Opening Comments:ML: "In looking at the Texans, I may be a little repetitive, but offensively, they have a really explosive group. Andre Johnson is probably one of the best wide receivers, if not in the league right now, then particularly in the AFC. He's strong, athletic, a great route runner, does a great job with his body. (Steve) Slaton, the runner, and the tight end are dangerous, and they have some good weapons in the rest of the receiving group. A very explosive group. We know how good they are after playing them a year ago.
"Defensively, with the middle linebacker and Mario Williams, the rusher, they have a very formidable front that's very athletic and gets after the quarterback. They have some high picks in the back end and the secondary. They're a team that's not satisfied with where they are now. Good football team. They have a two good returners in (Andre) Davis and (Jacoby) Jones. They'll be quite a challenge on Sunday. We'll be ready to go. Our guys are excited about the challenge of the week, and the preparation, and the learning. Really, I think we'll do a good job in preparation this week."
Q: Is (Matt) Schaub a QB that stays in the pocket, or would you say he's more like Michael Vick, where he can move out of the pocket, as well?ML: "They do some things in moving him around, but he's more a pocket passer. But they do some things that move him in their offense. Particularly early on, they run a lot of bootlegs and screens, reverses, try to get you unnerved and then come back and hit you in the mouth before they try to throw it over your head. That's key."
Q: The Texans do a pretty good job of protection, in general. They went 50 pass attempts without a sack last week: ML: "They're doing a pretty good job. Again, they're a team in the National Football League, so they have some good players. We have some good players. We're going to match up on Sunday."
Q: How do you avoid a letdown after such a big win? ML: "I've heard that question each week. We just keep playing. That question came after the Denver game, it came after the Packers game, it came after the Steelers game. It didn't come in after Cleveland. We'll be fine. Letdown is an emotional thing that people that don't play the game have."
Q: You guys have been pretty good about shutting down top receivers, but have let some second and third wide receivers have big games. Is that something you worry about?ML: "Who won the game? That's what counts. There's no such thing as a big day if you don't win. I learned that a long time ago in the NFL. There's one goal, and that's to win the football game."
Q: Will Carson practice with the thumb injury?ML: "He'll fully practice."
Q: Can you talk about the decision to let go of Brad St. Louis? Is that sort of thing one of the toughest parts of being a coach? ML: "The decision to let Brad go was, as with any decision, very difficult. Particularly with a guy who's been here the (entire) time I've been here. But where we are as a football team and for the betterment of the team, we had to make a decision to go in a different direction. It's a difficult one. But in order to maximize what we have in our kicker and our punter and that whole operation, we had to put them at ease a little bit. So, we made the decision."
Q: Will Clark Harris practice exclusively as a snapper? ML: "Yes, he will."
Q: What do you like about him as a snapper? ML: "Well, he's a good long snapper (smiles). He's an accurate guy, he's a young guy, he has good velocity on the ball with an accuracy to it. He's a big guy who has the ability to handle some of the things in the protection that we ask the guy to do. I feel good about him."
Q: How much has the increased pass rush helped the secondary?ML: "They work together, and it works hand-in-hand. As we talked about after the Green Bay game, some of the sacks that occurred in that game were because of coverage, and trying to hold the football and get the ball to particular receivers. It's hand-in-hand. Whether it be a four-man rush or pressure, both benefit each other."
Q: You've never really been enamored with increased media attention, but you're starting to get the attention due to your team's success. Can that be a distraction since your team has not dealt with that so much in recent years? ML: "We let the media in for training camp (for "Hard Knocks"), and that was my commitment. At this point, we're trying to stay 'business as usual.' We'll continue on down that line. We'll continue as scheduled. We won't be distracted by those things, because our goal doesn't happen until way down the line.
Q: Is this team better equipped to handle that pressure?ML: "I think it is. I think we have guys who are pretty content with where they are in their careers and their lives. For the most part, it's 52 and one. I think that's fine, and I think they realize that. It's about 52 and a half now, so were getting closer. But somebody has to have the attention, so he (Chad Ochocinco) might as well do it because he loves it. Let him eat it up and have fun with it, and you guys love to talk to him and he loves to talk to you. It's a marriage that's made in heaven."
Q: It's a little different dynamic than before: ML: "Right, because there's only one guy who's looking for it. The other guys are pretty satisfied with where they are, and I think they appreciate that. They understand the ultimate thing is to win football game, and they all benefit. Without winning football games, nobody will care about you."
