HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Now that you’ve had a chance to go back over the film, what stands out to you about your first two games against the Colts?
“I think both teams have evolved over the year. That’s kind of the mark of a good coaching staff over there. Frank’s (Reich) done a great job. Matt Eberflus has done a great job. Bubba Ventrone does an excellent job. They’re not the same team, especially schematically, that they were earlier in the year. We’ve got to be ready for that. There’s the obvious – Andrew Luck’s a great player, T.Y. Hilton, (Eric) Ebron’s playing at a high level. Defensively, you see Darius (Leonard) and the way he’s playing and their front, Jabaal Sheard, they play good team defense. They’re very well-coached. We’ve got to have a really good week here. It’s a short week, and we really have to have a great week.”
Of all of the things you want to do contain Colts QB Andrew Luck, is getting pressure one of the key things?
“I think at the end of the day you’ve got to do the best you can to mix it up. If you think you’re going to go into the game with the one thought and that’s the thought that’s going to win the game, that’s probably not the way to go. I think that this guy, he’s such a smart guy, he’s so competitive. You’re not really going to trick him. He’s seen it all. He’s a very, very alert guy, very focused. He knows what he’s looking at. We have to do a good job this week of preparing our guys and then let’s go out there and compete at a high level on Saturday.”
How much in the way you approached the first two games against the colts is relevant to this game?
“I think there’s a lot that’s relevant. I think obviously you’re looking at the different players and their skillsets and you have an idea of how certain players play, but then you have to look at the scheme. And so, OK, how much has the scheme changed, even in the last few weeks since the last time we played them. Then there’s always going to be things like we have and they know there’s things that we do, kind of like the phrase, ‘you do what you do’. They have those things, too, so you have to be ready for those. They know how certain players for us play and we know how certain players for them play. We just have to do as good a job as we can adjusting during the game.”
What do you think about how much QB Deshaun Watson ran yesterday and what do you think about that going forward?
“I think it’s great. I think he’s a dynamic player. I think he does an excellent job understanding what the front is, what the look is, what the pass rush is. Certainly he took some hits that maybe we want to try to control those, but there’s other times where he did a great job sliding or ducking out of bounds. I think it’s good for our team when the ball is in his hands.”
Did you see teams try to emulate the way the Colts played you defensively?
“Most teams play us in a lot of post safety. Very few teams play us in two-deep. That’s kind of what I take when you say ‘crowd the box’. When there’s a safety in the middle of the field and you basically have a seven- or eight-man box depending on your formation. That’s what most teams do to us. We try to scheme for that and we try to do the best job we can and make sure our players understand what it is. We’ve got to really grind on that over the next few days here and make sure that we put as good a game plan together as we can.”
Does it add additional challenges when you’re facing the same team multiple times in the season?
“I think it’s always challenging to play a team three times. I’m glad it’s at home. I think that’s a big deal that we’re at home. I know our crowd’s going to be into it. We have the best crowd in the NFL, so I think that’s a big deal. But it’s always hard to play a team for a third time because you just have to understand, at the end of the day we have to do what’s right for our team and not block a lot of ghosts, if that makes sense. Just do the best you can to put together as good a game plan as you can for your team.”
Are you eager to see how QB Deshaun Watson will perform in the playoffs?
“He’s excited. It is the highest level. It is a new season. The playoffs in the NFL are a totally different ballgame than the regular season, there’s no doubt about that. He’s played well for us on big stages. He’s played well on Monday night, Thursday night, Sunday night. He loves it. He wants that. For him personally – I don’t want to speak for him because I’m sure you’ll ask him, but it just seems to me he has a lot of fun on those nights, on those days. He’s done that really his whole career. He did that on big stages at Clemson. I know he’s looking forward to the game on Saturday.”
When QB Deshaun Watson is able to run so effectively, what does that do for RB Lamar Miller?
“Like I was trying to say last night, I really don’t want to get into all of the schematics of it, but everything that we do, we try to mix and match as best we can, if that makes sense.”
How much does it change preparing for a game of this magnitude, playing on Saturday as opposed to playing on Sunday?
“It’s a shorter week. I’m glad we had a home game yesterday. Our guys are in here right now. We have a recovery-type workout for them. But yeah, it’s definitely a shorter week so there’s that fine line. Somebody was just asking me the same question on a radio show. It’s a fine line. We’re a physical team. We need to be physically ready. There’s nothing more important that the physical health of our team on Saturday afternoon. That’s the big thing, is making sure everybody is ready to go, that whoever is on that 46-man roster feels good physically and they come out of that gate ready to go, because it’s going to take everything we have physically and mentally to beat the Colts.”
Looking back, does it feel like the Week 4 game in Indianapolis was the kind of break you guys needed to get this season going?
“It was a great football game. It came down to that situation, overtime. But there were a lot of plays that led up to that. But I do think at that point in time we needed a win. I don’t think anybody around here wanted to go to 0-4. We needed a win and we had to find a way and we were able to find a way. It was a great game. We have a great deal of respect for the Colts, for the way Frank Reich coaches, the type of team that Chris Ballard’s put together, the way that they play. You just watch Andrew Luck play, he has great respect for the game. We like guys that respect the game, and he really does. And then you watch how their team plays. They’re very well-coached. We knew that to be able to come out on the winning end of that game was a big thing for us, but that’s a long time ago. Like I said, the teams have evolved over time so it’s kind of a new ballgame now.”
