OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TIM KELLY
What were some of the things in the last game you tried to use as a teaching moment for QB Davis Mills?
"The big thing that are we continuing to preach to him is that we got to protect the football, can't have situations where borderline careless decisions are made. Some of the stuff the that happened on Sunday, they made some good plays. On the one tipped pass (A.J.) Klein made a great play and they were able to make a play on the ball. When we are starting to force balls and try to do things in tight windows that we really don't want to do, we just have to eliminate the careless mistakes there. Like you said, it was a good opportunity to teach him and continue his growth process."
How much do you attribute forcing balls into tight windows to QB Davis Mills adjusting to the athletes and speed of the game at this level?
"Every week I think it's going to be a little bit of an adjustment, as far as what we talked about last week in terms of his ability to continue to grow. Some of that is that, and then obviously it's ok to learn from that mistake and let's not do it again."
When you started breaking down Sunday's game, where did you start looking for where the errors were?
"To me, the biggest takeaway was that it's hard to play behind the sticks as much as we did. Different than in weeks prior where maybe it was that they made a good play. Its second and 11, there was a penalty that ended up getting us into a first and 20 which is difficult, that gets compiled with all the other elements that are going on in that game. First and foremost, we have to do a better job of eliminating that. We can't have the holding calls. We can't have the facemasks calls. It's going to be hard to sustain drives when you have a first and 20 that was basically on the first play of the drive. I think of the four, three of them ending up being like that and you're like, 'Holy smokes.' Got to do a good job of eliminating that and if we can do that, we are going to give ourselves a chance to be successful."
How difficult does it make it to evaluate an offense when penalties are getting in the way?
"I think that's a big part of it though. As we continue to look at what we're doing is the scheme causing those issues? Is it a lineman issues, is it a personnel issue? All those things get evaluated every single week. We are going to continue to do that and like you said taking those penalties and those things into account is a part of the evaluation process."
What's the conversation like with a young quarterback by telling him you don't have to be the hero in every play and it's ok to throw the ball away?
"You're going to have the conversation as much as you want until he goes out and experiences it and makes the mistake and realizes, 'Woah'. I think that's kind of what really ingrains that philosophy in the player. It's like growing up its like, 'Don't touch the stove, don't touch the stove. Ok gotcha, 'And then you touch the stove and you're like 'I'm never doing that again.' Hopefully he's (Davis Mills) able to learn from every week, the good and bad, he's learning lessons every time he goes on the field. Like we talked about, hopefully he's doing a good job there and taking those lessons and continuing to develop."
What will go into the decision of if QB Davis Mills stays in the lineup when QB Tyrod Taylor comes back?
"Whatever is going to be best for our team. Whatever is going to put us in the best position to win. I think it's been pretty evident that as an organization that's what we are trying to do here and we're not going to treat that decision any differently."
You want it to be a tough decision, don't you?
"Yeah because if that's the case that means that he's playing well and he's making our job hard as far as making that decision. Ideally, it's a tough one here whenever that time comes."
What was the conversation with WR Danny Amendola and the decision to move on from WR Anthony Miller?
"We got a seasoned vet, somebody who's produced at a high level, who's been in the offense for quite a while. It felt like we've got a player that plays identical positions and that was we felt better with Danny at that point in time."
Down and distance has been a factor in the running game, what do you see the difference as when you are able to have longer runs and then you have tackles for loss?
"He (Ed Oliver) made a good play, that was partially scheme and he had a great get off there. I've got to do a better job there as far as design of the play to make sure we are putting our guys in a better spot to be able to execute. But you look at it like you mentioned, the (12-yard) run to Mark (Ingram), where it was well executed, everybody did their job and it looked the way the play is supposed to look. Again, we just got to continue to figure out ways to put our guys in the best position to execute and execute their blocks, execute their reads, execute their mic points, it's everyone, it's not just one position group or one person. There're multiple instances where everybody has a piece of that pie. So, just go to do a better job collectively in the run game."
If you could run the ball more, would that make it easier for QB Davis Mills?
"Yeah of course. I think any time you can run the ball effectively it takes a little pressure off the quarterback. He doesn't feel like he has to go out there and be perfect every single snap. For even the best quarterbacks in the league, if they can't run the ball, it makes this much more difficult. You're playing behind the sticks, you're worried about hots, you're worried about everything. The better off we can be in the run game, the easier that job is going to be for whoever is out there."