Q: Is there something the coaches can do to prevent all these dropped passes?ML: "I don't recall a dropped pass last week. We only had one flash, maybe, where the ball got flashed in front of the guy. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember any drops last week in the game."
Q: It looked like Daniel Coats dropped two, including one that could have been a touchdown:ML: "I said maybe he dropped one, but it got flashed right in front of him. Certainly the one there at the end of the game, he had no chance to catch that football. I mean, he didn't even see the ball. I don't remember Jeremi Johnson dropping the ball last game, but I read that somewhere. I don't remember that play. So, again, maybe Daniel on the one ball where the ball got flashed right in front of him. He wasn't expecting the ball at that point, and Carson went ahead and delivered it, because he was under pressure. It was a little bit before the break point, so it got up on Daniel right as he was coming out of the break and putting his foot in the ground and making it stick, and boom, the ball was there. That was kind of the same thing that happened with Laveranues (Coles). The ball was there before Laveranues was expecting it. That was the first play of the ball game. I don't know that I would consider either of those really drops."
Q: Carson seems to look more mobile than any point since his knee injury. Is it just confidence?ML: "No, I think before he injured his forearm last year, he was fine. He got hurt in '05, he took awhile to come back in '06 as it always does, but I thought in '07 and '08 he was fine at running and moving. He always has been. It's just that we're getting some different looks from coverages now because we're putting some different people out on the field, and he's taking advantage of some of those things."
Q: Does it show the maturity level of the quarterback that sometimes it's better to get two or three yards rather than force it?ML: "Well, I think that's part of it. Sometimes you take what's given. If we guess wrong on a particular thing or they guess right, then we have to adjust and move on, and I think Carson is prepared to do that."
Q: The Texans seem to have good kickoff and punt returners, like Joshua Cribbs in Cleveland. Have you had to make a lot of corrections with your coverage teams?ML: "Well, you make corrections all the time. As I said earlier, Davis and Jones are both fine returners. They're big guys that can run, but they both have a tendency to fumble the ball and make poor decisions, so we hope to knock one loose and make it a big play for us. So we have to do a good job of being in our lanes, and tackle once we get there."
Q: How is Andre Smith progressing?ML: "Andre is doing pretty well, actually. He's coming along. We'll continue to ratchet up his work, as far as the on-field work. He continues to go symptom-free so far, so we'll continue to ratchet him up as we go."
Q: Is he closer to practicing?ML: "I'd say we're getting closer. When he steps on the field, he actually has been practicing, but he hasn't been practicing with the team yet."
Q: When you have two good corners like you have, what does it allow you to do with the front seven?ML: "Well, I think Joe asked the same question, basically, from the other side. I think it's helpful to those players. I think John (Johnathan Joseph) and Leon (Hall) are two good young players, and they've been two good guys for each other. They play well with each other. I think the goal, which we've been able to do this year, is to keep them on the outside and on their side, and that can be helpful, because they see the game the same way all the time. Sometimes when you slide a guy in, then basically he's getting double the reps, especially with so many three- and four-wide receiver sets that offenses run. I think that has been helpful to both guys. And, you know, they do a good job. They understand. They understand where the strengths and the weaknesses are in the coverages, and they've been able this year to play to the strengths. "You see the interceptions and those things that happen because they're doing what they're supposed to do within the scope of the coverage. You don't have to do too much. We're going to get challenged this week by the double routes and things like that, so we have to stay in proper leverage and we have to be in the right fits and where our help is, particularly because this team runs more double routes and things like that than most of the teams we've played week in and week out. So we really have to be on the top of our game. The second part of that is, that provides an opportunity for guys to get after it up front. This quarterback will hold the football a little bit this week, so we've got to do a good job of recognition at the line of scrimmage and making that transition from the running game into pass rushers and get around this quarterback and get at his feet."
Q: Any disappointment that you are 4-1 and this game might not sell out?ML: "Well, I don't quite have those emotions here publicly -- you know, concerns, disappointments, things like that. But I wish it were. Hopefully it will. We're playing a very good football team, and our guys are playing good football right now. We're getting better every time we go out there. Every time we have a meeting, we get better. Every time we go to practice, we get better. Certainly we're better at the end of the game than we are the start of the game, and that's all that counts. We just have to keep working towards that and hopefully it will get filled up and we'll sell the rest of those tickets and it will be a sold-out stadium again that way. It has to be more fun to come to the stadium than sit at home and watch it anyway, right?"