that, we know that they're human. So, again, the more confident you can be as a player the more you know your game plan and that's really what we're focusing on."
What would you like to see from QB Brian Hoyer?
"I think efficiency. We've got to be 100 percent ball security. Any time you turn the ball over, whether you give them a short field or it's even just another opportunity for them to score. So protect the football, move the offense. Little bit better execution as far as the general offense and the false starts, everybody's a part of it, but I'd like to put it in the quarterback's hands."
You have squeezed every single inch out of your running backs. How hard is it to game plan for four guys as opposed to just one guy?
"Well, like we've said really from the beginning, they're all a little bit unique. They're all a little bit different. They all have different traits that they do well. As a coach, we love that. So it's a matter of putting them in what they do well and what they excel at."
How valuable is T Chris Clark's experience there at left tackle?
"Yeah, well, he proved it really in the last game. He did well. He's a true pro. He prepares well. He knows whether he plays or not, he knows the defenders that he's going against, and he and he studies. We're happy to have him here for sure."
WR Jaelen Strong's improvement in the last few weeks, what is it you like about him?
"Well, he's working so much harder at this point in the season, which is when you want your players to work their hardest; he's staying after it, he's getting out of practice early. He's asking more questions when you start seeing that development, you're no longer a rookie. You count the four weeks in the preseason, and we're really week 18, so over 20 weeks of football right now. So we don't really see him as a rookie anymore, and we're giving him that responsibility."
What impresses you the most about the Chiefs defense?
"They do a good job of keeping you from scoring points. They rush the passer well. They stop the run well. When they don't decide to blitz you, they play good, sound defense. They're constantly looking to get the ball, whether it's in the DBs in the back end. They've got a lot of interceptions in the back end. They also knock the ball out of you. They've got some experienced players up front, so it's a well-rounded defense. They execute well, and they keep you from scoring."
How much of what Kansas City does defensively actually fools you and how much is it just their great players winning one on one matchups?
"It's a little bit of both. They have that luxury because of the players that they have. I think the players perform well in the scheme. It's a good scheme, and it's a lot of talented players up there that are executing it."
RB ALFRED BLUE
What have some of the veterans that have been to the playoffs told some of the younger guys about being here?
"Most of the vets have just been telling me to be real focused and be attentive this week just knowing we are playing for keeps now. It's elimination now, if you lose this one you are out now, the season is over, you go back, so I think everyone understands that now going into the game."
What have you been told about this crowd for the playoffs?
"I mean, I know the crowd is going to be hyped out there, just as hyped as we are going to be out there playing. The crowd don't really affect me, I focus more on the game that what is happening outside of the game."
Do you feed off of the crowd after a big hit or big run?
"Yeah, you have to feed off of them. Once everyone starts cheering on the team and you are doing good out there, then you know that everybody is cheering your name, so that fuels you to go even harder."
Do you feel that after a 61 yard run?
"Yeah, you definitely feel that. Everybody is on their feet clapping and cheering. That definitely gets everybody going. That gives the defense some swag and the special teams to go out there the next play and make a stop."
Has it sunk in that you are in the playoffs and still playing for something this season?
"Yeah, we understand where we are at right now. We are treating it as such. We worked real hard to come back from 2-5, so we know what is at stake right now. I think everybody understands that."
Does it help that you have played the second half of the season with your back up against the wall?
"I would say so. Just knowing that you come from that type of record and changing it around. Like I said, I think everyone knows what is at stake, so everyone is going into the game real focused on doing their job. I would say, I was always taught just win your one on one. Do your job and everything else will take care of itself."
G BRANDON BROOKS
Explain to us why you're here today?
"Trying to fill in my best for Duane (Brown)."
Talk about T Chris Clark and the job he did in the game?
"He did a tremendous job, first and foremost. But we know the ability that Chris (Clark) has every time he's come in this year, he's done a tremendous job whether it was at right tackle, left tackle. No matter where he was. So we always had faith in him. You never know when a guy goes down. You never want to see it happen, but we always have the next man up mentality."
T Chris Clark has played against the Chiefs so much, is that an advantage for him? Is there anything he can help you guys with?
"Yeah, him playing against them so much, he has a lot of experience year in and year out, playing them twice. He came to us Monday when he came in and kind of gave us his speech and things to look out for. We kind of rallied around it, took it all in."
What about their front seven over there on the defensive line?
