OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR DOUG PEDERSON
Q:Does having the option to go to another running back if one isn't performing as well an advantage when you're trying to build a running game?
PEDERSON: "I think we are fortunate to have two different-styled runners in that regard. One is a between-the-tackles, downhill, tough, feet keep moving, will take two or three tacklers with him, Spencer Ware. Then you have Charcandrick (West), who is more of that left-to-right, jump cut, gives you a little more quickness in and out of the hole, burst of speed. It kind of gives you two different flavors. And it's good to have two types like that in your game plan because you can dial those up at any time and it gives you two different looks to a defense."
Q:Is there game plan similar with regard to slowing down J.J. Watt for this game as it was in Week One?
PEDERSON: "You know what, first of all, tremendous player as we all know. They're doing a little bit more with him now, they're moving him around, standing him up, lining him up over the center, lining him up at linebacker. They're just trying to create an edge for him and utilize his strength at rushing the passer. We have to be aware, offensive line, quarterback, backs, in our protection schemes, we just have to know where he's at and understand why they're doing certain things. The game plan, for us, becomes simple – try to stop J.J. Watt. And they've got a lot of other good players on that defensive line as well. But he's one that you have to know where he's at and try to put as many hands as you can on him. You just try to hope to slow him down a little bit as best you can."
Q:Do you put an extra guy on him then?
PEDERSON: "There's times, based on your protection schemes, that there'll be an extra guy there. It's not all the time, most of the time he's going on a tackle – a right or a left offensive tackle. We ask our quarterback not to hang onto the football, we ask our receivers to do certain things in route running. But there will be times when there's two tight ends or a back and a tight end, or a tight end and a tackle that are going to have to block him in protection."
Q:Do you not like playing with an extra tackle on first down because you don't like to give up a receiver?
PEDERSON: "Sometimes I guess your philosophy is why take one of your better players off the field – unless your tackle's a better athlete, which, in some cases, it could be. I think it comes down to a matchup, potentially, you can get a defense into a certain look. You know they're going to be in exact coverage or front with that type of personnel group. We choose not to do it for those reasons. Teams do it and they are successful."
Q:How would you assess Alex Smith's season?
PEDERSON: "I think he's probably having the best season of his career, honestly. Numbers may not be up there with some of the top guys in the league, but his wins and losses are. He's understanding what we're asking him to do, we've given him more opportunities in games to get us out of certain things or put us into certain things. He's leading this football team like we knew he was capable of doing and given us opportunities to win games. I really think he's having his best year of his career."
Q:When you pay him as much money as you are and gave up two high draft picks, is this the time of year when he has to step up his game even more?
PEDERSON: "Well I think everybody has to do that. Whether it's Alex Smith or Charcandrick West or Jeremy Maclin, (Travis) Kelce, I think they all have to. I think if you asked any one of those players that are still playing in the postseason that this time of the year, money doesn't matter, contract status doesn't really matter. The fact that you're in the tournament with an opportunity to play again next week is all the motivation that those guys need."
Q:Alex Smith's rushing yards and attempts are up this year, what do you credit that to?
PEDERSON: "I think it's just his ability to scramble. He's very elusive, he understands protection, he understands when defenses are pressuring him and he's not afraid to take off. It's a natural instinct that he has, most quarterbacks have the ability to do that. And I think sometimes it gets overlooked a little bit, the fact that he can run and run well – you saw that last week with a couple big scrambles for us to keep us on the field. It's something that we don't talk to him about – scrambling all the time, obviously – but when he can, he makes the most of it and usually gets us the first down."
Q:Have you established with him that when he pulls the ball down, he's going to run?
PEDERSON: "He understands that. Again, having played the position, you can't take the load like a running back can or a tight end can. So you know that when you're between the numbers that you have to protect yourself and you have to slide and you have to get down at the right time or use the sideline and get out of bounds. He's very aware of that."
Q:Have you gotten any calls from other teams for interviews?
PEDERSON: "I have not, no."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR BOB SUTTON
Q: Justin Houston said he would be ready for Saturday. As a coordinator is it just as simple as plugging him in and going or is there a process to figuring out what he can do and how everybody works around him?
SUTTON:"I'm not worried about his ability to get back in there. You just see where he's at with his conditioning, his reaction time and all of those things. Deep down inside you believe that this guy's played a lot of football plays, he knows what he's doing and I think it'll be fine. But we've got to really see where he's at, like any player that comes back, and our hope and what we kind of believe is he's going to be fine and I know he's excited about getting the opportunity of getting back out there and if he keeps progressing like he has during the rest of this week I think he's going to be ready to roll."
Q: How helpful was it for Tamba Hali to get those reps in the game on Sunday?
SUTTON:"You could ask him, but our thought in the whole deal was get him the opportunity to get him to play, one, get used to where he was at with his thumb. And that as well, he hadn't gotten a chance to get to practice so I think it was really valuable for him just to get out there and go and kind of know where he's at, what he's going to do and how he's going to handle this. So I think it was valuable, really."
