ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
How much of your game plan to stop the run changes depending on the talent of a running back?
"I think it changes a little bit more on the type of runs that they're trying to run – the blocking schemes and what they're trying to get done. If you can neutralize the blocking scheme and get enough guys to the ball, then you can stop the runner. It's based on the blocking schemes and the type of runs that we're going to see."
Why do coaches preach run the ball and stop the run, rather than stop the 300-yard passing game?
"Well, I think with the running game, you demoralize an opponent. If you can run the ball, particularly when they know that you're going to run it, and you can still run it and gain yards you kind of demoralize them. You wear teams down with the running game. Likewise, on defense, if we can stop the run, that helps our attitude, helps us get off the field if we can stop them on third down and keep us rested and in a good frame of mind when we go back out there. So, a lot of times those 300-yard games in the passing game, they come on one or two plays. But, generally, when you run the ball, you're running it 20 to 25 times if you're going to gain over 100 yards. I think that momentum demoralizing a team and things like that impact that."
How do you attack a quarterback when facing an offensive line that's had the kind of success that the Colts have had this season and a quarterback that can extend plays like Colts QB Andrew Luck?
"Well, that makes it more difficult, particularly when the quarterback can extend the plays, keep the play alive and let those receivers uncover and they're able to catch the ball down the field. Basically, you try not to let him escape and extend the play. If you can do that and make him deliver the ball from the pocket or disrupt him in the pocket so that you destroy timing, that becomes important."
How does it affect your thinking as a defense when facing a good offensive line?
"We have to play them. So, you look at what they're doing and how they're able to protect the quarterback and then see if we can chip away at it to find a little weakness and maybe we can get a guy in there and get a sack. Then, I think if you can get a sack, you get back into that mentality thing again. You impact the mentality of your opponent."
What's going to be the key to not letting Colts WR T.Y. Hilton go off?
"I might have to triple-team the guy. I know that impacts everywhere else, but that way he will not get to go off."
S Tyrann Mathieu said he was disappointed in the number of big plays he surrendered in Week 4 against the Colts. How much of a point of emphasis is limiting the big plays this week?
"Well, we were a different team the first time we played them. We showed a lot of grit to be able to go into overtime and beat them in overtime at their place. Hopefully, because we're a better team, it won't be as difficult to win the game. It's going to be a difficult game because of who they are and what's at stake for them. They're going to come in here ready to play and they're going to give us their best shot. We have to give them our best shot, but what happened in the past is in the past. But, you can learn from it. I think that's what Tyrann's talking about – learning from some of the mistakes we made in the first game that allowed them to throw for 467 yards, allowed them four touchdowns, allowed T.Y. (Hilton) to have 115 yards. So, we need to cut back on that considerably to give ourselves the best chance to win the game."
What makes S Justin Reid a good tackler?
"Well, he has a little knack for it. He's got some strength, he's got some speed, he's got some flexibility. Then, also, you have to run good angles and have to be confident in getting a guy and be able to get a piece of him and get him down. So, he kind of does all of that."
Is there an adjustment to be made in regards to tackling when transitioning from college to the NFL?
"Some guys, you can transfer it immediately depending on their ability. Some guys have to work at it to get better. Justin (Reid) is one of those that he has a lot of the qualities that allow him to make tackles. So, that helps."
Why has the defense improved against the run?
"Well, we work on it, we emphasize it and when you're successful at something, the players take a little pride in it. I think that that's happened with this group and our ability to stop the run."
How much more do the Colts do on offense now than they did earlier this season?
"I think that they're doing things better. When you look at it, they're doing things better. They're better at protecting the quarterback. I think the quarterback is better because when we first played them, there were some question about him being able to throw the ball down the field. Well, he's throwing the ball down the field, now, with success. I think they're doing what they do better."
It seems as if the Colts have incorporated more of what Head Coach Frank Reich wants to do offensively.
"They've had time to work together and they've gotten better at it."
Did S Justin Reid's football IQ allow you to start him differently than you would with most rookies?
"I think you have to discover that because rookies are rookies. They all make rookie mistakes. Then, how quickly they progress is the thing that you determine as you go through training camp, the offseason and the preseason. Then, you begin to see or feel that a guy has made progress and he can handle this and he can handle that. Then, you put him in positions to maybe do a little bit more."
How much does the secondary have to do with the defense slowing down opposing running attacks?