"Yeah, front seven is the strength of their team. We all know they're great pass rushers, do a lot of good things. When we played the first time, I believe Poe was coming off back surgery, pretty fresh off. Now as you know he had time to go throughout the season and get back in the form that he was. So it's a strength of their team, but as an O-line, we know we're looking forward to the challenge for sure."
What do you think about being in the situation in the playoffs at home?
"Oh, it's a hell of a feeling. It's great. I'm excited to go out there Saturday and go out there and have fun, lay it all on the line."
How much different is your team than what you were that first game?
"I'd probably say a totally different team from then until now. We changed some things up offensively, defensively. We have a lot, we gel a lot better up front as an O-line."
How comforting is it to have that running game going like it is? You seem to be peaking?
"It feels good, but the biggest thing is you have to keep it going. Never look back like we did last game. Next one's the most important."
Just your impressions of QB Brian Hoyer and the progress he's made and the fact that he's leading this team to the postseason now?
"He's always been a great leader. I've always thought that was one of his strengths as a player. He's doing a tremendous job, whether it's getting us up to the line faster, getting receivers on the right page, things of that nature. It's been a hell of a ride to see that from the beginning until now, him being a tremendous leader he is. So I really enjoy him out there. I look forward to it."
How has the communication changed when T Duane Brown is not in there? He looks like he's very involved in what you guys do, coming out of the huddle, talking to guys all the time?
"First and foremost, Duane being out there, he will be missed. But the biggest thing about him was he was always that leader. I wouldn't say necessarily, everybody has their own deal scheme wise and what's going on, but whenever times would get tough or we weren't running the ball like we were supposed to or protecting like we were supposed to, he was that guy that was like let's go, let's pick it up. Watch me lead by example. So that's where he'll be missed the most."
Will you guys dedicate this game to him?
"We tried to once, he went out last game. We tried to dedicate the last time the game to him, but as an O-line, each step we take forward is definitely dedicated to him."
WR DeANDRE HOPKINS
How have you been able to be so consistent all year considering the fact you've had four different quarterbacks throwing to you?
"Getting extra reps, I would say, and just being reliable. They're in the NFL for a reason, so that's not an excuse for any wide receiver to say I'm not successful or I'm doing something wrong because your quarterback situation."
Every guy is not the same, so do you have to adjust according to each one?
"No, that's not the case at all. You know it's really on you as a receiver to make your quarterback right. No quarterback is going to throw the perfect ball. Every quarterback throws interceptions or throws bad balls. If they give you a chance to make the play, I look at it as you have to make that play."
I know you don't like to make excuses, but was it difficult going back and forth between guys and adjusting?
"No, it wasn't. You've got to give credit to our staff here bringing guys in that can come in and learn this offense fast, and guys that have a good IQ, football IQ, because no quarterback that's been here I would complain about, honestly."
Can you talk about their secondary and the challenges that they offer?
"They're in the playoffs for a reason. They're a good defense."
When you were growing up, do you remember like a great memory from the playoffs and what does it mean to you now to be part of this level of the NFL?
"Yeah, my favorite playoff memory, I'm not exactly sure the name or the player, but it was Tennessee, when it came up short of the touchdown, yeah, Super Bowl. That's my favorite playoff memory. And legacies are made in the playoffs. The whole world's watching. Their favorite team isn't playing, so they kind of have no choice if they like football."
You had to wait three years to get into the playoffs. Were you looking forward to this? Did you think about it a lot?
"I definitely didn't think about it a lot. In the NFL, you have to think day-to-day, not further ahead. So you handle your business every day, and then you're going to get there."
Did you watch the last two playoffs?
"I watched a couple games, not too many games. I really can't recall which games."
How much do you guys think about that first game against Kansas City?
"They handed us a loss, so everybody's definitely watching that game film to see what we can correct and the mistakes we can get right going forward. They're an improved team and so are we. So we can't look at everything we did wrong and everything they did right because teams change their game plan and their style of play. But we definitely look back at that game and are working on some corrections."
Can you talk about how you guys are different offensively from when you started to where you are now?
"Just getting in the groove, starting faster. There's a lot of things that we're doing different than we did when we were 2 5."
What's a change you've seen in QB Brian Hoyer from that first game?
"A lot. He's an improved quarterback. I really can't sit here and tell you one thing in particular."
Is QB Brian Hoyer more confident now?
"I wouldn't say he's more confident. He's always been a confident guy. Like I said, no quarterback is perfect or going to throw the perfect ball. But his mentality has been the same."
How does the fact it's playoff time change the way you attack the week?