If the run game isn't efficient multiple weeks in a row, at what point do you start considering different options?
"I think if you go back and watch, you are going to see that there are different schemes that are used every week and that's kind of what it is. We are going to figure out what is going to best put our offense in a spot to go out and block the fronts, looks and the people we are getting ready to play because this defense is completely different than Buffalo, which is completely different than Cleveland, which is completely different than Jacksonville. With the way that we have our offensive philosophy, we are going to continue to look at the different looks we are getting and try to figure out what plays are going to allow us to go out there and have an efficient run game."
ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH/DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR LOVIE SMITH
Can you talk about DL Whitney Mercilus' role in this defense?
"We have a group of linemen we feel comfortable with. They're going to all play. Some weeks different guys start, some week is an ideal situation for you to get a sack and maybe not. But we like what they're all doing. As far as Whitney (Mercilus) is concerned, Whitney's been a good pass rusher for a long period of time. He's playing the pass, his numbers say that. That's the case right now. We're going to continue to play him and Jacob (Martin) and hope we continue to get production from them. (Not just) those two. We have plans for Jonathan Greenard to step up, and we'll continue to work to see where Chuck's (Charles Omenihu's) best position is. Maybe it's a little bit inside as much as outside. Anyway, we'll continue to work those combinations this week. I know it's important each week, but definitely this week it's important that we get pressure."
What are the challenges of getting pressure against a team that prioritizes getting the ball out quickly like the Patriots?
"As a defensive lineman in general, it always starts with how many sacks a guy has. But you can be productive by just making the quarterback get the ball out quickly. We play a lot of zone defense and it's about that. Some offenses, that's a part of what they want to do. They're not going to hold the ball long. The guys just have to realize that. But we still have to make them throw the ball on rhythm. As far as it being frustrating, no. As soon as the ball gets out, it's an opportunity for us to tackle them, opportunity for us to take the ball away and a lot of good things can happen from there."
How does LB Kevin Pierre-Louis' return affect the linebacker room?
"We like options at all positions, I'm going to start with that. We just talked about the D-line, and the first time I talked, we talked about playing a lot of people. Getting a good football player like KPL (Kevin Pierre-Louis) back helps. He has had some injuries, so we're anxious to get him into the mix, just not as linebacker but on the special teams, too. We were also missing Zach Cunningham last week, getting him back in the mix. Kamu Grugier-Hill has played well. So, we have some guys and we'll try to find ways to get them all into the mix and get reps and see what they can do."
Does LB Kevin Pierre-Louis look like he is ready to go for Sunday's game?
"We'll see. Yesterday was our first practice. He did well. I'm anxious to see him today and tomorrow."
What have you seen from LB Kamu Grugier-Hill and how his role might expand with the team?
"Every time, as you're saying, when he's got an opportunity to play he has impressed us. He's played a couple of positions. He has started Sam, he's started at Will, he can play both. He's a big contributor on special teams. I like his flexibility. He'll continue to get reps and maybe even more reps on third downs. But I like everything that he has done."
With all the changes in the defensive lineup this past week, how do you think all of that went, and do you think that's your best configuration?
"Well, we just finished up the first quarter of our season and we're a new staff, so we're learning things about our players daily. Each game we are needing to make adjustments, make changes. You look at different combinations. Desmond King II, we've liked everything about who he's been since he's got here. He gives us flexibility, also. He gives us options. We wanted to take a look at him at the corner position last week, and he did some good things. He'll tell you he'd like to have a couple plays back, but I like what he did first time out playing that position. Where he plays this week, we'll see how that goes. Tavierre Thomas also, not only just as a special teams player. Both of those guys have given us good plays. Whenever you make changes, it's also saying that you're not totally satisfied with the results you've gotten, and that's the case also at the corner position. We'll see how it goes this week. And at safety, Lonnie (Johnson Jr.) has moved into the starting lineup when Justin (Reid) was down. Of course, now when he's back, that gives us more flexibility, too. We'll keep letting the guys play and they'll tell us more."
With DB Desmond King II formerly playing in the slot, how do you think his skillset fits for playing on the outside?