"Well, they have to because they're part of the run fits. They are part of the run fits and they have to come up and tackle – safeties and corners. So, when you get guys that will do that, that helps the running game because hopefully we can get them – if the ball gets to them, it will be clean without blockers in front of them. If there are blockers in front of them, it's a little bit more difficult. The guy has to go through the blocker to try to get to the runner. We've been able to – when the ball gets out there – it's been pretty clean. Then, we have to tackle. Early on, we were missing tackles. If you miss a tackle on the edge, a guy is going to gain 15 easy."
What's been the key to not allowing long runs this season?
"Everybody fitting where they're supposed to fit in the run, everybody getting off blocks and getting to the football and having guys around so that if one guy misses the tackle, the second guy is there, the third guy is there. That's what you have to do to keep long runs down."
What do you expect to see from RB Marlon Mack as opposed to the first game against the Colts where the defense shut down the run?
"Hopefully we can shut it down again, but Mack is looking better on the tape that I'm looking at. He's making guys miss, he's finding space in the defenses that he has faced and if we provide him space, he's going to gain yards. We have to take away the space, and then we have to get guys to the ball – more than one – to tackle him."
What makes a good redzone defense?
"I think the same thing that makes a good defense in general. Guys have to be able to rush the quarterback, contain the quarterback and you have to be able to cover the receivers and you have to have an understanding that things happen quicker in the redzone than they do out in the field. So, you have to be ready for the ball coming out quick and the receivers uncovering because they are not going to stay in one place. They're going to move and the quarterback knows that they're moving. If he has time, they'll be able to uncover and end up scoring touchdowns."
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
Can you tell that the last two games QB Deshaun Watson is healthier?
"It's one of those things with quarterbacks, the more you play the more comfortable you get, the more comfortable with the system, I think your preparation gets better, you figure out the film study that's needed and the extra work that's needed. Therefore, it makes it a little bit clearer, things are clearer, the picture's clearer when the ball's snapped. I think all those things translate into being more comfortable, more playing time, but I would expect it to keep continuing that way with the way this guy works."
Do you think QB Deshaun Watson's comfort level is more mental than physical?
"I think it's probably both. I think the farther you get away from an injury, the more confident you get in that, the better you feel. So, I think it's a combination I would guess."
QB Deshaun Watson seems more comfortable in the pocket.
"I think from the start he's always had a presence about him in the pocket. He's not been a 'first progression take off and run' type of guy. He's just not that quarterback. Again, I think he's gotten better with it. More experience is going to mean that he's going to hang in there and get through progressions, which we talk about all the time. OB (Bill O'Brien) and I are always talking to him about, 'Hey, this is the progression of this play, and let's stay in there and make the right choices.' And, I think, as I always say, he's receptive to coaching. He listens and he wants to be better. So, those things show up."
How much of your job is to help manage QB Deshaun Watson's mentality during the game?
"I think, again, there'd be some general reminders at times, you know after a good play and a bad play, you're always talking to your players, certainly the quarterback position's one of them. But, you're always talking about your players like – the good stuff, 'Hey, let's leave it behind and move onto the next because we've got to keep playing and finish this game.' And the bad stuff, 'Learn from it, don't do it again and let's move on and put it away.' So, it's always part of your job as a coach to relay that to your player during the game."
How do you evaluate the offense's performance in the redzone over the last several weeks?
"I mean, I think it's something that we're aware of and we're always working on. OB (Bill O'Brien) is very diligent about getting extra practice time down there and really spending time on the game plan and understanding that we need touchdowns to get to where we want to go here. So, I think we're always striving to be better in the redzone. That will always continue. We do it in the offseason, we study it, we do it in OTA's obviously, put the work in there. It's a process that continues all the time. [We're] always looking to score touchdowns down there."
Do you think WR Demaryius Thomas can be a weapon in the redzone given his size and experience?
"He's a definite weapon down there. He's obviously seen a lot and performed down in that area where things happen a little bit faster and decisions have to be made faster. DT's a vet who's seen a lot of different defensive schemes and things like that. So, he's definitely a weapon out there in that area – all areas of the field – but down there, too, for sure."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What's the mindset when you're going up against an offensive line that has been on a historic run like the Colts have?
