HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
Does QB Deshaun Watson's health change you how call plays during a game?
"I think the health of any player is taken into account relative to game plan, whether it's a quarterback, an offensive lineman or a receiver that's dealing with something. I think that's all one of about a million factors that goes into any game plan."
What did you learn from your team during the overtime victory in Indianapolis in Week 4?
"That was a long time ago. I think it was in September. We've come a long way since then. The Colts have come a long way since then. This is a game that will be very challenging. Like I said, that was over two months ago. It's all about this game on Sunday."
What have you seen during the 21-day window that led to the decision to activate RB D'Onta Foreman off the Physically Unable to Perform list?
"He practiced hard. In the padded practices we had, I thought he ran the ball well. He did some good things out there. He looked healthy. So, we felt like that was a decision that could potentially help our team."
What's been the key to stop opposing running backs this season?
"I think it comes down to fundamentals. I think stopping the run is about playing good gap-control defense, tackling well, swarming to the ball, guys really doing their jobs – not trying to do somebody else's job, just do your job first – I think that's really important in the running game when you're talking about stopping the running game. Then, just being a very tough, physical defense. That's really what it's all about."
Is there any question that Colts QB Andrew Luck is 'all the way back' to form?
"No doubt. He's back. He's a great player. He can do it all. He can make all the throws. He's very good in the pocket, very tough, very strong, got great playing strength, hard to bring down, never thinks the play's over. He's an excellent quarterback."
Do you ever not call a play if QB Deshaun Watson isn't comfortable with the play?
"Absolutely. You're never going to call a play with your quarterback that he doesn't like. There's no doubt about that. He'll always give me the reasons of why he doesn't – he's a very smart guy. He sees the game very well and he's able to articulate why – now, to be full-disclosure, he loves every play. There's not many plays that he doesn't like, but if he doesn't like a play, he'll make sure that I know and then we'll take that play out."
QB Deshaun Watson took a sack in the second half against the Browns for a big loss.
"There were a couple of wrong routes on that. There's a lot that goes into the sack. There really is. It's an interesting stat. Sometimes, it's definitely the quarterback may hold the ball a little bit too long, but other times, it's somebody missed a pickup or maybe it was a poor MIKE point by the quarterback or maybe somebody ran a wrong route, so he's looking to go somewhere and the guy didn't run the right route and now he comes back and this other guy didn't run the right route. There are a lot of different factors that go into it because in the game sometimes you're like, 'Why is he holding the ball?' But, when you go back and you watch the film or you ask him right after the series, he'll tell you exactly what happened. I think that's the thing that we appreciate about him is he can tell us between series what happened on the previous series so we can get it corrected and get it right."
What have you seen in the development of TE Jordan Thomas?
"He's a very improved player, but just like I told all of the rookies this morning, this is an interesting period of time in the NFL season for a rookie player. You're talking about – you've played 12, you've played four preseason games, if you've played, you've played in 16 games and you've practiced all of those practices. It's a long season. Now, it's important to understand how to take care of your body, how to get proper sleep, proper nutrition. You're only as good as your next game, so no matter what you did in the previous game, 'Hey, that's great. But, you better flip the page and not read your press clippings and be ready for the next game because the next game is only tougher. It just keeps getting harder and harder.' Jordan understands that and he works very hard to improve."
Was Bill Parcells the first coach to say, 'Don't take the cheese'?
"Oh, I don't know. I mean, I wish I never said it. It's just you have a mousetrap and there's cheese in it and the mouse is going up and the mouse wants the cheese. If he takes the cheese – and then the trap gets him. Did I really just have to explain that to everybody? I love Coach Parcells, but I don't think he invented that. I've heard my dad say it. My dad's 85 years-old. He's said it forever. I don't know. I wish I never said it. One game at a time is all I'm trying to say."
What would you do if a player was eating a block of cheese in the locker room?
"I would think that would be very funny. I would laugh very hard at that, and I'm sure there will be somebody in there today that will have a big brick of cheese just to bust my chops about it."
Do you expect it to take some time for RB D'Onta Foreman to get back up to game speed?
