HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
What concerns you the most about the game on Saturday?
"I just think that's always an interesting question. It's all about the game plan. It's about getting the team ready to play to the best of our ability as a coaching staff and then letting them go play. I think health is a big key. I think that knowledge of assignments, understanding roles in the game plan, that's what we try to work hard to do during the week to make sure that they're ready to go on Saturday afternoon. That's kind of how I would answer that."
How much does having postseason experience as a head coach help you prepare for this game?
"You have some experience and you've experienced a lot of different things and you know that there are certain things that are very, very important. That can help you, but at the end of the day, it's a totally different year, different team, different opponent. I don't think there's ever any substitute for experience. Experience can help you."
How have the other wide receivers stepped up in place of WR Demaryius Thomas?
"I think the guys have done a decent job. I think that they've improved. I think the experience helps them, that they've been in games, they've played. Especially a guy like Vyncint Smith. He's played a lot of football now. He played a bunch of snaps last week against Jacksonville. Obviously, DeAndre Carter's done a lot of good things for us. Stevie (Steven) Mitchell (Jr.) only got one play last week but he was active and was in the game plan and things like that. I think it's been good. I think these guys have really worked hard to try to improve and that's good."
Are you still impressed with some of the things WR DeAndre Hopkins does?
"Yeah, I mean, even out there just now in a walkthrough, he made some one-handed grab. He just has a great skillset, really smart player, excellent competitor, can really make the contested catch, he can line up inside, he can line up outside, he can do a lot of different things and he's come up real big for us. He has 115 catches and they've all been important catches. He's a leading third-down target. He's a guy that does a lot of different things for us. He always impresses me."
Have you see WR DeAndre Hopkins' rapport with QB Deshaun Watson grow this season?
"It was interesting – somebody asked me that yesterday. This year has been interesting because Hop's been banged up and he hasn't always been able to be out there at practice. They've had to do a lot behind the scenes, meeting together in the facility, outside the facility, making sure that they're on the same page with route-running, signals, seeing the film the same way, seeing the defense the same way, the coverage the same way. They've worked hard to try to get on the same page each and every week."
What do you attribute the jump in QB Deshaun Watson's completion percentage in throws between 10-19 yards?
"I think that's probably a better question for him. We've tried to do some things in the passing game to help him, to help the other receivers, the tight ends, the backs. Obviously, (DeAndre) Hop(kins) has a lot of those catches, and I think Deshaun's done a – I think as a young quarterback, as hard as Deshaun works with all of the work that he puts into it, you're going to improve and you're also going to have a much better knowledge of NFL defenses as you move through your career. That's a big adjustment because it's so different. There's so much more man coverage and tightly contested throws in the NFL than there are in college. That's just the way it is. It's the nature of the game. Knowledge of coverages, understanding of skillsets of the guys he's going against relative to the guys that are running the routes for him. I think he's really done a good job of that."
How important is continuity in the coaching staff for the development of a young quarterback?
"Yeah, I think if you're changing systems all the time and things like that, I would think that that would be hard. I think having a consistent system and having the same guys coach him – again, I think that's a good question for him, but I would assume that's probably pretty good. You know what to expect, you know the terminology, the style of coaching, how we coach it, our routine on – this week Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – our routine every week, what we do, all the little things, the emails, the text messages. I think that's something that's really important. To be consistent and to have that continuity I think is important."
How long have you known Colts Head Coach Frank Reich?
"I've only known Frank since he's been a head coach in Indy. I met him at the Owners' Meeting. I actually know his brother. His brother coached at Wingate College, and when I was at the University of Maryland, would come up and visit us. Great guy, great family. I've known Frank since he became a head coach. Like I said before, great respect for him. I know how hard he works, excellent play-caller, excellent leader, obviously has background as a player, understands the league. You can tell his players play very hard, and I think when you watch another team and you watch how hard they play, I think that says a lot about the coach, in my opinion. He's got them playing hard. They're well-coached. They're well-coached in all three phases. They've improved, 1-5 to where they are now, kind of like us, 0-3 to where we are now. There's a lot there, and Frank – we hold Frank in high regard here in Houston."
