In a rematch of an AFC divisional playoff game from January, the Patriots welcome the Texans to Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Both teams enter with a record of 1-1.
Here’s what the Texans had to say about the Patriots:
Bill O’Brien, head coach
On what he saw from Tom Brady in Week 1:
I think that I’m looking at the whole team and when I look at their offense, obviously they didn’t win the game, they didn’t start off the way they wanted to, but there were several things that they did in the game that were very good. They’re a very dangerous team on offense. They play fast. They play with great efficiency. They have a different game plan every week, different personnel that they’re using and so, it’s difficult. You don’t really know what to expect. The combination of Tom and Josh (McDaniels), the brains behind that offense, it’s hard. It’s hard to deal with that and we’re just going to have to see what it is when the game starts and do the best we can to keep up with what they’re trying to do and go from there.
On the Patriots’ cornerbacks:
Look, both those guys are two of the better corners that we’ll go against this year. They both have different skill sets. Stephon [Gilmore] has got some length. You have to run really good routes on him. He’s a big guy. You have to try to get some separation from him because if you don’t, he’s going to punch the ball out with his length. Malcolm [Butler]’s a very strong player, he plays the ball really well. Very difficult guy to get off of coverage. He’s a guy that brings a lot of playing strength to that position. Last week they played (Eric) Rowe a little bit more than Butler so we’ll have to see what that ends up being. I know Rowe was injured but we’ll have to see what that ends up being on Sunday, but we expect it to be Butler and Gilmore.
On returning to New England to play the Patriots:
It does in some ways, but I think the first time, personally, when I came back there, that was exciting. But I think as time wears on, we play them every year, we play them quite a bit. It’s kind of like Cincinnati. It’s in the division. They’re not in the division but we play them so much and we’re so familiar with them – we just practiced against them at The Greenbrier. We have great respect for them. It’s really more about the game. The ticket requests and things like that, I don’t really deal with that stuff. It’s really more about just trying to do the best job you can for your team, to put your team in the best position to try to win a game.
On if prior games or joint practices will help in preparation for the Patriots:
Zero. I mean, we haven’t beaten them, so it doesn’t really help too much.
On taking a rookie quarterback to Gillette Stadium:
Yeah, that’s one thing I have read, but I would tell you that it’s hard for any quarterback. How many times have they lost at Gillette Stadium, to any quarterback? Look up their record at Gillette Stadium over the last 16 years or at least since, or at least since, let’s just say since 2003, what’s their record at home? It’s probably pretty good, so that would include not just rookie quarterbacks, but any quarterback. And relative to that, I think that we’re preparing Deshaun (Watson). He’s working very, very hard. I think, with our team, relative to that, I think it’s just important to go up there and go one play at a time. Put a great deal of focus on that play and then move on to the next play, what’s the next situation, and really focus on what your job is on each and every play. That’s what you have to do. You can’t worry about Gillette Stadium, Schick Stadium, Schaefer Stadium (or) Sullivan Stadium. It’s about what’s going on during that game.
Jadeveon Clowney, defensive lineman
On if the postseason performance against the Patriots gives them confidence:
Oh yeah, it’s a confidence builder for the team and the guys on the team. I think this time’s going to be a little different. Different team, different guys in the locker room. We got to go out and put it together. Go out there and perform.
Kareem Jackson, cornerback
On if facing Tom Brady frequently helps him prepare:
Oh, definitely. Definitely. Arguably the best to ever play the position. He’s done some great things over his career, so any time we can see him, whether it’s preseason (or) practicing against them, it’s definitely going to bring out the best in us as a team. We’ll have to have a great week and we have to be ready to go.
Jonathan Joseph, cornerback
On facing Tom Brady:
It’s always difficult. Any time he has weapons on the offensive side, multiple formations he’s going to show you, obviously he’s as good as they come in this league and one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest. Always gives you a difficult job from play recognition to play count to snapping the ball fast, especially if you’re not lined up. So, he throws everything at you, we have to do a good job of studying all week.
On playing Brady at Gillette Stadium:
I’ve never beat him up there. Any time I’ve been up there, I’ve come out on the bad end of the stick, losing end of it. But it’s always tough all game and obviously every game is different, so you just have to block the outside noise out and just go up there and play your game.
Whitney Mercilus, defensive lineman
On facing Tom Brady:
Man, he’s a great quarterback. He’s very smart about the game, understands what schemes that other teams are trying to do against him. He’s done a great job of that. Obviously he’s been playing for so long and that’s why they call him the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time), no doubt.
Sean Ryan, quarterbacks coach
On the Patriots facing a rookie quarterback:
I think any time you’re going against a young quarterback or you’re coaching up a young quarterback, what you really have to emphasize with him is they’re going to hold looks for as long as they can, and at the snap of the ball is really when you have to identify what’s going on, what you’re seeing. So, it’s all about talking to him about, ‘Look, what they’re showing you pre-snap doesn’t actually mean what’s going to happen after the ball’s snapped.’ You have to be locked in to that. It comes from film study and then it comes from within the game, seeing what the plan is as you go through the game and getting them up to speed on that in between series. Really, the snap of the ball identification is huge.
Mike Vrabel, defensive coordinator
On whether his familiarity with Tom Brady gives him an advantage:
I think that they rely on precision, they rely on the operation, the timing, the comfort level of the receivers and where they’re supposed to be. The backs – they get the backs involved. They have great backs. Obviously, we know what Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) can do. And then working the speed guys in with (Brandin) Cooks and (Phillip) Dorsett and then (Chris) Hogan and then (Danny) Amendola coming back. So, that’s a huge challenge. We know that he’s got a lot of comfort in most of those guys.
On the loss in the playoffs in January:
I think you show them how close we were at times. I think that you look back at the way we ended the first half last year, goal-line stand, opened the second half with a three-and-out. Those are the things you look at and you try to show them. You try to show them how we practiced against them in the summer when we lined up against them. You try to show them those things as how close we are, and if we could just get a turnover here, we can get another three-and-out and make them punt, (and) keep giving the offense a chance, that’s how you build confidence for them.
On if the Patriots might just execute their offense anyway even if the Texans know what to expect:
I think that’s always the case. That’s why you play. You try to win one-on-one matchups. This league is all about it. They’re going to have a receiver on a DB, they’re going to have a back on a linebacker, we’re going to have a defensive lineman on an offensive lineman. Who can win those one-on-one matchups? Can we rush? Can we cover? Can we stop the run? All those types of things. I think they’re going to try to run their offense, we’re going to try to run our defense. This game just mostly comes down to one-on-one matchups and we have to win more than they do.
Deshaun Watson, quarterback
On Tom Brady’s comments about him:
It means a lot. It gives me confidence in myself and what I can do at this level of play. Coming from a guy that’s done and accomplished what the majority, if not all the quarterbacks want to do, it’s a big compliment. I appreciate that from him and I thank him a lot. I look up to him.
On Bill Belichick saying Watson can make all of the throws:
That’s the plan. If I see some opening and then I can make some extra yards, I always try to do that. But I always want to protect myself first, slide when I need to, get out of bounds and live to play another down.
On what he expects as a rookie quarterback going to play the Patriots:
(To) throw all types of things at me. Different coverages, different schemes, different looks and not try to stay in a base look where we can kind of know what they’re doing. That’s every team, not just the Patriots, that I play against because I’m young, I’m new to the league, I’m a rookie. There’s a lot that I have to see and a lot that I have to experience. I’ll take it one snap at a time and take the opportunity as it comes and experience it.