Q: What jumps out to you about this Texans secondary and the way they've been playing?
TB: Well, they've been playing as well as any secondary that we've faced all season. Their cover guys have done such a great job for that defense and there is a reason why they're ranked number one. They don't give up any easy yards in the pass game. They don't give up any big plays. They're really well-coached, which is very easy to see. I think they've just really come on over the course of the whole season. I've just been very impressed with what I've seen.
Q: What kind of thoughts do you have when you see Jadeveon Clowney on film?
TB: Well, he's an incredible player. I mean he's obviously had so much promise since he came into the league and he's really shown everybody why he was picked one overall. He does so many things well. He's obviously got all of the size, but the speed, the quickness, and how hard he is playing. He's chasing guys down from behind and making plays. The plays last week were huge in the wild card game; the interception, the tipped balls. He kind of does everything for them. He's really come on, and like I said, they've got a good scheme. They've got a great scheme. They're well-coached, and then with players like Jadeveon [Clowney], Brian Cushing I have a lot of respect for, all of their guys in the secondary, Vince [Wilfork] and what he does. Whitney Mercilus is a great player. We've played against him a bunch. Antonio Smith comes in some passing situations and does a great job of getting after the quarterback. It's a big test for our offense. They don't have any weaknesses on defense, so we're going to just have to play good, sound football and try to take advantage of our opportunities if we get them.
Q: What about the play of Vince Wilfork when you look over the center and see him down there?
TB: Well, I've looked over center for many years and seen him. He's just in a different jersey. But he's still just a force. I mean both in the run game and the pass game. He still gets pressure in the pocket. Vince [Wilfork] has been one of the best players in the league since he got in the league. He's been a great addition for that team. I hate playing against him. I'd much rather have him on our team, but that's not the way it works out, or worked out last year. But it's still great to see him playing and playing well.
Q: How much has the continuity on the offensive line made your life easier this year?
TB: Well, it's been a real blessing for our team, because your right, last year was so challenging. Guys were in and out. We had some big, kind of catastrophic injuries with guys being out all season, and then we had some week-to-week stuff where guys were coming from center to tackle, and tackle to guard, and switching sides of the line which is a big challenge. This year we've had a lot of stability, which is great for any offensive line, and it's really been a big part of the reason why I think our offensive line has played so well. We've had a great season up front and the guys have done such a great job in the run game and the pass game. Joe [Thuney] playing next to Nate [Solder] all season, and Dave [David Andrews] really kind of anchoring the middle, and then Shaq [Mason] and Marcus [Cannon] have been together, so I think you gain a lot of trust in one another when you're playing next to each other, and there's a lot of things that come up where maybe it's a lot of anticipation, a lot of non-verbal communication that goes on that needs to happen over the course of an entire game to be productive. Our guys up front have really taken to that. They've just done such a great job for us all year. It's really been the strength of our offense.
Q: Do you think Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney have helped fill the pass-rush void missing from J.J. Watt's absence?
TB: Well, it's phenomenal. It's hard to imagine taking away J.J. [Watt], who's been Defensive Player of the Year three times, and then still being the number one ranked defense in the league. They just stepped up to the challenge. They'd obviously much rather have him in there, but you know, sometimes you face these situations and the rest of the guys really pick up the slack. I think they all do a good job with what their role is. They move guys into different spots and I think they do a good job with their front. They move guys around and they still find ways to get to the quarterback and force the ball out. Certainly in the wild card game last week they did a lot of that and really made it challenging for that offense. We've just got to hone in. There's a lot of great communication we're going to need. We're blocking a very good scheme, but also great players, so it's no easy task for us.
Q: What are your thoughts about Bill O'Brien?
TB: Well, I met Billy [O'Brien] in 2007, in the spring of 2007 when he got to our team, so I've known him for almost 10 years. I just have a great admiration for him and what he's accomplished in his career. I got to know him very well when he took over as offensive coordinator. We got to spend a lot of time together. He did such a great job for our team and then got a great opportunity to be a head coach in college and then to move on to the pro level. To do what he's done has been pretty remarkable. He's an incredible coach. I know the guys play so hard for him because he just - you guys know - Billy is a straight shooter. Sometimes you might not always like what he says, but you respect it because his goal is the same thing that yours is, to get the best out of the team. I really enjoyed my time with him. I consider him a friend and I'm always wishing him luck except when he's playing our team. We'll always have those type of friendships, and then other guys down there that I've played with - Mike [Vrabel] and Larry [Izzo] and what they're doing coaching in their second career has been pretty cool. Also George Godsey, I mean I was real close to Goose [Godsey] when he was here. There are some great ties, but they're on the other side of the field this week. We have a job to do and we've been pretty focused on it now going on almost two weeks of preparation and hopefully it all pays off on Saturday night.
Q: When you played with him did you think that Mike Vrabel would become a head coaching candidate?