"Yeah, I think so. He and I had a good talk yesterday. He's a great kid, he's from here and he takes a lot of pride in playing for the Houston Texans. At the same time, he knows he hasn't played in a game in over a year – not his fault. It was a tough injury. He's still working to get back into that type of football shape, that contact shape. We're helping him with that, but the reason why we brought him up is we feel like, 'Hey, maybe eventually, whether it's this week, next week, some week he can help us win a game.' So, we felt like it was a good decision for our team."
Do you have a favorite Bill Parcells' saying?
"He's a coach that I can't say enough great things about. I just studied him a lot. Obviously, working for Coach (Bill) Belichick, (I) heard so many great things about him. I don't have one saying or anything."
How difficult is it for younger players to take it one game at a time?
"It's very important. In all seriousness, every week's a different matchup. The Cleveland Browns were a totally different team relative to how they match up against us than the Indianapolis Colts. Every week is very different. Who are the top players? Where do they deploy those players? Who are their top core special teams players? What type of receivers do they have? Return game and the punt return game – I could list thousands of things. So, you have to do a great job of preparation during the week to make sure that you know this next game's very different and you have to be very prepared for it on Sunday."
How did S Tyrann Mathieu become such a vocal leader on this team?
"Since the day he walked in the door here, he has a presence about him. Even though he may not be the biggest guy in the world, he has a presence about him. He handles himself in a very professional way. He practices the right way. He pays attention in meetings. He doesn't talk all the time, but when he speaks, people listen. I think it's just the way he goes about it and then I just encouraged him to be who he was, to be the leader that he is and he's really done a good job."
Is this team getting better each week?
"Yeah, I mean I don't think we're getting worse. We were 0-3 and we're 9-3, so I think we're improved, but are we where we need to be? No. We can always improve. There are so many different areas that we can improve in. That's what we're going to try to do this week."
Has Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver worked with DE/NT D.J. Reader on using his hands for leverage?
"Yeah, I think Weav does a good job of working on hand-placement drills with those guys every day. There are every day drills that they do, and Weav is a very good technical, fundamental coach. There's no doubt that as the season's gone on, I think all of them – D.J. being a good example – have improved in hand-to-hand combat. No doubt about it."
RB D'ONTA FOREMAN
How tough was this whole process of coming back and missing time?
"It was tough. I had a lot of up and down days, a lot of up and down moments, but I fought through it. I kept fighting and we're here."
How special was the moment when you heard you were activated?
"It was very special. Especially when I've been working for it all year. Like I said, it's been a tough injury, a lot of up and down days, but I was able to get back to this point. So, we just have to go from here."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien said that they brought you back because at some point they think you can help them win games, how important is it to hear that from your head coach?
"I mean that's big. That's my goal, it's everybody's goal in the locker room just to help each other win. We're a family and that's what we've come here to do – just win games."
What are your expectations for this week?
"Go out there and have a great week of practice. I'm just going out there and just trying to have another great week of practice."
Throughout these last 21 days, how did you show the team you're ready to go?
"We just practiced day in and day out. I was getting a lot of scout team reps and just trying to take advantage of my opportunities."
When you got back to practice, was it simple again?
"I mean, it's football. Like I said, I've been training very hard, even before I got back to practice. So, when I got back out there, my whole thing was just go out there and have good days of practice."
QB DESHAUN WATSON
Do you feel like you're healthier now and how does that fit in to how you're playing right now?
"I feel fine. I feel like every day I'm able to get stronger, feeling more comfortable with myself because we're doing a great job – outside of meetings and the practice fields – our strength and conditioning coaches and the athletic trainers of putting in the work throughout the week. I feel a lot stronger than I have before – my full body – and it just gives me the confidence when I step on the field that I can go out there and make plays with my legs and with my arm and just kind of improve."
How much were you limited when you were injured?
"Honestly, not too limited I guess. OB (Bill O'Brien) and those guys just said, 'Play a little smarter and try not to take too many hits. Protect yourself in the pocket.' But, as far as my mindset, I was still out there just trying to find a way to win and play my game. I was a little limited, but as far as me – when I didn't have to – I was kind of doing my thing."
