HC LOVIE SMITH
"When you go on the road, that's a part of life in the NFL. There's nothing like coming back home so we're excited about coming back to NRG stadium. Last time we were there, we didn't finish the job. I'm talking about our football team, but our fans did. We asked them to show up. They've done that every time we've asked them and I though they showed out right up until. We eventually will do that. Good work today back on the practice field. The only way to get the bad taste out of your mouth is to go back to work. We've identified a lot of things, of course I'm not going to go over every one. There's a lot of things we have to improve, with all three phases. That's what we're planning on doing. We know who our opponent is, of course they came here last year. They have excellent skill, good football team. When I say good football team, the record doesn't necessarily say exactly what team you face, what team we are right now. Eventually, it will. This is a critical game for both teams. Offensively for the Chargers, it starts with the quarterback, one of the best in the game (Justin Herbert). He can make all the throws. He's mobile, makes good decisions. It will be a challenge for our guys. (Austin) Ekeler the running back, good player. Good offensive line. Of course their wide receivers, I don't know whether Keenan Allen is going to play or not. If he does, it will be harder for us if he does. He's an excellent football player, Mike Williams. On the defensive side, it starts up front. I don't know whether (Joey) Bosa is playing or not but if he does, he's one of the best in the game. Of course Khalil Mack, been a fan of his. A long time ago, I was hoping that we would draft him. That's what we're facing. We understand that but we feel like we're up to the challenge."
Can you talk about QB Davis Mills and his difference in statistics on the road versus at home and why that might be?
"Not too much into that. This is what we looked at. For us, he's played one home game and we as a team didn't get the job done. There's some good things he did during that. I think it a small body of work to start writing things in ink right now. I'm anxious to see his second game at home and feeding off of the energy from his home crowd. He made improvements this past week and I expect him to take another jump this week."
What improvements do you think QB Davis Mills has made?
"There's a lot of improvements he made. When I say improvement, I'm taking about some of the little things that don't show up. Pocket presence, as I said it, the last two games that I stood up here. Pocket presence, he had a couple interceptions on tipped balls so there's a lot of running our offense on what he's doing. A lot of times it just goes to the quarterback. It's a lot more than that. From us and our evaluation, every play that he's made, he's making progress. I'm excited about seeing him play this week."
In this week, what ways can you make things easier for the offense?
"We've got to keep grinding is what we have to do. We haven't finished. We're not looking to make things easier. Decisions we make are what we think we need to do to get over the hump. Easier doesn't necessarily go with that. What we're going to do is we're going to do the things we believe in better. As I look a that game, there's a lot of opportunities. When I say we're close, we're not going to go in a game where we're not going to make four third-and-1s. We're not going to be third-and-goal from the two and get knocked back to have to kick a field goal. I don't think we're going to have two tipped balls that they're going to intercept. When I say we're a lot closer, we are closer in a lot of different ways. Close doesn't matter an awful lot, that's why we're excited about playing this week. Hopefully the improvements that we've made will be on display."
Is your philosophy as simple as 'run when we want to run and stop when we need to stop'?
"I think it is as simple as that. We can put a lot of other things, but just that statement right there. Did we run the ball offensively? Did we run the ball we would like this past game? No, we did not. Defensively, did we stop the run? No, we did not. You can start with that and where you isolated on that. We talk about the run, those things pretty simple. You can also go third downs, in order to have more opportunities to run or pass, more snaps. Offensively, 25-percent conversion, not good enough. Defensively, they converted over 40-percent of the plays. These are the things right here that we see the light at the end of the tunnel on a few plays here and there."
How is WR Brandin Cooks' presence on the offense different this year than it was last year?
"Last year, we're not going on much last year. This is what we think we need to do this year. Different staff last year, two years ago, that doesn't really matter. We need to get Brandin (Cooks) the ball more. I'm going to say we need to give Nico Collins the ball more. Pharaoh Brown, our tight ends, when we've gone to them, there's a lot of things. Just to isolate and say just this and that solves all our problems, I think it's a lot bigger than that."
When you talk to the players, is there one thing that you consistently tell them to do so the team can finish games?
