HEAD COACH BIILL O’BRIEN
How relevant is the Week 2 matchup against Tennessee to this matchup on Monday night?
“I definitely think it’s relevant relative to getting ready to play this same opponent. I think it’s so hard to play an opponent twice in one year. You have to take all the information you can get. That’s obviously a lot of information there in that one game. We’ve got to know what we did in that game, know what they did, but also know what we’re both doing most recently.”
How much do you feel both teams have changed since Week 2?
“I don’t know. I think at the end of the day, you are what you are. You have certain things you have a strong belief in and you just try to do the best job you can to make those things work.”
Do you think CB Aaron Colvin has a good chance to play against Tennessee?
“Yeah, I think he’s got a chance, but we’ll have to see how the next couple of days go. I think having that extra day probably helps but we’ll have to see.”
Where have you seen S Justin Reid improve the most this season?
“Justin has done a really good job of, No. 1, understanding our defense, understanding on special teams what his role is – he has a very important role on special teams – understanding the speed of the game, the different skillsets of the players that he’s playing against. I think he’s really worked hard to try to get better, take it one day at a time approach and he’s done a good job of that.”
What sort of challenge is it for players who have stayed healthy all season to play with others who have come in to fill voids left by injured players?
“I think everybody has injuries. That’s the one thing. You always get a lot of questions about injuries, and then when you kind of take a step back and you look at the rest of the league, everybody deals with injuries. I think it’s more about, ‘OK, how do you manage your roster? Where do you put guys? How does that affect another guy?’ I think overall we’ve done a decent job of that. It hasn’t been perfect. It’s hard to be perfect. You strive for perfection when you’re managing the roster, but it’s hard. I think that we’ve done a decent job of managing it and putting guys in the right place to be able to make plays. That has to continue because you’re going to deal with more injuries down the road. You’re dealing with very physical games coming up here and you’re going to have to deal with that. That’s what we try to do.”
Have injuries made it difficult for players to handle responsibilities week-to-week?
“I think the way that we train some players is that they have to know two or three different positions so that they’re able to execute that position. Sometimes they don’t get reps at that position or they don’t get a lot of reps at that position and they have to go in there during a game, that’s hard, but every team deals with that and that’s why you want versatile players that can do some different things.”
When DE J.J. Watt, DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus weren’t recording big numbers early in the season, did you think they were close to being very productive?
“I wasn’t looking at the stat lines at all. I was looking at the film, seeing how they were playing on film. I thought that all of them were playing at a high level. JD was injured the last time we played these guys and did not play against them, but I think early in the year, those guys were playing well. I think the way that some teams were executing against us, some different type of schemes and things like that, those teams did a good job. These guys were playing hard and now you’re starting to see a little bit more relative to stat lines and things like that, but again, it’s really just more about when it’s late in the season like it is now, I think it’s all about making sure that you play disciplined football and you execute fundamental football. It’s not about stats or anything like that. It’s about, ‘Hey look, this is how we have to play this. This is the fundamental way that we need to play this.’ More teams lose games than win games. We have to make sure that we do as good of a job as we can of playing good, fundamental football.”
Is there any more concern that normal that DE J.J. Watt was listed on the injury report?
“No, no. I think this was the plan going into the season that at this point in the season – not just J.J., but with several veteran players – that we would manage their reps on a day-to-day basis.”
Does WR Keke Coutee have a grasp of the bigger picture of the offense despite missing time due to injury?
“I think he’s doing better. I think he did a nice job of the rehab side of things the second time out. He came back out and played and then was injured again and then had to miss more time. I think the second stint of rehab helped him and I think he feels good and he’s able to get out there and practice, which is the huge thing. There’s no substitute for practice reps.”
What’s the status of ILB Dylan Cole?
“He can’t be activated this week. Look forward to him maybe rejoining us after this week.”
With all of the primetime NFL games, do you think Monday Night Football is still special?
“I think Monday Night Football will always be – you think back to all of the great Monday night games – the Earl Campbell game against Pittsburgh here in Houston back in ’78? I think the tradition of Monday night is still a big deal. I think football is America’s game and I think it’s great. I think everybody looks forward to football being on Thursday night or Sunday night and things like that, but I still believe that nothing will ever take the place of Monday Night Football relative to the history of the NFL.”
Do you have a memory of the first Monday Night Football game that resonated with you?
“I have a clear memory of – and I believe this was Monday night and I hope I’m right – but I have a clear memory of Dan Marino against the Bears, the great Bears defense in ’85, and he was the only one to beat them that year in that season. How well he played against that phenomenal defense. That’s probably my first clear memory of Monday Night Football.”
