Q:What are your thoughts on the anticipation of this game and how you view it from a Texans standpoint in terms of the game being a measuring-stick game for the franchise?
MS:I think it's a big game for us. It's a big game in the month of December as we get into the home stretch here heading into January. It's a big game on the road, a tough test against a very good football team. We're excited for the opportunity to go on and play our best football.
Q:When you look at the Patriots defense, what stands out to you?
MS:They're a very physical, stout group. They understand their scheme well; a lot of veteran guys that have played a lot of football in that group. They can rush the passer, they can stop the run. They can do a little bit of everything. It's a group that we really have to be on top of our game plan, on top of our stuff and play good road football.
Q:For your offense, how would you characterize where you are right now offensively in terms of balancing the run and the pass?
MS:It's something that we've prided ourselves on now for a few years – be a balanced offense, both running the football and throwing it. Keeping defenses off balance with our run and pass, keeping our down and distances manageable where we can keep our playbook open to whatever we want to do. It's been something that's worked for us.
Q:How would you characterize the season Arian Foster is having this year? Is it different from other years?
MS:No, it's been pretty much the same. He's been a guy that's been our workhorse. We've given him the ball quite a bit this year, especially in the beginning part of the season – when we've had leads in the fourth quarter we just are using the clock and running the football. He's touched the ball quite a bit. He just seems to always be patient and find the holes and working well with our offensive line. When we get in the red zone, he has a knack for finding the end zone.
Q:How about Andre Johnson? It seems like he has shifted into another gear in the last month or so.
MS:I think when you look at his numbers and what he's done, I mean he's always been that type of guy that, just coming back from a couple little injuries he's had over the last couple of years. I've said before you know, he's really feeling like he's hitting his stride and he really feels like he's getting back to the Andre of old. I think you've seen it the past few weeks or months, some of the games that he's had that were against Jacksonville and Detroit. He really is continuing to play at a very, very high level.
Q:I'm trying to think back in your career if you have ever played at this stadium.
MS:This is actually the last place that I haven't played in the NFL, so no, I have not been up there yet.
Q:When you are in that type of situation, do you take extra time pregame to acclimate yourself with the stadium?
MS:Yeah, you definitely do. When you go somewhere new, you get out there and you want to just check out how the field is and throw the ball around with your guys, just getting a feel for the depth and just for where everything is – where they play clock is, where the game clock is. Just get a feel for your surroundings and everything like that. Bu then as far as football, once the game starts, it's just playing the game between the lines. We play in some hostile, tough places so this won't be any different for us. But, definitely take a little bit of time to recognize where everything is on the field.
Q:Do you solicit advice from anyone who has played here in terms of the challenging environment?
MS:No, no I haven't really. I've played enough football and played in enough environments, playing with crowd noise and enough hostile environments. That's nothing new for us. But obviously we're going to have to go and play good football.
Q:One other thought – is this the last stadium or last city you have not yet played in?
MS:It's really the last city I should say. I've played in Dallas but not since their new stadium has been built.
Q:Coach Gary Kubiak talked about the Patriots ability to turn the ball over on defense. What do you see on the film in terms of these turnovers and how they create them?
MS:It's a combination of a lot of things. They're very aware of the football and trying to strip it, whether it be the runners or receivers with the ball or the quarterback in the pocket. Their secondary, they're very well coached as far as patterns and recognizing routes and being able to get their hands on the football as well as some tipped balls which, we have a lot of those for our defense as well. The defensive line and the front for New England, they do a great job of trying to get their hands up if they can and tip some balls to defenders.
Q:How about the impact of Aqib Talib? What have you noticed in terms of what he has brought to the Patriots defense since they acquired him in a trade last month?
MS:Yeah, well he's a very talented player and he's played a bunch of football. I think he understands their scheme pretty well. He's a guy that comes in and brings some experience to that secondary and a guy that can play man coverage, play their zone coverages. He fits what they do well.
Q:Do you have any fond memories of playing this franchise thinking back to that 2005 game for you? Given that they were the first team you really showed up on the NFL radar in a regular season perspective.
MS:Yeah, there are definitely fond memories. I remember giving Tom Brady a little bit too much time for the two-minute drill to go down and kick a field goal against us to beat us so I do remember that pretty well. But, it's a team I played there in Atlanta and once here in Houston. It's a team we've played before but a team out of our division that we don't face very often but a team that presents some pretty good challenges for us.