How have you seen the synergy between the offensive line and QB Deshaun Watson develop throughout the season?
"It's been good. They spend a lot of time together. They meet together at least twice a week, go over protections, run game, things like that. I know that they spend time outside of the building together. There's a really good bond there between Deshaun and those guys. There's a great bond between Deshaun and Nick (Martin). I think that has to be the case with your center. So, I think the communication has improved throughout the year. There's a lot of things that have to improve relative to the execution and some of the things that are going on on the field, but I think overall the communication and the chemistry is very good."
What did you think about Colts Head Coach Frank Reich's decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime in the first matchup?
"Great respect for that. He wanted to win the game. I think he was telling his team something there. He wanted to go for the win at that point in time in the season and he did a good job. He went for it. We were able to make a play, but we respect – we have a lot of respect for the other sideline, really whoever it is. It's the highest level of football. Guys coach hard, they work hard, the players are talented, the players play hard, and Frank, like I said, does a great job with that team."
Do you think it's a cliché that good quarterbacks like QB Deshaun Watson and Colts QB Andrew Luck can make the players around them better?
"No. No, I think that's something that you can point to – obviously, those two guys – you can point to a lot of guys that are great quarterbacks that lift the guys around them. I think that has a lot to do with who they are as people, their work ethic, the example they set, their talent, obviously, their ability to throw the ball accurately, get it to the right guys, throw catchable balls and all of those different things, but I think it has a lot to do with who they are in combination with the talent that they have, their will to win. I think there's a lot to be said for that and those guys have all that."
Do you see any difference in Colts QB Andrew Luck post-injury compared to his early seasons?
"Not really. I've been asked that a lot. I see a guy that's just a great competitor. He's a very physical player for that position. He's a strong player. He's hard to sack. He can make all the throws – outside the numbers, down the field, short throws, accurate throws, touch passes – he's a very smart guy. He gets them into the right play. Just has a real good command of their offense. I just think he's one of the best. Like I said, we have a lot of respect for him."
Do you think Colts QB Andrew Luck is doing more now that he's healthy than he did earlier in his career?
"What I see on tape, I don't see any differences. I think relative to when he was playing before – when we played him here, played him in Indy – very difficult guy to go against: arm strength, competitiveness, all of the different things that you look at in a quarterback. I see the same guy. In fact, in some of the things he's doing, he's probably even better just from his experience. He's got more experience now and he plays the game very calmly. He understands how to play the game with poise, get it to the right guys and does a great job."
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What did you learn from the first two games against Colts WR T.Y. Hilton and what can be done to slow him down that you haven't already tried?
"Well, one of the things we have to do is we have to focus more on the job that we have to do the way we want it done to prevent him from having the opportunity to make some of the plays he makes. But he is a good football player, so he's is going to make some plays. We have to hold those plays down and not let him have too many of them."
What have you seen from the Colts' offensive line and what they've been able to do this year protecting Colts QB Andrew Luck?
"Well, they've grown well together. When you have a quarterback behind you, those guys always rally around that player and play together to try to protect him. I think that that's what we see from this offensive line. They are doing everything they can to keep defenders off of him and give him the opportunity to make plays."
How impressed are you with DE J.J. Watt's ability to come back from his injury and have the kind of season he put together?
"That's really good. Many players go through injuries and not everybody can always come back the way that J.J. has. We've talked all along about J.J.'s attitude, the way he works on the field, off the field, in the classroom. I think that's helped him to be able to recover from his injuries and get back to being the player that we all know."
How do you think the Colts have kept the sack count down with two rookies in their offensive line?
"Well, when you have a good guy pulling the trigger behind you that can move too, so he can avoid some things and get himself out of trouble if there is a breakdown up front. Then, sometimes they have quick passing games, which allows them to get the ball out quicker. So, I think that whole combination keeps the sack total down."
You've been to the playoffs a lot. Do you still get excited for playoff games?
