“Sounds like the definition of a bad team.” – Rodney Harrison on the Eagles’ struggles
“Chip Kelly is going to be the most desirable candidate in the off-season for NFL openings.” – Peter King
“If the Jets run the ball and don’t get into a throwing match, I think they can win the ballgame.” –Dungy on Thanksgiving night’s Jets-Patriots game
NEW YORK – November 18, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., where the Steelers are hosting the Baltimore Ravens. Costas was joined on-site by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Hines Ward, the former Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl MVP.
Dan Patrick co-hosted the program from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios and was joined by Football Night in America analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Carolyn Manno reported on Colts-Patriots, from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Following are highlights from Football Night in America:
Michaels: “I saw that whole game. It took them four hours to beat the Cleveland Browns. They lost that game like 15 different times…Overtime was crazy. It’s a gigantic win.”
Dungy: “Again, not being able to do the ordinary things…They’re going to try and protect a four-point lead, 1:10 to go and they can’t count to 11 (nine men on the field that led to Browns TD). They created this problem themselves just not being able to line up.”
Dungy: “The Dallas Cowboys are alive. With all the trauma and drama in Dallas, I’m just saying they’re alive.”
Florio: “Michael Vick most likely won’t be back in Philly next year as the quarterback, but we could see him back as soon as next week given the fact that Nick Foles didn’t play that well. I am told that the team has overstated Mike Vick’s concussion symptoms. He is not hurt as badly as believed. We could see him next week.”
Dungy: “What we saw is Michael Vick wasn’t the only problem. Bad coverage, bad tackling, dropped balls, a lot of problems in Philadelphia.”
Harrison: “Sounds like the definition of a bad team.”
Dungy: “I’m sure they’re going to have a new coach and a lot of new players next year. The owner said Andy Reid had to make the playoffs. They are not making the playoffs.”
Dungy: “This was the right formula for them. Twenty passes for Mark Sanchez, not 40 or 45, and getting things done…This is what they need to do, run, play defense, and a little bit of Mark Sanchez.”
Dungy on Thanksgiving night game vs. Patriots: “If the Jets run the ball and don’t get into a throwing match, I think they can win the ballgame…I think the Jets have a shot to win.”
Harrison: “The one thing we know about the Patriots, they can score offensively. But I think you look at this game (vs. Colts) and see that they’re a much improved defensive team. They are scoring touchdowns on defense, they’re creating turnovers.”
Harrison on Andrew Luck: “It was just bad decision making. It wasn’t anything fancy, any fancy scheme or anything that confused him. He just made bad throws.”
Collinsworth: “The question was could Matt Schaub carry that team with the passing game if he had to? 527 yards later today, the answer is yes.”
Harrison on if today’s performance was a letdown or showed some flaws: “I think it was more of an emotional and mental letdown.”
Dungy: “I really do think that that win against Chicago took something out of them.”
Dungy on playoff chances: “They have a chance. This offense can allow them to string together four or five wins in a row, but we’ll find out next week (when they play the 49ers).
Harrison: “They showed a lot of mental toughness today, overcoming some early mistakes.”
Patrick on Aaron Rodgers’ performance despite team’s rash of injuries: “Pretty amazing if you consider what he’s done.”
Dungy: “A lot of noise, great pass rush, but when they needed it, Aaron Rodgers made the big drive.”
Harrison: “The winning formula to me is they have to get back to running the ball with Michael Turner…throwing the ball 40 or 50 times a game, they can’t win like this…You can beat the Arizonas of the world but when you start playing against good quality teams, like Green Bay, you are not going to be able to win those games.”
Florio: “Six weeks until the end of the regular season and coaches will be fired. Let’s start in Cleveland where (head) coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert are virtually certain to be gone as soon as Cleveland’s season ends. In San Diego, Norv Turner could be gone as soon as this week unless the Chargers find a way to avoid going three games behind the Broncos. They are playing Denver today. Finally, in Philadelphia, it is no longer ‘if,’ it is definitely ‘when’ owner Jeffrey Lorie will pull the plug on Andy Reid.”
King: “(Oregon head coach) Chip Kelly is going to be the most desirable candidate in the off-season for NFL openings.”
Florio: “In that huge concussion lawsuit brought by nearly 4,000 former players against the NFL, there was news this week of a supposed ‘smoking gun’ given that the NFL’s Disability Board had paid payments of benefits to former players who had brain damage due to concussions. But, if this means the NFL knew about the connection between concussions and brain damage, it also means the players knew because NFLPA representatives are on that Disability Board.”
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Ward: “All the guys love Byron’s attitude. He always brings that positive attitude. He’s got to be one of the most confident guys on the team, and that’s a great trait to have as a backup quarterback.”
Ward on Terrell Suggs, who surprisingly told Bob Costas he was going to miss Ward, who retired, in tonight’s game: “I miss the guy too. I love everything about him. I think he epitomizes what this rivalry is all about.”