Do you like to have a game where you air it out or a game where you're 16-of-20 with five touchdowns?
"I'm either way. As long as we get the win, I'm cool with it. If we have to air it out, we can air it out. If we don't have to throw it out and be more balanced and put up points that way regardless of the situation of what I have to do for that game for us to get the win, I'm cool with."
This month you have two games in potentially, very cold environments, have you ever played in a cold, snowy game?
"I mean, nothing like the north because I'm from Georgia. At Clemson, the coldest we played was probably Boston College or in the ACC Championship in Charlotte. Then, in high school, it was kind of – it snowed, but it was not the true snow like if you played in New York. So, honestly, no, but it's not going to affect my game."
Is there anything you do to prepare to play in cold weather?
"No, I just got to put on some Icy Hot or something. Kind of warm up, or some Rock Sauce or something like that, but outside of that, no. Once I step on the field, I'm good."
Do you think about weather conditions?
"No, I just go out there with the game plan and go ball."
What do you enjoy about the preparation for a game during the week?
"Honestly, I just really enjoy the meetings. Especially with the offensive group and OB (Bill O'Brien) and all the coaching staff are going through the game plan, just the tips and reminders and what we need to do – the keys to victory. We have a little fun in there. Of course, we've been winning, so that makes it a lot more fun, but the anticipation and the energy going into a game week and prepping for – especially a division rival team is always fun. We have a little fun in there. We're just excited about that, and just go out there and practice and try to put it together."
Do you feel like the first Colts game was the catalyst of the winning streak?
"Oh, for sure. The first few games were some ups and downs, and some big bumps and bruises, but that game of being at the highs of high, and being up 28-10 or 28-14, and then letting them come back and being down in overtime and pulling through the adversity, it kind of slingshot us to where we are now. That was one game where we went through all types of phases and situations that kind of put us through this nine-game win-streak. Yeah, it was the start of everything."
What do you think needs to happen to play a 'complete' game?
"For us to be 100 percent on third down, 100 percent in the redzone, no turnovers, defense gets turnovers, be 100 percent on third down, special teams get turnovers. That's pretty much it - a complete game - that's it. Us win of course, so, if we do all that, that's the complete game. I mean, we'll never be at that point. I mean, I wouldn't say never, but it's very, very hard to be perfect and a complete game. We have a high standard here in this organization and with the players and team, so even if we win a game 52-3, there's always going to be something wrong that we can correct. That's just the way we think around here."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien says you'll tell him if you don't like a play. Do you ever tell him something you want to do?
"For sure. We have a great conversation throughout the week, especially the night before the game. If I'm not comfortable with something or if it didn't look good throughout the week, we might put it on the backburner of running this play or we'd take it out. If I want a certain guy running this certain route, in this situation on the down and distance or if I want it on the right hash, left hash, we have all those conversations. We're very, very detailed on the game plan. So, once we get out there on Sunday, we're comfortable with it and we can go out there and execute."
Can you talk about your relationship with QB Brandon Weeden?
"Brandon is like a big brother to me. As a quarterback in the meeting rooms, when I first got here last year, him and Tom (Savage) were like big bros. He helped me learn the system, and then, him coming back in the offseason and being with me all this year, he just made me more relaxed in the meeting rooms and out there on the field because he's out there watching and seeing – another set of eyes for me. We're sitting on the sideline, we're communicating. If he has any suggestions, he always relays it to me and same vice versa. If I'm messing up on something, he knows me better than anyone else in this offense. He's a big bro and I'm glad and very comfortable with him in that meeting room with us."
Did you watch Colts QB Andrew Luck in college? What do you think about his performance this season?
"He's one of the best to ever do it. He has the ultimate competitiveness in the game. He never thinks the play is over, he's going to air it out, he can run, he's smart, he's a great leader and you never really see him frustrated. He's always smiling and he's always enjoying the game. I've been watching him ever since I got to college, and he's just a guy that for any quarterback, young quarterback especially in the league or outside the league, he's a guy to really watch and look at."
What are the challenges of blocking out the noise during the season?