"Sure, that's why we do it. Because if you're in the playoffs, that means that you have a chance to go to the ultimate game. You try to put everything into it, and try to win one game and then, if you can win one, try to win one more until you get to the final one."
Do you have any advice for your guys that are in the playoffs for the first time?
"Just enjoy the moment and do their jobs. If they do that, I think that we'll be OK."
What have you seen from Head Coach Bill O'Brien as he guided the team from a rough start to where you are now?
"I think he's done a really good job, because he's also calling the offense as well as being the head coach, and keeping the team focused and on track, and after going down 0-3, getting them to rally and win nine in a row, then be in the playoffs. I think he's done a really good job, and I think he stayed focused himself on the next game. Let's win the next game. So, when you can do that and you can start putting games together, then you can be in the playoffs."
Some of your defensive backs said it's on them in the backend to play better against the Colts than the last two games. Is that how you see it?
"Well, it's on the defense to play better because it all goes hand-in-hand. I talk to them all the time about our unit is a team. The rushers have to rush, the cover guys have to cover and it all goes hand-in-hand. When the cover guys do a good job, then that allows the rush to get to the quarterback. When the rush is impacting the quarterback, that allows the cover guys to make plays on the ball. So, it all goes hand-in-hand. When we don't do a good job versus a team, it's truly 'we'."
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
How unpredictable is the Colts' pass rush?
"I think that they do a great job. The defense plays very well on all three levels. They play hard. They do a lot of different things with some movement. I think you have to work on it, prepare for it all week like we do every time we play them, but they do a nice job with it for sure."
How have QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins been able to develop chemistry?
"Like I always say, I think a lot of it comes from experience working together. It's reps in OTAs and in the spring. It's training camp. It's the work they put in there. It's in the practice field, and then, obviously, it's in the games with what they've been successful with. I think, combined with that, their communication with film is pretty good off the field. Those guys getting together and talking about, 'This is how I see it. This is how I see it. This is what I'd expect you to do,' and those guys coming on the same page that way, I think, is certainly beneficial for how it's played out on the field."
How have you seen QB Deshaun Watson grow this season?
"I think his decision-making and the rate at which he can make those decisions based on what happens after the ball is snapped, that's something that's improved with the more he's played. It's been impressive. I think his leadership and his communication to his teammates about what he needs them to do, what he expects them to do based on what he's seeing, especially with the receiving corps and tight ends and backs, the guys that are running routes for him. I think he's really stepped up his game that way. He's done a nice job in those areas."
Do you think QB Deshaun Watson's prior experience in big games in college can help him play well in the playoffs?
"I do. I don't think it can hurt him, obviously. He's been on a big stage before. I think, certainly, it's never something that's going to hurt him. I think him having that experience and being able to show up and kind of take it for what it is, understanding the importance of it. I think, at the end, it's beneficial."
How do you balance QB Deshaun Watson's ability to extend plays with limiting sacks?
"We're always going to talk about the internal clock in his head and getting the ball out, understanding when you can't take a sack, whether it's in the redzone or certain times in the game when we cannot take a sack. In that case, you have to realize the situation you're in, always being aware of down, distance, time in the game, what's going on and when you can take those chances and hold on to the ball and try to make a play and when you just flat-out can't. You're constantly talking about it. You're constantly looking at other situations throughout the league and what other guys deal with on a weekly basis and just trying to get him, over and over again, and make the best decisions in that time."
In your mind, not all sacks are created equal?
"No, I don't think sacks are ever created equal. I think they're plays into themselves and there's always reasons. Sometimes it can be a lot of different reasons why a sack happens. We try to correct them as they come and learn from them so it doesn't happen again the same way and we move on."
You don't want to rein QB Deshaun Watson too much.
"No. His instincts and his playmaking ability are the things that make him special. It's a delicate balance for sure."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What is it about Colts QB Andrew Luck that makes him tough to take down?
"Very smart, tough guy. Just like our quarterback, he never quits, never thinks the play's over. Just a great player."
What's your excitement level like headed into a third matchup with the Colts?
"Oh man, it's like a rivalry for us. The two times we played them in the division, we get to play them again. It's 1-1. See who comes out on top. We're at home. It's going to be a good game."
