BB: We're definitely deep into the Houston preparations. They're a really impressive team, a big win last week against Oakland. They're playing very well here at this point in time, outstanding on defense, a lot of explosive players on offense, kicking game, well-coached. Obviously, a very good fundamental team. They don't beat themselves, don't get penalized, don't turn the ball over. Just a really sound football team. This will be a big challenge for us this week to be able to compete with them. That's a big win that they had in the wild card game. I'm sure they're coming in here with a lot of confidence, as they should.
Q: How does what they try to do on offense change depending on who is in there at quarterback? Has there been a lot of back and forth when they've made those changes?
BB: I mean they've won with both; both quarterbacks. They get a lot of production out of their receivers, their tight ends, their running backs. They use a lot of people at every positon and they've all been productive. Whoever they put out there we'll have to defend, but they've all had success. I'm sure they're confident in all of them.
Q: How effective have they been in trying to run some up-tempo offense and what allows them to be able to do that?
BB: Yeah, I mean Billy [O'Brien] has always liked to do that. George [Godsey] - they do a good job with that. It keeps pressure on the defense from a tempo standpoint. Yeah, if that's what they do we'll have to deal with it, sure. But yeah, they've done it. They've done it, they've not done it. Again, defensively you can't control any of those things. You just have to react to what they give you.
Q: With all of the personnel on their staff that have familiarity with the New England system, can that be of any advantage to them in their preparation?
BB: Yeah, I mean we've played them several times since then.
Q: So there is nothing Bill O'Brien can say to his team about how Tom Brady and the offense here may operate?
BB: We played them last year. We played them already this year. They haven't been here since then.
Q: Vince Wilfork has hinted that he may retire at the end of the year. If this is in fact his last game, how fitting would it be for him to go out at Gillette Stadium where he was such a big part of the organization's success in years past?
BB: Yeah, I think I've spoken at length about my respect and admiration for Vince [Wilfork] and his career. Right now we're just focused on getting our team ready to play Saturday night.
Q: What have you seen from Vince Wilfork on their defense this year?
BB: I mean they're very good on defense. They've got a lot of good players. Vince [Wilfork] has a solid role for them. I'm sure he gives them great leadership. A strong player, hard to block, smart.
Q: How much skill do you see from their secondary? Do you see them mix up their coverages often?
BB: They have good players. Good players, good pass rush, good coaches, they're well-coached, have good fundamentals. They don't give up a lot of long balls. They're competitive on really just about everything. All three, really all four of their corners including [Robert] Nelson have played well. [Quintin] Demps has six interceptions. [Andre] Hal, [Corey] Moore - they're all good. They're good at linebacker with [Brian] Cushing, [Bernardrick] McKinney. They play a lot of six-DB's [defensive backs]. They play some five-DB's with McKinney and Cushing as the linebackers. But I mean they have good coverage players. They use them in different roles. They lost [Kevin] Johnson. They lost [K.J.] Dillon, but they've had other guys step in there. Moore has played well for them, obviously Demps. Demps had a big year in terms of turning the ball over. [A.J.] Buoye has played well for them outside. He played inside a little bit against us. [Jonathan] Joseph, [Kareem] Jackson, [Robert] Nelson has played well. I mean they're all a good group.
Q: What has Eric Rowe brought to your secondary since he arrived in New England?
BB: Eric [Rowe]'s continued to get better as he's grown in our system. Communication, techniques, communication with the other DB's and our scheme, some of the techniques, and various coverages, and situations and just more familiarity, more practice, more experience. He's done a good job for us. I'm glad we have him.
Q: What's allowed LeGarrette Blount to have more success this season? Is it a matter of his offseason work or improved offensive line play, or some combination of both?
BB: Yeah, I mean he's done a good job. He's been here all year, hasn't missed anything. He's been durable. He's been out there all the way through the season, training camp. He's been solid for us. The offensive line has done a good job, tight ends, fullback. The passing game has helped the running game. The running game has helped the passing game. None of that really means anything now going up against the best defense in the league here, so we'll see what we can do this week. This will be a big challenge for us.
Q: Is it typical to see running backs start to break down at the end of the year due to the number of hits they take piling up?
BB: I don't know. The NFL is a tough 16-game regular season grind for everybody. But some guys come through it better than others. Some years are different than others. It sure didn't look like [Le'Veon] Bell was slowing down last week. I don't know. It looked like he ran pretty good to me.
Q: It seemed like Dion Lewis' workload was ramped up towards the end of the season. Were you happy with the level he was able to reach going into the playoffs after returning from his injury last year?