"I don't know. For me, I guess I just don't pay attention to it at all. The noise is not going to win you games on Sunday. It's kind of just focusing on the main thing, and stick to the basics, and stick to what got you here and that's trusting the process, trusting the grind and the hustle that you put in throughout the week to be able to get to Sunday and get those wins."
Noise is usually referring to media and fans, but how do you handle the noise from your family and friends?
"Yeah, the noise is anybody outside of that locker room. For me, I think my family and friends really understand because I kind of set that stone back in high school and when I got to college, whenever I was having success, they understand where after the games, congratulate me and things like that, but, also, my buddies, we have group chats – my mom – anything I did wrong, they correct me too. They're the biggest supporters, but also the biggest coaches, too. If they see something I'm doing wrong or if I feel off, they let me know it."
Are you determined to score touchdowns in the redzone?
"For sure. When we get in that red zone, we want to score points. We want to score touchdowns, and of course, we want to get field goals, but as an offense, especially as a quarterback who loves to put up a lot of touchdowns, it's kind of frustrating at times. I guess it depends on how the game is going. If we need to settle for a field goal, it's always good to get points, but at the end of the day on offense, we want to score touchdowns and be able to celebrate and get our pictures and things like that too."
DE J.J. WATT
What's been the key to slowing down opposing running backs this season?
"Emphasis on it. Stopping the run is always an emphasis for our defense and it's a big key to our game every week. We have to go out there and everybody do their job, know their assignment, play good football and just guys knowing where to be, what to do and tackling."
Does the strategy of defending the run change depending on the type of running back you're going against?
"A little bit. A little bit week-to-week, but it's much more about doing your job and everybody just knowing where they're supposed to be, being in the right spot and making the tackle. If you do your assignments and you play the way you're supposed to play, it really shouldn't matter who's back there. Obviously, there are some great running backs in the league and you have to change it up a little bit here and there, but for the most part you just have to make sure you do your job."
What are the challenges of getting to Colts QB Andrew Luck given the success of their offensive line?
"I think he's been doing a great job. He gets the ball out of his hands quick. He knows where to go with it to get it out of there. He can also move around a bit. So, he's done a good job and they've done a good job with their scheme and protecting him and things like that. You just have to find a way to put him in tough situations, try to make him hold the ball and get to him. But, they've done a really good job at it. So, it's obviously not easy, that's for sure."
What do you think of Colts QB Andrew Luck?
"He's a great player. He's always been a great player. Obviously, you can see him getting stronger week by week as you would expect coming off of what he's come off of and being able to build off of it and grow. He's a great player. He's smart, he's tough, he can run, he can throw. He's a great competitor, so it's always a good challenge to play against him and I always look forward to it. It's always a great battle."
How much do you feel like the win in Indianapolis in Week 4 helped propel the team to where it is now?
"When you look back on it, obviously it was a wild game. A lot of things happened in it, but we needed one to get started. That was the one to get us started on this streak. Bit of an unorthodox way to get it, but we got it. So, here we are."
Does the Week 4 game feel like a really long time ago?
"It does. It was a long time ago, but I guess it wasn't really that long ago. It's crazy what transpired before that, what transpired after that. I'm just happy we got a win. It's a tough place to win."
What stands out to you about the addition of S Tyrann Mathieu and S Justin Reid?
"They've been doing a great job back there. Both of those guys have done a great job. I think the DBs in general have been doing a great job. As a pass rusher up front, it makes your job a lot easier when you know the guys in the back end are doing unbelievable work and making plays back there. I said it in the postgame, but that play by Justin was just a gigantic play in the game. To be able to force a fumble there when everybody pretty much – you see a guy going towards the end zone, you're like, 'Alright, he's going.' Then, he comes out of nowhere and makes the play. Then, you've got Ty out there, Kareem (Jackson), J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) – we've got guys all over the place making plays. When you're on a defense like that with playmakers all over, especially at DB, which in my opinion – besides quarterback – is the toughest position to play in the league with the rules the way they are and everything, those guys do a great job and I'm lucky to have a bunch of great DBs back there. That's for sure."
