HOUSTON -- Although Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said he doesn’t plan to use the 16-point line against the New England Patriots in Saturday’s playoff game as motivation, his players have other plans.
“[It] boosts us up a little bit,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “‘OK, we’re going to show them.’ One of the mentalities this week going into this game is we’re the underdogs, always been underdogs all season, and let’s go out there and prove to them why we’re here in this second round now. So it’s time to go out here and compete.”
The Texans won the AFC South, but they did so with a 9-7 record, tied for the worst among this year’s playoff teams with the Detroit Lions. Further helping the case against Houston is the team’s 27-0 defeat in New England during Week 3. That loss also came against rookie third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, not future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.
In the past 40 years, only three other teams have been favored by 16 points or more in a playoff game. Veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork said that while the Texans have certainly seen the numbers, they aren’t worrying about what others are predicting for Saturday night.
“We’re in a good spot, and we’re excited to have a chance,” Wilfork said. “You’ve got to be excited. There’s a lot of teams that’s sitting back right now wishing that they were in our position. So we’re not feeling sorry for nothing.
“We don’t care if we’re the last seed. We don’t care about that. It’s a new season. I’ve done seen teams [that have] been where we are win it all. So that’s motivation. That is motivation. So last week was a good start for us, and every week we have to get better from here on out.”
Cornerback A.J. Bouye said seeing the number “fuels everybody” to “keep going harder” while preparing for this game. According to Bouye, O’Brien has emphasized that it only gets harder to win playoff games every round and that this team is up to the task, but it has to be at its best.
“It motivates you when you see it, and you just go harder and keep going harder," Bouye said. "And at the end of the day, like Coach told us today, it’s going to get harder with each round, and we have the No. 1 seed this round and we have to be at our best."
“It’s OK if we’re called the underdogs, I kind of like it,” outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. “Definitely get to shock a whole lot of people, so we’re looking forward to that.”
And though the Texans will use this as bulletin board material, veteran left tackle Duane Brown said the team knows it earned a spot in the game and that it can prove a lot of people wrong by winning.
“There’s not many people that’s expecting us to go in there and compete and win this game, but we don’t really care about that that much,” Brown said. “We know we’re here for a reason. We know we have a big opportunity heading into this weekend.
“We know it’ll be very tough. We know the kind of challenge that they bring, but our team is very confident. We really believe in each other. We have a lot of unity, and I think we really played that way last week, and we’re going to keep that going this week.”