HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
How much improvement have you seen in the Colts offensive line between Week 4 and now?
“I would just tell you – I think that’s a really good question – but I would just tell you they’re good. So, relative to improvement and all of that – I think when you look at their offensive line with (Anthony) Castonzo and Quenton (Nelson) – I’ve known Quenton, I recruited him at Penn State. Ryan Kelly. They’ve got guys that are very athletic, very strong, very good offensive line that plays well together. So, it’s a big challenge for us.”
Do you see Colts QB Andrew Luck getting rid of the ball quicker under Head Coach Frank Reich than in years before?
“Well, they do some different things. I think there are some schemes where, yeah, the ball’s coming out a little quicker. Then, other schemes where there’s a little bit more protection and not as many guys in the route where the ball can be held a little bit longer. They mix and match. Frank does a great job. It’s hard to get a beat on what Frank’s doing. He’s a really good play-caller, and they kind of do it all. They run screens, max-protect, throw it down the field, quick game, run the ball, run the ball with a bunch of different schemes – pull schemes, trap schemes, zone schemes. They basically do it all.”
How much confidence to you have as a play-caller late in games that QB Deshaun Watson is going to make the right decision and make things happen?
“Great confidence. We talk about it a lot during the week, especially as the week goes on. The way that we kind of game plan is we kind of build it as the week goes on. Especially in a short week, we don’t have it down in stone, yet. As the week goes on, we’re talking about different situations. We’re going to begin to talk about third down this afternoon and then red area, two-minute, which is kind of what you’re talking about. So, when we finally hit that final meeting, which this week will be Friday night, we have a really good idea of what we want to do. It’s all about ‘we.’ It’s we. It’s he and I, with the coaching staff. We put a lot on his plate. He’s got to get us into the right plays, he has to make the correct protection call, he has to make sure the receivers and tight ends know what’s going on, the back, but we have a great deal of trust in him. As you guys have seen, he’s come up big for us in those moments.”
What is it about QB Deshaun Watson and Colts QB Andrew Luck that make them relish big moments?
“I don’t know. If you could put your finger on that and how that happens – I think it’s a combination of great genes and great mindset, complete confidence in their own ability, poise. I know with Deshaun, he’s been through so many things in his life that the football field, like I’ve said to you before, is kind of like a sanctuary for him. He loves it. He loves those moments. Some guys are born with it. Some guys, they attain it over time meaning they learn their system, they go through experiences and they get better and better. Some guys have a little bit of both. I think that there’s very few guys that can do it. I saw a commercial the other night after I got home from the game, Coach (Steve) Mariucci was on there. He said there’s like seven billion people on Earth, but only 15-20 guys that can do what you just asked. That’s pretty spot on. We’ve got one of them.”
Is it neat for you to see QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt win a division title after what they went through last season?
“When I was around in the training room during the offseason, they were together a lot. They were side-by-side. Different injuries, but kind of going through the same schedule of things. I think you’d have to ask them, but it looks like there was a bond created there. Obviously, Deshaun’s a younger player. J.J.’s been around for a long time and such a great player. I think there was a real bond there, and I think that was good for both guys. You can ask those questions of them, but that’s what it seemed like to me.”
What are your thoughts on the chemistry between QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“It’s been an interesting year. Hop has dealt with a lot of injuries. They’ve had to do a lot of work in the film room, they’ve had to do a lot – you’ll see them in the hallway or in the weight room kind of talking about how this route’s going to be run. The walkthroughs, the jogthroughs have been big for us relative to Hop. We still practice very hard, but Hop hasn’t always been able to be out there. So, I think that’s a testament to those two guys, the work that they’ve put in behind the scenes. Both guys love gameday. They have a certain chemistry on gameday. They’ve talked it out throughout the week and they know how they want to execute it on the field.”
Can QB Deshaun Watson continue to be sacked at a high rate and be successful in the playoffs?
“No, of course not. We’ve got to do a better job. We’re working on that. We’re working very hard on that. We don’t want him to take unnecessary hits. There are going to be hits that he takes, just like every quarterback in the league, but we’ve got to do a better job of eliminating the unnecessary ones, whether it’s a protection mistake, a protection technique or him maybe getting rid of the ball a little bit quicker. Whatever it is, we’ve all got to be better there this week, no doubt.”