What are your thoughts on playing in this game after starting the season 0-3?
"Us coming back, it was big. I mean, they did the same thing. They went on a run, too. Both teams are playing pretty good football right now. They're hot. We've been playing well. We just have to come to play this week. It's going to be a tough matchup. Like I said, they've got great players on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a good game."
Are you excited to be in the playoffs and have the opportunity to make a run?
"It's big. We just take it one game at a time. Right now, we're just focusing on the Colts. They're up first. No matter what, we've just got to go out there and lay it all on the line. You never know what next week holds, so you just lay it all on the line this game against the Colts."
How happy are you to have been healthy for the past two seasons and be able to contribute to the team?
"Very happy. Whenever you can help your team, like I said, we've got a good locker room here. I'm just glad to be a part of this locker room and this team. There are great guys around here. We go there and compete at a high level. Being around guys like that, you always want to compete and play well. So, that's what I try to do."
Do you think this season has been the best of your career?
"I don't know. I think I can be better. I do think that. I still have a lot to work on. Like I said, I'm young. I'm 25. I'm just getting better. I'm just really starting to get my groove in this game, learning the game like I need to learn it, but I still have a lot to grow, a lot I can improve. Just keep trying to get better as I get older."
How difficult is it for teams to deal with both DE J.J. Watt and you?
"When we're feeling good and feeling great, I think it's hard. Like I said, we've got a lot of good guys on this team, not just me and him. We've got other great guys. Benardrick McKinney's having a great season. Up front, D.J. Reader plays solid on the inside. Another great guy, Angelo (Blackson), plays solid on the inside. When you have guys that build a wall and just do what we normally do, getting off blocks and the ball is there, come in our gap or we try to help out. We're just playing solid football up front all around, and it's making our game a lot easier for us to go out there and make plays."
What do you think about what Colts QB Andrew Luck was able to do in the first two matchups against the Texans?
"He's a good player. We've got to get after him up front. I think it's going to come down to us as a front. We say that each week. It's going to come down to our front, and we've got to play well up front. We put a lot of pressure on our front. Lean on us the whole game and we're going to get after the quarterback."
Do you think all parts of the defense feel as if it's on them to make the difference?
"Yeah, so that's what we're going to do. Go out here, play as a unit, fly around and try to make a lot of plays."
What have you seen from the Colts offensive line this season?
"That's a much improved unit. (Quenton) Nelson, the rookie came in playing solid football for them. (Andrew) Luck's getting the ball out of his hands a lot quicker than he normally does. You've got guys like Nelson coming in and the unit playing solid up front, and you have a lot of playmakers around (Luck), he can get the ball out fast. That's what they're doing. You've got to get him and come to play, get after him up front, like I said. That's what it's going to take."
Do you get excited to play in front of a national audience?
"For sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a big game. We're the only game on at that time on Saturday. I'm sure everybody's going to be watching. The Texans need to show up and play."
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How much responsibility do you feel to continue to play the way you're playing in the playoffs, especially considering injuries to other receivers?
"I feel like I'm a leader of this team, not just this offense. I was named captain, so for me to go out and play my best game is important, not just for me but for this team."
After they saw what you did with the Jaguars, do you expect the Colts to have a different kind of plan for you than they used the first two games to try to keep you off balance?
"Yeah. I mean, Last time I played those guys, I'm not sure how many yards I had, but I don't think it was that many, so they might stick to the same game plan. I don't think they will man me, though."
How much do you appreciate being in the playoffs and having this opportunity to help your team get to a place it's never been before?
"You know, taking it day by day. Enjoying every day with these guys. Practicing, watching film, just trying to get better. But we know what the end goal is and where this organization hasn't been yet. That's where we're trying to get to."
How much have you seen QB Deshaun Watson grow and develop in the time that you've known him?
"A lot. I've known him since he was at Clemson. I've seen his maturity level go through the roof. The way he handles himself not just on the field, but outside the football field."
The timing you and QB Deshaun Watson have built in a short amount of time, what do you attribute that to in terms of you guys having the type of chemistry and timing that you have built?