Were you happier for Chargers FB Derek Watt or sadder for Steelers OLB T.J. Watt that the Chargers won on Sunday?
"I don't know. I was happy for Derek, obviously. It was a wild game. It was a wild game to watch. Obviously, a couple of massive – I'm still trying to figure out how that guy wasn't offsides, false start – but, it was a wild game. It was fun to watch. It was weird to watch. I talked to my parents yesterday about it, and I shared their feeling where you literally didn't know what to root for. I didn't know, 'OK, do I want the Steelers to go down and score? Do I want the Chargers to come back?' It was a weird feeling, but it was really cool. To see them after the game and to see them exchange jerseys and the pictures, it was pretty cool."
How does this season compare to the 12-win season in 2012 in terms of fan excitement and the buzz around Houston?
"I think they're different for sure. I can't really put a finger on how or why. They're different. 2011 was when we won our first playoff game, obviously, and the first division so people were extremely excited about that. I think there's a certain buzz and excitement and energy that came with that. I think this is different. I don't know why it's different, but it's different. I can only speak to inside the locker room. I think that inside this locker room, we have a bunch of guys who go to work every single day, take it one day at a time and are just really focused on the task at hand each day. I think that it's a great mentality. I think it's what's led us to winning nine in a row, and I think that we have a bunch of really good guys who do a lot of good work to get to Sunday and find a way to win."
Can you look back at previous seasons and make adjustments to finish the season off stronger than you have in those previous years?
"I just want to win on Sunday. I just want to go out there and win on Sunday. I think it's the one-day-at-a-time mentality. I think it's when you start to look ahead or you start to get overly excited about accomplishments that, not don't mean anything, but winning nine in a row, winning a division, you take things one day at a time. I think that's the biggest mentality I've taken away from it all is just control what you can control. If you try to start controlling things that you can't control, then you can get in trouble."
Can you look back and learn from previous seasons?
"Yeah, you can always look back and learn. Of course. That's what I've learned is control what you can control. Don't look ahead. I think back when we won the division back in 2011 or 2012, it was very exciting. Obviously, it was the first time it had ever been done here and I think it was a really big deal. I think that's what I would say is different now than then is that we're just working one day at a time. We're just trying to win one day at a time and we're not trying to set some crazy brand new franchise thing. You're just trying to win a game."
Is easier said than done to only focus on the next game when everyone's talking about how great you are?
"When I'm at the point – I've been through a lot in my career, in different ways, with people telling you how great you are, people telling you how bad you are. You go through a whole bunch of different things in your career. For me, personally, it's easy to – I don't care. I don't care what people say. You just don't. So, obviously, you have to convey that message to the young guys, and the leadership of this team has done a great job. We have a bunch of guys in the locker room that do a great job of making sure our team knows that it's one day at a time, it's just go out there and do your work and everything else will fall into place. You can't listen to anything outside of the building because when we were 0-3 they were saying we were done and when you're 9-3 they're saying either you haven't beaten anybody or you're going to be the greatest team in the world. So, you can take everything with a grain of salt because if we listen to anybody at any other point in the season, we'd be in a different spot. We're just going to do what we do and play football."
Without looking ahead, do you still look around at what other teams around you are doing to see how it affects you in the standings?
"Not really. I mean, I think there's a little bit of that but I think, for the most part, it's just control what you can control. There's really no point in worrying about anything else, if you think about it. I can't control the outcome of any other game. I can't help another team or hurt another team. All I can do is sit here, and all we can do as a team is sit here and be the best we can be. If we go out there and take care of our business, how everything else falls is just how it falls. One of the biggest things I've learned throughout my career is control what you can control."
How do you keep up with the Hurricane Harvey victims whose lives are being rebuilt with the help of the funds you raised last year?
"One of the things I'm most fortunate for is a ton of great people have helped me out throughout the process. I have great organizations that have taken over and handled that situation, great people around me that have helped handle it, and then, obviously, I get updates in my email all the time from them and I meet people literally on the street walking around that tell me their stories and how it affected them. But, it's something that will never leave me for the rest of my life, and obviously this city. There's going to be people that are recovering and dealing with issues from Hurricane Harvey for the rest of their lives. It's extremely difficult but it's also extremely uplifting to watch people's lives be rebuilt and to watch what they become out of that tough situation."
