“If he doesn’t have the players on the backend to go out there and make those plays, it doesn’t matter how smart he is.” – Rodney Harrison on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
“Sometimes you just have an off year. That is what Phillip Rivers is having so far.” – Chargers owner Dean Spanos to Alex Flanagan
“If he doesn’t get better, they will walk away and avoid $17 million of that supposedly guaranteed money.” – Mike Florio on the Titans and RB Chris Johnson
NEW YORK – November 6, 2011 – Following are highlights from Football Night in America. Bob Costas hosted the show live from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and was joined on site for commentary by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Co-host Dan Patrick and commentators Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, Peter King and Mike Florio covered the news of the NFL’s ninth week live from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios in New York. Alex Flanagan reported from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on the Packers-Chargers game.
EMBED NBC SPORTS VIDEO: Highlights from Football Night and other NBC Sports programming are available to be embedded at NBCSports.com. Click the following links for:
Bob Costas’ interview with Terrell Suggs:
Tony Dungy’s interview with Mike Tomlin:
King and Florio on RBs Forte, Rice and Johnson
ON CALLS AGAINST DEFENSIVE BACKS TODAY
Dungy on two questionable pass interference calls in Jets-Bills game: “The same official on both plays. I think (he was) showing a little favoritism for the offense.”
Harrison: “I know what you need to start doing. You need to take money from these officials when they have calls like this. Take money.”
Harrison on Dolphins S Yeremiah Bell’s hit that was called a penalty: “What’s legal? What’s illegal? That’s a perfect hit. Yeremiah Bell is taught by the coaches, as you know, Tony, to lead with your shoulder pad. He led. His helmet was to the side. Perfect hit by Bell.”
Dungy: “I would be asking the referee right now, ‘What did I do wrong?’ That is textbook. We’ve seen a lot of this. They are erring on the side of caution but it’s costing teams 15 yards.”
Harrison: “Hopefully he doesn’t get fined.”
Dungy: “Oh no, he won’t. He can’t on that hit.”
Patrick on Belichick and Patriots defensive problems: “He is a defensive-minded guy. One of the most brilliant defensive-minded guys we’ve ever seen.”
Harrison: “Yes, but I don’t care how smart he is. If he doesn’t have the players on the backend to go out there and make those plays, it doesn’t matter how smart he is.”
Patrick: “But you’ve loaded up your offense. You’ve made a conscious effort to go out and get tight ends. They haven’t done much for that defense.”
Harrison on Patriots offense: “The one thing that I see in Brady is that he is not very comfortable behind that offensive line. That offensive line has given up a lot of sacks…You can’t feel comfortable behind that offensive line when every time you drop back, they are strip sacking, people around your knees, your arm is all over the place.”
Dungy: “You have got to give a lot of credit to Eli Manning. He had one of those drives when they needed it.”
Dungy: “I’ve been waiting for someone in the AFC to go win a big game on the road, and the New York Jets did that today and got back in that AFC East race.”
Collinsworth: “Today was the first time I saw the New York Jets defense look like what I thought the New York Jets defense was going to look like all season long. So, maybe now that the weather is starting to turn, the defenses start to take over here.”
Patrick: “Should be interesting coming up next Sunday night, with New England going to the Jets, who had the big win in Buffalo.”
S Charlie Peprah to Flanagan on potential undefeated season: “We are excited that we are 8-0, but the thing we are the most excited about is that we have not played our best ball yet in all three phases. So, we have nowhere to go but up. We will go back in the lab, watch the film, put it behind us, and get ready for Minnesota.”
Harrison on Aaron Rodgers: “He’s proved throughout this year why he’s the best quarterback. Four touchdowns (today). Best player, not just the best quarterback, the best player.”
Flanagan: “I watched the end of the game in the tunnel while it was raining with owner Dean Spanos, who told me about Phillip Rivers, ‘Sometimes you just have an off year. That is what Phillip Rivers is having so far.’ He said he hopes that he will rebound. He, too, admitted that Rivers has been pressing a little bit up until this point.”
Patrick: “Maybe an off game you would want your owner to say, not an off year.”
Dungy: “No. That’s not a ringing endorsement. But he has struggled. I think he is trying to press and make too many plays.”
Harrison: “The interception, the turnovers, the penalties, the special team blunders, the missed tackles, the blown coverages. You can’t expect to win the division like that.”