How much has your offense had to change from Week 1 to where it is now?
“A lot. It’s changed a lot. There’s no doubt. That has a lot to do with a number of different things. You’re figuring out your team early on. You’d like to have your team figured out right away in Week 1, but I think it’s hard to do that relative to how we do things. We’ve got to get better at that moving forward here in future years, but it’s hard. We had guys coming off of injury, different things we were working out coaching-wise. Then, we had some offensive line injuries there early on. So, our offense has evolved into where it is now. I think our guys have a good feel for it, what we want to do. Certainly it’s not close to perfection, but we have an idea of how we want to do things on a week-to-week basis. It changes week-to-week but we have a foundation, and I think that’s pretty good for right now.”
What are your thoughts on Colts LB Darius Leonard?
“We had him in the Senior Bowl. Could tell right away (he) loves football, really good athlete. I can particularly remember him in a man-to-man drill at the Senior Bowl where he did an excellent job covering backs. We had some good backs in that game – the kid from San Diego State (Rashaad Penny) and some other guys. He did a real good job. You could tell he was going to be a good player. He’s come in and he’s played well right from the get-go. He’s done a good job. He’s an active player, good blitzer, good in man coverage. I think at one point – I don’t know if he still does, but he’s one of the leading, if not the leading tackler in the league. He’s had a good year, no doubt about it.”
In an ideal world, would you have wanted QB Deshaun Watson to run more designed runs or is that part of the evolution of the offense?
“I think that’s part of the evolution. Part of that is in game plan-mode of – without getting to into the weeds with it with you guys – I think some of that’s who we’re playing, how we think they’re going to play it. Some teams, when you do that, they’re just going to make you give the ball. It’s a dive, so you might as well just go ahead and block the guy. Then, there’s other teams that you’re not sure how they’re going to play it so it might be pretty good. Then, there’s other teams where you just say, ‘I really don’t want that guy hitting our guy.’ There’s a lot that goes into the game plan aspect of it. Relative to Week 1 to where we are now, I think it’s always been a part of our system. It’s just who we play, how we feel how effective it’s going to be.”
Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be playing a team for a third time this season?
“I don’t think it’s either one. I think it’s just the way the NFL is. Only 12 teams make it and you’re bound to play somebody that you’ve already played. It’s just the way it is. They’ve got a great team. I’ve seen some of the stats that we work on with our analytics people. We’re very evenly matched. We’re very evenly matched teams. Two tough teams, two teams that have come back from poor records – 1-5, 0-3 – two, I think, really good coaching staffs and teams with some excellent players. It is what it is. We know there are certain things that they’re going to do. They know that there’s certain things that we’re going to do, and then it comes down to adjusting during the game and being – these games come down, a lot of times, I told the team this morning, it’s about penalties, it’s about turnovers, it’s about field position. That’s really what it comes down to in games like this.”
How much pride do you take in being ranked second in the NFL in turnover differential?
“A lot. I think in our history, I remember in ’14 we were pretty high up there, too, in the top-5 and we had a winning record. I think that does have a lot to do with winning and losing. If you can take care of the football, if you can really possess the ball at the end of every play and you can take the ball away with your defense and your coverage units on special teams, you’ve got a real shot to win games. I think that’s one of the things we’ve done a really good job of this year.”
What do you remember about recruiting Colts G Quenton Nelson in high school? Does he play like a rookie now?
“No, he’s a great player. He was a guy out of New Jersey. When I went to Penn State, we had all of the stuff going on, which has been well-documented, but the NCAA said we couldn’t go to a bowl and all that BS, but we thought we had a real shot at him. He’s a great kid, great guy. I remember going to his high school, I remember meeting his parents. We had a particular assistant coach who was very close to him. When he decided to go to Notre Dame, I remember he wrote us a real nice note, which is rare in recruiting. If you know anything about recruiting, usually they just take the hat, put the hat on and say, ‘sayonara’. He wrote us a real nice letter. I think it says a lot about who he is and the type of guy he is. He’s a hell of a football player.”
QB DESHAUN WATSON
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said you can’t keep getting sacked as much as you have been in the regular season and win in the playoffs. Do you agree with that? What can you do to get sacked less?
