HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
How beneficial do you think the coaching staff taking stock of what was working and what needed adjusting was to the turnaround this season?
"I think you have to give the coaching staff and players a lot of credit. I think there were things that we were doing earlier in the year that we either needed to change or we needed to stop doing, whether it was ball security on offense or getting more takeaways on defense or maybe using a player in a different way or changing a scheme, or really thinking about our formula for how we want to try to win these games. Give the coaching staff a lot of credit, and then obviously, give the players the most credit because they've really tried to do what we've asked them to do."
What have you been able to do to work with QB Deshaun Watson on limiting turnovers in the last three games?
"You have to give all of the credit – really a lot of the credit to the players – in that case, to Deshaun. As a coach, you really try to emphasize it, you show on film how that opponent's taking the ball away and these are things that we have to do to hold on to the ball. I think in the Buffalo game, there was really a lack of ball security. Buffalo in that game did a great job of taking the ball away from us. I think you learn from your experiences and we have to keep that going because as you get into these games now in the middle of November, December, that's going to be a key stat, like I've told you a million times. Hopefully, we can keep that going."
How much is the bye week an opportunity for the staff to take stock of what's working and what needs adjusting?
"That's big. I think we have to do a good job over the next few days here of looking at ourselves, our scheme, how we're using different players in relation to our opponents starting with Washington. We're not looking beyond Washington, but 'OK, here come the Redskins. What are they doing? Yeah, we may want to change some things or move some guys around, but we better make sure it coincides with who we're playing.' I think that's going to be a big effort on our coaching staff's part to make sure we make some good decisions over the next couple of days."
How impressed have you been with the players returning from major injuries this offseason such as QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt?
"Very impressed. If you start with J.J. Watt, I know he probably doesn't want to talk about it too much, but I've never seen anything like it. To come back from what he's been able to come back from, some really serious injuries, and to be able to play at the level that he's playing at, it just says all you need to know about him and how much he cares about the team and how much he wants to help this organization win. Then, Deshaun, I always say he put in so much time, just like J.J., in the rehab. He worked hard to get back to where he could help this team win. I think that's their mindset. I think that's why, what I always talk about in that locker room, you've got a bunch of guys that really care about the team and they're going to do everything they can to help the team win."
How can you help WR Demaryius Thomas continue to learn the playbook over the bye week?
"That's going to be big. I think there is some carryover from earlier in his career, whether it's a formation or the way we call a route that he's heard before. Now, it's just about repetition and making sure that – now, we have a little bit more time. Obviously, he's had a big transition here, so he's going to obviously have to make the move here to Houston and things like that, but while he's here just continuing to try to coach him up on what we're doing offensively. Now, we can kind of take a step back and really go back into what we call the basic information, teach him the formations, teach him the routes, the protections, how the protections fit with the routes that he's running and things like that and the technique of the route. He's a really good pro, as I said after the game yesterday, and he's going to do a great job of learning."
Did you have to skip the portion of having WR Demaryius Thomas learn the entire playbook since he had four days to prepare to play his first game?
"Yeah, no doubt. You had to go right to the game plan. 'All right, here's this playbook. This thick playbook.' That wouldn't be very good coaching, I don't think. So, we had to just teach him the game plan. 'Here's your role in the game plan. Here's who you're going to be within each personnel group, and now we can kind of maybe get back to the basics with him of how we call things."
Do you anticipate to open the window for RB D'Onta Foreman to begin practicing this week?
"I don't know. We're still talking about that. I know that he's trending upwards. He's worked very hard, but I don't know if that's something that we're going to do right now. I know when we do do that, we'll make sure that we talk to you about it, but I'm not sure about that right now."
What role has Special Teams Coordinator Brad Seely played in the improvement of that unit this season from previous years?
"Big influence. Brad Seely has done a great job. He's done it for years in this league. He's been a real important addition to our staff. He's helped me tremendously in a lot of different areas, a lot of different areas. It has to continue, and nobody knows that better than Brad, but we have to continue to play good special teams. I thought yesterday A.J. Moore had a really good game on special teams. You look at Trevor Daniel, I think he had four out of his six punts were inside the 20-yard line, especially the last one, which was a huge punt. Our punt protection – Denver puts a lot of heat on you and our punt protection was pretty decent. That's all about Brad, and then I would be remiss not to mention Tracy Smith. Tracy's done a great job in assisting Brad, too. So, I think that's been a good addition to our staff."
