DEFENSIVE END TREY FLOWERS
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Q: Are you looking forward to Sunday’s game?
TF: I’m definitely looking forward to it, just to have an opportunity to play in this type of game. It’s one of the things that you work hard for all offseason, all throughout the season, to put yourself in this position, and it’s going to be fun.
Q: How do you corral their team speed? They lost Kareem Hunt but it seems like Damien Williams has stepped up and also has good speed.
TF: You definitely have to respect those guys. They lost Kareem Hunt early in the season, but they’ve got two guys, Spencer Ware and Williams, that can do just about the same amount of damage. Just playing physical, using our fundamentals, our technique as far as a defensive front, just understand we’ve got to get some knock-back, press the line of scrimmage and get off and make plays.
Q: The first time you faced Patrick Mahomes, you got to see him throw from all angles and run around the field. Does that help you going into this game?
TF: Well, we can use that as far as the tape and as far as the advantage and see what he’s able to do as far as his individual movements and things and such. But he’s obviously a better player now than we was when we faced him earlier. We’ve definitely got to be aware and be prepared for him to play an even better game and be more productive. So we’ve got to prepare well and match the intensity.
Q: You guys have played against a lot of quarterbacks that can extend plays. Is Mahomes a guy who can extend them a little bit further than others and still be looking to throw? Does his arm strength give him an opportunity to make plays downfield that other guys can’t?
TF: Yeah, he’s definitely a guy that’s able to extend plays and not as much as looking to run but he’s looking to throw the ball down the field to a lot of fast skill guys. So, just him being able to buy some time, elude some pressure and he has some guys that can run very well and get open, and like you said, his arm strength. He doesn’t overthrow many of those guys, so just the accuracy and the arm strength that he’s able to do on the run and do as he eludes pressure – he’s definitely a great quarterback.
Q: Do you believe in momentum? Coming off such a great win this week, do you feel better this Tuesday than you did a week ago?
TF: Obviously, as you go through the season, you build confidence, you build chemistry and you understand how to play the game and what you need to do, what you don’t need to do. But just because you did it last week doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen this week. You’ve got to put in the time, the preparation, the focus, the intensity, all into practice and you’ve got to put it all into a brand new week.
Q: What did you do in the first half of the Kansas City game this year that slowed them down?
TF: I think just playing physical and understanding that they’ve got a lot of fast guys, a lot of misdirection and they come from a lot of different angles. But I think just playing physical, playing with fundamentals as far as a defensive front. Like I said, knocking guys back and understanding that they’re going to make some plays, but we’ve got to tackle well. And if you minimize the space with all these skills guys and fast guys, you can kind of get everybody to the ball and get some great pursuit.
Q: How different is Damien Williams from Kareem Hunt?
TF: Obviously, they’re different, but they’re similar in a way as far as they both get downhill, they can both run low behind their pads and definitely very physical. Damien Williams, he’s able to get to the edge, able to cut the ball into the defense and lower his pads. There’s a lot of similarities. It’s different people but there’s a lot of similarities.
Q: Are you impressed with how well the Chiefs running game maintained its success even with the loss of Hunt?
TF: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, they’re two different backs but they’ve been able to have the same amount of success with Williams in the back and also Spencer Ware. You just give an assist to their offensive line – they’re been doing a great job creating holes, creating movement in the front. It’s just one of those deals where we’ve got to match the focus, match the execution and try to stop them.
Q: Has this playoff run felt any different with this being a contract year for you?
TF: No, I’m just taking it all in as far as I’m grateful and blessed to have this opportunity and continue to play this late in the season. No matter if it was my first year or my fourth year, I’m still grateful for this opportunity and ready to take advantage of it.
Q: Would you like to be back here next season?
TF: I’d like to get a win on Sunday, so that’s what all my focus is going into. That’s it, yeah.
Q: You and Reggie Ragland are from a similar area. Did you play each other at all and do you have a relationship with him?