"I'm not going to go out there and change the way I play or the way I think because it's a playoff game, honestly. I'm going to go out and do what I've been doing. I feel like a lot of guys think like that. It's just the outside people. They put more emphasis on the playoffs. But in the locker room, guys are going to do what they have to do. But you might study a little bit more film, do a little extra off the field."
What is the most important thing you'll have to do on Saturday to win?
"Play solid football. Play some old school football, and go out there and do what we've got to do in the trenches."
This is a little off topic. Can explain why you think Clemson will win on Monday?
"I think Clemson will win on Monday because they have the best player in college football in DeShawn Watson. Not knocking Derek Henry or anything. But you look at what DeShawn did, I think he exceeded Cam Newton's stats, Johnny Manziel's stats, Jameis Winston's stats as a sophomore, but he didn't win the Heisman. And besides that, I don't think Alabama, when you spread those guys out, that's not the kind of football they want to play, like Texas A&M did when Johnny Manziel beat them. And our defense is stacked. It's kind of - we mirror each other on defense."
QB BRIAN HOYER
Could you tell us what it was like in that first game vs. Kansas City?
"Obviously, it wasn't fun. But I think for me, I've always had to deal with adversity, and that was just another moment I had to deal with. There's a lot of anger and some feelings that you have, but for me, it just pushed me to come in and work harder and be ready for my next opportunity."
In terms of processing and compartmentalizing the whole thing, how did that effect your relationship with Head Coach Bill O'Brien?
"Yeah, like I told you guys before, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Billy. So obviously that wasn't the best of our relationship, but here we are right where we wanted to be. When I signed my contract, this is where we wanted to be. We wanted to be in the playoffs. So it doesn't matter how you get there. We're here now. It's a new season. My relationship with him couldn't be better."
What did it mean to you when he told the team that he made a mistake benching you?
"Yeah, for me, if anything, it was more of a motivating factor to come back in and to work harder and be prepared when I got my next chance. For him to do that obviously meant a lot, and I think our team responded too. I think ever since then we've gone on a roll, and we've got to continue to do that."
Is this rematch game a shot at redemption for you?
"I don't look at it that way. Facing them again is similar to playing another team in your division. You play them twice. So, if anything, we have a chance to go back and look at how they played us and go out and play them again another time. I don't look at it - it's not a personal vendetta of me versus the Kansas City Chiefs. They played us tough, and it was tough for us to have success against them. So I think if anything that's a challenge, again, to go against these guys."
When you look at what they bring up front and what they have on the back end, what challenges are there?
"I think even going back to the first week, you looked at their front seven as being that strength. Now with a full season under their belt, you look at (Chiefs CB Marcus) Peters, he led the league in interceptions. Eric Berry's always a very good player. He's always around the ball. No matter how they rotate their DBs through there, (Ron) Parker, Tyvon Branch and then obviously Sean Smith wasn't there when we played them last time. So it's the same team, but they're a little bit different. If anything, they've got 16 games under their belt. So not only do we have to go back and look at our game how they played. But look how they've been playing more in recent weeks and really study that."
Have you been impressed with WR DeAndre Hopkins' consistency?
"I think he's an integral part of our offense. There is a huge emphasis in trying to get him the ball. The biggest thing for me that stands out about Hop is even with the double teams that he still gets, we still find ways to get him the ball, and he still fights through it. He's been great about that. Obviously, he's had a great year."
A lot is said about their pass rush, how good is the interior of their defensive line?
"Yeah, for sure. With (Dontari) Poe, and (Mike) Devito and guys like that, they're very deep at that position too. Not just Tamba (Hali) and (Justin) Houston, but also Dee Ford, Frank Zombo's been playing a lot for them. And inside they have Devito and Poe and some of those other guys. So they're very deep. I guess you'd say if you look at it, that's the strength of their defense. I don't know how many sacks they have, but I know they're in the top three, four in sacks in the league. And obviously that's the reason why."
How much does playing a game before the playoffs help?
"Yeah, I don't think I wanted to come back off three weeks rest to play in the playoffs. I mean, that would be really tough. There's nothing that compares to playing in a game. So to get back out there, be with my teammates and play in an NFL game, I think it was huge to be able to get that under my belt."
How would you describe being a part of this and leading a team into the playoffs? This team that's had to fight so hard to get here? It seems to fit your personality of never say die so well.
