Q:With 8:28 left on the clock, you had rushed for about 55 yards on the day. Then you finish off the game with 53 more rushing yards and took over seven minutes off the clock. What did you see differently from your offense on that last drive that allowed you to execute? And secondly, do you think the conditioning of your line stood out to you yesterday in those hot conditions late in the game?
JM:I think that any time you're used to playing in cooler temperatures with certainly a lot less humidity than what we played with yesterday, you hope your football team is well conditioned enough to go down there and handle whatever amount of plays you have to play in that kind of weather late in the year. I think that really did become a positive for us that we were able to execute and do some things later in the game after playing a number of snaps offensively. I thought that was a credit to our guys and the conditioning and work that they've put in to be able to be in that position and do that. As far as what happened on that drive, not a whole lot in terms of schematics that we changed. There were maybe a few things that we decided to do a little bit more of on that drive, but all in all I think it was just execution up front, trying to give the back an opportunity to get started. I thought the backs made some really, really good runs on that last drive to keep us in positive down and distance situations and convert some first downs for us. And I thought the line and the tight ends did a nice job of getting people covered up to allow that to happen. I think you're sitting on the sidelines and you know it's a close game, you know it's a tight game, and really what you're focused on is going out there and playing your best football when you need it the most – at the end. I thought our guys really stepped up and handled that challenge at that time.
Q:What needs to happen with the offense to get Brandon Lloyd a little more involved in terms of catching passes?
JM:I think that's really a function of a lot of things. Brandon certainly played hard and has played hard all year. There have been games where we've targeted him a lot. And there have been other games where based on the way somebody may play us, we target him less and the ball may go somewhere else. I think Brandon keeps doing his job and trying to execute his assignments well. We've never been a team that likes to force the ball to one person or another, although it may seem like that at times because certainly players get targeted more in certain games. Really, the biggest emphasis point we try to make to our group is to try to find the guy who's open or who the defense doesn't take away and to get him the football. Tom usually does a good job of that. Yesterday, certainly, he didn't have a lot of action in the passing game, but hopefully that will change, or could change, based on the way we get defended. He's done a good job of running good routes and getting open and being available when his opportunities present themselves. He'll continue to do that; I know him. And hopefully we call things that give him an opportunity to get the ball, and then when that's really where we should go with it, hopefully Tom finds him and we connect.
Q:How would you describe the Texans defensive style and how they use J.J. Watt and the challenge of blocking him?
JM:Coach [Wade] Phillips does a great job and any defense that he's coached has always been a big challenge for us or any other team and this one certainly is no different. This is an aggressive team that plays physical, tough defense. I think they play fast. They play very hard up front and do a lot of really good things with their front three or four depending on whether they're in base or in a sub-mode. Obviously they do a great job in terms of trying to take care of the running game; I think they're second in the NFL. They're top five in fewest points allowed. They're certainly a good situational football team. Third down, red zone defense is excellent. And they've created turnovers and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so I don't think it's a stretch to say this is going to be a big challenge for us. They have talented players at every level of their defense and they're obviously very well coached, so we're going to have to do a great job in preparing for them this week. With J.J. Watt, obviously he's having a great year and obviously he's a great player no matter where they line him up. The fact that they move him a little bit inside and outside, we're going to have to have more than one guy ready to handle him and block him. It won't just fall to the guard or to the tackle. It could be anybody at times, based on the way they play him. We have to do a great job of trying to simulate his effort, his motor and some of the things he does to disrupt people in the running game and the passing game and have to make sure we're very mindful of taking care of the football and not letting him get his hands on balls, because he's certainly created a lot of disruptive opportunities for them defensively by tipping the ball and batting the ball up in the air. [I've] got a ton of respect for him, their entire defense, certainly Coach Phillips and their defensive staff. We're really looking forward to the challenge this week.
Q:What has turned in the right direction for Daniel Fells to contribute to this team now after being a healthy scratch earlier in the year?
JM:Well, there's always a lot of consideration that we put into how we'll play the game, and along with making those determinations, you have to consider how you would play the game if you lost a specific player and it maybe bumped you out of a package or two. For some of those games, I think if we would have lost Rob, it would have probably been more of a three-receiver game or some other combination of personnel groupings. We had a few games there where [Visanthe] Shiancoe was kind of in the mix in terms of playing a role there to help us in his role and back up certainly positions there as well. I think it's just really a matter of a decision on how to play the game or how to handle the game if you incur an injury at a certain position. I think he's done a nice job with his opportunities. He's certainly played a lot of snaps the last two weeks. Like all of us yesterday, we could do things better. We could play better, coach better, and I think that would apply to all of our players and coaches. We're going to try to do a better job going forward. But he has been ready to go and obviously he's helped us significantly the last two weeks.
Q:You mentioned calling plays for certain guys earlier. This may be way too broad of a question, but is it easier to call a passing play for a slot receiver or a tight end than maybe it might be to draw up a play to get the ball to an outside receiver because he's farther way from the line of scrimmage? Or am I just throwing stuff against the wall on that one?
JM:There might be some things on the wall there, but really, the passing game comes down to execution and reading the coverage and trying to find the softest spots in the defense. That's really – I don't want to try to oversimplify that, but really and truly, that's what it comes down to. If they give us an opportunity to use the people in the middle of the field, then you have to be able to throw the ball in there and take advantage of it. If they force the ball to the perimeter, you need to be able to take advantage of those too. Sometimes I think also, based on the patterns that you're running, somebody is usually running a shorter route and somebody is usually running a deeper route. Sometimes you read those things and if the shorter route is open, you throw him the ball. If the shorter route is covered, then you wait and throw the deeper route. Sometimes I really think it has to do with the progression that the quarterback goes through or the coverage that the defense plays. Hopefully, most of the time our quarterback does a good job reading that out and getting the ball to the softest part of the defense.
Q:In games like yesterday where the offense doesn't put up the numbers that we're accustomed to, how encouraging is it when the defense does step up and take some of the pressure off the offense in a sense?
JM:Every win or every game we go into certainly is a team, complementary game. Yesterday was a great example of a team win. We've had a lot of those this year; we certainly didn't play perfectly in any game this year and are trying to do the best we can. And the defense really has made a lot of plays for us all season long: set us up with great field position with turnovers, given us opportunities to get the ball in plus-field position a number of times this year, and/or scored themselves. Same thing goes for the kicking game. I think we go into every week talking about playing a complementary game and we need to try to do the right things to help our defense and special teams out, and they always try to do the same things for us. I think yesterday was a good example of a team win. I'm very proud to be a part of that and to have a chance to win the [AFC] East and go undefeated so far in our division. That's a great thing and our team really earned it yesterday.