“Forget about repeating – it’s tough to win a Super Bowl, period.” – Tony Dungy on the Patriots
“I’m taking Kelce, if he’s split out wide…Gronkowski is the better tight end, but Kelce is a tougher matchup when he’s split out wide.” – Rodney Harrison on Chiefs TE Travis Kelce
“We have a league that measures within a millimeter to determine a first down…but then, lets playoff games, including the Super Bowl, be so influenced by something as random as the toss of a coin.” – Bob Costas on overtime rules
NBC Sports’ Week 1 Coverage Continues Sept. 10 with Giants-Cowboys on Sunday Night Football
STAMFORD, Conn. – Sept. 7, 2017 – NBC’s coverage of the 2017 NFL season began tonight with a special edition of Football Night In America at 7:30 p.m. ET, leading into coverage of NFL Kickoff 2017, as the defending champion New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs. Mike Tirico opened the show live from inside Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Tirico and Dan Patrick hosted the program from inside the stadium and were joined on-site by Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, two-time Super Bowl champion Rodney Harrison, and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and PFT Live on NBCSN/NBC Sports Radio.
Pre-game coverage also included an interview with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce; a feature on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick returning to his high school, Annapolis High, for a surprise visit; and the unveiling of the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI banner. Click here to watch Belichick’s return to Annapolis High. Click here to watch the banner unveiling.
In addition, NBC Sports’ Bob Costas delivered an essay on NFL overtime rules. Click here to watch Costas’ essay on overtime rules.
Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) have the call of tonight’s Chiefs-Patriots NFL Kickoff 2017 season opener.
Following are highlights from Football Night In America on NBC:
Patrick on Patriots fans greeting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with boos: “I thought that the Kansas City Chiefs as a team were taking the field. Judging by the noise, it was something a little different, and it’s Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was here earlier at a preseason game and made a cameo appearance back then. Here he is tonight for the season opener, and the fans are letting them know that this is their welcome to him.”
Dungy on atmosphere at Gillette Stadium: “I’ve coached in a lot of big games here. I’ve never heard the crowd this loud in pre-game.”
Michaels: “For the record, the only player we saw not standing (during the national anthem) was Marcus Peters of Kansas City.”
Harrison on Patriots’ mentality: “I never heard Coach Belichick talk about (repeating). He never talked about it. We as a locker room never talked about it. In fact, when we were 16-0 and undefeated, we didn’t even talk about going to the Super Bowl. It was always one game at a time.”
Dungy on why it is hard to repeat: “Forget about repeating – it’s tough to win a Super Bowl, period. I played on a Super Bowl championship team in Pittsburgh, but our best team didn’t win. I coached a Super Bowl champion in Indianapolis, but our best team, the ’05 team, didn’t win. It’s difficult and when you are trying to repeat – a lot of things can happen.”
Patrick on WR Brandin Cooks: “Brady’s best deep threat since Randy Moss.”
Harrison on Cooks: “The Patriots didn’t have a lot of speed at wide receiver. So what did Bill Belichick do? He went out and got one of the fastest receivers in the league. This is going to create a lot of downfield shots.”
Harrison on White playing in WR Julian Edelman’s role: “I would keep him in the backfield – that’s how you create all of the mismatches. And (White) told me that there’s not one linebacker in the NFL that can defend him one-on-one.”
Dungy on coaching against Belichick and the Patriots: “You’re getting ready to play them, you look at four or five games, you make your gameplan, and then you come out and you don’t see any of that. You see a completely different offense and defense. So the next time you play, you start wondering, ‘What are we going to have to get ready for?’ What I learned, I said, ‘Let’s wait until the first quarter is over, try to get through it, we’ll see what his adjustments are, and react.’”
Harrison: “And just when you think you’ve figured it out, at halftime, he completely changes gameplans.”
Harrison on comparing Kelce to Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski: “I’m taking Kelce, if he’s split out wide. I think Rob Gronkowski is the better tight end, but Kelce is a tougher matchup when he’s split out wide because of his speed and athleticism.”
