NEW YORK – December 16, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the New England Patriots are hosting the San Francisco 49ers. Costas covered the numerous tributes the league and its teams were making in honor of the victims of the Newtown tragedy. The program then showed prominent NFL figures discussing the tragedy in post-game press conferences, including New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt, and New York Giants WR Victor Cruz.
Costas was also joined on-site by Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth 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 Americaanalysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.Alex Flanagan reported on Steelers-Cowboys, from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Costas interviewed San Francisco 49ers DT Justin Smith and LB Aldon Smith together, as well as Patriots DT Vince Wilfork.
Following are highlights from Football Night in America:
ON CHANGING THE NUMBER OF PLAYOFF TEAMS
Florio: “The Commissioner this week raised the possibility of increasing the playoff field from 12 teams to give it 14 or 16. An important thing to keep in mind though – the players union would have to agree to any such change. So, if the NFL wants to do it, they’re going to have to give something in return to the players’ union.”
King: “I tell you what I think the deal is going to be: I’ve talked to influential people around the league and they believe the best change is to give up two preseason weeks, which are useless anyway, and trade those to add two playoff teams. So, go from 12 to 14 playoff teams, and take away two preseason games.”
Florio on RG III: “Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was in Cleveland for the first time today and the fact that he’s not in Cleveland more frequently could be the thing that gets general manager Tom Heckert fired. I’m told that if Heckert is let go, the primary reason will be the failure of the Browns to move up No. 4 to No. 2 in the draft to get Robert Griffin III.”
King: “I wouldn’t go buying that Nick Saban stock in Cleveland, if I were you. I don’t see Saban going to Cleveland at all, for this reason: he knows that if he goes back to the NFL, he’s going to have to have a solid long-term quarterback. There’s no way in the world he could look at the Cleveland Browns right now and think that Brandon Weeden is going to be a top 10 quarterback for the next 10 years.”
King on Chip Kelly: “I believe that two of the teams that are going to have some serious interest in him are Philadelphia and Cleveland.”
Harrison on first game this year: “I watched a lot of tape and it was probably the most physical game I’ve watched all year.”
Dungy: “Seattle had a chance to win that game and they’re playing much better now. Watch out for Seattle, I’m telling you.”
Harrison on Seahawks: “They’re the real deal.”
Patrick on Seahawks: “They are sneaky, sneaky good.”
Dungy on Kirk Cousins’ performance: “You really have to credit Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan. They didn’t change the offense. They ran a lot of the same things and let Kirk Cousins play.”
Harrison on Adrian Peterson: “Hands down, he is the most valuable player in the league.”
Patrick: “So much for those hand signals that Jim Caldwell was telling the Ravens defense about.”
Dungy: “Yeah, too bad Jim couldn’t play.”
Harrison: “This team is in trouble.”
Dungy: “They’re not playing good ball. They’re not stopping the run and they’re not running the ball. A lot of problems.”
Harrison on Vince Wilfork: “I saw it every day in practice. It didn’t matter whether it was practice or a game, a double team. He’s a disruptive force in the middle, and he’s the main reason why this defense has improved this year…He can throw a tighter spiral than Tom Brady.”
Dungy: “San Francisco has to win this game to stay ahead of Green Bay for the bye situation, but also, if they lose, that sets up a huge game next week with Seattle basically playing for the division lead.”
INTERVIEWS: Below are excerpts of Costas’ interviews with Justin and Aldon Smith, and Vince Wilfork.
JUSTIN SMITH & ALDON SMITH WITH BOB COSTAS
Costas: “You’re both named Smith. You both create havoc for quarterbacks. You both went to the University of Missouri. It’s like you’re twins.”
Aldon: “We are; just different colors.” (laughter)
Justin: “I don’t know about twins, but, he’s a good player. I wish I was his twin. He’s a talented, talented player. That’s where we start with that.”
Aldon on possibly breaking the single-season sack record: “I’m human, so you know it’s in my mind, but I’m just going out there playing every game, taking it one game at a time.”
