HIGHLIGHTS FROM NBC’S WILD CARD SATURDAY MEDIA CONFERENCE CALL
“I’m picking Philly to win this game and go all the way to the Super Bowl.” – Football Night’s Harrison
“I don’t know of anything that has the live drama that NFL football games have.” – Sunday Night’s Collinsworth
NEW YORK – Jan. 5, 2010 – NBC Sports kicks off the NFL’s postseason with a doubleheader of Wild Card games on Saturday, Jan. 9 when the Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles at 8 pm ET and the Cincinnati Bengals host the New York Jets at 4:30 pm ET.
Coverage begins with “Football Night in America,” Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with Bob Costas hosting live from inside Cowboys Stadium. Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann will co-host “Football Night” from NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios joined by Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.
Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter) will call the action from Cowboys Stadium for the Cowboys-Eagles game, which will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff.
Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Joe Gibbs (analyst), Joe Theismann (analyst) and Tiki Barber (sideline reporter) will call the action from Paul Brown Stadium for the Jets-Bengals game, which will be co-produced by Tommy Roy and Rob Hyland, and directed by Fox Sports’ Artie Kempner.
NBC Sports conducted a media conference call today with Collinsworth, Dungy, Harrison, Gibbs and Theismann. Follow are highlights:
COLLINSWORTH ON WHY PEOPLE ARE EXCITED ABOUT FOOTBALL THIS YEAR: “I don’t know of anything that has the live drama that NFL football games have. It didn’t hurt to have a couple of undefeated teams and a couple of great quarterbacks on those undefeated teams taking teams on a run as the season went along.”
COLLINSWORTH ON WHAT PEOPLE ARE MOST EXCITED ABOUT: “The thing that gets us all going is to expect the unexpected. This game changes so quickly. I’m always amazed when you put on the tape at three different points in the season just how different these teams look as you go along. In some ways it’s like one of those cliffhanger series. If you don’t stay up with it week to week and you don’t follow it week to week, you really lose touch.”
DUNGY ON DALLAS’ PLAYOFF WOES: “You really have to put it out of your mind. People are going to talk about it all week. They’re going to drill it in your head. What Wade has to do, and I’m sure he is doing it, is just remind everybody it’s like every other game. You go out there and produce and do what you’re supposed to do and follow your leads and do what you practiced. That’s how you win the game. You don’t have to do anything spectacular, nothing out of the ordinary. But that’s easier said than done because you are going to hear it all the way. They just have to play like they played the last three weeks and they’re going to be in great shape.”
HARRISON ON EAGLES-COWBOYS: “I actually picked Philly to go to the Super Bowl. I don’t know how Dallas — with the pressure of them not winning a playoff game in the last decade, all the hype and pressure surrounding them — in back-to-back weeks, can beat Philadelphia, especially with Andy Reid, an experienced coach. Donovan has played in the playoffs and played in a Super Bowl and I flat out think Andy Reid is a better coach. I’m picking Philly to win this game and go all the way to the Super Bowl.”
COLLINSWORTH ON REX RYAN: “I have about as much fun with Rex as I have with anybody doing interviews. Rex has more fun coaching than anybody I think I’ve ever been around. He has a deep-seeded passion for the game. I’m sure it comes from his dad. It comes from the fact that’s who he was from an early time. He would be the first one to tell you. He only went to school whenever he had PE. If he didn’t have PE he wasn’t going. That’s who he was, that’s who he’s about. He is so much fun to be around and talk football with.”
THEISMANN ON THE JETS AND MARK SANCHEZ: “Every quarterback has to manage a game. You just do it differently. In Indianapolis with Peyton, it’s managed differently. With New England, it’s managed differently. With Mark as a young quarterback, you manage it differently. Rex has basically made the statement, ‘this is who we are. We play pressure defense. We’re going to run the football and that’s who we are and we aren’t going to change.’ When you go up against the Jets you basically know what you’re getting. As long as they can command the line of scrimmage from both sides, they can play with anybody.”
COLLINSWORTH ON PACKERS-CARDINALS: “This is going to be one of those classic match-ups. Dom Capers on the defensive side loves to throw so many different looks at you and so many different blitzes. He’s got a lot of help from a young kid, Clay Matthews, who’s had a great year. Charles Woodson, definitely a part of the MVP picture, plays that sort of joker, wild card role where he could be anywhere doing anything. Against Kurt Warner, obviously one of the best there’s ever been. It comes down to whether or not Arizona can get a little bit of a running game going with Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. It’s a good match-up. Two high-flying offenses and we’ll see which defense shows up.”
DUNGY ON PACKERS: “I think they can score and they’ve got a defense that can create takeaways. I don’t think the top two teams in the NFC are playing as consistent and as well as the top two teams in the AFC. I think they have the chance to do some damage.”
HARRISON ON RAVENS-PATRIOTS: “The Patriots are 8-0 at home and they have a lot of veteran players on this team, a veteran coaching staff and this is a team that’s been flying under the radar. The Patriots have struggled, playing on the road. They’re prefect at home, but he’s (Belichick) going to use this strangeness — of them getting their butts kicked on the road, as well as not playing particularly well defensively — to turn that all around into a positive. They’ve always responded to Belichick and that makes me believe that they’re going to beat the Baltimore Ravens.”
GIBBS ON BEING A GAME ANALYST AND ON THEISMANN REPLACING MIKE DITKA AS HIS “BINKY”: “Mike was absolutely great. I loved it. I loved working with him and Cris. We had a really fun time. I only did about three games in the field before I went to the studio, so I’m really a rookie. So I’ll be depending on Joe. I don’t know if I’d call him a binky or not.”
NOTE: In a 1994 New York Times story, Gibbs said the following of his NBC studio colleague Mike Ditka: “I miss Mike a lot when I’m gone. He’s my binky.”
THEISMANN ON BEING IN THE BOOTH WITH COACH GIBBS: “Having the opportunity from a players perspective to look at things and having someone in the booth from the coaches perspective, it really encompasses the entire concept of the game, both the execution of it and also the preparation of it. The opportunity to play for him was an honor, but to be able to sit down and really talk X’s and O’s with him during the course of a football game is something that’s very exciting for me to have a chance to do.”
DUNGY ON PEYTON MANNING BEING THE MVP: “The MVP of the league is not only somebody who plays well, but somebody who lifts his team and somebody who makes the other guys around him better. I think that’s what Peyton does, more so this year with the young receivers, Donald Brown, new running backs, mixing linemen in there and blowing off 14 straight wins. I would vote for him. I think he’s had an MVP year.”
EAGLES VS. COWBOYS: The Cowboys (11-5) lead the all-time series 55-43, including sweeping the season series this year. Last week at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas defeated Philadelphia 24-0 in a game that decided the NFC East.
The Cowboys have won three straight and five of their last seven. The Eagles (11-5) had won six straight prior to last week’s loss to Dallas.
EAGLES-COWBOYS IN PRIMETIME: Since NBC acquired the NFL’s premiere primetime package in 2006, the Dallas Cowboys are 10-2 on “Sunday Night Football,” including 2-1 in 2009, while the Eagles are 2-7, including 2-1 this year. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles, 20-16, on SNF in Week 9.
JETS VS. BENGALS: The Jets (9-7) lead the all-time series, 15-7, including a 37-0 win last week at home on SNF and a 44-17 victory at Cincinnati in the 1982 playoffs. New York has won seven of the last eight overall in the series, but the Bengals (10-6) lone win, 38-31 was the last game played at Cincinnati in 2007.