"You're right, he's been a nickel the majority of his time in the league. But I know a little more about his history. He's played on the outside and played it well when he was at Iowa. He's a good ball skill guy. He understands zone concepts. He's a tackler, also. We insist on our corners wanting to tackle, not just tackling, wanting to tackle and be physical. He does all of those things."
When an opponent enters the game missing starters on the offensive line, do you go in with a plan to exploit that to make it harder for their quarterback?
"We go into the game plan looking more at them being at their strength, as strong as they can be, this is what we're going to be dealing with. I'm, of course, familiar with a couple of their linemen being placed on the COVID-19 List and all of that. But we're just assuming they're going to be at full strength when they come in here, and if they're not, fine, but our game plan is more around that."
Can you talk about Patriots QB Mac Jones and what you like about him?
"Again, I don't know a lot about him, but I read and I know just watching. Coming from the college game, I know a little bit more about his history. Seeing what he's done in the NFL, for you to come into an NFL camp and to be a game day starter, that tells you an awful lot in a program like theirs. But any program, for a rookie to play and to play at the level that he has, I think all the different challenges that have been put in front of him, he's handled them all well right up until primetime Sunday night in that environment. But he can make all the throws. I'm told he's a smart player. His play, just watching on video, says that. He's running their offense and running it well, and it'll be a good challenge for us."
Is there anything you can throw at a rookie quarterback that you couldn't do to a more experienced quarterback?
"I guess most people would say that that's supposed to be the case. I can't say that. When I look at it, if an NFL team puts a guy there in that role, they feel pretty good about him being able to do all of the things that they would like to do. Just like we talked about injury-wise, if a team is not at their best, fine, but we have to look at it like rookie or whoever the quarterback is, we're going to see their best. We played one rookie quarterback already this year and he's going to be a great player. I'm sure Mac (Jones) will be a great player some day, too. We just hope it's not this week against us."
If Patriots QB Mac Jones continues to primarily complete short passes, how does that feed into what you guys do schematically on defense?
"We look at what a team has done in the past, but each week a team looks at us and says, 'Hey, this is how we're going to attack.' I know how many passes he's completed, and a lot of them were (because) the game plan called him for to complete a lot of intermediate routes. It may be a different one this week. So, that's how we're looking at it as much as anything. We have a game plan that we feel strongly about. Really, as a young team together, playing together, we're finding out a lot about ourselves and what we can do. It's still really more about that. We did a lot of good things. We made improvements in a lot of areas last week. Red zone defense, a little bit of keeping them out of the end zone. But there's so much more that we have to take care of with us, and the opponent on the other side doesn't have an awful lot to do with that."
With all your experience on defense, is there anything you can tell your offense to help them, or do you stay out of that?
"As you mentioned, I've been in this a while. This is how we teach defensive football, is our defense versus their defense. We have to outperform them. We control everything. Last week in particular, we had the ball on the ground. We took the ball away one time. Four other times, we missed two interceptions and we didn't recover two fumbles. Four times. Buffalo took the ball away five times, we took it away one. We concentrate on that as much as anything. This week, it's about us outperforming their defense, and that occupies all of our time."
What do linebackers need to do to win one-on-one matchups?
"I think it's as simple as finishing a play. You mentioned Kamu (Grugier-Hill), what he'll tell you is the ball was right there. Catch that interception. Had a couple plays like that. Christian Kirksey will tell you he got his hands on the ball, intercept the ball down in the red zone. It's not major things we have to do. To me, the hardest part is getting in position to make plays. From there, it's about making a play. We had opportunities for that. Desmond King II punched the ball out on the ground. Maybe the pursuit of us running to the ball a little harder would've allowed us to get the ball. Terrance Mitchell, ball out, offensive linemen further away. The farthest guy away got the ball. Sometimes the break just doesn't go your way. You keep putting the ball on the ground by getting it on the ground. You keep the ball in front of you and not give up big plays, good things are going to start to happen. That's what I believe."
WR BRANDIN COOKS
You played New England last year. Does it feel any different now playing the Patriots?
"I've got a lot of respect for that organization and the way they do things, and I still got guys over there that I keep in touch with. Great team, but when you start to think of it last year, you start to get out of your game. It's another game, and another opportunity for us to come home and play in front of our fans. We look forward to the challenge."
