Head Coach Jack Del Rio
Head Coach Jack Del Rio:
"Well, our season ended sooner than we really wanted. Got off to such a great start. Winning 12 games is not easy to do. It just came to an abrupt end the last two weeks. Not able to do enough as a team to carry on or continue on. Came into this game with two key areas that we were looking at. Win the turnover battle and out-rush the opponent. That is really a recipe for winning on the road in these playoffs, and we just didn't get that done. I thought we fought throughout. Looking to come out at halftime when the game didn't quite start the way we wanted. We fought and battled and were hanging in there. Came out to start the second half and thought if we just get a spark and get started that we can take off and go from there. But didn't really get anything. Couldn't really get it going. Weren't very good on third down. Had a few drops. Overall, just not what we wanted. Not what we were looking for. I'm proud of our guys. We've got a good group of guys who worked hard. Obviously, we'd like to continue on. We're not going to be doing that. Questions?"
Did you just have too many losses to injuries to be able to win?
"It didn't help. Certainly didn't help. The way all competitors look at it is we're going to do what we can with who we have and expect to succeed. That's the way we're always going to approach it. We're never going to yield. We're never going to surrender. We're going to go battle whoever we're playing. Look to compete and look to find a way."
How tough were some of the adjustments with LT Donald Penn out?
"Yeah, we missed Donald (Penn). Donald had a great year for us. He had a Pro Bowl year for us. He was hoping to make it back. He just wasn't. He's just to where he can almost walk normal, but he can't quite do more than that. As much as I love the way he fought to get back and how much he really wanted to, obviously, you lose your Pro Bowl left tackle, that was a blow."
Was there any thought of going back to Matt McGloin at quarterback?
"I asked at halftime. The coaches really felt that there were other things that were kind of contributing and that there wasn't going to be a big change based on changing the quarterback, so we stayed the course with it. I know he got a lot of experience in the game in the last game and a half. He did some good things, and then he did some things that he'll certainly learn from."
Was the first interception for the touchdown a nightmare scenario?
"Yeah, it led to outstanding field position for them. (Jadeveon) Clowney made a heck of a play. We have our guy out there, Khalil (Mack), who had that kind of play against Carolina. Those special athletes, you have to be careful around those guys. He just batted that ball to himself and made a hell of a play. Regardless of how it occurs, protecting the football is so huge, so important. Valuable lesson there."
Can you talk about the disruption caused by DE Jadeveon Clowney and on the other end OLB Whitney Mercilus?
"I thought they did a nice job. They're a good front. They've had a good defense all year. The front was really what generates a lot of pressure. So, yeah, (Whitney) Mercilus played well. We knew he would be a factor coming in, somebody would have to deal with."
What did you think about how QB Connor Cook played today?
"It was his first start – on the road, in a playoff game, against the No. 1 ranked defense. It was a tough draw for him. We had hopes that we'd be able to do enough around him that he wouldn't be called on to do as much. I think we ended up throwing it 45 or more times in the game. That's not the design. I can assure you that. We'd like to go into this game and pass it 20 or 25 times and run it the other 45 or 50 times. It got out of whack there. Once you're behind like that, you're playing catch up and you're not able to get some of the things you want to get done, done. So, we got a little bit out of whack there."
QB Connor Cook had some nice throws that were dropped. Has that been a problem throughout the year?"There have been a few drops. Obviously, a lot goes in to that, and we'll make sure we take a good look at it and make sure that we're working on cleaning that up. We want to be friendly for the quarterback and catch as many of those balls as we can. Part of this is the quarterback putting it in a good spot where it's a little more friendly for the receiver to catch it. We had a few too many drops."
What did you think of the performance of QB Brock Osweiler?
"Have to give the victor the spoils. They earned it. He was able to do enough to hurt us more than I'd like to see. We played against him before and were able to sack him and not let him do as much as he did today. I don't think we sacked him today. He was able to hook up with a couple of receivers and do a little bit of damage. It was good enough for him to earn a win, for sure."
Is it difficult to look back on the season and have this abrupt end?
"I don't think you can eliminate the abrupt ending you don't want, but I don't think you can dismiss what we accomplished. We had a great beginning. We won 12 of our first 15 games, so that's outstanding. We just had an abrupt ending, and that can happen in this league. If you're in the playoffs, they're one and done. You've got to win to advance, and we knew that. Like I said, I'm proud of our guys for the year we put together, the effort that we put forth. There's no question about the fight and the willingness to commit to what's good for the team. I saw countless examples of that throughout the year where guys were giving it up for each other and that's a great thing to have. Super proud of our guys for that. As I told them in there, this is just the beginning. We're just getting started. We need to learn from what we feel and the experiences that we had throughout this year, both good and bad, learn from it and go forward. Ready to do more."
Do you feel like in some ways you were a little ahead of schedule in terms of what you accomplished this year after where you were last year?