Q: Why does Derrick Johnson always find a way to get to the ball?
SUTTON:"Well I think overall, Derrick's - in his whole career, college and here, he's always been a highly productive player. He has great speed and range for his position, he's got a unique ability to, like I call it, dart. He can go inside and outside of blocks and he just, for the most part, he's right when he does it. Like I said, not everybody has that permission. You've got to know yourself and know what you can do and he's got that because he's got that real explosive first step where he can go in there and dart or slice through the offensive line and that's it. I think over that last couple of years, I can only reflect since I've been here with him, but I think he's become a really good football player with his recognition of formations and the whole thing. That just assists in what you can do, now that can only take you so far, he's blessed with some really good athletic ability and like I said, it's not just something he's started to do, he's played his whole career, college and the NFL kind of like that."
Q: Are you planning on using a primary guy to guard DeAndre Hopkins?
SUTTON:"No, we're going to keep playing like we would. I wouldn't tell you that if I was, but we're going to just play like we've got to play and go from there."
Q: Is Brian Hoyer any different from when you saw him in game 1?
SUTTON:"Well, I think the thing that we appreciate about Hoyer is that he's a really competitive guy, very smart. He really understands what they're doing system-wise because he was with Bill (O'Brien) in New England and I think that flows really good. And you can kind of see how they adapt each week – different kinds of plays and formations and I'm guessing that's just being so familiar with what he did. He grew up in that system and he's got a great kind of moxie about him, he's got a great belief I think in himself that he can move the chains and that's kind of what I saw. He had two things happen in our game that he really couldn't do anything about - that happened from a negative standpoint, but the other stuff, I thought he played pretty good."
Q: On Brian Hoyer's development throughout the season.
SUTTON:"Yeah, I just think he's playing – since he's come back in, he's playing really well and he's doing what – again, we're in the outside looking in so I can't say it, but it appears that he's running the offense like they want it to be run. And they've got a large volume of offense and he seems to be able to handle it very well and make sure everybody's on the same page and just does, I think, a really good job."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR DAVE TOUB
Q: What gives you the confidence in Cairo Santos that he'll be a hero and not heartbreak?
TOUB: "He's been consistent. Second year out, he's been good throughout the year. He's kicked some good, important kicks at times. Feel good about him as well as (Dustin) Colquitt. Colquitt had a good last week."
Q: On the intensity with kicking in playoff games.
TOUB: "Yeah, everything rises up. We've talked about how everybody has to focus better and handle the pressure. I mean, there's going to be pressure. Pressure on coaches, pressure on players, that's just the way it is during playoff times."
Q: Does it help having been to the playoffs before?
TOUB: "Yeah. I think it will. Certainly for Colquitt. It's going to help everybody."
Q: What makes D.J. Alexander a good special teams guy?
TOUB: "Speed. His speed is really good, and he's really gotten better and better as the year went on. These last seven weeks now, he's been really playing at above the level, above average level, is what we like to look at. He really had a good game last week. Obviously the block was huge, so the thing about him—he's just scratching the surface. He is going to be even better. He's got a lot more ways to improve in his blocking. He's really going to be a good special teams player down the road."
Q: Did he embrace on day 1 that this could be a path to success in the NFL?
TOUB: "Yeah, I mean, being a fifth-round pick, anybody that's a fifth-round, sixth-round, seventh-round pick, their first thing that they have to do is excel on special teams. He understood that right from day one. He was here because of his speed. We liked his speed on tape, and he showed up his rookie year in college, I mean he just showed up on special teams and we saw that. John saw that. Those guys did a good job getting him here. We're glad we got him."
Q: On giving back a lot of yardage in the Oakland game.
TOUB: "It was. We got hit on a return, that was the longest return we gave up all year long, and hopefully we learn from that. The other situation, you know, we made the 39-yard field goal and had the 10-yard penalty, and it put us in an area where Coach Reid felt like field position was more desirable, risk-reward there. What we called was a pooch punt, what we called, was a direct snap to Cairo, and he punts it down there for us to create field position. We didn't get it communicated, and that's my fault. We didn't get it communicated enough. We had the snapper who didn't get the call, so he snapped the ball to Colquitt. Then, those guys really did a good job of making something out of nothing, to be totally honest with you, because Colquitt flipped the ball to Cairo, and Cairo threw it out to 42 and got some yardage there."
Q: Why was Knile Davis not your primary kick returner?
TOUB: "Well, I wanted to give (Chris) Conley one, and usually when I start Knile, and I get him in the game, I end up going back to him. I wanted to get Conley one so I put him in there right away. That was the whole deal on that. We have two guys. The way I look at it is we have two guys that can do it."
Q: Is Frankie Hammond still going to be the punt returner this week?
TOUB: "He could be, yeah. He could be the guy. We have Jeremy Maclin, we have other guys that can do it as well."
Q: Is Maclin going to be available with that hip thing?
TOUB: "That's not for me to say, I don't know."