King: “(Mike) Shanahan and Bruce Allen are a totally different story…Dan Snyder has given Shanahan and Allen full reign over this team. So, I think they have at least one more year, and probably at least two, before they are in any real trouble.”
Dungy, while Harrison and Patrick make him stare into camera and raise his right hand: “My Redskins will not make the playoffs. It’s officially a three-team race in the NFC East.”
Patrick following a clip of Shanahan’s postgame press conference: “Not a ringing endorsement by Mike Shanahan for those players.”
Dungy: “No. I’d be a little nervous if I was a player in that locker room.”
ON SAINTS RB DARREN SPROLES
Dungy: “He does a lot of things for them. He makes big plays and he has been a very, very special player…He can make yards inside. He’s tough.”
Harrison: “He’s physical, he runs hard, and he finishes plays.”
Dungy: “Of course, as a third-down back, he might be the best in the league.”
ON RBs MATT FORTE, RAY RICE & CHRIS JOHNSON
King on Forte and Rice, who are both reportedly looking for $30 million guaranteed: “The sticking point is the exact same for both men. Both of them could be franchised over the next two years for their team for a total of $17 million. That is where the stalemate is with both guys.”
Florio on Titans RB Chris Johnson’s $30 million guaranteed: “He’s actually only gotten $13 million. The other $17 million is pending in the future and there’s talk now that the Titans, if Johnson doesn’t improve — he had a decent day today but not like his former self — if he doesn’t get better, they will walk away and avoid $17 million of that supposedly guaranteed money.”
Collinsworth: “There can only be one bully on the block and that’s what this game’s about.”
Michaels on how the Colts finally got over the Patriots hump: “This is where Baltimore is with Pittsburgh right now. Pittsburgh is Baltimore’s hump team.”
Following are highlights from Costas’ interview with Terrell Suggs and Dungy’s interview with Mike Tomlin:
TERRELL SUGGS WITH BOB COSTAS
COSTAS: Did you watch the Super Bowl between the Packers and the Steelers?
SUGGS: Not too much…It’s a lose-lose for me. I don’t win…a team that I dislike very much could win. (The Steelers). They’re the enemy…We all know their names. But, they’re the enemy.
COSTAS: How would you describe your feelings towards the Steelers? Warm, cordial, affectionate?
SUGGS: None of the above. I don’t have any feelings towards them to be totally honest with you…Whenever I see those two colors together or a certain someone smiling at me, I don’t get no feeling at all.
COSTAS: Who’s the certain someone?
COSTAS: Hines Ward.
COSTAS: And he’s gonna go. You were pleading earlier this week (for him to play)…
SUGGS: I needed him to play. I needed him to play.
COSTAS: You’ve had a busy week. You’ve kept the writers and the broadcasters busy. (Quoting Suggs’ comments from earlier in the week): “We have been declared war upon. We are the enemy of the state, the state of Pennsylvania.”
SUGGS: Definitely. It’s definitely a point of view. They said, ‘we declared war.’ So, okay.
COSTAS: How would you describe your feelings when you run onto the field at Heinz Field?
SUGGS: It’s my Madison Square Garden. I love it. Like I said, I’m getting flipped the bird. Their fans are very passionate about their team as they should be. They’ve had a lot of success, at my expense mind you.
COSTAS: Is there more trash talking than the average game?
SUGGS: I think so. I’m glad all of us are not miced because I’m pretty sure my mom; (she) wouldn’t disown me, but she would be pretty unhappy with me if y’all heard everything I say during the course of the game.
COSTAS: Don’t you think that by now your mom has a pretty good handle on what goes on?
SUGGS: She’s got a pretty good handle. She does, and my dad. They still want me to represent them though. They’re old schoolers. “It’s just a game, baby.” But we don’t necessarily see it like that. We want to win.
COSTAS: Who’s the best Steelers trash talker?
SUGGS: The smile. 86. I would say him. 25 got some up in him. They all do it. But (86), he’s probably the best one.
COSTAS: You can’t bring yourself to say their names, right?
SUGGS: They’re the enemy. They’re the enemy.
COSTAS: We’re sitting here 24 hours before kickoff. Can you explain what you’re going to feel like five minutes before kickoff?
SUGGS: No, I can’t because every time is different than the last. This time I’m walking in there with a big cape of confidence. I know we can do it. I know we can. Times before I walked in there, I’d be like, let me see how this one is going to go. This time, I know we gonna do it.
MIKE TOMLIN WITH TONY DUNGY
DUNGY on the Steelers loss to the Ravens in Week 1: Did you feel like maybe your approach didn’t work?
