“This is the best thing that could have happened to them.” – Rodney Harrison on Packers’ loss
“If I’m Mike McCarthy, I’m worried right now.” – Dungy on Packers offensive line injuries
“I think New Orleans is the team to beat in the NFC.” – Harrison
“It is not a major long shot that the Philadelphia Eagles could still win that division, which is ridiculous.” – Cris Collinsworth
NEW YORK – December 18, 2011 – Following are highlights from Football Night in America. Bob Costas hosted the show live from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., 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 15th week live from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios in New York. Alex Flanagan reported from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo., on the Patriots-Broncos 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 Philip Rivers:
Tony Dungy’s interview with John Harbaugh:
Antonio Gates mini-feature:
Bob, Cris and Al recap early games
Peter and Mike on coaching hot seats
Michaels: “Everyone thought the Packers Achilles heel might be the defense. Even though Kansas City only scored 19 points, they controlled the ball and controlled the time of possession through the first half, had the upper hand on them, and Green Bay was always fighting from behind, something they haven’t done. Now they have injuries along the offensive front, and all of a sudden, the Packers vulnerability shows up in spades today in Kansas City.”
Dungy: “We found out today: It’s tough to go 16-0. It’s also tough to go 0-16.”
King: “Very bad day for the Green Bay Packers. Bad on the field and it got worse in the locker room after the game. Rookie Derek Sherrod, the backup right tackle, broke his leg during the game. He’s out for the year. That followed Brian Bulaga, the regular right tackle, going out with a knee injury. Now their top three tackles are hurt.”
Dungy: “They lost some offensive linemen and this is just critical to Green Bay…They have some serious problems on the offensive line. If I’m Mike McCarthy, I’m worried right now.”
Harrison: “Obviously you don’t want to lose any offensive linemen, but I think this is the best thing that could have happened to them, in terms of them losing a football game, because each week it is so much pressure trying to maintain a perfect record. Now they can sit back, reflect, look at the tape and see the areas they need to improve in.”
Dungy: “The undefeated pressure is off, but the pressure in protecting Aaron Rodgers is still there. This team has some flaws; they’re not playing great defense, they’re not running the ball well, and now they may not be able to throw it as well as they have.”
Patrick: “Are they still the team to beat?”
Dungy: “I think they are still the team to beat, but they have to get some of these offensive linemen back.”
Harrison: “I think New Orleans is the team to beat in the NFC.”
Dungy: “Darren Sproles is the best third-down back in football.”
Patrick on Drew Brees: “When we started the season we were talking about Cam Newton, then it was Aaron Rodgers, then it was Tim Tebow. Drew Brees somehow didn’t even make it on the radar screen, and he is having one of the greatest seasons in NFL history.”
Michaels: “How do you go to Dallas and win that game last week, and then come home and turn in that performance?”
Harrison: “Week to week, we always talk about it. We don’t know which Giants team will show up. Very disappointing.”
Patrick: “What’s wrong with the Giants?”
Dungy: “One word…Everything.”
Harrison: “The Giants looked really bad today.”
Dungy: “They have to play a certain style. They’ve got to play ahead-football.”
Patrick: “The Jets or the Giants have more problems?”
Harrison: “I would say the Jets because at least the Giants — one week they play terrible, but the next week they play better. And they can put up points.”
Harrison: “This is the first team that the Broncos have seen that can score for four quarters. The Patriots put a lot of pressure on you for four quarters because they are so good and they have so many weapons.”
Patrick: “They put you in a position that you don’t want to be in.”
Dungy: “They shut down Tim Tebow and with those other losses, now they have a chance to get that bye in the first round.”
Harrison: “You have to give Coach Jim Schwartz a lot of credit because all week we talked about the distractions, the suspension of Ndamukong Suh. For that team to come and have a 98 yard-drive to win a football game, and to go on the road in a hostile environment, that is a tough place to win.”
Patrick: “I’ve got to put some blame on Oakland though.”
Collinsworth: “It is entirely possible. It is not a major long shot that the Philadelphia Eagles could still win that division, which is ridiculous.”
King: “I’ve always thought there is no way they are going to get rid of Andy Reid. I feel the same way as they are routing the Jets.”
Dungy: “Everyone wanted Andy Reid’s job. They can win this division.”
Dungy: “Probably the biggest problem was not having Wade Phillips, their defensive coordinator. They had been playing great defense. We saw breakdowns today – long passes, long runs, which we hadn’t seen from them.”
Patrick: “Why didn’t he [Lovie Smith] go out and get some type of established quarterback? I know it’s hindsight here.”
Dungy: “It is tough to balance that salary cap. You have a lot of players you have to pay. How much are you going to pay that backup guy who may not play?”
Harrison: “They’ve played great against bad teams. You have to start playing better against some of the good teams.”
Collinsworth: “It was embarrassing; no matter how you want to put it…Nobody knows nothing about the National Football League (on its unpredictability).”
King: “I believe they will look foremost for an offensive coach to try to get Blaine Gabbert on track.”
King on Romeo Crennel: “I talked to Crennel after the game and he said, ‘I’ve got an ego. I really want this job.’”
King: “I believe in Miami the leader in the clubhouse there is Jeff Fisher because I do think that Jeff Fisher will coach in 2012.”
Florio: “Steve Spagnuolo’s team is now 2-12. He is in serious danger of losing his job.”