Does 0-3 feel like a really long time ago?
"It's not a really long time ago. I think our players understand that and I think the difference between 0-3 and where we are now is not a big difference. We're just making some more plays, we're coaching some things better. I think our guys have to – and they do understand that every week is going to be difficult. Next week, we go to Washington, on the road again, NFC East team, great coaching staff, great players. I think they're ranked in the top five in a lot of defensive categories from what I've looked at so far. So, a very difficult challenge. Our guys understand that. We've got good leadership in there, and like I told you last week, it's a short walk. It's a short walk from where you're here now to where you were and you've got to understand that and try to keep working to improve. That's the big thing. You really have to buy in as a coaching staff and as a player, as a unit, into the improvement. You have to get better. You cannot stay the same and you certainly can't get worse. You have to try to improve on the things you need to get better at."
How have you seen QB Deshaun Watson improve the most?
"I think he's grown a lot. He's just an awesome guy to work with. He cares about studying, he cares about putting time in to prepare for each game. I think he's learned a lot about NFL defenses. He's had a lot thrown at him defensively this year, whether it's third-down defenses, red area defenses. He's improved every week. I think that yesterday's game is a really good game to point to for an NFL quarterback, meaning he didn't turn it over, he got us into the right play, he was able to lead us on some multiple-play drives and he came out of the game with a high rating, a 125.0 rating, which I think is really good and we won the game. I think he's grown a lot in understanding the type of game that we're in and how we want to play that game."
What have you seen from the development of T Kendall Lamm?
"He's one of the most improved guys that we've had since we've been here. He made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State. I'll just tell you, he's one of our favorite guys. He really works hard. He's had some ups and downs. He's dealt with being on the practice squad, being on the 53. He's fought hard to be where he's at. He's earned the right to play a lot of football. He's tough, he understands how we want to play, he works his butt off and we really like having him on the team."
There seems to be some separation in the standings. Do you feel like this team can eventually get into the upper echelon of teams in the AFC like the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots?
"There's a lot of things that we need to do better. That's what I'm saying. I think we've done a great job getting back to the point we're at now, but in order for us to be where we want to be, there are so many things that we need to do better, whether it's running the ball, the passing game being more consistent from a protection, from a route standpoint, the running game being more consistent. I think on defense, eliminating X-plays. Denver had a couple of plays over 25 yards in the game, things like that, continuing to play well on special teams is going to be big. So, I think there are a lot of areas for us to improve. Those teams that you mentioned are having great years, and I think – look, we've done a great job of coming back from where we were, but we've got a long way to go."
S KAREEM JACKSON
What did it show you when S Justin Reid came in asking questions in order to improve?
"It's always impressive when you have rookie guys constantly wanting to learn. Justin's always been that guy from day one. It's all about learning and all about getting better for him. Thus far, he's been a tremendous piece to the puzzle here, defense and special teams also. So, I definitely commend him on the things he's been doing. He's always willing to learn and always getting better."
As a running back in high school to a defensive player, do you feel that has helped you learn how to hit and tackle?
"In some sense. It's kind of looking at how the ball may spit out, out of the line of scrimmage as far as running backs making cuts and stuff like that, so it might help me in some sense. But, most of it is just kind of being in the right place where I should be and just getting that opportunity to put my body on the other guy's body. For me, that's what it's all about when it comes to tackling, not lines or anything like that. Just trying to go get body on body."
Why is the physical part of the game so important to you?
"Honestly, it kind of gets me going early in the game. To get a chance to kind of get in there early and kind of get dirty, it kind of gets me going. It kind of opens everything else for me, kind of catch a rhythm. I definitely take pride in that. That's one of the strengths of my game, to come down and be able to help in the run and make some tackles and stuff. So, I definitely take pride in that."
Has this team started to develop an identity of being able to win the close games?
"We like to think so. For us, that's how the league is. That's what the league is about. The longer the season goes, we get into the midseason, toward the end of the season, that's how it's going to be week in and week out. You have to be able to pull off these tight games. The teams that do that are usually the teams that go deeper in the playoffs. So, for us, it's just taking it a day at a time, or a week at a time, a game at a time and making those one or two plays that kind of put us over the top to win a 19-17 game."
What does it mean to you to hear people say you're having a Pro Bowl-type season?
