ML: “I was really bothered by the game yesterday and I did not want to go home until I watched it. Not that any of my opinions changed much, but I felt like our players played extremely hard, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t put them in the right positions to win the football game. It’s my job to get them in the right spots and help them through the critical points in the game to get us the win, and that was the thing I was most disappointed in. It’s my job to put them in those situations. I didn’t get it done.
“There were a lot of critical plays. You can take doggone near a dozen plays that mattered, and we have to make them. We made a lot of good ones. We did a lot of positive things. We had a couple 90-yard scoring drives. We would have liked for both of them to be touchdowns. We created turnovers. We had a chance to return two for touchdowns and we failed to do that. That’s the biggest disappointment on my part. We had things right there and failed to do that.”
You had an opportunity to finish the game out in the fourth quarter, up nine points and at home. This team has finished out a number of close games all year long. Are you surprised this time that your guys didn’t make plays and that things ended the way they did?
ML: “I think everybody expected us to make the play that would win the football game, and we didn’t do that. We have some corrections to make, and we have some things to build upon that were good things. We’ve just got to keep going.”
Besides the effort of your team, what were some of the good things that you saw yesterday?
ML: “I thought we did a nice job at the end of the second quarter. We stopped the drive and forced them to try that long field goal attempt. They missed the field goal and we were able to put the drive in place to get some points. Now, within that drive, there were some things that we needed to do better that maybe would have given us an opportunity for a touchdown rather than just a field goal. But to get the points there was critical, moving the ball across from our side of midfield to the other side and making the plays that we did.
“But there are things we want to improve upon, even in that. But then Mike (Nugent) came in and made the big kick. So there were a lot of positives to that. You don’t want to start the third quarter with a big fumble in the first series, then allow the touchdown defensively. So that was not a great start to the third quarter. Then, obviously, giving up 10 points in the fourth quarter is not what you want.”
This team has not played with big leads too much this season. Do you think you may have gotten too conservative in the second half?
ML: “No. We did the same things we did in the first half. You just move on and make the adjustments like you do. We don’t ever change that part of what we do.”
It seemed like the change they made in the second half was to bring the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage a little more, forcing the run game to bounce more to the perimeter:
ML: “They didn’t change that until the end of the fourth quarter in the last drive, where they zero-blitzed a couple of times. When we saw that in the first half, we hit the plays over the top. It was a different situation there where we’re not throwing the football on that last drive. So that was the difference.”
Why were the Texans able to get so many plays down the middle on your defense?
ML: “They didn’t get so many plays down the middle; they ran their play action passes. That’s where the ball goes in that. Depending on which coverage (the defense was in), we had guys that needed to cover the ball cover better, whether it be guys from underneath or guys up top. It all needed to be better at times. Three or four times, we played it wonderfully and we sacked their quarterback, but not consistently enough.”
It looked like Taylor Mays matched up well against Texans TE Owen Daniels toward the end. The linebackers struggled matching up with Daniels, but Mays seemed to do a better job. Would you agree?
ML: “He did a good job of playing the right leverage. At times we were disappointed in the leverage we got in. Again, those are things we need to improve upon.”
With the performance of your defensive secondary over the last few games, has it just been a matter of injuries catching up with you?
ML: “We’ve had some injuries, but you’ve got to play. And we’ve got to make plays. We had an opportunity yesterday to make plays. Obviously we’ve got only two players back there that were with us most of last season (Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson). Nate (Clements) has missed some but has come back. But the other two guys that are playing are kind of new – Kelly (Jennings) and Adam (Jones). They didn’t have the training camp and the things like that.
“But we still have to play. They have ability the ability to make plays. We have to keep getting things around them that create opportunity for the secondary as well. It all works together. It’s not one phase or the other phase. On defense, you’ve got to have 11 guys making sure we’re getting the job done together. We’ve got to have pressure when we need pressure, we’ve got to have coverage when we have coverage. When it all works together, big things happen for us. When it doesn’t, we give up plays. We gave up too many plays yesterday.”
You put Bobbie Williams on Reserve/Injured today, and you already had Andre Smith battling an injury. How did Anthony Collins and Mike McGlynn do yesterday as replacements?
ML: “Anthony has stepped up and done a nice job when his opportunity has arisen. Mike hasn’t taken a lot of snaps at guard in practice, because generally it is the other guys who are taking those snaps. He comes into the game with a great knowledge of things and some experience. As the week goes on this week in practice, we’ll get an opportunity to see him and (Clint) Boling both. We’ll give both an opportunity there.”
Boling started the first couple of games, then you moved him out of the starting spot, then Bobbie Williams returned from his suspension. How has Clint looked in practice since you made that first move with him?
ML: “It’s probably been a good thing for Clint to keep working and get stronger and get used to playing in the NFL against the big people, week-in and week-out. He’s got to see that and practice against it. It’ll be a good shot in the arm again for him to get an opportunity to get out there and play, just like he started the year.”
