Notes & Quotes From “Football Night In America” – Week 12

FNIA-nbc-nfl“Amazing how this relationship has evolved over the years.” – Scott Pioli on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady occasionally exchanging information

I had no idea we would be doing the NHL New Year’s Day Winter Classic. I feel like (Boston Bruins goalie) Tuukka Rask right now.” – Al Michaels on the cold

“Arizona and Carolina…they’re as hot as anybody.” – Tony Dungy

“You have to blame the coach in this situation.” – Rodney Harrison on Chiefs allowing game-winning TD vs. Chargers

“The Jets are done. They will not make the playoffs.” – Hines Ward

NEW YORK – Nov. 24, 2013 – Following are the highlights for Football Night in America, the most-watched pre-game show in sports. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (7-3) are hosting the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos (9-1). Costas was joined on site by Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Scott Pioli, who served as Director and then Vice President of Player Personnel for the Patriots from 2000 to 2008.

Dan Patrick co-hosts Football Night from famous Studio 8H at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios in New York City. He is joined by Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy; two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison; two-time Super Bowl winner and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward; Peter King of Sports Illustrated; and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN and NBCSports.com. Carolyn Manno reported from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on the Cowboys-Giants game.

Costas interviewed Broncos WR Wes Welker and narrated an essay that explored the Manning-Brady rivalry. “We’re again about to watch the two best quarterbacks of their generation — and two of the best ever — go at it again tonight,” Costas says. He adds, “they are still among the most compelling figures in all of sports.”

Following are highlights from Football Night in America:

ON WEATHER

Costas: “A truly frigid night in New England.”

Michaels: “I had no idea we would be doing the NHL New Year’s Day Winter Classic. I feel like (Boston Bruins goalie) Tuukka Rask right now.”

Collinsworth: “I truly think the cold will be a bit of factor here. I think the wind will be a much bigger factor.”

ON PATRIOTS-BRONCOS

Pioli on Patriots: “First thing they are going to have to do is slow down this illegal pick play that they (Broncos) have. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and his assistant Ernie Adams are in there talking to the officials right now, and talking to them about looking out for this pick play because the offense under Peyton Manning is a little bit different than it used to be. He is throwing more shorter passes. He’s doing a lot of things underneath. So, I think they will be trying to slow those things down.”

Pioli on if all the pick plays are illegal: “There’s a lot that are definitely illegal that aren’t being called.”

Collinsworth: “They can do it because they know how to do it legally. They are very good at it and very seldom do they see physical contact. It’s more just sort of rubbing as they go by.”

Pioli on why Patriots didn’t re-sign Welker: “I can only speculate, but my understanding would be that our business model, when I was here, was that you don’t want to pay in the future for past performance. Wes had done some great things, but he’s also getting a little bit older, and with his style of play, his chance of being durable over the years; there’s probably not a lot of longevity when you play as hard and as tough as he does, and as physical as he does.”

Dungy: “It’s going to come down to who performs in the red zone.”

Pioli: “It’s difficult sometimes for people to have close relationships and friendships when they are this high a level of competitors, but a lot of that changed when Tom Brady was hurt. The first call he got, or one of the first calls he got, was from Peyton Manning.  Peyton Manning called several times after that. It kind of changed Tommy’s thoughts toward Peyton. And then when Peyton got hurt, Tommy reached out to him. The injury and the realization that their football mortality someday would end really changed the two and how they approach one another. They started sharing more information. And Tommy told me this week that one of the most interesting things was when Peyton Manning was getting ready to make a decision as to who he was going to sign with, he reached out to Tommy and wanted to exchange information, and he wanted to know what Tom thought would be a good idea for him to do.  Amazing how this relationship has evolved over the years from two top competitors.”

Dungy: “I can’t tell you how many times Peyton would come in on Tuesday and tell me, ‘Yea, I talked to Tom and he says we can get this against this defense. We just played these guys; you can run this play on them.’ So, they did share a lot of information.”

ON CARDINALS

Dungy on NFC playoff picture: “The big thing is Arizona sneaking up on people. People didn’t realize how good this defense is. They’re playing well. Arizona and Carolina, those two Wild Card teams, they’re as hot as anybody.”

Patrick: “You can’t stop the Cardinals; you can only hope to contain them.”

Dungy: “They’re hot.”

ON CHIEFS

Harrison on allowing game-winning TD: “I was livid because everyone wants to look at the tape and blame the players, but you have to blame the coach in this situation.”

Dungy: “Why are they in bump-and-run?…Make them catch it in front of you.”

ON CHARGERS

Ward on Phillip Rivers: “He recognized coverage, he exploited a weak link on the defense and he threw an amazing ball. For me, it was Manning-Brady like.”

ON PACKERS

Dungy: “Detroit and Chicago to me are giving Green Bay life letting them hang in there. When they do get Aaron Rodgers back, they’re going to get a big lift.”

ON BEARS

Harrison on Bears defense: “This is the first time in years I can look at this defense and say they straight played soft.”

ON LIONS

Ward: “They’re in a must-win game on Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay.”

Dungy: “They are just making too many mistakes at the wrong time. Their big play guys, their leaders aren’t making the plays when it counts.”

Harrison: “And it starts with Matthew Stafford. When you watch him on tape, he makes some great plays but he also makes some careless plays.”

Ward: “When you are the best receiver in the NFL, you can’t have too many drops. And this play right here, you have to make this play.”

Dungy: “When you’re down three, you know they’re coming to you. You’ve got to convert.”

Hines on who will win the NFC North: “I like Detroit.”

Dungy: “I like Detroit, too. I think they’re the most talented but, they have got to play better.”

ON STEELERS

Harrison on Troy Polamalu’s strip: “It was the play of the game.”

Ward: “Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I can’t wait for Thursday night.”

ON RAVENS

Patrick: “Joe Flacco picking on Ed Reed!”

ON GIANTS

Harrison: “Antrel Rolle had trouble all day trying to defend these underneath receivers.”

ON JETS

Ward: “The Jets are done. They will not make the playoffs. I’m not sold on Geno Smith.”

INTERVIEW: Below are excerpts from Costas’ interviews with Welker.

WES WELKER WITH BOB COSTAS

On if he circled this game when the schedule came out: “At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I knew we would see them eventually, and definitely a game to look forward to.”

On how long it took to be in sync with Peyton: “It didn’t take too long. I think a lot of times when you play in the league for a long time and have success with it; you kind of see the same things. You understand coverages. At the end of the day, it’s whatever he sees is what I need to do. For the most part, it came pretty quickly.”

On being familiar with the Patriots: “It goes both ways there. Obviously I’m familiar with a lot of those guys, and their scheme and what they will do. At the same time, they saw me every day in practice, so they have a good idea on me too.”

On if he was motivated by being undrafted: “I think so. At first coming in, I just wanted to make a team. It’s something that kind of gives you that edge, and makes you want to go out there and compete and prove everybody wrong. It’s funny, the thing about Tom (Brady, who was drafted in the sixth round), I’m like, ‘Dude, you got drafted. You make a big deal about the sixth round, but you got drafted.’ But we have fun with that and everything else.”

FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA

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