“Just everyone get on the same page, get the ball out a little quicker, make quicker decisions, throw the ball away and try to protect myself as much as I can.”
How do you feel physically?
“I feel great. I feel really good.”
How important is it that you earned the right to host a playoff game?
“Just look at the season, starting 0-3 and then tacking on nine and winning out 10 of the last 12. It’s everything we earned. We earned the right to be here. We earned the right to do what we did Sunday and be champs in the division. But, it’s a new year, a new season. We have to start over and try to be 1-0 this week and try to continue it.”
What’s your relationship with DE J.J. Watt like? What’s it like to be in the playoffs with him after rehabbing together last season?
“I mean me and J.J., we’re brothers. We became really close over our rehab process this past offseason. And just being able to be on the same page. Like he told me back then, he’s going to be that leader on that defense, and lead that whole troop, that whole squad and I’m going to do the same for the offense and we’re going to bring this whole team up. We knew the work we had to put in to be able to come back and play a full season and try to get the team to this position, to have a chance. So, our relationship is close. It’s real great. We understand each other and we understand the hard work that goes in to trying to be successful.”
When you hugged DE J.J. Watt after the game on Sunday, was that a nice moment after everything you’d been through and the culmination of all of your hard work?
“For sure. We usually do that after every game. He comes and finds me when I am doing the media stuff or talking to somebody, or I go find him, or we meet up in the locker room. But, I guess there was a little bit more because we clinched the division, AFC South champs. We finished a full season together, so it was a special moment.”
You seem to embrace the big stage like the one you face this Saturday.
“I mean, It’s just another opportunity for myself and this whole team to be able to show what we’ve got and put in the work. I’ve played in a lot of big games before, you know, in college and stuff, but you can’t really pit college playoffs with the NFL. This is the hardest business, top notch. It’s a whole new season, a whole new speed of game. So it’s going to be new for me, of course, because it’s my first one. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Every play counts. Every moment counts. You can’t slip up. You have to go out there and be able to focus and be locked in at every moment.”
What are some keys to make a big game just like another day at the office?
“Just keep the routine. Don’t change what got us here. Continue to press forward. Continue to put in the extra work. Especially, take care of the body. You know, January football, we’ve been going at it for a while now, so, mentally and physically are the two most important things. Make sure we are all on the same page and try to put in a little bit more extra time.”
What went through your mind when you got the ball back in overtime against the Colts in Week 4?
“I thought we were going to win it regardless of the situation. If they were going to punt it, we had time on the clock. Whenever time is on the clock and the ball is in my hands or in our hands on offense, even when the defense is out there, we’re a confident bunch. We never go out there thinking we are going to lose. So, we always kind of continue to have that juice and that mindset. So, regardless of the situation of what they would’ve done, just give us a chance and we’re going to go out there and put the game away. This just gave us a better opportunity, shorter field to hit one play for (DeAndre) Hop(kins) and kick the field goal.”
How much do you relish being on the biggest stage and having the spotlight on you?
“I don’t know. I try to treat each game the same. It’s not anything I do different. I do the same routine, the same pregame, listen to the same music, talk to the same people, eat the same food. Pretty much everything is the same. I couldn’t tell you, honestly.”
Do you get hyped up when playing on the biggest stage?
“Of course, I’m hyped up. I’m hyped up for the playoffs. I guess you could say that. I don’t think of it as anything different. Especially people that know me, people that are close to me, I have the same mentality, the same conversations, I do the same things. I guess, I don’t know, I honestly couldn’t tell you.”
Do you get butterflies before games? When do the butterflies stop for you in a game?
“I have butterflies. I have butterflies every game. The anticipation, being able to step on the field and feel the energy of the stadium. I always have butterflies. But, it’s not scared butterflies or anything, just kind of just ready to get out there and ready to get things going. I guess it depends on the play call. I could run the ball and get hit, first pass, really just the first play in general, once I step on the field and see how the game is going and feeling the energy.”
How have you been able to develop chemistry and be on the same page with WR DeAndre Hopkins when you have limited practice time together?