"Hopefully we can get them to give up sacks. We've been getting a few sacks and a few turnovers the last couple of games and have a good turnover ratio. Hopefully we can go out here and cause a lot of forced fumbles and Andrew Luck can throw some picks. Even if he's not getting sacked, hopefully he's throwing it to – it's part of the game plan, just putting pressure on him, making him throw a few or sack him. That's every week."
How do you make Colts QB Andrew Luck uncomfortable?
"First, stop the run. First things first is stop the run, make him have to throw the ball more and put it in his hands, pressure that the pocket, put the pressure in that pocket and he'll get uncomfortable, get him rattled a little bit, start hitting him. When you start getting hit, you get uncomfortable."
Do you feel like the Week 4 matchup against the Colts was a turning point in the season?
"That's the first team we beat. Of course, you just have to get one game. It's hard to win in this league. We got one game and win against them and the ball started rolling. It's rolling now. We've just got to keep it going. The ball is rolling, so we just have to keep it going."
Do you feel like this team is good at just focusing on one game at a time?
"Oh yeah, for sure. It's always the next game and being locked in on that one game. We don't ever look past our opponent. Every team in this league is good, has great players. Everybody was drafted. There's a lot of good teams in this league. You don't look past any opponent. Andrew Luck and them are a good team. We've got to prepare well. They're in our division, so it's going to be a dogfight."
Can you appreciate setting a franchise record with nine consecutive wins?
"It's a small accomplishment. Like I said, we still haven't won the division with winning nine in a row. We don't have a playoff spot. Nothing right now locked up, so it's a small accomplishment. Hopefully, it will lead to bigger things for us and keep this team bonded together. Right now we're having a good time and playing well together. Hopefully it will lead to more wins."
If the Titans lose tonight, you will have a chance to clinch the AFC South on Sunday.
"We don't care about nothing that the Titans have going on. All we have to do is win this game and we'll clinch. We just need to win out. We don't have to worry about clinching anything."
What do you think about the possibility of clinching the AFC South on Sunday?
"It's big, but like I said, we still have to turn around and play the Jets, Eagles and Jags. We're playing for much more than just the division right now. We're trying to play for first, second and third seed – whatever's ahead of us right now. We have a lot of games left. Just try to win them all."
You've had a lot of success against the Colts. Do you like the matchup of going up against their offensive line?
"Of course. It's the division. You have to know your division guys, the guys in your division. I'm sure they know me, too. I know those guys pretty well, but it will be a hard-fought game and we just have to come to play."
Do you notice that some teams know things about you and play you differently than other teams?
"Oh yeah, in the division, a lot of guys know me. Some guys play me a little different. They play a little bit different when I play them, but in the division, it's a little rough. You play a guy twice a year, you start to notice them a lot more. I'm sure they have something going on over there for this week, but we've got something going, too."
Is there a lot of trash talk between the Colts and you?
"No, we don't talk a lot of trash. We talk with our pads. That's it. I might talk a little trash on the field. That's just me."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What do you think about the possibility of clinching the AFC South on Sunday if Jacksonville beats Tennessee tonight?
"It's a possibility, but we have to go out and handle business. The Colts are a good team. They gave us a hard fight last time. For us, it's just about going out there and handling business and not worrying about who else wins or who else loses."
Do you think the Week 4 win at Indianapolis helped the Texans grow as a team?
"I know it was big for us to get a win, for this team to learn how it feels to win. A lot of these guys hadn't won, hadn't played in the NFL, so it was a lot of people's first NFL win. It gave a lot of people confidence."
Can you appreciate the gravity of the nine-game winning streak?
"Oh yeah, of course we can. Winning one game isn't easy. To win nine in a row, that's hard to do, especially against another NFL team. Everybody's getting paid like we're getting paid, so you can't take anything for granted. We're definitely not overlooking what we accomplished, but we know that's not all we want to accomplish. It's a bittersweet feeling, honestly, because we know there's still more out there for us."
How hard is the mental aspect of making sure you're prepared each week despite the winning streak?
"OB (Bill O'Brien) does a great job of making sure everybody knows what's ahead of us and not settling for the moment now. Like he says, don't take the bait. Everybody's telling us we're great. Don't listen to that because only a couple of people, maybe one person, has won a Super Bowl on this team. So, nobody really knows what it feels like to win the ultimate goal."
Are you ever tired of getting asked if you're the best wide receiver in the NFL?
"Yes, of course."
How have the Colts defense looked over the course of your career in Houston?