Have you noticed that you've received heavier coverage from defenses as the run game has struggled in recent weeks?
"No, at the end of the day, as an offense as a whole we just got to get going. Sometimes the run game isn't there, and you got to do what you got to do. Sometimes the pass game is not there. So, we just got to bring one another up when one of those areas is not there. But at the end of the day, we're working to make sure both of those things are right, and that's what we work to do. Just continue to see, as far as the bracketing and all that, we got other guys that can get open that are playing at a high level. I think that we're going to continue to show that."
What does the team need to do to get back to winning?
"Discipline. I think we just got to be a disciplined team. That's first and foremost. Not beating ourselves. I know that's a clique thing, but when it comes to penalties, taking care of the ball, missed assignments and the stuff like that, if we can handle that, it gives us a great opportunity. But if we can't handle that, we have no shot.
What did you tell QB Davis Mills after the Buffalo game?
"You know, it was one of those things where I told him we have games like this. None of us played good, not one soul on the offense. We just got to get back to work. But focusing on those little details throughout the week, just got to get better. Learn from it, but flush it and go on to the next week."
How has QB Davis Mills responded so far this week?
"I think he's been having an awesome week of practice. Just the way he's commanding the offense, his confidence. Not just in the pass game but in the run game as well. He's continued to go, and that's what you love about a young guy. That game didn't faze him. He's willing to get back to work and get better."
As a leader of the team, how do you go about keeping spirits high after a three-game losing streak?
"I think the first thing, the first quarter of the season just finished. We're heading into the second quarter of the season and we got a lot of football left. Everything that we want is still in front of us, and if you can't get up for that, then you don't belong. We got a lot ahead of us, but at the same time, we also understand that we got to get back to work. We can't keep saying, 'Oh, we got next week, next week.' We got to get on track sooner than later."
What have you seen from Head Coach David Culley leadership-wise this week?
"Keeping this thing working smoothly. At the end of the day, holding us accountable but still coming in with that great energy, that smile that he has and the way that he expects us to work. He's still coaching us hard, so I think he's doing a great job of that. When your head coach is still in it, you better be in it."
Head Coach David Culley was vocal in the locker room after the game. What was his message to you?
"Undisciplined. We can't expect anything else but a loss like that if we're undisciplined. That's that hard coaching, but sometimes you need that. That's the truth at the end of the day. I mean, you look at that game, but we're past it now. That was his message, and like I said earlier, we got to get back to (not) beating ourselves to give ourselves a shot."
In the days since, how have you noticed there being more discipline in practices?
"Smoother walk thrus, smoother practice plays. Guys are really locked in on their assignment and focusing on doing their job, their personal job at a high level and letting everything else handle itself."
DB A.J. MOORE JR.
What's it like to be back out there, and how was your leg?
"It wasn't that bad. I just needed rest to be able to get back to 100 percent, to go out and do my job at a high level. It feels great to be back out there with the boys, just be able to help contribute to getting wins on Sundays."
Do you feel like you can play at an NFL speed like before?
"Oh yeah. The time was much needed, and I'm back and I'm healthy and I'm ready to help my team."
What is the role the team is asking of you upon return?
"Whatever they ask me to do and whatever my team needs me to do, that's what I'm going to do, and I'm going to enjoy doing it."
What have you thought about how DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. has progressed this season?
"He's doing well. His hands have gotten better. He's tackling pretty good. He knows the defense pretty good, and he's just flying around making plays."
Do you think you would've dropped that interception DB Lonnie Johnson almost had?
"Maybe, maybe. But no, he's doing good."
Do you see similarities between the Texans and Patriots organizations?
"I feel like this Texans team is very unique. I can't compare it to anywhere else. We know hard work here. It's business, and we love playing football."
What about the vibe of the workplace? How would it compare from here to there?
"Like I said, I can't compare it to anywhere else, but the vibe here is great. All of the guys, we love each other, we play for each other and we just love putting it all on the line for each other."
What do you see in the Patriots offense?
"They're led by a young guy, Mac Jones, who's pretty good, who was a first-round (pick) out of Alabama. They have pretty good tight ends, good, versatile backs. They're pretty good, we just have to go out and play Texan defense and we'll be alright."