Dungy on DB Marcus Peters: “Take a look at him now, because you’re not going to see much of him in this game. Philip Gaines, who is now starting – they are definitely going to go at him. They’ll stay away from Peters, and throw a lot at Philip Gaines tonight.”
Dungy on WR Tyreek Hill: “He is lightning in a bottle, and the Chiefs have to find ways to get him the ball tonight. You may see him in the backfield, you’ll see him in the slot…they have to get him 10-12 touches tonight to win.”
Harrison: “Tyreek Hill is the guy. I expect (the Patriots) to double cover him, try to keep him outside.”
Dungy on defensive approach: “I got a little tip tonight. Al Harris, the defensive backfield coach for the Chiefs, played for me in Tampa. He came over and told me they’re not changing anything. They’re going to be uptight, bump and run, do what Rodney says to do – get in those receivers’ faces tonight.”
In the Sept. 10 opener of Sunday Night Football – America’s No. 1 primetime television show for a record six consecutive years – 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys host two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and the New York Giants on NBC. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.
Florio on Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott: “We know he will play on Sunday against the Giants. What we don’t know and what we will find out tomorrow is whether he’ll play beyond that. The league has suspended him, but a federal judge in Texas will be deciding tomorrow whether or not that suspension will be delayed while the lawsuit goes forward. And if it’s delayed, he likely plays the entire year.”
Dungy on playing defense against Elliott: “It reminds me of when I coached against Barry Sanders. There are a lot of other great players on the field, but you’ve got to take that guy away. The gameplan will be to stuff the line of scrimmage, take Elliott away – don’t let him beat you.”
Harrison: “The difference between Elliott and the rest of those old guys that they have at running back is that he gets stronger in the third and fourth quarter. Defensive backs, linebackers, nobody wants to tackle this guy.”
Harrison on Cowboys’ defensive game plan for Giants WR Odell Beckham, Jr.: “I don’t think you have to really do anything crazy with the defensive game plan because even if Beckham plays, he is 50-50 right now. He’s not going to be 100 percent. I think they are good enough that they don’t have to go out there and double cover or do a total rehaul of the defense.”
Dungy: “Last year, those Cowboys receivers did not get open against that secondary.”
Harrison: “This is one of the best secondaries in the league. I think that the Giants defense was really good last year, and I think they’re going to be even better this year.”
Florio on incident in Las Vegas involving DE Michael Bennett: “Earlier today, the Las Vegas police union asked the NFL to investigate Michael Bennett for telling falsehoods against the police in Las Vegas. The league says they will not investigate. There’s no allegation of a violation of the personal conduct policy. I spoke with Bennett’s lawyer earlier today. He said, ‘We welcome an investigation,’ and he insisted that Bennett is telling the truth.”
BOB COSTAS ESSAY ON NFL OVERTIME
“The league has tweaked its overtime rules this year. Now when regular-season games go into overtime, only 10 minutes will be allotted to decide them, rather than 15. If the deadlock hasn’t been broken after 10, then it goes into the books as a tie. Player safety is among the reasons, and that makes sense. But what has never made sense is the rule that ends the game automatically after a first-possession touchdown. It’s even more illogical in the postseason, where the stakes are the highest, and there’s no such thing as a tie.
Now what we’re about to say takes nothing away from the Patriots’ remarkable comeback in the Super Bowl, nor does it absolve the Falcons of the blame for giving away an otherwise splendidly played game with some dubious fourth-quarter strategy. But Matt Ryan was last year’s NFL MVP. He never touched the ball in overtime. If the flip had gone the other way, that could just as well have been true of Tom Brady.