"Well, just depends on how you're looking at it. We've come a ways, for sure. For me, it's about pushing for more, and that's the way I'm wired. We're going to continue to push for more."
What happened to WR Michael Crabtree?
"He suffered a concussion and went in the concussion protocol and was not able to return. That was that on the injury front."
Were you happy with how your early blitzes went or did you not get home enough?
"I thought we were fairly effective going after him. The plan was to be a little more aggressive. I thought we did that. So, yeah, that was part of the plan going in. To me, the defense was kind of similar to what it's been a lot of the year. That is, we had stretches there where we got consecutive stops, we're getting the ball back and we're staying in the game. When you had 4 (Derek Carr) back there, that might be enough for us to score a couple and get ignited and then we jump ahead and then we're able to close games and things like that. We just weren't able to hit that ignition and get that going where we were able to capitalize with the consecutive stops and those types of things. Some of the bad parts also showed themselves, where it's just a matter of the wrong leverage and not taking care of a responsibility and then maybe somebody over-pursues and we give up a cutback run that goes for too many yards. We allow a receiver to get open where really it's not an ability-based thing, it's like losing leverage, losing focus on the leverage and not playing together properly there. So, you give a couple of those plays that to me mar what could be a really outstanding effort and it ends up being OK but not what I'm looking for, not what we need to have. That'll certainly be a focal point going to next year."
Is this something a team needs to go through?
"Well, if you could skip it I would love to skip it, you know? I don't know the answer to that other than to say the way I approach it is you go forward, you believe and you teach and you grow and you continue to add and you grow stronger and you know what you want it to look like and you keep pushing for it. Do you end up having some growing pains? Typically, I would say probably, yes. But does that mean I'm going to sit here and feel good about it? No."
What do you think of Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien as a head coach?
"That's not my job to evaluate Bill. I have a lot of respect for Bill (O'Brien). I think he and his staff have done a good job this year and over the last couple years. But, that's the Texans. They can worry about that."
Quarterback Connor Cook:
What were the most challenging things to deal with in regards to the Texans' defense?
"(I got) pressured a little bit and it got to me sometimes. But, it falls on me. There were one or two where I held on to the ball too long and I just need to get it out of my hands and to the backs, check it down, stuff like that I can improve on. They had very good coverage on the outside. They play very good defense and the windows were tight, and again, that falls on my shoulders to deliver very accurate balls to our receivers."
What did you see on the screen pass that Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney intercepted?
"It was a great play by him. Me, trying to make a play in a hard situation like that, I just have to be safe and throw it away. He's a great athlete and he made a great play on it. But I have to be safe."
What about the other interceptions?
"The one I overthrew Coop (Amari Cooper) on was a great route by him, had him wide open. I think I tried to throw it too hard. I could have just laid it out in the middle of the field and had him go run up and make a play on it. Got excited seeing how open he was and just sailed it. The last one, on fourth down, (I) threw it to Dre (WR Andre Homes) before he broke to the outside. (I) was just trying to make a play."
What do you think the issues were on third downs today?
"Just not executing. Like I said, they were playing some good man coverage and they were playing a soft zone, (I) tried to check it down to the running backs and tight ends and make a play on it. But then, me, I was holding on to the ball too long, taking a sack or just not making a good pass."
Do you think your inexperience served as a factor?
"Who knows? Maybe. But, for myself, I look at it like I was going to come in here and I was going to play really well. I was confident in the game plan, I was confident in the guys around me and that I could rely on them, and I think sometimes I just tried to do a little bit too much out there at times. I have high expectations for myself and to come in here and play like that is not a good feeling. I want to give my team a better chance to come out and win. But, it's a learning experience and we just have to move on."
What did you learn?
"To be more accurate obviously. Don't sail it over guys' heads and throw an interception. Get rid of the ball quicker and use my check downs."
What do you take from the whole experience?
"It's not easy. Very difficult position to play at quarterback. You have to know a lot of stuff, you have to come in and prepare your butt off. I thought I did that leading up to this week. It's just hard to go out there and win and compete in this league. Even earlier in the year when we still won but thought we could have played better, we said, 'hey, enjoy wins because it's hard to win in this league.' It just goes to show you, it's hard."
Did you feel like you got into a rhythm?
"Yeah, we got the tempo going. I thought the offensive line, receivers, tight ends, everyone was gelling. I thought running backs were gelling during that time. We were getting up and we were moving. We were moving the football. Thought we could put some more points up."
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper:
This is obviously a very special regular season football team. For it to end the way it did, can you describe the disappointment and emotions around here in the locker room?
"Obviously, you want to win in the postseason, so you can be the last team standing. It's very disappointing to get this far and not have it end the way you want it to end."
Why wasn't the offense able to get cranking like you guys have? What are your initial impressions there?"We just didn't execute the way that we should've. I know, me personally, I could've helped Connor (Cook) out a little more, but it's over with now. There's nothing that I or we can really do about it."