“It’s just the friendship, the chemistry. Just us being on the same page watching film. A lot of it is just real instincts. Kind of showing him what I see from watching film throughout the week, and then what he’s seeing and put two and two together. Then, telling him, ‘Hey, this is how I want it,’ and then kind of just feeling it out as the game goes. Sometimes, it might be shorter, sometimes it might be deeper, depending on what the defense is trying to do to him. I just have to kind of feel it out and trust my instincts and trust what he’s doing. I have a lot of trust in Hop. The stats speaks for themselves. He’s just kind of one of those guys that we’re just locked in on the same page regardless of how much practice time and reps we get throughout the week.”
Do you think your positive outlook helps you conduct game-winning drives?
“I’m always thinking positive. I never want any negative energy around me. I guess you could say my previous experience throughout my life kind of built me for moments like this. At the end of the day, Coach always tells me it’s just football. There’s real stuff that’s going on outside of that football field. At the end of the day, it’s football. It’s what you’ve been doing your whole life. Just take it one play at a time, don’t make it bigger than what it is and don’t make it less than what it is. Kind of keep that balance, keep it neutral, keep it in the middle and just go out there and prove that every play is going to be successful.”
In Philadelphia when you’re down 29-16 and you’re in the huddle, do you feel the energy, do you feel excited to have the chance to excel in that kind of situation?
“For sure. It’s a moment for us to go out there and try to flip the game. All we needed was one score. Defense was playing well. All we needed was to get on the board in some type of way. Regardless of how we get on that board and our defense is going to get the ball back for us. That’s our mentality. The energy and the pace is built off of me. Everyone is looking at me on the offense, so if I’m up and excited and encourage everyone and tell them that we are about to score on this play or this is about to be a positive play, then they are going to have that same mindset. But if I come in there kind of down and not really saying anything, and they can feel my energy not being top notch or thinking that the play is going to be successful, then the play is not going to be.”
Is it tempting to throw to WR DeAndre Hopkins on every play?
“For sure. I mean, usually he’s going to make a play happen regardless if you think he’s open. If he’s not open, he’s open. At the end of the day, kind of Hop understands, too. He’s never like, ‘Never throw it to me,’ but if he knows that he’s double he’ll be like, ‘Look for someone else’. Yeah I mean, it’s very tempting.”
Did you ever dream about playing in the NFL playoffs as a kid?
“For sure, but it honestly didn’t come until high school. Growing up as a young kid I never thought I would be in this position. I was just trying to make it out of the hood and trying to get a high school degree and try to play football as long as I can. Never really thought about being in the NFL until I got to high school and my high school coach told me that I could be special and make something out of this career. That’s when I started believing that. Ever since high school, I’ve been dreaming for moments like this, and the time is here now.”
When did you learn how wide WR DeAndre Hopkins’ catch radius is?
“I found that out quick. I found that out last year when I was throwing to him. It’s ridiculous. Really my first start in Cincinnati last year, some balls there I kind of threw high. Some stop routes. I’d come over and be like, ‘Hey, it’s my bad, I’m going to get it down,’ and he was just like, ‘No, I want it just like that. I want it high. I want it outside. I want it low,’ and he just found a way to get it.”
DE J.J. WATT
What is the key to being able to sack Colts QB Andrew Luck?
“I mean, he does a good job. Obviously, offensive line does a good job. I think, as the years went on, especially, they’ve done a great job getting the ball out of his hands quick. He makes quick reads, he’s a smart guy, he knows where he’s going with the ball, tries not to put himself in too much danger. He does a great job and like I said, those guys up front for him do a good job. They create a game plan where you don’t want him to take too many hits, which is obviously understandable.”
Do you think the Colts offensive line has made a lot of improvements from the first time you played them?
“They were pretty banged up in the first one. I know they had some injuries and stuff in the first one. So, it was different guys in there. Obviously, when you have your full starters out there, you’re going to feel a little bit better about it, I’m sure.”
What have you thought about the job Head Coach Bill O’Brien has done leading the team this year?
“I mean, obviously, you start 0-3 and you turn everything around, it’s been great. It’s not an easy situation for anybody to be in, and we found a way to navigate through it. I mean, it wasn’t – even the ones early on, like the overtimes and the Denver one with the field goal, there’s been all different ways that we’ve won and all different ways we’ve had to win by finding a way to make sure that every single week we’re ready, even after a tough start. I think he’s done a good job of that.”
Can you talk about your relationship with QB Deshaun Watson and what you went through together last season?