"For me personally, like I said, I've had to deal with so much adversity throughout my career, even through this year. Not only getting benched in the beginning of the year, but also dealing with concussions and things like that. So I think I fit really well in with this group of guys. We're a resilient group, mentally tough. Block out the noise and just focus on what we need to do to win the game. So I think that kind of fits my personality, and it's good to be around a group of guys that kind of have that same mentality."
How do you like the weapons in the running attack?
"Yeah, it's huge. All those guys have been playing a big role, obviously, ever since Arian (Foster) went down. You see Alfred Blue get over 100 yards. You see Akeem Hunt have a big run. Chris Polk is making some runs. Obviously, (Jonathan) Grimes, a huge fantasy day for those guys who play fantasy. Two touchdowns and almost had one throwing. So each guy has his unique skill set, and I think we take advantage of that."
Can you talk about what's different with your game throughout the season?
"I think you always grow. The more you play, you're either going to get better or get worse. I don't think you ever stay the same. So for me, it's about coming out and trying to become a better quarterback, be a better leader for the team. I think throughout this year having to deal with what I dealt with, just always trying to get better. There is always room to improve, and what better time to do it than now in the playoffs when it's really 'got to have it.'"
Are you able to have fun this week? Can you give us an idea of what it's like?
"Yeah, one unique thing is it's a shorter week. We play Saturday. So you don't get your full week of practices. You can't do it. So I know you're putting in the extra effort, you're putting in the extra time. And I think that's probably the biggest difference. It really is. Playing on Saturday as opposed to Sunday, I think. Everything else you just treat it like a game. Obviously it's the playoffs. Everything's on the line. But I think you go in and prepare the same way, and like I said, the only thing that's different is now there is one less day to prepare. So you're scrambling, trying to find the time to do everything you normally do in a normal week."
CB KEVIN JOHNSON
You had one of your best hits of the season Week 1 against TE Travis Kelce. Where you able to build some confidence off of that?
"Just trying to go out there and help the team win. Just trying to go out there and do my job, really."
When you take out a player like that does it build your confidence or anything?
"You don't ever want to take somebody out, but just trying to go out there and make big plays and trying to help get the ball back to the offense and stuff like that."
How big of a threat is TE Travis Kelce?
"Yeah, he is a great player. He is a great player and we got to understand where he is at and what type of routes he is going to give us."
You have had you ups and downs this season but remain confident throughout.
"Yeah, no question."
Will that change going into the playoffs?
Where do you feel like you have grown?
"I feel like I have grown all-around. Just being in the NFL, playing against some great players, just my calmness level and feeling comfortable out there."
Any advantage to seeing the same team that you played previously in the season?
"Yeah, I think so. Just going against a familiar opponent it is going to be good to go out there and really know how guys feel, I would say."
Do you think you are a better player from the first time you played these guys and how did that evolve?
"Yeah. Just gelling, I would say, and just executing the game plan that the coaches have put in."
Does having the same communication group on the field over the last few weeks help with the improvement you have shown?
"I would say so. Just all of us gelling together as a group and really as a defense as a whole. I would really say that has helped us propel forward."
Is there any difficulty communicating with the loud home crowd?
"I wouldn't say that we have been having trouble communicating with the crowd noise, but with the extra meeting time, understanding each other, getting on the same page, whether it be hand signals or things like that. Just understanding what is coming and us being on the same page really thinking like we are one brain."
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
Do you think you've been so success this year because you've diversified your game?
"Yeah, I'd say so, just being able to switch moves up and stuff like that and just being able to, as (Linebackers Coach Mike) Vrabel says it, it's like a pitcher switching up his pitches. That's it."
How much has your relationship with Linebackers Coach Mike Vrabel helped your game?
"Oh yeah, our relationship has grown. Him being here for the second year and everything, it's grown tremendously. He wants nothing but the best for us, and that's exactly that. He loves it when he players go out there and just perform well."
What's the biggest difference between the Chiefs in week one and where they are now?
"Not much difference, they're a great team, same quarterback that can definitely hurt you with his feet and all that. Alex, he's been great throughout the season even though they had a rough start of course. They have playmakers as well. That's one thing, they like screens and they do all types of things to get guys in space and go make plays."
When you guys as a team take on a defense this good does it get you guys fired up to play well?
"No, we don't really think about their defense or anything like that. We just concentrate on us. We know exactly who we have in this locker room, what type of play we have and we just go out there, just do our own thing. Offense is the one who has to worry about it and they'll be great themselves.
Can you imagine what this place is going to be like on Saturday?
"Yeah, I've got a good feeling for it, definitely. The fans are great, best fans that know how to get in rumbling in the house."