Monday Night Football must get you out of your routine, but that’s the way it is, right?
“That’s the way it is. I think when the schedule comes out in the spring, you sit down with everybody – Brian Gaine, Luke (Richesson), (Geoff) Kap(lan) – everybody in the organization and you try to plan ahead so you have an idea. Things do change based on whatever’s going on with the team at that time, but you definitely try to have some plans in place for when those type of non-Sunday weeks occur.”
As a coach and a football fan, would you be disappointed if you didn’t have a Monday Night Football game all season?
“Yeah, I’d speak for the players on that, I think the players love it. I think they know that Monday night’s just a special night. You’re the only two teams playing, a divisional opponent, great opponent, tough, physical team and very well-coached. Our players understand that and they know that it’s on Monday night and they’re excited for that. I think that’s more about the players. I think with the coaches, it’s more like Groundhog Day. Whenever that game is, this is what we know we got to get done, so whether it’s Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, I don’t think – for the players, that’s what’s really exciting for them.”
How important is it to not let Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel get a sweep in his first season?
“I don’t know. I don’t think it ever comes down to that. I think at the end of the day, it’s more about everybody, both teams, go out there and compete and we just try to do the best we can.”
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
When you look back on the replays of DE J.J. Watt’s sacks and you followed, is it fun to get into that dynamic between you guys?
“We’re just trying to win games. The other guys are coming, too. We had five sacks that game – Tyrann (Mathieu), me, J.J., Whitney (Mercilus) had one. We’re all coming out there.”
Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel had some really nice things to say about how you’ve fought through a lot of stuff last season. Is he a guy you’ll remember fondly throughout your career?
“Oh, for sure. When I first came in the league, he taught me a lot – how to work, practice well, just about a lot. Very professional when I got here. I learned a lot from Mike.”
How important is it that Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel doesn’t come in here and get a season sweep?
“Very important. It’s a big game this week. It’s a big division game, trying to get them guys out of here. So, we need this.”
How excited are you for this game given that you didn’t get to play against the Titans in Week 2?
“I’m very excited. It’s Monday night, primetime game, we’ll be the only game on. So, we have to come to play and get ready to go.”
Is Monday night special to you?
“Every night’s special to me. I just like playing, no matter what night. I just like playing at night. So, we have to play at night. Any night.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
How different are both teams now from when they played in Week 2?
“Both teams have gotten better since then. Those guys have won games. We’ve won games. This is the best time to play your best football. That’s what we’ve got to do this Monday.”
How important is it to not let Tennessee get a season series sweep?
“It’s more so just us just worrying about us, not worrying about them. It’s about us going out and playing our game plan. We feel confident, the players in this locker room, in what we can do.”
What do you see from Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson?
“He’s a good young player. He’s going to be good for years to come in this league.”
How special was it to pass WR Jerry Rice on the all-time list of consecutive games with at least 50 yards receiving?
“That was very special to pass someone like that who’s considered one of the best at my position. Pretty sure there are hundreds of records that he has, but to break one of them is a good feeling.”
Did you ever dream that you would break a record set by WR Jerry Rice?
“Yeah, I feel like when you’re at the top of your game, those are guys that you look up to and guys that you want to be better than. I tell myself that all the time.”
Does Monday Night Football hold anything special for you?
“Yeah, it is. It’s always special. It’s Monday night. You’re the only team on. A lot of guys will say it’s not, but your excitement level to play on Monday night is a little bit more than it is to play Sunday.”
What did you think of last week’s Monday Night Football game with the Rams and Chiefs?
“That was a good game. That was a very good game. I kind of expected that. I feel like everyone did. That was two high-powered offenses.”
Even though this game could have big playoff implications, are you just focused on winning the game?
“Oh yeah, of course. This is a game that we need, a division game against the Tennessee Titans. A team who’s been on the up and up.”
S TYRANN MATHIEU
How do you feel about the choice you made to play for the Houston Texans?
“I think, ultimately, I tried to come to a team where obviously I felt comfortable. I wanted to come to a team where guys wanted to play football, love football and ultimately, I feel like I made the right decision.”
Do you consider the Texans a possibility to be a long-term destination?
“Yeah, most definitely. Obviously, just really trying to finish this season off strong, keep doing what I’ve been doing once I got here, keep that chip on my shoulder and then try my best to continue to make everybody around me better. Until that day comes, we will focus on that, but for right now, it looks like I’m a Texan.”
Is there anything extra special for you about playing Monday night?