”Yeah, at this time last year, we were both in the training room rehabbing, and trying to get ourselves ready to go and trying to get ourselves back so that we could be here. We have a great relationship. He’s an incredible talent. He’s a great guy and I’ve been through a lot of quarterbacks here throughout my career. So, to have a guy back there who’s special and can do a lot of different things, it’s great. We talked about times like this when we were in the training room, what we wanted to accomplish and what we were working toward. So, for it to be where we are now and to have everything in front of us, it feels really good. I think that we can both look back at all the work and all the tough times that we had and be happy and proud of where we’re at now.”
When you hugged QB Deshaun Watson after the game Sunday, were you thinking about what you both have been through?
“No. I was just happy we won the division. I wanted to say great game to him and we have more work to do. That was literally all that was said. I told him I love him, he told me he loves me, we’re brothers. That’s what this team is, we’re brothers, everybody loves each other, we have a great group, we love playing together and we just want to win.”
Do you feel like your first win against Indianapolis was symbolic of this season and having to find a way to win?
“Yeah, I mean that one, we’re sitting there at 0-3 and we just kept telling ourselves, ‘All we need is one. We just have to win one game.’ We didn’t have to try and get back all three games we lost, we just needed to win one. Even in that game, we just had to find a way to win it. It was an unconventional way to win it, to say the least, but we found a way to do it. After that game, was the first tweet I sent out with ‘Find a way.’ I didn’t’ realize that they would all be kind of like that, and we’d have to find a way every time, but that’s just the way it worked out. You sit here at – finishing the season 11-5 and someday down the road they’re not going to look back and say, ‘Well, how did they get those 11?’ It’s just going to be it was 11-5 and then, what did they do after that? So, to finish the season off 11-2, it’s a great job and like I’ve said many times, I don’t care how we win, I don’t care if people like how we win, I don’t care if it looks good or not, I just want to win.”
How’s your arm?
“It’s doing OK. It will be fine by Saturday.”
Can you tell that under Head Coach Frank Reich, Colts QB Andrew Luck is getting rid of the ball quicker? How do you adjust as a pass rusher?
“Yeah, I can definitely tell he’s getting the ball out quicker. I think he’s doing a great job of it, whether it’s finding the read or the scheme is set up for that, but you have to play your game. You can’t – you have to pass rush as hard as you can. Obviously, rush and coverage always work together. So, you try and do different things, but at the end of the day, you try and get there, and if you can get your hands up, you get your hands. You just try and get there. You can’t really let it affect you, and you hope maybe he holds it for an extra second.”
The Colts run game is quite a weapon for them, how does that affect your play?
“Yeah of course it is. (Marlon) Mack is a good back, and obviously, they have an offensive line. In our first game against them, I think there were like 61 passes or something like that. You have to be able to stop the run. As defensive linemen, that’s our first job, stopping the run and trying to get the ball, then, to get after the passer. I think we’ve done a great job. I think we have a lot of guys inside who don’t get a ton of credit all the time but deserve a ton of credit, D.J. (Reader), Dunny (Brandon Dunn), Lo (Angelo Blackson), Cov (Christian Covington) all those guys. They deserve a ton of credit for the work that they do, taking on double teams and letting everybody else fly around. I have a lot of faith in those guys, a lot of trust in them and we take a lot of pride in stopping the run. We’re going to try to do that again this week.”
Aside from him physical capabilities, what are your thoughts on Colts QB Andrew Luck’s mental game?
“I love playing against Andrew. He’s a great competitor, he’s always a good guy, he’s always happy, even after a sack, I don’t know how he’s always happy, but he’s a great competitor. You can tell he loves the game. He’s very smart, he’s tough, especially early on a few years back. That guy would take hit after hit after hit and always popped back up. He’s a good player, he’s a really good player, so it’s always fun when you have good competition, especially a team we see twice a year, so I’ve seen for many years throughout my career going against him. It’s a fun battle, and it’s always fun when it’s a guy you have a ton of respect for and you just love competing with and at the end of the game, you can go over there and shake his hand and say, ‘Good game.’ I enjoy the competition. I love playing against him. I have a lot of respect for him and I’m looking forward to another matchup.”
How tough is it to defend a quarterback like Colts QB Andrew Luck who can extend plays?