TF: Yeah, I actually played against him in Little League, played against him in middle school. I don’t know if I played against him in high school but we grew up in the same area. As far as a relationship, yeah, we communicate and text and stuff. There’s a lot of guys from that area that have been successful, been able to play out their dreams in the NFL, so it’s a blessing.
Q: Why has that area produced so many NFL players?
TF: You know, there’s plenty of areas that produce guys that play in the NFL. There’s a lot of great talent down there. They feed us good, there’s good water. It’s the South.
LINEBACKER DONT'A HIGHTOWER
January 15, 2019
Q: This could be the coldest game in the history of Arrowhead Stadium. Do you like playing in the cold and do you do anything special to prepare?
DH: From my experience, there’s not really much you can do with the cold. But, as far as the actual temperature, like Trey [Flowers] and Bill [Belichick] said it best, give us a ball and a field and we’ll be there. I’m sure it’s going to be a great environment. I’m sure the cold is going to be part of it, but we’re just looking forward to getting out there and competing.
Q: What’s it going to take to win this game on the road?
DH: I mean, it’s definitely one of the hardest places to play. But, at the end of the day, it just comes down to executing. It comes down to football and executing plays. They’re a high-powered offense and they’re real good on defense, so obviously defensively, we’re going to have to eliminate big plays. Obviously, they have that every which way, whether it’s a run or pass, and if it’s a pass, it doesn’t matter who it’s going to – they’re all capable of big plays. So, it’s going to have to come down to eliminating those big plays for us.
Q: What are the biggest differences on the road for you and your defense?
DH: I don’t really know how to answer that. I mean, it’s football. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way. But, for us, we’re just going to have to go out and execute.
Q: What struck or impressed you about Patrick Mahomes in your first game against him?
DH: I think the same thing that kind of impressed everybody. I think the fact that he kind of came in and the whole game, he kind of kept his composure, he made a lot of key throws when he needed to, he extended plays, which really hurt us, whenever he was able to extend those plays – not necessarily to run but to give Tyreek [Hill] an extra step or to give [Travis] Kelce or whoever it was an extra second for those guys to untie and get open. And just the way that he kind of managed the offense, whether it was him making checks from what he’s seeing or maybe it was a check thing within the game plan – just the way he carried himself the whole game.
Q: So, is your No. 1 job to keep him in the pocket?
DH: Absolutely, I think to keep him in the pocket but to also keep pressure on him, not letting him feel comfortable. But, obviously, he’s an athletic quarterback. He can throw just as well outside the pocket as he can inside the pocket. I mean, on film, you see him not even looking where he’s throwing and he’s able to hit it, too. I mean, he’s a very accurate quarterback, so we want to keep him inside the pocket but keep pressure on him.
Q: Is there anyone else like Mahomes or is he a special project for your defense?
DH: I think his skillset alone is kind of him. But, he’s not as crafty as Aaron Rodgers, but Aaron Rodgers does a great job, as well, as far as extending plays and not looking to run with the ball but looking to get guys uncovered or moving guys with their eyes. There’s not a lot of quarterbacks that have that in their skillset, so that’s one of his best skillsets.
Q: The defense seemed to do a good job of limited Mahomes and that offense in the first half when the Chiefs came here. Even though it got away from you guys in the second half, are there any lessons you can take from that first-half performance that you can apply in this game?
DH: Absolutely. I mean, we played the first half literally the exact way we wanted to. We were able to mix things up, keep those guys guessing and keep them on their toes, not letting those guys make big plays. With an offense like that, you give Any Reid any kind of time and he’s able to draw up a couple things, and that’s something that we learned in the second half was that we’ve got to play a full 60. He was able to draw up a couple plays and make a couple big plays and score at the end. So, if anything, definitely just to finish the full 60 minutes.
Q: This is the most games you’ve played since 2013. What does it mean to you to be on the field so much this year and still be playing in the playoffs?