TB: Well, I think anything Mike [Vrabel] chooses to do in his life he'll be successful at, because he's just that type of guy. He was an incredible player when he got to our team in 2001. He just made a mark. His leadership, and his play style, his toughness, his versatility, his dependability, and I think he's really done a great job transferring all of those traits that he learned as a player into being a coach and trying to get his guys to see the nuances of the game. I know they speak very highly of Mike. I do as well, because Mikes a great guy. I loved the time that I had with him because I just loved being with him. He's just doing such a great job as a coach. I'm glad he's out of Ohio State now, because I wasn't rooting for him at all when he was there. Now with the Texans I can root for him a little more often.
Q: What do you remember about some of the colorful moments you had in the meeting room with Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator and teammates such as Brian Hoyer?
TB: Yeah, that teapot got pretty full by the end of the year because it would just - Billy [O'Brien] simmers, and simmers, and simmers and then he just unleashes. We had him marked down in the teapot. It was pretty great. As the season went along we'd just fill that teapot up more and more. I think we tried to give it to him as a gift at one point. I don't know if he still has it. But there was a lot of funny memories. That teapot had a lot of really funny moments on it.
Q: We're not used to calling Coach Bill O'Brien 'Billy' down here.
TB: Yeah, he's Billy [O'Brien] to me. I've called him Billy since I met him. Yeah, it's always been Billy; Billy O.
Q: Why do you think teams always have such a tough time coming into Foxborough? Do you ever think that teams sometimes may outwit themselves by doing things they don't normally do?
TB: I'm not sure. I've never really paid much attention to that. I think for us Coach [Bill Belichick] always says 'It's how we play; it's not who we play or where we play.' I think for us playing well at home, I think it does help offensively, just the communication because you can make some last second adjustments to run stuff, protection, you can change routes or change concepts with very little time left on the play-clock, which is I guess challenging to do when you're on the road. We try to build some things in on the road that make it a little bit easier to communicate, but it's certainly easier to communicate at home.
Q: What have you seen from the Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye?
TB: Yeah, he's had an incredible year. What a great young player and great future that he has. I mean he's just shut a lot of people out over the course of the season. He seems like he's a feisty young player. He's certainly not afraid to get in there and play in the run game, but really his coverage skills are very impressive for someone of his size. He's got all of the makings of what it takes to be a great corner in this league. He's surrounded by Kareem [Jackson] and Johnathan [Joseph], who I've played a lot of football against. I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they do. Quintin Demps is a hell of a player. He's had a great season. [Andre] Hal has had a great year at safety. They've got a great group back there and I think that along with their pass rush is why [they're effective]. They have great coverage at linebacker with [Bernardrick] McKinney and [Brian] Cushing. They can get after the quarterback, so they stop the run, play on their terms, get after the quarterback. They've got a lot of good scheme stuff that Romeo [Crennel] does that is challenging to prepare for. There's nothing easy about it. There are no plays off. They challenge you in every aspect, so we've just got to be very sharp. Our execution has to be at its highest level, and it's going to be the toughest defense we've faced all year. We're going to have to see if we can meet that challenge.
Q: Coach O'Brien has called Brian Cushing the heart and soul of the Texans defense. Could you elaborate about his play a little bit?
TB: Yeah, I could see that because he plays so hard. He's on the field every snap. He's obviously smart. He's got all of the instincts. He's got the experience. He's got all of the athleticism. He does well in the run game and the pass game, is a very strong tackler. When those plays are running through you as the 'mike' linebacker you've got to be on top of everything and it looks like everybody can really count on him every time and he's had a phenomenal season.
Q: What kind of a luxury has it been to have LeGarrette Blount healthy for a full year?
TB: Yeah, you know he had a great season. I think he really dedicated himself this year and it's really paid off. Just to see what he's accomplished as an individual with the amount of rushing touchdowns, his yards-per-carry. He's got a great comradery with the offensive line. I love being with him. He's a great teammate. He's a great friend and he's just been a great player for our team. So our backfield has really been a strength as well with what James [White] provides as a sub-back, with Dion Lewis, him coming back and the role that he plays, the leadership of Brandon Bolden even though he doesn't have much opportunity at running back, what he does for us on special teams and when he does play running back he does a great job. That's been a great positon for us this season as well.
Q: The view nationally is that this game could be a blowout. How do you guard against a letdown, and how do you view this game?
TB: I view it as the biggest game that we've played all season against the best defense that we've played all season. I don't see any letdown from us. That's ridiculous to think that. I'm preparing like this is the hardest game we've faced all season, which it will be, and it means the most. There's only one priority for all of us this week, and that's to be at our best mentally, physically, emotionally for three hours on Saturday night starting at 8:00 p.m. All of my attention is focused on those three hours and getting prepared for that moment so that we can go out and play with anticipation and confidence against the best defense we've played all season. There's nothing easy about it.