TOMLIN: Yes. (laughs). A lot of things run through your mind but the reality was we weren’t ready to play that day and we didn’t do a good enough job of preparing or playing.
DUNGY: Did your voice level go up?
TOMLIN: I made a conscious effort to stay the same. You know, coach, this is a very emotional game and there’s enough of that going on. I wanted to be a calming influence on the group. These are very fixable problems, and they are. It’s fundamentals. It’s technique. It’s assignment. That doesn’t require a raising of the voice or a pushing of the panic button, if you will.
DUNGY: When we were in Tampa, we used to get a lot of advice at Fosters Barber Shop. After that first loss, could you even go to the barber shop here? I know how these Steelers fans are.
TOMLIN: Hey, coach. I got to shoot you straight. The barber comes to my office now. (laughter). I get advice at the gas station, the stop light. It’s western PA. You know what western PA is about. But we love our fans and we love the high standards that they hold us to. But weeks like that are tough ones.
DUNGY: Terrell Suggs says you’ve declared war on them. Tell me about that.
TOMLIN: That’s Terrell’s perspective. I’ll let him have that.
DUNGY: You told me before that you’ve never been in a rivalry quite like this. Do you have to talk to your guys about the emotions of that kind of game?
TOMLIN: You do. I just don’t know if it does any good. (laughter) I’ve walked away from some conversations feeling pretty good about the things I’ve said about maintaining our poise and so forth and things of that nature, and then the game unfolds in the manner in which it unfolds. I think they understand the nature of this thing. The more I talk about it, it’s probably pouring gasoline on the fire.
DUNGY: Terrell Suggs has had a lot of success against you, despite all the talk. He’s played good ball. Anything special in terms of getting him blocked?
TOMLIN: More than anything, we’ve got to take care of (Haloti) Ngata first. He’s the guy who gets you behind the chains and then Terrell finishes you off on third down. They’re a unique group when you’re talking about Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis and company. They’re a special front.
DUNGY: Has anybody talked about them going for two points when they were way ahead or throwing balls into the end zone when they were three scores up? Has that come up at all?
TOMLIN: Not at all. (laughter). Not at all, coach.
–NBC Sports Group–
BOB COSTAS’ HALFTIME ESSAY ON PATRIOTS-GIANTS GAME
The game of the day in the NFL took place in Foxboro where, with just over three minutes to go, the Giants trailed the Patriots, 13-10. Over the next three minutes, three touchdowns were scored and the lead changed hands three times. The winning score came as Eli Manning hit Jake Ballard with 15 seconds remaining, a play set up by a previous Manning-to-Ballard connection.
If all of this had an unpleasant déjà vu quality about it for Patriots fans, perhaps it’s because Ballard wears number 85, which happened to be the number worn by David Tyree when he combined with Manning on what many regard as the most miraculous play in Super Bowl history. It was the key to a Giant upset that denied the Patriots the designation as the greatest single-season NFL team ever, which would have been theirs if they had completed a perfect 19-0 run.
Of course this one doesn’t hurt nearly as much because, these days, the Patriots are a contending team, not an historically great team. In fact, not only have they not returned to the Super Bowl since the Giants marred their masterpiece, they haven’t won a single playoff game since then.
Meanwhile, the last time Eli Manning had a stretch of games anything like what he’s putting together right now, came down the stretch in that 2007 season as he took the Giants to the Super Bowl, where he won the game and the Super Bowl MVP award the year after brother Peyton had done the same thing.
Of course, right now, the 30-year-old Eli is the only Manning seeing any NFL action, as Peyton is only seen conferring with disheartened teammates as the Colts experience yet another loss.
Everyone around the NFL hopes Peyton Manning can return to form, but at age 35 and with a serious neck injury, that’s not guaranteed. So, something that once seemed highly unlikely now is actually a possibility: that Eli Manning could someday leave the game with more Super Bowl rings than his Hall-of-Fame bound brother.
Harrison: “What can you say? You can’t expect your offense to come out and score 30 points a game. But my problem is your young defense. Obviously they struggle, but they struggle in the most critical moments of the game. Like you said, Dan, two touchdowns in the final three minutes. This offense cannot score that many points each week.”
Dungy: “They have to be feeling good. This is the kind of team Rex Ryan envisioned. Running the ball, pounding it with Shonn Greene, getting the takeaways on defense. I like where the Jets are right now.”
–NBC Sports Group–