"They always keep a lot of young talent that can make plays like the linebacker from South Carolina State. Nobody really heard about him, probably, coming out in the draft, but the Colts found a way to use him. He's one of the best. He has the most tackles in the NFL. So, since I've been here, playing against them for six years, they always find young talent that can make plays."
What does RB D'Onta Foreman add to this offense?
"Toughness. He's a big back. He can go get one yard, two yards, but we haven't seen him play in a while. That's my boy. I'm hard on him, but it's what you can do, not what you did in the past."
In what way are you hard on RB D'Onta Foreman?
"Just making sure his head's where it needs to be after missing a season of football. He loves football, he wants to play, but just keeping him focused and hungry."
Ray Lewis said the way you catch footballs is like an art. How does a comment like that sit with you?
"That's very true. There's a lot that goes into it. That's how I feel like it is. It's an art. There's more to it than just going down there and catching the football. There's a lot of factors that goes on before that, but it's for sure an art. Repetition makes perfect."
Michael Irvin said body control is the key asset for a wide receiver and he thinks you have the best body control of anyone in the NFL. What do you think about that?
"That's great coming from a guy like that who's a Hall of Fame receiver. For him to critique my game and say good things like that, it means a lot to me, but I know I have a lot to work on, so I can't just be happy with having the best body control."
What is it about body control that is so critical for a wide receiver?
"It's big. Body control is everything, especially once you're in the air. You have to know where out of bounds is, where the defender is, positioning, make the catch. But, it takes a lot of hard work in the offseason as well to maintain that."
What have you been seeing in the redzone this season?
"I've been seeing double coverage in the redzone basically the whole season – the corner and the safety. Basically mostly everyone has done that."
What can you do when facing double coverage in the redzone?
"Trust my teammates that are one-on-one to make a play and not force it to me."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
What makes Colts WR T.Y. Hilton so difficult to defend?
"Well, he has a pretty good quarterback. The guy can run pretty much any route, and I think they're doing a great job of really hiding him – certain formations. He's getting a lot of targets, so it's a big challenge for the cornerbacks, definitely big challenge for the safeties to really identify him within every formation and try to stop him."
What makes S Justin Reid such a good tackler?
"Well, I think any defensive back, they want to consider themselves a great tackler, you have to be willing to tackle, you have to have that one-two. I think, it's been fun, not only with Justin, but I think a lot of different guys in our secondary have really been trying to tackle, wanting to tackle and I think teams have been able to see that."
Is there much of an adjustment when it comes to the transition to tackling in the NFL?
"Yeah, I think every system has its challenges, whether you're a rookie or a veteran. I think the most important thing is to really control what you can control – effort, attitude, energy, passion, like I said, you want to. I think the young boy resembles all those things."
What do you see from Colts TE Eric Ebron as a matchup?
"He's been featured a lot more. I think people kind of got a bad perception from him in Detroit, but the kid was a top-10 pick. He can play tight end. He's real fluid within his routes, he's definitely athletic, and like I said, they've been featuring him a lot, trying to get him the ball. I think we've all been able to see what kind of athlete he really is."
What do you guys feel like you can do differently to limit Colts QB Andrew Luck's passing yards?
"You hope that they run the ball more. I think he threw the ball maybe 60 times in our game. So, we definitely have to do a better job of really disrupting him in the pocket, and then in the back end, I don't think we made enough plays. Me, personally, I didn't play my best game against those guys, so I'm going to be real excited to see them Sunday. I'm looking forward to it."
What is it like as a secondary when a team is throwing the ball 60 times?
"It's frustrating, obviously. We did a real poor job on third down the first time we played these guys. I think they were at 60 percent on third down. So, they constantly were extending drives. It makes it tough on the defense, makes you tired. I think we need to do a great job, like I said, disrupting him in the pocket and then us in the back end, we got to do a great job of doing what we've been doing the last couple weeks, really creating turnovers, being disruptive."
After your first game against the Colts, were you already thinking about the next time you would face them?
"Yeah, without a doubt. Me and my coaches were laughing about it the other day. This game has been on my mind since we've played these guys. Like I said, I didn't play my best game. Felt like we gave up too many yards on defense. We weren't really competing how we wanted to, weren't really challenging those guys how we wanted to. So, it's going to be a big emphasis, especially on the secondary this week, just trying to do what we've been doing the past couple weeks, not do anything special, but to remember how it went the last time around."