How much of a look will you give to Otis Hudson?
ML: “We’ll see.”
With Andre Smith’s injury, was it a situation where he hadn’t progressed? Was it just a touchy injury?
ML: “It’s always hard, particularly at the offensive line. If we have another healthy guy that has an opportunity to play, then I’m probably going to lean that way. Andre will practice Wednesday and go from there. He thought he was ready to play (yesterday), but I’ve got to determine that, and look at the Ouija board a little bit and just hope and pray. But I think with him not having re-injured himself, he’ll have an opportunity to get going this week.”
Has Carlos Dunlap made progress with his injury?
ML: “He’s made a lot of progress.”
So you’re not afraid that his injury could go to the end of the year, or that you would have to place him on Reserve/Injured?
ML: “No. I don’t think so.”
Brian Leonard showed up on Thursday’s injury report, missed the rest of the week’s practices, then missed the game. What is his status?
ML: “Yeah. He got basically what you might call a bruise on his knee. So we’re dealing with that. It’s got some complications to it, and hopefully it’ll get remedied this week.”
The game yesterday was one of the marquee games on the NFL schedule for the day, yet only 41,000 fans showed up. How disappointing is that to you and the rest of the organization?
ML: “It’s disappointing. I think people are missing out. I get excited and I can’t wait for Sundays to watch our guys play, because I know it’s going to be exciting. I think you guys (the media) can do your part and get them there. We’ve got two more at home (Dec. 24 vs. Arizona, Jan. 1 vs. Baltimore). You can do your part in getting them there, because they’re missing a great show.
“We’ve got guys all over the place making very, very good football plays. Yeah, we’re disappointed we didn’t win the football game, because that’s what we’re here to do, but there’s a lot of good things. I think the guys feed off the energy. I thought the 41,000, or whatever showed up, were very loud and vocal. We’ve got to get them to be kind of quiet when we’ve got the ball down there on the goal line a little and understand that situation a little better. But I thought our fans that were out there have been tremendous. That’s a good thing. You want to get back to having that home-field advantage each and every Sunday.”
You had just three penalties all day yesterday, which was a giant improvement over the 10 you had against Pittsburgh, but every penalty seemed to be very expensive. There was a pass interference and a few false starts:
ML: “The false start on the goal line really wasn’t Bobbie Williams’ fault. That’s more administratively on us. We took basically the delay there in the fourth quarter, and then the pass interference penalty was a big penalty. We had two of them that worked against us, but we still had an opportunity to score down there the first time on the goal line. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to block our guys. We have a great play called after that, we fail to block the right guys, they hit us and we only gain a yard, where we ought to walk into the end zone. That’s something, again, that’s one of those areas where I have to do a better job of making sure our guys do a better job of knowing who their guys are.
“Depending on whatever the look is, we’ve got to be able to block the look. We thought what we had was a favorable look, and if we get it blocked up we walk into the end zone. There were lot of things. We have to know that when we have a big play, the urgency to get back to the huddle and get going is important. We don’t need to incite the crowd; we need to get back in the huddle and get working and moving, because that play clock is going and we’ve got to give Andy (Dalton) the opportunity to get the ball and do the things that he needs to do to administrate what is going on. It’s another lesson learned on that. It’s very similar, unfortunately, to what happened a week ago in Pittsburgh. Same situation. We get down in the play clock and we put things in. We want to have the play clock be to our advantage.”
That was before the false start?
ML: “Yes. Same thing. The same situation. We were down in the play clock and then we’re fooling around with the cadence too much.”
Was the pass interference call at the end against Adam Jones more illegal contact than pass interference?
ML: “It’s called pass interference. That’s all I need to say. Both guys are hand-fighting. What you see is common, and that happens how many times every game. If they were hand-fighting on us, I’d want it called the other way, and vice versa.”
You talked yesterday about needing to come in and pump the air back into the tire. Were you able to do that?
ML: “I did it last night. That’s why I stayed and watched the video. I pumped it last night.”
How were the players today?
ML: “It was a good day. Today was a good day.”
What did you see that pumped you up? The energy?
ML: “The energy and the effort and the detail with what we did very well, and what we didn’t do so well.”
The players seemed to respond well to you and read what you said on Friday about it being a big game. Do you think that was the case?
ML: “I think our guys realize the urgency of all of these games, and it’s a bigger one this week. We’ve got to go play. It’s one game, and we’ve got to go play it. The Rams are playing tonight, and we know they’ll be fired up at home and we know how important it will be.”
You often talk about not paying attention to the big picture, and that it should be taken one week at a time. But you have to feel with three games left that you have to win them all, right?
ML: “I don’t know that. You tell me what happens with the other teams. If they all three lose all three games, we don’t have to win them all