“Oh, it’s tough. Obviously, it’s tough, but there’s a ton of quarterbacks now in this league that are kind of going toward that way where they can do both with their feet and with their arms. We have a lot of practice with it. You have to make sure you’re sound in your rush lanes, everybody knows their assignment, does what they’re supposed to do and just play our game and make the tackle.”
After making the playoffs as a rookie, did you think that would happen every season? Have these last few seasons made you appreciate returning to the postseason?
“Well, obviously, there were different circumstances back then. My rookie year we made the playoffs for the first time ever in program history, which has a whole different set of things that comes along with it than what we’re doing now. Then, my second year, I think we were 12-4 and we went back. Back then it was like we were really, really excited to make the playoffs and I think there was a bit of Beatlemania going on around here. Everybody’s so jacked up, and it was awesome. Trust me, I loved every single second of it. It was incredible. I had a blast. I’m not saying the teams are different, I think it’s just a different feeling. It’s just a different feeling around, whether it’s the stadium or it’s the fans or whatever it is, I don’t really know how to describe it, but, it’s different. I had a blast. I loved it. Those guys were great back then. We had an unbelievable time and we had a good team. We had a really good team. We had a lot of great players on that team, and we have a lot of great players on this team. There’s a lot of things that we want to accomplish and we want to do, so hopefully we can create some Beatlemania again.”
Does this team feel different because you have loftier expectations?
“I mean, we had lofty the expectations back then. I’m not trying to say anything about the 2011, 2012 teams. We had lofty expectations back then, too. It’s just like then. We wanted to win then. We want to win now. We just want to win, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, I just want to win.”
Do you feel better about your chances of winning now than you did in 2011 and 2012?
“I felt good then, I feel good now.”
Does it bother the team at all that you’re playing at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, which is considered a ‘lesser game’?
“I didn’t know it was, and doesn’t bother me that it is. It’s a playoff game and that’s all that matters.”
Do you ever think about your pick-six in your first playoff game?
“Do I think about it? Of course, yeah. It was awesome. I mean, that was one of the best experiences of my life. I have the ball, I have the jersey, I have everything from that game, from that play. I don’t think about it as much as I used to, probably. But, that was one of the best moments. It was unbelievable, and that was probably one of the first moments in my – incredible and I’m so grateful for my relationship with this city. I feel like that was one of the points that kind of leapfrogged me into feeling like I was a part of the Houston family. They’ve been incredible to me ever since.”
Did you keep the ball from your touchdown in your first playoff game?
“Yep, I got it. I have it displayed at my house. I have the jersey, I have the pants, the cleats, the ball. I mean, I got it all. I got the helmet, I got everything. I have a little replica locker set up with it all in there, and a little plaque about it. I mean, it was my rookie year and I got to score a touchdown in the playoffs my rookie year. That was a huge moment for me, and I will never forget it. I’ll never forget everything about the play, everything about what happened. It was a magical moment and I’m very, very fortunate that it happened. If I needed to have another pick-six, I’d take it. Feel free to throw me one if anybody wants to.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS HEAD COACH FRANK REICH
What have you seen from the Texans pass defense and some of the things they’ve tried to do to slow down WR T.Y. Hilton?
“The typical thing to do is roll the coverage to a receiver. The No. 1 thing you can always do to take away somebody that teams try to do (is) get pressure on the passer. That always makes it more difficult. Obviously, with the rush that the Texans have, that certainly comes into play as well.”
Does WR T.Y. Hilton play a lot bigger than he is?
“T.Y.’s just a great player. He’s instinctive, he’s got great skill, he’s got great ball skills, great route-running skills, toughness. Yes, in that sense, he plays very big.”
What have you seen in terms of chemistry between QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“Two big-time playmakers that have consistently done it all year and are one of the more lethal connections in the NFL. That’s why they’re at the top of the list when you’re talking about quarterback-receiver combinations that are a threat. We just have a lot of respect for those two guys. They’re great players and have had a tremendous year.”
What’s the one attribute that separates WR DeAndre Hopkins from other wide receivers?
“I just think he plays long and fast and he has this instinctive ability to play the ball. I think he feels leverage, a little bit like T.Y. (Hilton) even though different in stature. He has this instinctive sense of leverage and space – where the opponent is, where the defender is when it’s man-to-man, then, when it’s zone, where the space is, where’s the optimum space. I think just think he’s very instinctive in that way and knows how to make a play on the ball.”