DH: That means a lot. Like you said, my time on the field hasn’t always been as much as I wanted it to be, but this year it’s meant a lot to me. I’ve been out there, I’ve been able to play, I’ve been able to be with my teammates from OTAs to minicamp, so I’ve enjoyed it. Looking forward to keeping this thing going, so just whatever I can this week to keep that thing going.
Q: Does the Chiefs offense look different without Kareem Hunt?
DH: They might do a couple things a little different, but I think ultimately, they’re still able to run the ball. Damien Williams has come in and done a real good job for them. I don’t know how many yards he’s been averaging, but he’s been toting the ball. He’s been doing a great job. They’re still able to run, to do the play-action to the RPOs and to do all this stuff in their offense. You can’t really say that they’re not scoring – you know, 30 and 40 points, still. I think their offense is still running pretty well.
Q: They do a lot of misdirection and pre-snap motion. How big is your communication on defense against a team like this?
DH: A lot, especially when those players, Tyreek Hill or Chris Conley or Kelce, those are big players who can change a coverage or change a front or something. So, communication is going to be big. That’s something that we’ve done well the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we’ll continue to build on that. That’s something that we take pride in as far as trying to be a smart defense is communication, and without communication, that can be the downfall of a play, so we try to stay on top of that this week.
Q: What about the importance of everyone sticking to their assignment? It seems like they try to run guys in different directions and you might get caught looking one way when it’s really going the other way.
DH: Yeah, which a lot of times, that’s in man-to-man coverage, so they’re trying to get guys to go with the motion and get guys guessing in the backfield and not looking at what they’re supposed to do. That just comes down to fundamentals, just doing your job, I guess.
Q: Do you believe in momentum? There were a lot of teams in the Wild Card round that looked really good but not so much last week. You guys looked really good last week, so do you think that play carries over or is it more of a week-to-week thing?
DH: I guess maybe a little bit of both depending on how you’re looking at it. We knew what we needed to do last week and we were able to do that – you know, each week, getting better. So, this week, we’re obviously going to take the same approach. Bill, Josh [McDaniels] and Flo [Brian Flores] have a great game plan, so it will be up to us to get it and go out and execute it. Hopefully that will be enough.
SPECIAL TEAMS CAPTAIN MATTHEW SLATER
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Q: As one of four guys that have played in the last seven AFC Championship Games, what does it take to get here? Is there a sense of brotherhood among the group that lets you know what’s needed to achieve your goals collectively?
MS: Well, I tell you, we’ve been extremely blessed to be in the situation that we’ve been in over the last seven, eight years. There’s so many things that really factor in when you talk about being able to have this kind of success but I think you hit on it. The brotherhood is a big part of it. I think what I’ve found is when you take the time to invest in people and what makes them tick, take the time to try to go out of your way to show them love and show them that you care about them beyond the game of football, it creates something special in the locker room. And I think we have a lot of men in this locker room that understand that. That it doesn’t stop at football. Football’s not everything. There’s a lot more to life when it comes to family, when it comes to personal issues and things of that nature that make up who we are as men that really factor into what makes us tick daily and I think we have a good understanding of that and I think that’s really carried over to the football field.
Q: A lot has been made of the special bond between you and your father given that he was also a professional football player. What do you think of Patrick Mahomes, whose father was also a professional baseball player, and what do you make of being the son of a professional athlete and being around the game and around the clubhouse or locker room growing up? Could it be an advantage or a disadvantage?
MS: Well, as far as Patrick’s concerned, he’s extremely gifted. You look at him play the game of football, it’s something that’s really fun to watch. He’s got so many unique talents, unique skill sets, I think when it comes to throwing the football and making plays to help his team win and we’ve seen that week, after week, after week. He’s done a tremendous job. I can’t really speak to anyone else’s experience as the son of a professional athlete. Does it give you an edge? Does it not? I don’t really know. My dad and I’s relationship was never fully centered around football. It was more about a father and a son. I appreciate my dad for that. I can’t speak to what edge he may have or not have.
Q: As a kid were you around the locker room often? Does that sink at all as a youth?