Florio: “Eight straight losses for Raheem Morris. Keep an eye on his status.”
King on Jim Caldwell: “I always thought that if they went 0-16 it would be very hard for the Colts to bring him back. He gets a big win against Tennessee to stake his claim for that job.”
King: “They are going to give Leslie Frazier one more year.”
Following are highlights from Costas’ interview with Rivers and Dungy’s interview with Harbaugh:
PHILIP RIVERS WITH BOB COSTAS
COSTAS: Everyone knows that Norv Turner is on the hot seat. How has that affected you and the team?
RIVERS: I think we’ve handled it well. He’s getting all the criticism and the heat. We lost six in a row, but he didn’t blink. He didn’t let that effect the way we prepared and went about our business. I know the guys appreciated it. We kept it all blocked out. That’s why we’ve been able to get on a little bit of a roll.
COSTAS: A lot of people think that you are playing through an injury that we don’t know about. Yes?
RIVERS: No. I almost take it as a compliment, really. I appreciate all the outs, but I just went through a tough stretch.
COSTAS: So no excuses? … Not related to an injury?
RIVERS: Not related.
COSTAS on the Chargers struggling offensive line facing the Ravens defense: This is not a pretty prospect.
RIVERS: I tell you what, we’ve played a lot better the last two weeks and we’re still alive. We’re playing on Sunday Night Football. There’s not much more you can ask for or to be excited about. Coming off a six-game losing streak, to still have a chance and obviously to get to play this team, a mid-December match up, that’s what it’s all about.
COSTAS: I have seldom run into an athlete in any sport who outwardly enjoys what he does as much as you. And sitting here, even at 6-7, I don’t see that enthusiasm dampened.
RIVERS: No, not at all. You got to say, ‘We still get to play in an NFL football game.’ If somebody called you up and said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to come play quarterback for the San Diego Chargers.’ My first question wouldn’t be, ‘What’s their record?’ It would be, ‘When’s the first flight out of here to go play a game?’
RIVERS, who has six children, on his son wanting an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady jersey for Christmas: He doesn’t know all those guys yet. He’ll be four. He wanted some eye black. That was a big thing this year. He certainly lets me know when it’s an interception or a touchdown. He’s my biggest fan, but he also knows when we do bad.
COSTAS: Fan and critic both.
RIVERS: When I come home. ‘Did we win?’ … That was a rough six weeks. I said ‘no’ for six weeks. But we’ve got it going, so hopefully he’ll be saying ‘yes’ here again on Sunday night.
JOHN HARBAUGH WITH TONY DUNGY
NOTE: John Harbaugh’s brother is San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Their father, Jack, was a longtime college football coach, including as an assistant at Michigan.
DUNGY: If I were to describe you and your brother Jim, two words would be intense and competitive. Is that from growing up with a dad as a coach or is that from growing up together?
HARBAUGH: Probably both. Our dad made everything competitive. It always was a world championship, a national championship, Big 10 championship. It was always at stake in everything we did.
DUNGY: And never did it cross your mind to let Jim win.
HARBAUGH: Of course not. He never did win, as I recall. You look back on it; there never was a time when he did win, in my mind (laughter).
DUNGY: One of the first times I ever scouted, I was at the University of Michigan and Jim was quarterbacking. Bo Schembechler yelled at him like I had never seen a coach yell at a quarterback and he (Jim) didn’t blink an eye. Did you guys get some tough coaching from your dad when you were young?
HARBAUGH: We got tough coaching from Bo when we were young. Jimmy had been hearing Bo since he was about nine years old, getting chewed out. There was a time when we were playing and we were on the sideline with the other coaches’ kids, and we were playing touch football over on the side. Somebody threw a pass and it went over everybody’s head onto the middle of the field into Bo’s practice. Of course, Jim was the youngest one so it was like, ‘Go get it.’ So he had to go out and get the ball and Bo just went off.
DUNGY: What did you learn from your dad that you use now?
HARBAUGH: The biggest thing our dad taught us is that enthusiasm is real. He talks about coaching with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. To me, that’s how he lives his life. And the relationships he had with his players. After the game, all the coaches would bring their families over to the house. You know that kind of an atmosphere, that’s the way my mom and dad were. What else would you rather do than be a part of a football team?
DUNGY on playing home playoff games: How much have you guys talked about that?
HARBAUGH: We have. We don’t even need to talk about it because we do know. We want to be at home, but we have to earn that. We haven’t earned it yet, but that’s something that this game and the upcoming two games are going to determine.
DUNGY: If you don’t get to the Super Bowl, will it be a disappointing season?
HARBAUGH: Well, yeah. You know how it is. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. That’s how we look at it. We’re going to try to make ‘when’ this year. That’s the goal.
DUNGY: Why is Jim good (as a coach)?
HARBAUGH: A lot of reasons. I think he’s good because he’s Jim. He’s a good decision maker. He makes good judgments. He’s got a vision. He’s got a picture of what he wants it to look like. He’s not worried about what other people think. He’s not afraid to be himself. He’s a good person and he cares about people. He wants them to do well so that they can shine, not for any other reason than that they can be their very best.
DUNGY: If I said that about John, would I be saying the right thing?
HARBAUGH: (Laughter) I hope so.
DUNGY: I think I would.
–NBC Sports Group–