What has Colts TE Eric Ebron brought to their offense?
“Very athletic guy. Great hands. Very good, instinctive route-runner. Red area threat, got a bunch of touchdowns in the redzone. Very hard guy to match up against. How do you match up with him? You don’t really have anybody as big as him, so you have to figure out different ways to mix it up on him. He’s a tough, tough matchup.”
Since you’ve been here there have been games where you shut down Colts WR T.Y. Hilton, but not this year. What has been the difference this year?
“He’s a great player. He’s got a great ability to make routes look the same, if that makes sense. He’s an incredible route-runner. He runs them all at the same speed, breaks in, breaks out. Runs posts, runs comebacks, runs slants, runs short routes, deep routes, intermediate routes. He can do it all. He has great hands He’s a very instinctive guy. We just have to do the best we can. I think that we have to play good team defense and do the best we can. You’re not going to hold him to no yards receiving. Especially with the rules the way they are. You can’t hit a guy after five yards, so that’s virtually impossible, but you’ve got to try to control what we call the X-plays, the 80-yard bombs and things like that. So, we’ll do the best we can.”
CB Johnathan Joseph said he feels better about his chance of playing Saturday after being held out yesterday.
“That was a tough decision yesterday. We met with the doctors and J-Jo. J-Jo, he’s just a great guy. He’s been doing this a long time. We felt like any time you’re dealing with injuries, no matter what type of injury it is, what’s best for the player? We felt yesterday it was best for him to have the day off. So, hopefully he’ll be trending toward being able to play this week.”
Is there a shot that WR Keke Coutee could play?
“Definitely. I think he’s trending that way. I think there’s a shot. We have to see how he looks in practice on a day-to-day basis, but there’s a shot there.”
What do you say to fans who are still not confident in the team?
“Look, we were 0-3. Like I’ve always said, I’ve always said how much I love the Houston fans. All I can tell you is we’ve gone 11-2 over the last 13 weeks. This team is one of the few teams to come back from 0-3 and to qualify for the playoffs and win the division. We have a tough football team. We have a lot of guys that care about each other and play hard. We’re not looking for train riders, we’re looking for the loyal fans that have been with us the whole time. We’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”
What do you do differently against the Colts at home knowing the series history?
“I think it’s good we are at home. I think it’s good for a lot of reasons, but on a short week and then, obviously, most importantly is playing in front of your home crowd. I think that’s a good thing for us because we have a great home crowd, so we’re looking forward to playing in front of them.”
How challenging will Saturday’s game be given the mental fortitude both teams have shown in overcoming slow starts to the season?
“No doubt. The mental toughness of both teams is evident. To be 1-5 and to be where they are now, and then for us to be 0-3, there’s no doubt about it. That’s why it’s going to be a huge battle. Our guys know that. It’s going to come down to takeaways, giveaways. It’s going to come down to penalties. It’s going to come down to who can execute at the highest level. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
You’ve been through this a few times now. How much do you think it helps you and your staff in terms of preparation knowing how much this week is very different than a regular season week?
“It definitely helps. We’ve been down this road a number of times. We’ve won three AFC South championships here, so we’ve been in the playoffs three times here. Like you said, RAC (Romeo Crennel), Brad Seely have been in a lot of playoff games. They’ve been in, I don’t know, eight Super Bowls, RAC and Brad. So, they’ve been in a lot of playoff games. I think that helps, but at the end of the day what that really helps with is kind of the schedule of the week and things like that. When it comes down to gameday it’s all about getting your team to execute at the highest level. That’s really what it’s about, is making sure that we’re ready to go when the Colts arrive.”
What has Special Teams Coordinator Brad Seely and Assistant Special Teams Coach Tracy Smith meant to the team’s success this year?
“I give them a ton of credit. I probably should do it more. Between the players and the coaching staff, those guys have really done so much to help us get to this point. I think our special teams has much improved. Brad’s helped me in a lot of different way. Situational football, we’ve been pretty good all year in situations. Usage of timeouts. Yesterday, the game was 20-3, so maybe some people would thing the game was over, but we had I think a 13- or 14-play drive, a six-minute drive to end the game. That’s good situational football. We practice that all the time. Brad helps with that. There’s a lot of things that he does outside of special teams, and then obviously his main job is special teams, and they’ve really been an improved unit.”
With a Saturday game, does getting off of the schedule during the regular season help you in a time like this?
“I think it’s kind of like I was saying about the guys that have playoff experience. I mean, just from a schedule standpoint, I think it helps that you know how the week is going to go. Basically Tuesday is like a Wednesday, Wednesday is like a Thursday, Friday is like a Saturday. That’s kind of how it goes and I think everybody understands that. Players want a routine. We’ve already been in this routine for a week. The difference is it’s a home game, so we keep our routine kind of the same.”
How special was it for you to give the game ball to Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Cal McNair?
“Very special. I think it means a lot that Cal and Bob (McNair) have supported us so much. Then, obviously the passing of Bob was a tough day, a tough deal for this organization. So, to be able to give the game ball – you look at what’s happening today, coaches are getting fired. This is a bottom-line business. They’ve stuck with us here, and we appreciate that. I don’t think there was anybody better to give the game ball to yesterday than Cal McNair and the McNair family.”