MS: Yeah, you know, it was a lot of fun. I had some really unique experiences as young person with my dad and time spent there at Rams Park when they were still in Anaheim. But again, I think the number one takeaway was just being able to spend time with my dad. He could’ve been working at the grocery store. If I was with my dad, I would’ve been just fine.
Q: Where does Tyreek Hill rank on the speedometer in the NFL? Is he the fastest guy in the league?
MS: I certainly wouldn’t argue that he’s not. There’s not a lot of guys like that walking on the face of the earth. I don’t think it’s just that he’s fast. I think it’s the ability that he has to accelerate and reach top speed is second to none in this league. I tell you, he’s not just a fast guy anymore. He came into the league and it was, "He’s a fast guy." Well, yeah, he’s a fast guy but he can hurt you in a ton of ways and I think he showed that this year. He’s an All-Pro as a receiver. He’ll always be an All-Pro in my book as a return man because of what he can do anytime he touches the ball. He’ll cause you to lose some sleep at night. That’s for sure.
Q: When you watch him on film, is he faster in person than what it looks like on tape?
MS: Yeah, I mean, you can watch tape all day long but until you feel that running next to you, there’s no way to prepare for it. So we can watch film and say, "Man, he looks like he’s fast." But then you’re going to get out there and be like, "Man, he’s faster than we thought."
Q: Is there a different pressure for an AFC Championship than there is for a Super Bowl? Is this game unique from that one in any way?
MS: I think all of these opportunities that we have in the postseason are unique opportunities. There’s guys that play in this league for decades and don’t get a chance to play in these games. Whether it was last week, whether it’s this week, we feel the pressure. We understand what’s at stake. We’re excited and thankful for our opportunity and we’re going to try to make the most of it. Any time you’re playing football this time of year, there’s a lot of pressure involved to obviously win or go home.
Q: What’s it going to take to win this game Sunday?
MS: Our best game of the year in all three phases of the game. We’re going to have to execute as well as we have all year long for 60 minutes. Not for 50. It’s going to take the whole game. We’re going to have to have some breaks along the way and we’ll see where that gets us.
Q: It seems that the kick coverage for the team has been much better over the second half of the season. Would you agree with that assessment and how do you feel like you guys have progressed in that area?
MS: Well, all I remember from going back to my notes from when we played Kansas City was writing down that we’re not very good in the kicking game. I saw that today and I certainly haven’t forgotten how we played against these guys. It was terrible, so we’re going to try and avoid a repeat of that. I think that we’ve certainly made strides throughout the course of the season. It’s been great to have Bert [Albert McClellan] come in and really help us, Ramon [Humber] come in and help us. Two steady veterans that really understand how to play this game. They’ve brought a lot of balance to our game and what we do and I think we have made strides, but we’re going to find out whether we’ve made enough strides here come Sunday night.
PLAYERS IN THE LOCKER ROOM
WIDE RECEIVER PHILLIP DORSETT
(On Sunday’s weather being a factor)
“I don’t know. I don’t think it will be much of a factor because it’s not like we’re playing in 10 [degrees] and they’re playing in 50 [degrees]; we’re both playing in the same temperatures so we both have got to adjust and both have to be ready for it.”
(On the Chiefs defense)
“When you look at the defense, the one thing they do is they can get to the passer. They can create turnovers. Those are two big things when it comes to winning games. If you can create turnovers and get to the passer you’ve got a pretty good defense in my eyes.”
(On preparing to empty the tank on Sunday)
“I mean if you want to get to where you want to be you have to empty the tank. There’s no more tomorrow. It’s win or go home. Like I said before, I love playing football and I’m not ready - and I don’t think anybody on this team is ready - to be done yet. You’ve got to play. It is what it is. Like you said, you’ve got to empty the tank.”
(On the difference between catching the football in the cold)
“Your hands are frozen. Your hands are frozen and the ball is frozen. I’d say that’s the only thing that’s different.”