I know nobody likes to blame it on injuries, but are you just a little bit disappointed that they didn't see the 100 percent Raiders that the whole league has seen all year in this playoff game?
"Yeah, of course it's disappointing, but it's a part of the game, unfortunately. Teams would like to stay healthy, but it's not always that way. Nothing we can do about it."
What do you think this team takes away from this whole experience with this year, building up to be a playoff team?
"We have to finish. That's what we'll take from it. You can have the best regular season, but the postseason is even more important. You have to win."
It's pretty fresh still, but is it too early to take something positive from this season? The fact that you guys got where this organization hasn't been for 14 years?
"Yeah, you just said it. This is our first playoff game in 14 years. If you want to take something positive from it, that's what you would want to take from it."
You already knew what QB Derek Carr meant to this football team, but did the last two games really prove how valuable he is to the Oakland Raiders?
"Yeah, of course. Anytime you lose your starting quarterback, it's tough. It's tough."
**Defensive End Khalil Mack:
This was a tough way to end the season.
"A lot of adversity hit us, we didn't handle it well and you see the results."
Do you sense that QB Derek Carr's injury played a big part in the loss?
"Obviously, when you lose an MVP, it takes a toll. But, we wanted to rally and focus back in. You could tell it was a big hit for us."
What are you most disappointed about? Are you disappointed in the way the season had to end?
"Most definitely. You definitely want to finish the season a lot stronger than we did. At the same time, defensively, that hurt more than anything. There were a lot of things we gave up today that we shouldn't have."
Head Coach Jack Del Rio challenged this team these last couple weeks to come together and help the backups come along. Why do you think that didn't happen?
"There's a lot of different things. We can't make any excuses, but obviously Houston was the better team today."
What's your biggest takeaway from this season?
"The biggest takeaway from this season is that we've got to help the offense, defensively. We weren't able to do that on a consistent basis, and that's my fault and I take that."
Running Back Latavius Murray:
Were the Texans as the No. 1 defense as advertised?
"Yeah, I give them a lot of credit. Great defense. They did what they had to do."
On the drive that was ignited by the 51-yard punt return from RB Jalen Richard, it seemed like you had lightening in a bottle. Is that a fair assessment?
"Yes. When anybody makes a play and gives a team a spark, obviously you want to take that momentum in to score. We were able to do that."
What are your thoughts on the way this special season ended?
"It just hurts. To put so much work into something, and for it to end this way, it just hurts."
Do you think the last two games showed how valuable QB Derek Carr is to this team?
"I don't think we need any games to show how valuable he is. He's valuable and will always be, but he wasn't out there. We had all the things we needed to go out there and win the game, but we just didn't do it."
Is it safe to say that injuries caught up with the team at the end of the season? Too much to overcome?
"Injuries hurt, but injuries happen in this game. We're not going to blame injuries whatsoever."
But it wasn't just injuries. It was injuries to key players on the team.
"Like I said, injuries happen. It's the next man up mentality. That's just how the game goes."
How big was the interception from DE Jadeveon Clowney at the beginning of the game?
"It was huge. Coming out and opening up that drive that way, to give them the short field like that, it was obviously a big play for them."
**Is it too early to think at this point that this being a young team has hit its stride? Can you look at it that way yet?
"Oh yeah. We did some good things this year. So yes, but it didn't end the way we wanted it to end so it's disappointing. I'm not in this game to lose whatsoever regardless of any of the things that go on. It doesn't matter. We did some great things this year, but it's disappointing regardless."
Running Back Jalen Richard:
Tell us about 51-yard punt return, because for a while it looked like you guys had caught lightning in a bottle.
"It's just one of those things just making the play. A lot of things I do I really can't explain sometimes. I am out there playing; God has blessed me with a gift. I go out there and try to make an impact, be the sparkplug for the team every chance I get the ball in my hands. I embrace that role because now I see, like I get out there, get ready for the punt return and it's third down and everybody is looking at me, like 'Come on, Jalen.' I embrace that and I take that with pride. I love being the sparkplug for the team and I look forward to continue to do that next year. "
You ignited two more explosive plays and the next thing you know RB Latavius Murray is in the end zone."That's the name of the game. You have to be a good team in all three aspects of the game; special teams is a big role in it, so whenever you can get in … The way I am taught is to get the offense their first, first down, whenever it is a punt return. So, I look for the ten yards, and get us that first down, give us that momentum and get us in a role. To continue to do that, I am blessed with it, I love the game and I love my teammates."
On that punt return, is it one of those things where you are in the film session, "Oh wait a minute back that up, let me look at that again."
"I mean, maybe I will have to look at it again. I was hoping, I really was hoping one of my guys was going to block the guy that kind of hit me. I was kind of waiting for him to do it and then he didn't do it and I was like, 'Aww, he hit me.' I was able to keep my balance, spin out of it and get around the corner to the left. You know, that was just me being me, just trying to make a play every time I get the ball in my hands."