Amazing what a difference winning and losing has on an NFL head coach. Last week, Bill O’Brien seemed defeated and despondent. This week, he cracked a few smiles, made few attempts at jokes and seemed to be in far better spirits.
One thing to love about O’Brien—he takes the blame himself and gives the praise to his players and staff. That characteristic makes players want to play for their coach and assistant coaches want to do their best as well. No matter what happens, O’Brien has their back and they know it.
Even though he skirted the big news of the day - saying he didn’t know the details of several key injuries from last night - O’Brien was very forthright in other areas and seemed to go to great lengths to fully answer most of the questions.
Here’s the full transcript:
How can a win like that be a catalyst for the season?
"Well, I think any time you’re down 14 points with two minutes to go, 2:47 to go in the game, and you’re able to come back and pull out the win, I think that says a lot about your team. I think it says you’re a resilient team and it says that you’re never out of it and you’re going to continue to fight. But I also think it’s one game. I think it’s one game, and like I always tell you guys, it’s really 16 one-game seasons. That’s what it is. So, now you have to quickly turn the page because, again, when you watch the tape there’s a lot to improve upon. We have to turn the page and get going on Denver when these guys get back in here on Wednesday."
What did you think of the performance of the offensive line, especially the way they run blocked?
"Look, I thought those guys played well. They battled, they’re tough. It wasn’t always perfect but I thought that those guys played as a unit. Oday Aboushi stepped up and played for us. Chris Clark, (Greg) Mancz, (Xavier) Su’a-Filo, Duane (Brown), (Kendall) Lamm when he was in there. I thought those guys played hard and played well together."
Does pulling a game out like that help you avoid what happened in Minnesota and New England when you go to Denver?
"Look, I think that we’ve moved past those two games. So, I think this is a team that is definitely a mentally tough team. This is a team that understands that, like I always say, it’s a race to see who can improve the fastest in this league. That’s really what the league is about. It’s a progress league. It’s about who can be the most consistent team over the last 10 games of the season. That’s what we’re striving to do. Whatever happened in those previous games happened. Now it’s up to us to try to continue to try to be more consistent and try to keep winning."
How would you assess the health of the cornerbacks who are banged up?
"I think all those guys, whoever is injured right now with the exception of probably Kevin (Johnson), is day-to-day. I really don’t know right now. The game ended at, whatever, midnight, and I have no idea right now. So, I would say that would be in the day-to-day category."
Can you give us any details on the injuries to CB Kevin Johnson and S K.J. Dillon?
"I really don’t have details on those injuries other than Dillon was a knee and Kevin was a foot. But I don’t know the details of those injuries."
Other than you calling the plays that QB Brock Osweiler liked, what happened to spark the offense at the end of the game? You said after the game you called plays that Brock liked.
"Oh, I was half-kidding when I said that. I think that he just, with his teammates, they all just did a good job of coming together, making the timely plays when they had to be made. I think (DeAndre) Hopkins stepped up on those drives. C.J. Fiedorowicz has done a really good job for us in the passing game. Lamar Miller, obviously. Lamar Miller was the player of the game on offense. I mean, he just did a heck of a job. I think that when we start drives, regardless if it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter, when we start drives with a positive play we usually end up having a decent drive. What happened last night was we either didn’t start the drive with a positive play or we did and then we would get a penalty or some type of sack or TFL (tackle for loss) that would set us back in the drive. We have to eliminate those. We have to eliminate penalties, eliminate the things that make us an inconsistent offense and kind of try to bottle some of the things we did late in the game to be more consistent. That’s what we’re always trying to do."
Is there anything you can already pinpoint from last week that you want to see improve next week?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Obviously, we’re going to have to stop the run better than we did last night on defense. Denver is a really good running football team. We’re going to have to be more consistent in our offensive execution, just overall. We’re going to have to protect the passer. Obviously, they have great edge rushers – Von Miller – really tough secondary – Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward – good interior linemen. We’re going to have to really have a good week of practice and go in there with the mindset that we’re going to play very aggressively and we’re going to play as consistent as we possibly can. That’s the only way that we’re going to have a chance to win the game, is to eliminate errors and be more consistent in our offensive execution. Special teams-wise, I thought there were some decent things. Overall we just have to continue to cover kicks more consistently. We can’t give up returns to the 30-yard line in the kickoff game, for example. We have to do more of tackling inside the 20, which we did. We have to continue to kick the ball and punt the ball as well as we can. There’s a lot to improve upon and we’ll work hard to do that this week."
You’ve said that QB Brock Osweiler has been very prepared this season. How did it feel for you to see that pay off yesterday?
"I felt good for the team. I think that he did a nice job - all year he’s done a nice job of preparing and working very hard and it was good for us to, as a team, for us to come out with a win with him being one of the catalysts in that deal. He was able to keep his poise late in the game and deliver the ball. He made a great throw to C.J. (Fiedorowicz) on that touchdown. I mean, that was not a very big window to throw that ball into. Made some really nice throws to (DeAndre) Hopkins, checked it down to Lamar (Miller). The touchdown that Lamar reversed the field on was an unbelievable effort by Lamar, but that was good read by Brock to check it down, so I think all those things are really good for Brock and good for everybody."
Can you talk a little bit about open-field tackling and how you are improving in that area?
"Sometimes we’re crossing over. We don’t have a good base underneath us. Sometimes it’s not wrapping up. We’re trying to ‘block tackle.’ Sometimes we tackled really well. Obviously Kevin (Johnson) being out now, but I thought he did a great job tackling last night. (Benardrick) McKinney played really well last night. There were some times that we missed some tackles. This is not an easy league. Some of these backs that we go against, receivers that we go against are hard to tackle. We have to continue to work on that and be more consistent tacklers."