"Just like that, we have to do this. That's what it is. Here's the situations and it's there in black and white. We talk about finishing, a lot of finishing first just drives, third-and-1. You look at those plays, they're there to be made. As we watch the video and as we talk to the guys, this play right here could mean the difference in the game. One more, make this. Guys understand that. It's hard for me to say what we're doing on the practice field when we're not seeing it always out there on Sundays yet. Eventually that's going to come. All the things that have been mentioned, believe me, we're going over. Eventually, they're going to not just hear the message, but execute it on the field."
Is there any player who's eligible to get off the injured/reserve list who's close to contributing?
"First off, when can a player come off, if he's eligible to play. In your opinion and in our opinion, do you think he can help us win right now. That's how we look at it. There are some of the guys coming off of the injured list that we will get into the rotation as soon as possible."
Where is LB Christian Harris in that progress?
"Christian (Harris) is making progress. Go back to our comments that we had about him when he was healthy and ready to go. He's a good football player. Eventually, he will be in our plans, yes."
How do you feel about DB Derek Stingley Jr.'s progression when he is challenged by teams?
"I don't have a lot of complaints about any of our rookies, our young players. I've seen improvements throughout. First you have to get out there, your first action that you play, getting reps, being in tough situations. We've done that from Derek Stingley to Jalen Pitre to Kenyon Green. We've talked about when Christian Harris comes back, Dameon Pierce. They're young players, so do we like their progress? Absolutely. I like something that Derek (Stingley Jr.) does daily and each game there's something new that he's seeing. Keep in mind, we're just at the first quarter of the season. There's a lot of football. To answer your question, yes they're making progress. I'll say that about our rookies."
What do you think about the offensive line play?
"That's one good thing of course to talk about is when you can have the same five guys. I know Kenyon (Green) moved in a little late, but now we're kind of locked in with our starters. That has to help. As far as our play, we talk about running the football, or if you see a sack given up, it's going to start with the (offensive) line right now. Improvements we need to make and are we there at any position? No, we're not. Can we play better on the offensive line? Absolutely we can and we will."
QB DAVIS MILLS
How does your thumb feel?
"Early on last week, it was still a little bruised and swollen, but it's completely fine now."
In what ways do you feel like the Bears game wasn't one of your cleaner games?
"When you talk about our offense and how we want to execute, I thought we did that. Looking at myself, I thought I made it through progressions efficiently, protected the ball other than the two tips by the defense. Unfortunately, that just happens in football. Can't do much about it now. Even with the last one to Rex (Burkhead), I progressed through the progression, nothing frontside, got back to him backside, he was open and wanted to get him the ball and the defensive lineman tipped it. Not much I can do there. Other than that, I think we're trending in the right direction. Got to keep a clean week of practice this week and go out. It's going to be nice playing in front of our fans at home on Sunday, feed off the energy and go out and make some big plays for them, so that'll be fun."
Can you talk about the challenge this year from tying to losing two straight road games?
"It's almost like that tie first game of the season in the locker room it almost feels worse than a loss because you're so close and then it ends in a tie. Growing up you never tie in football games, you either win or lose. That was tough. Since then, we feel like we're playing teams tight. The difference between the best team in the league right now and the worse team, it's the NFL, it's not much of a difference. Guys know we're really close. We've just got to come out and continue our efforts through the fourth quarter late in the game when it really matters and just execute at a high level and pull one out at the end."
Why do you think you have more success at home instead of the road?
"The biggest thing is that you're you comfortable at home. You've played here before. Don't have to deal with the crowd noise on offense and that's a big thing on the away games, just being able to communicate pre-snap and handle everything. You're not surprised as much. I don't think really the philosophy changes, obviously we still have to protect the football. I didn't know that stat was so lopsided, home and away, interception rate. My job stays the same, just got to execute at a high level regardless."
How much are RPO's involved this year in OC Pep Hamilton' scheme compared to last and how do you work through the checks?
"We've had some similar schemes. The way it popped up last week we had a slot pressure on one which by scheme, I'm supposed to throw it out to the slot and he ended up making a play and batting it down. Then we had another one where I had free access on a run play if we get an off-corner into the boundary, I can throw a little 5-yard out and try and get free yards. They ended up jumping it, so I just had to throw it away. There's plays like that where you think 'okay, third-and-1, third-and-2, can the running back beat him to the line of scrimmage and try and fall forward for a yard? When they are bringing pressure, does a quarterback need to throw it off the edge to protect the play itself because we're not blocking that guy?' It's stuff like that where we just had to think about. Coaches are working on, we're working on it as an offense to just be efficient on third-and-short, third-and-manageable. We just want to keep drives alive and figure out what plays we want to call to keep the sticks moving."