"Just trusting each other. Him trusting me to go out there and make the right read and me trusting him to give me the ball. We just depend on each other to make this team better, honestly."
What is it about QB Deshaun Watson that allows him to do things like at the end of the Philadelphia game?
"His determination to win. He's been in situations this year where were down before, and I don't think anybody expected us to come back, and we found a way. Being in those situations early in the season, I think he knows how to manage himself and manage this team, this offense. He doesn't get overwhelmed by being down. He's always composed. So, situations like that in Philly, I knew he was going to try to make a play to the best of his ability back there, and he did."
What has this season been like for you with everything you've had to go through to keep going out and producing?
"It's been challenging not being able to practice with my guys like I want to, being out there, just having fun with the fellas. That's why I look forward to coming to work every day, just being around my teammates, not just going out there and making plays on Sunday. It's been challenging from that aspect, but it's been good. My play has correlated to us winning games, so I feel like me personally, this is my best season. We won the division. Best record I've had since I've been here yet."
Do playoff games feel different once you're in the middle of them, or once they kick it off does it just feel like a normal game?
"Every game I try to look at it as normal. But it's hard to overlook the playoff scenario and the crowd and the atmosphere. It's a little different for sure."
As a leader and a captain, do you take it upon yourself to try to help some of the young guys prepare for their first playoff game?
"I let them do their thing. Everybody is a professional at this point. I know I've made a lot of catches and a lot of plays for this team, but everybody prepares differently. To try to make somebody prepare how I prepare, it would be misleading. So, I just go out there and let those guys do what they do. Everybody on this offense and everybody on this team has made plays before, so they'll be fine."
What have you seen from the other receivers who have stepped up in place of WR Demaryius Thomas?
"I'm proud of what those guys did. Vyncint (Smith), Steven Mitchell (Jr.) going out and drawing the penalty last week. They put a lot of dedication, not just in the film room, but after. Working with coaches, working with each other trying to get down this playbook. Not being here for a long time and being a rookie, it's not easy coming in and having that pressure on you, but those guys have stepped up and I'm sure they will continue."
How much do you appreciate the fact that you don't ever drop balls and people notice that about you, like the meme you retweeted?
"I'm trying to be consistent, that's the only thing. That's my goal every day. Being consistent, not just on the football field but in life. Going out and playing football is something I love doing, and being named as one of the best is something that I work hard for because I think everybody wants to be the best at their position, otherwise why would you play your position? So, to get that recognition from whoever made that, that was pretty cool. But I'm just trying to be consistent. I know that if I don't drop a ball, it's going to lead to something good."
Do you take a lot of pride in the fact that Pro Football Focus says that you have zero drops?
"Not really, man. I mean, it's a big deal to have zero drops but I don't really look at the statistics or get too caught up into it. Winning and losing is my biggest statistic that I pay attention to."
People often hear about things other receivers do or say off the field, but not with you. What's your philosophy on that?
"No, I can't be a distraction to this team. My name is all I have, so I don't want that to be messed up from a game of football."
Have you had a conversation with QB Deshaun Watson about this first playoff game, or do you plan to?
"No, he doesn't need my help."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
What is it about Colts WR T.Y. Hilton that allows him to get separation down the field?
"I think he's an exceptional wide receiver. I think he has a great quarterback. I think they do a lot of great things with him just trying to find different ways to get him the football, especially in big games. I think they're going to draw it up, obviously with him having that ankle, every ball may not go to him, so we just got to be real keyed in on him throughout the entire game and not let up."
How important is it for the defense to perform better against QB Andrew Luck compared to the first two games?
"Well, I think we just got to do a better job on the back end, really IDing the coverages, IDing their players, then from there, everybody playing their technique, doing their jobs, getting pressure on him. I think he's a great quarterback, but I think if he struggles with anything, I think it's when guys are in his face. I think he can make some poor decisions, but he's a great quarterback, he's a great talent. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
Why do you think that Colts TE Eric Ebron has more touchdowns this year than he had in four years in Detroit?