(On playing the AFC Championship Game on the road and if the team thrives on playing in a hostile environment)
“Yeah, I think this team thrives on it. Obviously, there’s no elephant in the room, we’re 3-5 on the road and everybody is going to criticize us for that. We’ve got our backs against the wall and we’ve just got to go out there and play our best game. That’s the only thing that really matters.”
DEFENSIVE BACK DURON HARMON
(On the key to keeping Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill in front of him)
“Play with depth. Make sure your guys are jamming him and just don’t let him get a free release because when he runs free that’s when he’s most dangerous.”
(On if the defense is firing on all cylinders right now)
“I feel like we played good ball. We’re definitely going in the right direction. We didn’t play a great game because in the last 10 minutes of the game we didn’t do what we always talk about and that’s finishing. Obviously we still have a lot to work on, a lot to get better at, but it’s good for where we’re going because we see the progress we made over the last couple of months. We just have to keep going and keep getting better and keep the same mentality that we had last week.”
(On if it’s an advantage playing on a heated field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday)
“Every field is different. Some people have the heated field. Some people don’t. We’ll have to see when we get out there because like you said it could be the coldest game [in Arrowhead Stadium history] and the field could still freeze. We’ll see when we get out there. I know one thing is it’s going to be loud out there. It’s going to be exciting. This is what you live for. This is what you play for. I’m excited to get an opportunity to play in this championship game.”
(On if the weather will be a factor)
“For us, no factor. It could be cold but at the end of the day you’ve got to play football. You’ve got to tackle, you’ve got to catch the ball, you’ve got to block, you’ve got to run. You’ve got to do everything you can to win the game. For us, you just have to block that cold out because at the end of the day you might not get this opportunity to be in this game again and you don’t want to think about it down the road that you let the cold [have] an effect on how you played. It’s going to be cold. They’re going to be cold, everybody is going to be cold. The guy that understands it and is mentally tough enough to get through it and fight through it and help [give their team a chance to win] is going to be the team that’s standing at the end.”
CORNERBACK JASON MCCOURTY
(On how the defense combats the speed of the Chiefs offense)
“You have to go out there and compete, I think first and foremost, and obviously on different defensive calls we’ll try and have different answers. I think probably the most important thing is knowing where the speed guys are, a guy like Tyreek Hill, on every single play. Man, zone, whatever we are playing. There were times when we played them the first time where I felt like us in the secondary didn’t do a good job of just knowing where he was and knowing how he could hurt us on whether it was an over route or a deep route or whatever it was. I think going into this week just having an awareness of where he’s at at all times.”
(On solving communication issues on the road)
“I think on the road it is probably easier to hear one another with their offense on the field. It’s just a matter of doing it. Going in, I can tell you today, ‘hey, it’s going to be easier to communicate when we’re on the field because we’re on the road’ blah, blah, blah, but when it gets to the game and it has to be the recognition and getting it around the horn and everything that goes along with it. I think throughout the course of a game you have to make sure how you may be aligned on opposite sides of the field, but you still have to make sure from the safety and the corner on the opposite side of kind of being aware of where different guys can hurt you.”
(On if the team can feel the excitement building in the region this time of year)
“Without a doubt. I think it’s an exciting time. Even for myself just as a football fan. Not even playing in these games in the past few seasons of my career just knowing what goes into it and you get excited. You see two good football teams matched up and obviously at this point in the season when you’re still playing it’s an exciting time and it’s a challenging time as well.”
(On if Tyreek Hill’s speed is unlike anyone else in the NFL)
“We said that the first time we played them. You turn his film on you’d know that. He’s different. Obviously there’s fast guys on their team. Sammy Watkins is fast, [Chris] Conley is fast. All of those guys run 4.3 [40-yard dashes], so everybody is fast. And then there’s Tyreek Hill fast. Obviously know going into the game he’s a different type of animal I guess you could say. You guys call him the ‘Cheetah’ right? So I think that goes without saying on what he brings to their team – the explosiveness, the speed, the play-making ability; it’s just off the charts.”