What's difficult about when the defense is trying to fool you?
"A lot of it is just kind of having a good feel of the game, how it's moving, how things are hitting and an offense. If you're busting off big runs, you want to give the ball to your running back rather than trying to make a play on the edge with the receiver doing something with my own legs. It's kind of just the flow of the game and you'll feel it as you're out there."
HC Lovie Smith said he wants to get WR Brandin Cooks and WR Nico Collins more. How do you approach that goal going into this week?
"Anytime Brandin (Cooks) and Nico (Collins) can get the ball, we know it's going to be a big play. We've got to continue to find ways to move them around, get them specific matchups and different looks versus the defenses where they'll be open and they can win on their routes. We're excited about that. We have some good stuff going in this week where we're going to keep attacking, keep trying to emphasize getting those guys the ball so they can make plays for us."
Do you feel any pressure from the Texans to see if you're the long-term option at quarterback?
"There's pressures in being the starting quarterback. I'm not looking that far ahead of it. I'm taking this really one practice at a time, one week at a time right now. I'm just going out there, putting my best foot forward each day for my teammates and trying to win games."
When you go back and watch the film, are you seeing something different then what you saw in real time?
"I think it's synced up pretty well for the most part. I think as an offense, now we're running it. They don't put a ton on the quarterback, so I don't need to go out there and confuse myself and try to see too much. I need to see what I need to see. That's pretty much it. Pep (Hamilton) always says, 'see a little, see a lot. If you see a lot, you don't see anything at all'. Going out there and being efficient with what I need to look at. Obviously, you can see a lot more when you go back and watch the film after the game, but I think we're in a good spot right now. We've just got to keep progressing the way it is."
WR BRANDIN COOKS
What do you think it will take to get the offense clicking?
"At the end of the day, it's about finishing. Not being able to finish mainly with touchdowns in the red zone versus field goals. That's just the name of the game these past three weeks. In order to do that, we've got to just execute better at the end of the day."
Is it more so about adding up plays during the game as opposed to it just coming down to one play at the end?
"Yes and no. I think in this league it always comes down pretty much to the end. I get what you're saying. We can be more consistent throughout those three quarters, absolutely, but the great teams find a way at the end to be able to take those close ones and win it."
Where do you think the chemistry is with you and QB Davis Mills right now?
"Personally, just from myself and with us in pass catching with Davis (Mills), we've got some things to clean up. We can be better, absolutely. I look in the mirror at myself and I can be better. If every person can do that and bring the collectively, I think that's going to help us really get on the same page, with all of us actually."
Is the lack of converting on third-and-short the most frustrating thing for you?
"Yeah, because we're setup. Anytime you can be third-and-short you expect convert more times than not, and we're just not doing that. When we look at the film, it's little details on that from all of us. We've just got to be better."
On the last offensive play of the game, how was the defender guarding you and do you feel like you were open on that play?
"I'm over that game. I'm on to this week. As far as what type of play it was, I don't remember. I flush that out of my mind and we're on to the next."
As a leader, what has the message been to your teammates this week?
"We're close and I really mean that. When you say that, you just go to the film. Obviously, these games have been so close so just how we get over that hump individually and collectively as a group. That's just the message. We've got to keep straining, keep fighting and continue to have that hope because we're right there from getting over the hump."
What do you see out of the Chargers defense?
"They fly around. They've got a special group on that side of the ball. Front seven, guys in the back end. Derwin (James Jr.) just doing what he's doing as a safety. They fly around. They're a discipline defense in my opinion. Obviously last game was what it was. At the end of the day, they've got a lot of talent on that side of the ball, a lot of guys that can make plays."
How do you balance patience as a team before digging yourself too deep in a hole?
"We had a great practice. I feel that way. We just got to be able to translate that into the game. How do you do that? You just keep pushing. Keep expecting a high level out of yourself and hopefully we connect sooner rather than later."
What's been the trend that helps the offense get the ball farther down field?
"The trend is anytime we can run the ball well, that helps us. We're going to lean heavy on our run game. We've got the guys up front that can do it and guys in the backfield that play at a high level. Anytime you can keep that balance, it helps you get downfield as an offense as well."
Does seeing what is shaped in front of you from the defense open up with how things go as an offense?
"I think it's sensing that the defense respects the run game as well."