Justin on Patriots high-scoring offense: “From watching them the week before with what they did to the Texans, whose a defense we respect, players that they have, the defense that they run is similar to ours, we are going to have our hands full. Tom Brady has been doing this for a long time. It’s important not to give him early looks. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Justin on Brady’s successful maneuverability in the pocket: “Well, that’s why you’ve got guys like this (Aldon), to close him down.”
Aldon on being compared to players like Demarcus Ware and Lawrence Taylor: “It means a lot. Those are truly great players. For me, this being my second year, my first year starting, to even be in the conversation with those guys means a lot, so I’ve just got to keep trying to make it happen.”
VINCE WILFORK WITH BOB COSTAS
On his deceptive speed: “I grew up athletic. I always played with guys that were smaller, guys that were faster than me; two, three, four years ahead of me in school. A lot of times, I would find myself chasing those small guys around. That’s the way I started training — quicker guys. It just made me the guy who I am today. God forbid we get all our quarterbacks knocked out of the game, the next guy that would be running the ship would be me. I’m like the fourth or fifth guy on the depth chart. If we don’t have anybody, they can turn to me.”
On the number of texts his wife sends him during the game, even though he doesn’t have his cell phone: “Oh, 41, 50. Oh yeah. It’s everything. It’s, ‘why are you out of the game? Why you didn’t make that play? Good tackle. Man, you almost had that sack. Man, I’m telling you, the defense is ballin. Tom looks good.’ Everything you could possibly imagine, she would tell you.”
Costas: “She can’t control herself.”
Wilfork: “No, she can’t. She loves football. And she’s not just a fan of myself, she’s a fan of the New England Patriots and football. That’s one thing I love about her. She loves sports.”
On telling NBC prior to Super Bowl XLVI that he can beat Tom Brady in a footrace: “Absolutely, still can. No, we didn’t (have the footrace). He’s avoiding me. But that’s ok.
Costas: “Straight ahead, standing start, you can beat Tom Brady?”
Wilfork: “Absolutely, 100 percent sure.”
Costas: “He wants no part of you.”
Wilfork: “Not at all.”
Costas: “Rodney Harrison says you can throw a spiral 60 yards. Want to go out and prove it to me?”
Costas and Wilfork proceeded to the field, had a brief warm-up catch, and then Wilfork threw a 59-yard pass.
-NBC SPORTS GROUP-
WEEK 15 “SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” HALFTIME COMMENTARY
Costas: “Back at halftime of 49ers-Pats where the home team will have to rally, if they’re to win their eighth straight, and, more broadly, position themselves for a sixth Super Bowl appearance of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
“Of course, the pursuit of a fourth Super Bowl victory has stalled with losses to the Giants, both last season and just short of perfection four years prior. So for Tom Brady, he’s still one ultimate game victory behind the player he grew up rooting for, Joe Montana.
“Brady was raised less than 20 miles from Candlestick Park, and he was there as a four-year old the day the 49er dynasty really began — in January of 1982, when Montana found Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone for the catch.
“But as Brady’s career has gone on, the achingly close Super Bowl losses to the Giants have changed the ledger. Joe Montana never lost a Super Bowl, but now Brady has a 3-2 record in them. So, raising the Lombardi trophy in February in New Orleans would tie Tom Brady with his idol, and get him back in the win column in the games that have defined his career.”
Hines Ward on if Tom Brady’s the best ever: “If I was forced to choose, I would have to go with Tom Brady, just because he’s the most clutch quarterback at big moments. I remember when he was playing, anytime he gets the ball, I just get to the bench and pray — ‘Oh, my God. I hope they don’t win the game.’ … and in his two losses to the Giants, they were able to apply pressure to Brady the same way the 49ers are doing tonight.”
Costas: “Something else to keep in mind, if David Tyree doesn’t make an impossible catch in the first loss and the usually reliable Wes Welker doesn’t drop a pass he usually catches in the second, then Brady’s already 5-0.”
Rodney Harrison on Giants: “The Giants will get in. It’s not about winning the division or the records or anything like that. They just want to get in the playoffs. Once they get in, they’re very dangerous. And they will get in.”
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–