And it was true of Aaron Rodgers in playoff games each of the previous two seasons, first in Seattle, then in Arizona. Here we have a league that measures within a millimeter to determine a first down, that looks at six different angles to parse a call on a play in the second quarter of an October game between the Jaguars and the Titans – but then, lets playoff games, including the Super Bowl, be so influenced by something as random as the toss of a coin. So let’s not worry about the regular season. But in the playoffs, each team should be guaranteed at least one possession. And better yet, how about this – why not play 10-minute periods in the postseason until the game is actually resolved, thereby restoring much of the strategy and drama that now is missing in overtime?
Clock management, the race against time, and all of the strategic moves that surround it, are part of the game’s appeal. Why potentially take that crucial element out of the conclusion of the games that matter most? So, there you have at least a couple of suggestions. Maybe you have others, but almost any would make more sense than what we’ve seen of late in postseason games, including the Super Bowl.”
JAMES WHITE WITH RODNEY HARRISON
On Patriots’ mindset in Super Bowl LI when trailing 28-3: “We weren’t discouraged. Tom (Brady), Julian (Edelman), all of our leaders kept us motivated, no matter what the score was. When you have ‘12’ back there, you always have a chance. (Dont’a) Hightower made that strip sack, and I think that’s really what gave everybody that extra boost of confidence.”
Harrison: “The one play that you made that I thought was the key to your victory was in the fourth quarter, 3rd & 10 – the nickel back blitzed, and you were standing here. Take me through that.”
White: “I kind of saw the blitz a little late. I was just trying to finish the block off and allow Tom enough time to get the ball off. It was a great play by him and (Chris) Hogan (resulting in a reception for a first down).”
Harrison: “You pushed him at the last minute, because Tom was winding up. To me, that was the key play of the game.”
White: “Definitely, because if we don’t convert that, I don’t know if we win that game.”
On scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime of Super Bowl LI: “It was a toss play. When they called it, I felt like everything went in slow motion. I had to run through one guy, keep my feet moving, and just found a way in there. I felt like I was in a movie. It’s what you dream about as a kid, having the ball in your hands to win a championship.”
Harrison: “Fourteen catches, three touchdowns, a two-point conversion – don’t you think you should have been Super Bowl MVP?”
White: “It’s not really my choice. It’s definitely a really special moment in my life, something I’ll never forget, a special moment with my teammates. You can’t really put that into words.”
On filling the void left by the injury to WR Julian Edelman: “It’s not just going to be one guy (filling the void), but I’m definitely willing to step up a little bit more. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I want to go out there and do that. Whatever Coach McDaniels dials up, I’m going to be ready to do it. I just have to go out there and execute in practice for him to call it in the game.”
Click here to watch the full interview.
TRAVIS KELCE WITH MIKE TIRICO
On how being named an offensive captain one week before last season’s playoff game against Pittsburgh changed his approach: “To be honest, it humbled me. I would say my professionalism [changed]. You can’t be the young idiot on the field doing immature things. I have to be the one in the front making sure that we are going in the right direction. And that’s huge. It’s a whole different mindset than just going out there and playing football.”
On getting thrown out of a game for pulling the flag on the official: “Yeah, that’s stuff that’s not meant to even be on the field.”
On Kansas City QB Alex Smith: “Love him. Ultimate competitor. The guy has yet to shy away from any competition that I have seen him in. The guy is an absolute winner and he is my quarterback. I’ll take him every single day of the week no matter what game, no matter who we are playing.”
On being compared to Rob Gronkowski: “I can’t say that I don’t like it. Rob is a heck of a player and kudos to all of his success.”
On the importance of outperforming Gronkowski: “In the pit of my heart, I’m a competitor. I want to be the best on the field at all times. I want to have the best stats. I want to be able to score the most touchdowns. That’s just the competitor in me to be the best at what I’m doing. So in that sense, yes it is. It kind of took me awhile to be able to just admit it. Yes, I do. I want to go out there and have more touchdowns and I want to have more yards than him. At the end of the day I want to have a Super Bowl ring on my finger.”
Click here to watch the full interview.
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–