RB Lamar Miller obviously had a good game on the ground, but he also did well receiving, which is something that worked well against Denver a couple of weeks ago with Falcon’s RB Tevin Coleman. Do you plan on getting Miller involved more in the passing game?
"I think the more we get Lamar the ball, probably the better. Because I think when he touches the ball usually good things happen. Whether it’s in the run or the passing game or screens or however we get him the ball, I think it’s probably going to be good for the Houston Texans."
A lot of the runs were to the left side. Were they designed to the left or did RB Lamar Miller just break it to the left and how did the left side do on run blocking?
"Some of those were designed that way. We can run - all of our plays, we can go right or left. So when I say ‘designed that way’ just that was the look that gave us that ability to run it over there. Some of them broke out over there. He’s got really good vision and he saw a crease back side, so he went back side. We don’t over-coach him. We just kind of tell him what depth he needs to be at, the proper steps, here’s what you’re reading and then hand him the ball and let him go. I thought the left side played well. I thought having Duane (Brown) back has really helped us from a leadership standpoint and from an obviously blocking standpoint. I think him and Xavier (Su’a-Filo) playing next to each other has been a good thing."
Now that you’ve had a few games without DE J.J. Watt, how do you feel like the defense has adjusted?
"I think these guys are playing well. Injuries happen in the NFL. There are a lot of things that we can do better in all three phases. I think our defense plays very, very hard. I think they rush the passer very well. I thought they made it very difficult on Indianapolis in the passing game with the pass rush and I do know that we have to shore it up in the running game. There were times where we looked like we were really doing a great job stopping the run, but too many double-digit yardage runs. Too many double-digit drives. There’s a lot to improve upon and I know these guys will show up back on Wednesday itching to improve upon those things."
Can you talk about CB Robert Nelson’s interception and how impressive that was for him because it’s one of the only NFL games he has played?
"That’s a big play. He did a heck of a job. He made two really nice tackles on special teams. One was a key tackle where we had an onside kick lined up and we decided to kick it deep and he went down there. He was really the only one that could make that tackle and he made it. That was a really nice play. Then the interception was a real nice play. His ability to kind of catch that thing off of his shoe tops was important. That was a big play in the game. Big play in the game at that point in time. Just needs to continue to do it. Continue to help us on special teams and continue to keep competing at that level."
Last week you said it was all your fault and took the blame for the loss at Minnesota. You said you had to do a better job. Did you do a better job yesterday vs. the Colts?
"I don’t know. I think the players did a great job. I think you give a lot of credit to the players. I think the players – it’s a players’ league – the players go out there and make the plays. I think the players should get all the credit for last night. The resiliency. I think it’s just so hard in this league to - when you’re down two touchdowns at any point in the game - to think that you’re going to be able to come back, it takes a very resilient football team to be able to do that. Give a lot of credit to those players. They came out after halftime with a mindset that they were going to do whatever it takes to win the game."
Can you take us through the late reception by WR Jaelen Strong? QB Brock Osweiler said he made a change at the line of scrimmage. Were you aware he was making the change and what did you see?
"We have a lot of confidence in Brock to be able to make changes at the line, that’s kind of one of the tenants of our offense, that the quarterback can put us in the best play, take advantage of a look, those types of things. So did we know exactly at that point in time that he was going to make that change? No but that’s something that’s a principal of our teaching and of how we teach the quarterback, ‘If you see this, do that’ type of thing. He saw it. Him and Jaelen were on the same page. There’s a lot that goes into that. A lot of eye contact, working with each other. He spends a lot of time with Jaelen and (DeAndre) Hopkins and all those guys, Braxton (Miller), (Will) Fuller V, (Keith) Mumphery. That was a great throw and a great catch. He put it in a spot where the DB couldn’t make a play and I thought Jaelen made a great play on that, stacking the DB. That was obviously a huge play in the game."
When you worked with Patriots QB Tom Brady, how demanding was he about having things done a certain way?
"Every quarterback is different. I mean, no two quarterbacks are alike. The key to coaching a quarterback is really getting to know the guy. What is something that helps you get to know this guy? Whether it’s off the field or on the field. You really have to develop a bond. I’m not saying it’s different with other positions, but I think you really have to get to know the quarterback to really understand what he likes, what he’s comfortable with and also for that quarterback to understand your style and how you do things. Sometimes that takes a while. What we know about Brock (Osweiler) is that he’s a very hard working guy, very prepared guy. We enjoy coaching him. We enjoy coaching him. He’s learning. We just were happy to see him be able to help us win that game last night. That was a good win."
You and Patriots QB Tom Brady were obviously demanding of each other. There’s that famous clip of you and him fighting on the sidelines. You two must have been comfortable with each other.
"I know where you’re going with this. I think I know where you’re headed with this, with whatever story came out. I mean, anybody that’s been around me knows that I really only know one way to go about it. That’s to work very hard and to do it in a very intense environment. I think that’s the type of players we have. So when you’re coaching football and playing football, and you’re in a competitive environment where everyone is pulling the same rope and everybody is trying to do their very best to win the game, things are going to happen. Like, that to me is the biggest non-story of the year. I don’t know if there’s a bigger non-story. Anybody that has seen me or been around me or any of our coaching staff from (Mike) Vrabel to (John) Butler to (Mike) Devlin to (George) Godsey, knows that’s the way we coach. We coach hard. The players play hard. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. That’s what makes it fun to coach and that’s what makes it fun about this league. That’s just the way we are. That’s the way the players are. That’s a competitive league. That’s the environment we’re in."
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