BB: Well, I think given the constraints that we had with his situation that he did the best that he could to get back, and we did the best we could to give him an opportunity to get back. It is what it is. You can't change anything. It's happened in the past. We're going into a big game this weekend, again, against a great defense, so we'll see.
Q: With some of your receivers returning to practice and looking healthier, how do you balance the decision as to whether or not to keep them all active or to carry depth somewhere else on the roster?
BB: Right. Well, we have to do what we feel like is best for the team for this game, like we always do. We've had that situation several times this year where we've inactivated players that had they been active would've played. But we have the same constraints as everybody else. We can have 46 active. We've had a lot of healthy inactives this year, which hasn't always been the case. It really hasn't been the case very much in the past, so it's been some decisions that we've had to make this year, whereas in other years a lot of times those decisions were made for you based on the availability of the players. But whatever it is this week, it is. We'll make the best decisions we can and do what we feel like is best for this game. I can't tell you what that answer is going to be. We'll have to see how it goes.
Q: How has Danny Amendola in particular handled his time off while recovering from his injury?
BB: Yeah, nobody works harder than Danny [Amendola]. Nobody works harder. He's done everything he can do. I'm sure he'll continue to do that, and we'll see how it goes.
Q: How has the Texans defense been able to maintain such a high level of play despite losing one of their best players early in the year in J.J. Watt?
BB: They have a lot of good players.
Q: What have you seen from Malcolm Butler on a day-to-day basis, not just on the practice field but from the standpoint of just coming to work every day and doing his job?
BB: Yeah, Malcolm [Butler] competes very hard. He's got a great attitude and gives great effort on the football field no matter what the situation is. He really competes. He loves to go out there and play. I think his level of competitive energy, it's high.
Q: Did you see that from Day One of him coming out of West Alabama or is that something he has grown into over his time in the NFL?
BB: I think he played hard in college. Yeah, absolutely. I think he competed hard. West Alabama was what it was. You can go back and watch the same games that I watched, so it is what it is, but I wasn't coaching him then so I don't really know what happened, or didn't happen in those games and plays, but whatever. Since we've had him, since we had him in that rookie minicamp, he just goes out there and competes hard. He's durable, he's tough, he loves to play, loves to compete. It doesn't matter who it's against. You can put him up there in any situation and he's going to compete and he's going to have fun doing it.
Q: How impressed have you been with the whole way he has handled his situation? Not many players have come from a relatively obscure background to make the big play he did in Super Bowl XLIX a few seasons ago and then maintained the level of play since then.
BB: Yeah, I would say that's pretty true. He's got three years, almost three years of experience now in the league so that's a change. That would be a change for any of us, to do three years, to do something for three years that we haven't done before. But that being said, a lot of the things I just mentioned were the way they were three years ago in rookie minicamp, or in training camp in 2014. I don't think if you pulled out practice or games from various points at those points in time, if you looked at it you'd probably - other than technique or something like that - in terms of his competitiveness I don't think you'd probably be able to find too much of a difference.
Q: Is there less of a focus on looking at your game against the Texans from earlier in the season because it was three months ago now and you have a different quarterback?
BB: No, I think you start all over on every game. I mean, you look at other games and you put it in perspective, but you start all over again with your preparations every week.
Q: What have you seen from some of the non-starters like Nate Ebner and Jonathan Jones in terms of their preparation and readiness throughout the course of the season?
BB: Those two guys have done a great job. I mean, Nate [Ebner] has been - Nate's got a big job as quarterback of the punt team. I mean, that personal protector, that's a tough spot to play. There are a lot of things that a quarterback has to do, I would say there are even more things. It's only one play, but there are a lot more things that can happen on that play in terms of rush, return, protection, disguise, plus 50, backed up, who's the returner, wind, so forth and so on. There are a lot of things that go into that play that he has to control, or has the ability to control and weigh the other. But it's not just that, it's kickoff, it's the return teams. Jonathan [Jones] has done a great job for us, too. When we've asked him to fulfil a role defensively, he's done that. Those guys are very dependable, work hard; I think you can really count on them every day, every week. They've done a good job for us.
Q: How much have you seen special teams coaches try to mix things up or provide a different look at this time of the year?
BB: It would depend on the coach. But I mean field position in these games is going to be critical. I think we saw that a little bit in the Green Bay [and Giants game] with the Green Bay kickoff returns. Things weren't going too well, that kind of got them started, they had a big one, then they exchanged punts and they scored. They had another big one and the Giants had to play on the three-yard line. So field positon in close games, scoring plays, all the scoring opportunities with the kicks - we saw last year in the Minnesota playoff game, that field goal against Seattle at the end of the game. Every play is important. Every offensive play, every defensive play, every kicking play, they're all important.