What’s the importance of having a good kicker in the playoffs?
“I think these are great opportunities for guys to step up in the big-time game. No matter how much experience you’ve had, every moment’s a big moment. Obviously, having Adam (Vinatieri) in a sense of he’s been through this so many times and made so many big kicks, but in either case, you just go in there trusting everything you’ve done the whole year. You just have a confidence and a calmness and a poise in those situations that I think all players carry into it.”
Do you have to have to adapt your game plan from the last time you played the Texans?
“Yeah, every game plan is its own little entity. You’re always trying to improve and always trying to get better. In the first game, obviously, I think we learned some things defensively. Tried to apply some of those things to the second game and made some improvements, but we know both sides are making improvements. As you said, with Deshaun (Watson) doing some things that he’s doing here late in the season, which is normal, you get late in the year and then you get in the playoffs and quarterbacks like Deshaun become even more dangerous.”
How would you describe your coaching style? You seem to be aggressive.
“Yeah, I think we want to have an aggressive style. We want to put our trust – we want to coach hard, coach the players really hard and then believe in the players. If you coach them hard and you believe in them, then there’s no reason not to be aggressive. It doesn’t mean that you’re reckless, but it stems from working hard and belief that that will resolve in good things.”
What are your thoughts on Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien?
“I have a ton of respect for Bill O’Brien. I’ve kind of watched him, watched his career, how he’s handled things. I just think he’s a true pro and a class act, just a steady hand. In any NFL season and over any kind of career – coaching or playing – there’s always going to be ups and downs. I think Bill’s always done a great job of handling those ups and downs and certainly leading this team this year to a tremendous season.”
What’s the final meeting of the week with QB Andrew Luck like?
“It’s almost the highlight of the week to sit down with Andrew and our offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni. Just going over final preparations. We have a very disciplined, systematic, thorough process that we go through every week, that we’re checking off the boxes, that we’re doing for preparation. Sure, the last night of that is fun, but really the whole week is fun. We attack it with energy and focus. Andrew brings that to every meeting. He brings that to every meeting and that makes it fun. Certainly, the closer you get to the game, you’re honing things down and really focusing on what you like best in this game and why and what is he comfortable with? ‘Hey, we like the whole game plan, but when it comes down to plays when the game’s on the line, let’s talk through what we like. Let’s talk through the different situations and scenarios and situational football and make sure we’re all on the same page.’”
Are game plan meetings when you see QB Andrew Luck’s intelligence shine in a sense?
“Oh yeah, it’s off the charts. How much he not only retains, but just how fast he processes it. I think that’s really what you look for is how fast – all of the quarterbacks that I’ve ever worked with, everybody’s smart. But, really what it comes down to is those incremental games and how fast you can process, just how fast he processes information, I think, is really one of the things that makes him an elite player.”
How much did you think the decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime of the Week 4 game galvanized your team?
“I think it was all part of our identity and who we are. I think we all embraced it. I think everyone knew that was the mode we were going to be in before this season started. It didn’t work out there and we lost that game, but there were two or three other games later in the season that those kind of calls and that kind of aggressive nature did pay off for wins in critical situations. That’s what you trust and believe. That’s what you live and die with each week. Those are the decision that you have to make, the confidence that you put in yourself and your players and that’s the belief that you have to have.”
How has Texans QB Deshaun Watson improved since Week 4?
“I think that he’s certainly – always the playmaking down the field, both from the pocket but then when he’s on the move. Then, just his protection of the football. They just don’t turn the ball over. They don’t turn the ball over, and that’s in large part due to him.”
How important was improving the interior of the offensive line to handle athletic pass rushers like Texans DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney?
“It’s really important as you said. That is a little bit more of a trend – get guys with speed and quickness coming up the middle. Some teams have a philosophy of stop the run on your way to rushing the quarterback. Penetrate, penetrate, penetrate, and then stop the run through causing disruption. Players like Clowney can do that. He’s very disruptive. That’s probably the best word that I can use to describe him. He’s disruptive, he’s a playmaker and can do it from outside, can do it from inside and you have to account for him no matter where he lines up.”