Ward on the rivalry: “For me, when I was playing, I was the ‘tempo setter.’ I always wanted to set the tempo for the game and try to play into the Ravens players’ minds to get inside their heads. On the first play in the AFC Championship game in 2008, I went after Ed Reed. Next thing I know, I have three Ravens players beating me up. Unfortunately, I come out with the penalty, but throughout the whole game those guys were trying to retaliate and get me back.”
INTERVIEWS: Below are excerpts from Costas’ interviews with Ravens LB Terrell Suggs and Steelers Hall of Fame RB Franco Harris, as well as Football Night’s interview with Steelers QB Byron Leftwich. If used, please note the mandatory credit: “In an exclusive interview airing tonight on Football Night in America.”
TERRELL SUGGS WITH BOB COSTAS
On his disappointment that Hines Ward (retired) and Ben Roethlisberger (injured) won’t be playing: “I’m a little bummed. If you’re going to throw on a performance, you need the players. I’m going to be a little bummed not to see 86 (Ward) and, to be totally honest with you, 7 (Roethlisberger). But once the whistle blows, it’ll be business as usual.”
On what he said to the doctor when he was told he wouldn’t play in 2012 after an Achilles tear last year: “I’m not going to accept that. He could be wrong, and then I got a second opinion and they told me nine-12 months. I said, “You’re wrong. You don’t know me.” I said I was going to do something and I did it. My whole life I lived by the motto, if I can’t do it, it can’t be done. So I went out there and did it.”
On if he feels like the window to win a championship is narrowing now that he’s 30: “Not really, because I don’t feel like I’m 30. I don’t feel like I’m 30, I feel like a young kid feels just playing football. For my first two years in the league, I was the youngest guy in the NFL. But I don’t feel that way, my body feels great. Do I feel the window closing? No, but I’m starting to get a little itch. I’m starting to get a little draft…We better get this done and soon, if we’re not only going to win multiples, but we’ve got to get the first one very soon.”
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FRANCO HARRIS WITH BOB COSTAS
Costas on the Immaculate Reception and reports that Harris would regularly “go to the ball” in practice: “Even though there’s a huge element of chance in this play, part of it is not chance, because you went to the ball.”
On why he practiced ‘going to the ball’: “That part I credit Joe Paterno with because at practice he’d be hollering, ‘Harris, go to the ball.’ From that first pass in practice where the ball was caught, I ran to the ball, and I ran to the ball every time in practice not knowing that something like this was going to happen.”
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On the impact of losing Ben Roethlisberger: “I understand that when you lose Ben, a guy who’s been to three Super Bowls in nine years, that that’s a special football player.”
On trying to duplicate Roethlisberger: “Why on Earth would I try and go do something I know I can’t do? At that the same time, I feel as though I can play a little bit. I feel as though I can go out here and execute this offense well.”
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-NBC SPORTS GROUP-
Bob Costas’ Halftime Essay on the Real NFL Season
The arrival of Thanksgiving means the season is nearing its home stretch. As it does, the landscape at the top of the standings is notable for its, well, uncertainty.
While the NFL is rightly known for its parity, alongside the notion that every team has a chance every season is the reality that over the last several seasons one team has often stood apart, at least in the regular season. Over the past six years, five teams have jumped out to 10-0 starts or better, including the Packers a year ago and well-remembered teams led by Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Tom Brady in New England.
While it didn’t happen this year, today, two teams moved to 9-1, though hardly in impressive fashion. In Atlanta, Matt Ryan threw five interceptions, nearly giving the game away to the free-falling Cardinals. And in Houston, the Jaguars, with just one win all season, scored 37 points against the vaunted Texans defense, and led by 14 in the fourth before Houston awoke and then won it in overtime. So, if it’s possible to be 9-1 but still not a clear cut favorite, that’s where the Falcons and Texans are.
And here’s part of the reason why: It’s been nine years, going back to the ’03 Patriots, since the team with the league’s best record won the Super Bowl. Instead, it’s been teams like the 9-7 Giants last year, the 10-6 Packers of two years ago, who snuck into the playoffs as a Wild Card on the last day of the season, plus other Wild Cards, and not-necessarily dominant division champs, who rode late momentum to the Super Bowl.
So in light of that trend, may we suggest you cast an eye toward New Orleans, once left for dead at 0-4, now a surging 5-5 and looming larger in the rearview mirror when it comes to the Wild Card race.
Thanksgiving is four days away and the real NFL season is just beginning.
ON THANKSGIVING NIGHT GAME BETWEEN JETS AND PATRIOTS
Rodney Harrison: “I think the home team has the advantage. You don’t have to worry about packing up. You don’t have to worry about getting on a plane. You have that extra day of rest. Just in case you’re a little sore, you can hop in the hot tub. I think definitely the home team has the advantage.”
Tony Dungy: “I always felt the team with the veteran quarterback has the advantage. I went on the road twice on Thanksgiving in Indy with Peyton Manning, and we won huge both times. You can do things. You can just put in quick new game plans, and I think that bodes well for Tom Brady.”
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–