DB JUSTIN REID
What did you say to DB Lonnie Johnson Jr. when he got his first interception?
"It was about damn time that he got one. Everybody's been saying that since he got here, 'When are you going to finally join the club?' So he finally got him one. Didn't take him long, first play of the game. That was exciting. I was happy to see him do it."
What was his reaction on the sideline?
"Oh, he was hype. Yeah, he was hype. He was really hype. That gave the whole sideline a lot of juice and momentum, so it was a big play to start the game."
What have you seen in DB Lonnie Johnson Jr.'s progression through the season?
"Some if it is just comfort. He's become more comfortable in the system. You've got to remember, this is his second year playing safety. A lot of times your biggest growth is after you have a full year in and you come around in the second time around, things start to make sense a little bit better and a little bit easier, and you're able to build a little bit more. You're starting to see that happen."
What went into your preparation to playing closer to the line against the Bills?
"I tried to eat a little bit of a bigger dinner, put some weight on. You've got a lot more bigger bodies down there."
Can you do that in a week?
"Not a whole lot, but you can work yourself up a little bit. A lot of it down there is just eye control. It's a little bit of a different feel than it is playing deep. Deep, you have a little more of a spatial awareness type of feel. You're covering more ground, making plays in space. When you're down low, a lot of it is discipline, reading the gap schemes, but also having that fast trigger whenever you do have a read to tells you to go, and to trust it and go, and not be hesitant. Because if you're late, then you're going to buy time for an offensive player to come and block your things like that. It's a little bit of a different feel but they're both fun to play."
What's important when you're playing a team with a short passing game?
"Just keeping in mind that they have a rookie quarterback, as well. I'm sure they want to make quick throws, keep his confidence level high. He did a tremendous job in my opinion against the Buccaneers, the game that they came off of. So that game is just dink and dunks, I don't think will kill you. And there's some trap plays that you can set up for that, too, if that's what they want to do the entire game. But I don't think that those plays kill you. You've just got to be disciplined for when the real opportunities come."
How about the trick plays?
"The Patriots are always good for a couple of gadgets, man. I don't think I've played them one time where they didn't have a gadget play, either on special teams or on their offensive playbook. We know (Jakobi) Meyers is a former quarterback. We know that they have a phenomenal offensive coordinator. Brilliant mind that's going to come up with something unique. But a lot of that just comes back to discipline. If something just doesn't feel right about the play, there's probably a reason that it doesn't feel right."
How does their offensive approach feed into the way you want to play defense?
"My mentality is that you can't let it affect you to make you play passively, if that makes sense. You've got to still play your normal reads and play aggressively, and when that situation does arise, you just got to play it. You've got to just play the situation whenever it comes back. But you can't let that affect how you're playing the whole game, like you're scared for it to happen. You just react to it when it does happen, and then make the play on the ball."
What's the mood around here this week being on a three-game losing streak?
"I can tell you nobody was excited about losing 40-0. This is a professional business that we live in, but the attitude has been bright. I give credit to Coach Culley in always having an attitude to keep spirits high. Really trying to flush whatever happened last week down the toilet and move on as best we can, because that's what this league's about. We go and beat them 40-0, everybody is going to forget about last week the same way as the week before that, and the week before that. It's a week-to-week business, and the task at hand is the Patriots. They're going to get our full attention."
Do you think the fact that this is a veteran team helps everyone move on?
"Yeah, I think everyone on this squad at one point or another has been on both ends of the scoreboard last week. A lot of that is just staying even-keeled. When you win big, you don't want to let that affect how you prepare next week, and the same whenever you lose big. You've still got to have that same mentality to prepare for the next week and go and put your best foot forward."
Did it seem like the Bills were trying to take you out of plays by motioning you away from the run?
"Yeah, I'm sure they had some game plan schemes. I don't think they were prepared for me to be playing strong safety off the rip. And maybe they did or didn't as the game got on, that they started doing—we call it hawk motions where it goes back across the ball and I track them. If they take me out of the play, all that is is an opportunity for somebody else to make a play. The best thing I can do is just take care of my job and my responsibility and let my teammates trust them to take care of theirs."