“Well, I think it’s special just from the simple fact that everyone’s watching. So, obviously, it’s a lot of pressure involved with that, but I think guys like J.J. (Watt), guys like Hop (DeAndre Hopkins), we all kind of made our names under the bright lights so we always look forward to playing on primetime.”
What are your fondest memories of playing on Monday night?
“For me, it’s most importantly going out there and getting a win. I’ve played on Monday night a few times. Most of those times, I’ve shown up. Hopefully we keep that tradition going.”
How do you feel about the way you’ve played this year?
“I think, ultimately, I’ve really prided myself by really coming in and kind of embracing the safety role, accepting the safety role. A lot of different times, it’s been very challenging for me, but like I said, I’ve been buying in to it. My teammates, my coaches, have really been helping me out a lot with that transition. So, it’s been fun for me.”
What do you think about blowing up your personal sack record?
“That’s been fun, too. I haven’t gotten to the quarterback that much since LSU, so it brings back a lot of good memories. Hopefully we keep that going.”
*Have you figured out you want to celebrate a sack now that you’re getting so much experience?
*“Not really. For me, it’s just about making a big play and then lining up the next play and trying to make a bigger play.”
Do you remember what it was like growing up and watching Monday Night Football?
“Yeah, obviously, growing up in New Orleans, Joe Horn was kind of the guy we all looked forward to watching growing up – and guys like Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister. So, those guys were always putting on a performance. I remember Steve Gleason blocking that kick. Any time I think about Monday night, I think about that and the kind of impact it has.”
What has it been like to watch Steve Gleason from a distance now?
“Well, it’s been tough, obviously. Growing up in New Orleans, he was always the guy that kind of brought energy to the team, brought life to the team and to see him dealing with his battle with ALS – obviously, wishing him the best and hoping the best for him.”
How big is Monday night in terms of the division race and setting yourself up for the playoffs?
“I think it’s important. Tennessee is a very physical football team. Those guys were in the playoffs last year. I think kind of where both teams are right now, I think everybody’s trying to solidify themselves as a leader of this division. Those guys beat us earlier in the season. I think those guys are going to come in here and really try to poke us, bully us. We got to be prepared for that.”
What have you seen out of WR Corey Davis and how much of a challenge is he?
“Well, I think he’s getting more comfortable in the offense. Obviously, they’re targeting him more. He’s coming up with some big-time catches. The last couple weeks, the teams have been putting their best cover corner on him, but he’s been having some success. So, we’ll have a big challenge with him, trying to slow him down and get him out of rhythm.”
What do you think about the Titans RB Derrick Henry and RB Dion Lewis combo?
“Well, I think Henry, he’s a big back, can pound the ball, get you two, three tough yards. Then, Lewis, I think who’s probably the better overall back, he can do a lot of different things out of the backfield with the ball in his hands So, I think any time he’s on the field, we have to be mindful of the big plays, and then, with Henry on the field, you got to be mindful of the run.”
Did it feel like you were guessing that the Texans would be a good fit and you would be surround with guys who share the same passion for football?
“Well, obviously, I knew J.J. (Watt), I knew Deshaun (Watson), I knew J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph), I knew Kareem (Jackson). I knew a lot of guys in this locker room – maybe about six or seven guys that I knew love football, were really passionate about it, and for me, like I said, it kind of helped make my decision easier, especially when those guys began to reach out to me expressing their interest in me joining their team. I think it went both ways, it was mutual. And I think ultimately, I picked the right place to go.”
Do you think the system and the way the Texans are using you is enhancing your career?
“Well, I think it’s challenging because this is a different system, but I think if you can look at it like that – some people say if you’re further away from the ball, it minimizes your chances of impact and getting hit, but I try not to look at it like that. I’ve always been the kind of guy, it doesn’t matter what position my coach put me at, I always try to just do my job and then get to the football.”
What have you learned about yourself while growing under Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel?
“I found out that I’m really patient. It’s different challenges within football, but I’ve never really had a challenge within a certain system playing in a different position, having to be the communicator. I’m a pretty quiet guy, so I think me having to communicate every play, just different things that have been challenging. I think RAC, Coach Midget and even OB (Bill O’Brien) from the offensive side, he’s been helping me out a lot with that.”
So you did not communicate the calls previously? Is that tough for you to do now?
“No. Well, I’ve always been kind of like the cornerback on the field. I’ve always gotten the calls from the linebackers and the safeties, and that kind of helped me play fast. But I think coming in here, like I said, being the communicator, I think it’s helping balance out my game and then I’m able to offer more as well.”