How did you initially follow the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and what was it that you saw that moved you to conduct the fundraiser?
"In the very beginning, it was on TV – it was everywhere. It was social media and then it was private communications. I was literally in contact with hundreds of different organizations, agencies, people, making everything happen. It was a chaotic time back then and there was a lot going on. It was really crazy. Obviously we ended up making something out of it that none of that none of us ever expected to make out of it. I'm still forever grateful and thankful to everybody who helped and all the people we were able to help because of it. Like I said, it changed my life and my outlook on things forever and I think there's a lot of people whose lives have been changed by that money and what were able to do with it as well."
Are you rooting for Rams DT Aaron Donald to break the sack record?
"Yeah, I'm all for it. I love watching good defense. I love watching him. He's having a hell of a year. He's an unbelievable player and I love watching great defense. I love watching, especially defensive line, obviously, so it's been a lot of fun to watch what he's been able to accomplish and how well he plays the position."
Are you trying to catch Rams DT Aaron Donald in sacks this year?
"It doesn't matter. I'm just trying to win football games. We're nine in a row. I'm OK with that. His team is doing pretty well themselves, so I'm not really too worried about that."
As a Wisconsin native, are you looking forward to cold-weather games in New York and Philadelphia coming up?
"I don't know about looking forward to, but I think I'm well equipped to handle it. I enjoy a little bit of weather in the games. I mean, I don't mind 72 and sunny in here every single week but I think I can handle it and I think it'll be a good challenge for us. I like crispy air. I like when there's a little crisp in the air so I'm looking forward to that."
What's your theory as to why so many players, including yourself, have sported The Office attire this year?
"It's one of the best shows of all-time. It's a phenomenal show. Hilarious. They keep teasing this comeback. I don't know if everybody else is seeing the same signs I'm seeing but if anybody out there is listening, we would be pretty appreciative of a comeback."
Are you re-watching The Office right now?
"I'm on, like, round five through it. Me and K (Kealia Ohai) watch it pretty much almost an episode a day. So, we've been watching The Office, we've been watching Friday Night Lights lately. We run a couple shows back but The Office is a classic."
How much The Office attire do you own? You've worn a couple this season.
"There may be more. I'm just trying not to overdo it. But I have quite a few in the closet."
How is your knee?
"It's doing well. It's doing well. It's in week whatever of the season. Last week it just needed a little bit of rest but it's doing well. It's having a good day today."
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS HEAD COACH FRANK REICH
What are your thoughts on DE J.J. Watt's performance this season? Does it surprise you at all since he is coming back from an injury?
"Not really. I mean, that's what elite players do that have those special qualities physically and mentally. [He's] just proven that over a long time. So, certainly all the way back playing at a consistently high level and doing what he does best."
What is the biggest challenge facing WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"He makes all the plays. He's a great route-runner, he's instinctive, you can tell he understands the spacing and the concept of the route. Then, he has that unique ability to make all the plays, has elite ball skills. Some receivers just have that knack of making the play when it counts and he's consistently done that."
When you watch the Texans on tape, how have you seen them improve since Week 4?
"Yeah, their defense, as far as watching them defensively, it's just playing at a really high-level as is evidenced by ranked in the top-10 and top-five in so many categories, defensively. Getting a lot of pressure on the passer, doing a great job against the run, have a really good blitz package, just a complete defense."
What goes into the decision to go for it on fourth down?
"There's a lot that goes into it. We have all the tools that inform those decisions, but we're not robotic in those decisions. It's context and how the flow of the game. Ultimately, it comes down to trusting our players, trusting the fact that we're going to get it done and execute when it matters the most."
Do you think the duo of DE J.J. Watt and DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney is one of the toughest duos you'll face all season?
"Yeah, they're definitely one of the tougher duos that you face. But then, their whole defensive front, we feel, is very good, but they're certainly two elite pass rushers that present a challenge. So, you certainly have to game plan against that."