Q: Do the Texans special teams units do things similar to the way you've done them with Larry Izzo as the coach?
BB: Well, I think Larry [Izzo] has done a good job. They're a very good rush team. They put a lot of pressure on your kickers, field goal rushes and punt rushes. Even when they return they do a good job of rushing. A lot of times they rush guys like [Whitney] Mercilus who are hard to block no matter who's blocking them. They've had explosive plays in the return game. [Tyler] Ervin had a big play against the Raiders called back, but I think you could see pretty quickly what he can do. [They have an] excellent kicker. [Nick] Novak has had a great year for them. [Shane] Lechler is a field position guy. He can change field position on one play and he does that. They're solid in that phase of the game. We know they're well-coached. Again, you've got to be ready for game plan adjustments or for them to do something that's going to attack you. You've got to be ready to deal with it or adjust to it during the game. They're well-coached in all three phases of the game. I don't think there is any question about that. They do a great job of making it hard on their opponents. We'll have to do a good job preparing and I'm sure there will be in-game adjustments that we'll have to deal with like we always do with them.
Q: When you double-team a receiver and put two defensive backs on one guy, is that something that should come pretty easily to a cornerback or a safety or is there a level of chemistry and communication needed between those two players?
BB: Well, that depends on the receiver and it depends on what type of double coverage you're playing with him. There are a lot of different ways you could double a receiver. Some of why you would choose one over another would depend on either the skills of the receiver or the types of routes that he runs. So depending on what you're trying to get done, what you're trying to take away, and other components of the passing game or the offense may factor into that as well, how you want to do it. But there are different ways to do it, so yeah, just because you have two guys on him doesn't mean you have him covered. You still have to cover him and the techniques versus the routes and the skills of that player still have to be executed.
Q: Did you see the national championship game last night?
BB: I saw a little bit of it.
Q: Did you see the end of it?
BB: I did see the end of it.
Q: Did the Alabama double-pass bring back any memories when you saw Nick Saban pull that out of the playbook?
BB: Yeah, again, in games like that, any play can be a big play. Whether it's a conventional play, unconventional play, or just a great player making a great play or a situation play that's fourth-and-one, I mean in the end, the national championship came down to a yard. We've been in that situation before, both ways. I think that's the kind of football you see at this time of year whether it be at the national championship level or playoffs. You've got a lot of games like that that come down to one play, one yard, and it defines an entire season. You've got to be prepared for that.
Q: What drew you to watch the national championship game last night?
BB: Yeah, I mean I have personal interest in the game, and we'll see what it looks like in a couple months, but I would say there are a lot of good football players on the field - some of who I knew about, some of whom I'm going to need to find out more about. I remember watching that game last year and watching it probably at least 10 times in the offseason because there are so many players. The ones that played last year that didn't play this year are being replaced by guys who are going to be factors in the NFL who are now draft eligible. You're getting to see them against other players of comparable - whether they're draft eligible or not, the guys that are playing in this game are pretty good. If they're not draft eligible this year, they'll be draft eligible next year or soon thereafter, so competitively, it's a great game to watch. It was a great game to watch last year and I'm sure it will be the same this year just from that standpoint. But just from a competitive standpoint, two great teams, two great programs, and again, just coming down to a play, or when you have a lot of points scored like that, it's a lot of plays, but in the end, it's one or two plays that if they go the other way, you get a different result. That's the level of competition we're talking about.
Q: What is it about DeAndre Hopkins that might demand double coverage more than other receivers?
BB: I would say the big thing for him is his hands and his catch radius. Kind of, even when he's covered, he's not covered. He can reach and catch the ball somewhere where the defender can't quite get it if it's thrown there. He's a tough guy to bring down after the catch. He's got good size. He's been targeted a lot on third down as much as any receiver in the league. He's had a lot of third down production, so I think that pretty much says it all right there. He keeps possession of the ball. The guy gets more balls thrown to him than just about anybody in the league and catches more than just about anybody in the league. I would say that kind of defines a go-to player, whether it be for the Texans or really league-wide. Just the fact that you go to him that much, and they have other good players too, it's not like he's the only guy. They've got good backs, they have good tight ends, they've got other good receivers, yet he gets a lot of targets. But he's got great hands - great hands, length, timing, like a [Larry] Fitzgerald type of player. Even when you're on him, he still catches a lot of them. He's got guys draped all over him and still catches a lot of balls like Larry does.