"I think if you just look at the history of tight ends that have played for the Colts, they've always done a great job of really getting those guys the ball, especially in the redzone, finding different mismatches to give them the ball. So, I think he falls under the same category as T.Y. Hilton. We just have to know where he is on every single play, guys have to believe what they see and then like I said, just handle their responsibility, do their job and hopefully, it works out best for us."
Do you have a sense of urgency to go far in the postseason with it being your sixth season?
"Well, I like to hope I'll play 10 more years, but I think any time you get in the playoffs, you want to put your best foot forward. Obviously, every play matter, every practice matters, every game matters. So, that the approach I'm going to take. I think a lot of guys in the locker room feel the same way. We just want to do our jobs this week and make the plays that come to us."
What has been the key to stopping the run game?
"Well, I think we have a lot of guys that are really willing to tackle, especially up front. I think all our guys are stout up front, I think our linebackers can play sideline to sideline and both of those guys, in my opinion, are downhill linebackers. So, I think that helps us out a lot, and we have guys in the secondary that love to tackle. I think a combination of all those things has really, really helped us stop the run this year."
How does communication play a role when playing against Colts QB Andrew Luck?
"You brought up a good point. I think any time those guys get in tempo, we really haven't handled it well this season. I think a lot of success that they've had on us this season has really come from them running a tempo offense. So, like I said, we got to line up, we got to know our assignments, we got to do our job and then, we got to mix up our looks in the back end. We have to disguise coverages, and obviously, like I said, we got to find out where 13 (T.Y. Hilton) and 85 (Eric Ebron) are every single play. I think that that will help us out a lot."
Is this what you envisioned when you signed with the Texans?
"I did. I saw a locker room that had great talent, I saw a young quarterback that was – he's a superstar in my eyes. Obviously, we have playmakers all over the field, but I think ultimately, I just saw a locker room full of good guys. I think Hop's (DeAndre Hopkins) a great guy, I think D4's (Deshaun Watson) a great guy, Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and J.J. (Watt), even Jack (Kareem Jackson). I think all these guys have really embraced me, helped me out a lot and really helped me turn the corner faster than I thought I would. I think a lot of that goes to those guys and just everybody willing to put their hand in the pile to help us all win."
How much of your success this season has to do with your health?
"Yeah, I think the last couple years I've struggled with injuries, and I think that that can play a role in your confidence and your mental approach. Like I said, I've just been real fortunate, real blessed that I've come to a situation that's really appeasing to me. I think the coaching staff has really embraced me, like I said, and my teammates as well. Everybody believes in me just as much as I believe in myself, so I think all that has really helped me put together a decent season."
What have you found out about QB Deshaun Watson and who he really is since you got here?
"Well, I think he's just everything I thought he would be. Highly competitive, he's a real good guy, a great teammate, he's selfless. I think any time you have a superstar, especially at the quarterback position, that really enables those qualities, I think everybody in the locker room feels it and we know we can be successful. I think we want everything that's in front of us, obviously we want to play great defense, we want to get the ball to our quarterback as much as possible, because we do feel like he's one of the best players in the playoffs."
You have been asked to play different roles as the season has gone on, what has been the key for you to stay flexible and accept those challenges?
"I came into this season really wanting to focus on safety, and then life happens. I've been willing to adjust. I think guys around me have really been willing to adjust and like I said, as long as you're surrounded by good guys, I think it can work out in everyone's favor. I've been trying to put my hand in the pile and really doing everything the coaches ask me to do."
With your experience, have you found it unique to have so many defensive backs willing and eager to tackle?
"Yeah, most definitely. I think a lot of DBs, they want to cover and catch interceptions. Obviously we want to do the same, but I think a lot of guys on the back end in our group, they have chip on their shoulder. I think J-Reid (Justin Reid) and even Jack (Kareem Jackson). So, I think every time we take the field, we really want everybody to feel our pain. We've been doing good with that. It's only going to increase, so we're going to have to make harder tackles in the playoffs, and like I said, most importantly, we just got to get the ball back to our quarterback and put us in position to win the game."