Q: Would there be any caution to using him?
TOUB: "Oh, yeah. Game situation, he could be our guy, too. This is the playoffs now. This is important. We're going to have all hands on deck."
Q: How important is it to have the explosiveness of your returner position this week to win that field position battle?
TOUB: "Yeah, I mean that's the same thing I was just talking about, how important these games are. You've got to win them, so you've got to have your best guys out there at all times. That's the way we're going to look at it."
LB JUSTIN HOUSTON
Q:Is there any doubt in your mind that you'll play on Saturday?
HOUSTON: "That's the plan – to play – as of now."
Q:How excited are you? You guys have been on a streak, but now it's the playoffs?
HOUSTON: "No, this has been the goal from the beginning of the season. So we've still got the same goal in mind, we're just focused and are trying to get there."
Q:How much rust do you have to knock off?
HOUSTON: "I've definitely got some rust to knock off. I know it probably won't hit me until the first quarter, but after the first quarter I'll be alright."
Q:A few years ago you missed time with the elbow injury. Do you feel like you are better equipped to come back from an in-season injury this time around?
HOUSTON: "I'd definitely say you live and you learn. I do know what to expect now compared to a few years ago. So we'll see come Saturday."
Q:What have you seen from your team without you?
HOUSTON: "They're playing great. Anything you can ask for, they've been doing it. They've been doing a great job, hopefully I can come add to it."
Q:You beat Houston in Week 1, but both teams are different now. How have you seen the Houston offense develop throughout the year?
HOUSTON: "They're more patient, they're careful with the ball – no turnovers. So we've got to create turnovers to give us a chance to win."
Q:Has it been frustrating the past few weeks, starting to feel better but still not being able to be out there?
HOUSTON: "I think it'd be different if we were losing. But as long as we were winning I was happy and was just ready to get back."
Q:Have you adjusted to wearing a brace? It can be tough?
HOUSTON: "I'm getting there. It takes some time, but I'm getting there."
S ERIC BERRY
Q:Are you excited?
BERRY: "Yeah, I'm excited."
Q:What you've been working for this season is here, are you approaching it any differently?
BERRY: "Somewhat, but at the end of the day, it's not our ultimate goal. So of course there's more on the line, there's more at stake, but we just keep raising the level, increase the intensity and go about it that way."
Q:You haven't been whole on defense for a while. Now it looks like you'll get both Justin (Houston) and Tamba (Hali) back. How does that change things on the defense?
BERRY: "It changes a lot, just from a mental aspect. Them having that experience on the field, knowing what to look for, being in a lot of games – that helps out – presnap reads, stuff like that, things you don't see on the field actually in a physical standpoint, but mentally as far as having the team's awareness up, it's going to be big for us."
Q:Did you watch the playoffs last year?
BERRY: "No. Not really."
BERRY: "Just didn't."
Q:How different are the Texans now from when you played them in Week 1?
BERRY: "Yeah, they've been pretty consistent, I would say, throughout the season. They've made a lot of big plays and at the same time, I don't think they've made too many costly turnovers. They've been pretty careful with the ball and have just let their defense play. But at the end of the day, those guys have been making plays on the offensive side of the ball and we've got to be aware of that."
Q:Are you aware of what it would mean for the city if you guys win a playoff game?
BERRY: "Yeah, people have been coming up to me. But at the same time, we have to control what we can control. It's one play at a time, one game at a time and we're just going to handle it the same way we handled it in the regular season. But like I said, we're going to up the intensity and dial in a little bit more. That's it."
Q:How hungry is this team?
BERRY: "We've been hungry from the get-go. I really don't know how to explain it but I think you can see it throughout our play. I think our play speaks for itself."
Q:When you clinched the playoffs, you told your teammates in the locker room "Don't be surprised." What goes into that mentality?
BERRY: "Like I said earlier, it's not our ultimate goal. We're supposed to be right here. We said we were going to be right here, so, we're here. And it's just time to set out to do what we set out to do and we do that by one play at a time and one game at a time."
Q:What's the secondary doing to plan for DeAndre Hopkins?
BERRY: "Watching film. Just making sure we're on the same page. Understanding that he runs great routes, he has great stems. He's just an elite wide receiver, so you have to be aware of him. So basically we just approach it like we've been doing the whole season."
Q: Would you say this team has been playing the last 10 weeks in playoff mode?
BERRY: "I guess you could say that."
Q: Did it feel like it?
BERRY: "I don't know. We just go out there and ball. Whatever it is, you never know when you'll get another opportunity. So when we step on that field we put everything on the line."
LB DJ ALEXANDER
Q: On receiving AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
ALEXANDER: "Yeah, it's exciting. Like I said, I try my best to contribute to the team and to get that honor is a real privilege."
Q: Where were you when you found out that the league recognized you? ALEXANDER: "We had a team meeting and Coach (Andy) Reid said my name and it kind of threw me off guard because he never really says my name and he said that and I was shocked. I was in the team meeting."