"I guess it's cool to get that type of recognition. For me, it's just all about being consistent and being a piece of the puzzle here. I just want to come in, whether I'm playing corner or safety or in the slot, whatever I have to do to be a guy that can contribute and to be consistent in what I do on a weekly basis. That's the way I approach every day and that's the way I work. That's all I want to do as a teammate."
T KENDALL LAMM
How have you handled adversity throughout your career?
"I'm going to be honest with you, you get down on yourself here and there. We all want to play good, we all want to play perfect. I had to understand that it's a process. I had to understand that the people across the line from me are pretty good as well. I talked to many people last year when all of this happened. It really made me reflect and look in the mirror and it took me to a place that I've never been before. I'm thankful to be a part of me helping the team win now."
What's it like hearing what Head Coach Bill O'Brien said about you, how much the coaching staff loves you and how much you've improved?
"It was crazy. I personally don't look at the media, to be quite honest, unless people bring it to my attention, but I give it as credit to my work ethic and the way I do things, but honestly, it's a credit to the way I was raised. It's just what it is. I've got a grandma that's battling cancer at home, breast cancer, so I can't really complain. I don't worry about anything else. I mean, look where I'm at, what I'm doing. For my grandma to be doing what she's doing, this part's easy. So, I just take that with a grain of salt every day and just do what I can."
Is your grandma's perseverance something that you've pulled inspiration from this season?
"Oh, no doubt. If anybody knows me, that's the reason I stand before you. So, I just try to pull strength from her. It's always good after the game to talk to her, to hear her smile, to hear her laugh. That's what I look forward to. It's always nice to see you guys but it'll be nice to get on the plane and go see my grandmother, hopefully tomorrow."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
What do you think was the key to staying positive and turning the season around when you were 0-3?
"Obviously, just knowing we had a good group, knowing we have a good team. I think any time you can look in your locker room and know you have quality players, guys that are really good at their position, I think it always gives you that sense of we can turn things around."
Do you think part of the slow start was because of some key players returning from major injuries?
"Not too much. I think, really it came down to us losing three games, obviously, by close points, but us making mistakes, obviously, turning the ball over and then not getting turnovers. I think if you can look at our six-game winning streak, you'll see that we've probably taken care of the ball better and we've been taking it away."
Has this team built the identity of being able to win the close games?
"I think especially going into the bye week, going into the second half of the season, I think you want to have that kind of identity. Obviously, a team with grit, fight, one that can really overcome adversity, play good football in tough situations, take care of the football in critical situations. I think that's the kind of formula that you want to have going down the stretch, hopefully, playing in the playoffs."
How impressed have you been by S Justin Reid's performance?
"He's been playing really well for us, coming up big, turnovers, making big, open field tackles, getting his hands on some balls. I we're really happy to have him. I think he's making our defense better."
What are the things you do to avoid becoming complacent?
"I think it's just important to note that we haven't been blowing anybody out. I don't think we are a complacent group of guys. We've been in some fist fights, some real close ball games, so it's not like everything is cookie-cutter and everything is going all good for us. We still have things we can improve on and work on, so I think that's what's going to keep us pushing forward."
What are your thoughts on S Kareem Jackson's performance and versatility?
"I think it's really a testament to his character, to the kind of player that he is, playing multiple positions for us, each and every game having to bounce around from safety to cornerback to inside cornerback. I don't think many people realize how hard that is, how much studying, how much responsibility that is on a player. He's been holding it well, obviously, playing well, setting the fire, setting the tempo for us on defense."
S Kareem Jackson is new to the safety position, S Justin Reid is new to the league and you're new to the city. How much more impressive is it that you've all been able to make plays every single game?
"I think we put a lot of pride on ourselves. Obviously, Jack is playing cornerback right now, but I think all offseason he was with us at the safety group. We just prided ourselves on no matter where the chips fall, no matter what position, each three of us may have to play. We have to be willing to be a team player, put our hand in the pile. Like I said, we're really not trying to do anything special, it's really just us trying to lead the guys, set a great tempo and obviously make great tackles and great plays."
What do you do during your bye week?
"Well, I think winning six games in a row is hard in the NFL. Not many teams do it. I think it's important to look back at the first half of the season, get a grasp on the things that we need to improve on and then just relax. Like I said, I think six games in row, I think we deserve a couple days off."