“This is the Matt Ryan that we didn’t see last year, coming back from these types of mistakes.” – Rodney Harrison on Ryan’s success today despite initial adversity
“He is going to be a special quarterback. He’s going to lead these guys to a championship. He was sensational today.” – Tony Dungy on Andrew Luck
NEW YORK – October 7, 2012 – Following are highlights for Football Night in America. Bob Costas opened the show live from inside Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans where the Saints are hosting the San Diego Chargers. Costas was joined on-site by Sunday Night Football commentators Al Michaels (play-by-play) and Cris Collinsworth (analyst), and Hines Ward, the former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Super Bowl MVP and newest addition to NBC Sports’ NFL team.
Dan Patrick co-hosted the program from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios and was joined by Football Night analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, and NFL insiders Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. Carolyn Manno reported from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on the Broncos-Patriots game.
Following are highlights from Football Night:
Collinsworth: “Andrew Luck, let’s face it, what he is doing already is pretty impressive. We think back to Peyton Manning and what he did, and he didn’t have a great rookie year. John Elway didn’t have a great rookie year. This guy is finding a way to win games in the fourth quarter, which is the ultimate test.”
Dungy: “Andrew Luck. He is going to be a special quarterback. He’s going to lead these guys to a championship. He was sensational today.”
King: “Just 90 minutes ago, Jim Irsay left Lucas Oil Stadium, drove two miles and delivered that game ball to Chuck Pagano.”
Harrison: “You have two Pro Bowlers back there, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson. They’re not making the plays that we’re used to seeing them make.”
Dungy: “When they can’t get pressure, I think it really shows up.”
Harrison on Ryan recovering after early fumble and interception: “This is the Matt Ryan that we didn’t see last year, coming back from these types of mistakes.”
Dungy: “I have a bone to pick with Mike Smith. I love Matt Ryan, too, but don’t forget about your running game. This was a team that was built on defense and running the ball. Get Michael Turner back involved.”
King on injury to Robert Griffin III: “He couldn’t go back in, according to Mike Shanahan, who told me after the game, he (RGIII) didn’t know what quarter it was and he wasn’t even sure what the score was.”
Dungy on Tom Brady: “He is really enjoying the fact that he’s got (Steven) Ridley and these running backs, who are taking a lot of pressure off him. If they continue to run like this, they’re going to be very, very difficult to stop.”
Harrison “Not only run the ball, but get Wes Welker back involved. Make him the number one priority. That’s when you have the most success.”
Dungy: “When I was coaching, I always knew when we had a good team. There were teams that we played that we should beat. We didn’t let them hang around; we went out there and took care of business. That’s exactly what San Francisco did today.”
Harrison “This defense plays well together. They have great communication. Dashon Goldson, the young free safety is tremendous. He knows how to play defense.”
Harrison on Ravens defense: “Hines Ward talked about this a couple of weeks ago; he said offenses are not afraid of running directly at Ray Lewis. Ray is not really used to having these offensive linemen come up. He’s used to moving sideline to sideline. The best way to utilize Ray Lewis is to blitz him. As you get older you get a little slower, and you have to keep him moving forward.”
Dungy: “Today, he didn’t get it done. They’re going to have to get this fixed. They’re 4-1, but it’s not a pretty 4-1.”
Michaels: “No one is playing more dramatic games than the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Patrick: “What are we seeing here with Cam Newton?”
Dungy: “You’re seeing adjustments people are making. He made a lot of plays outside the pocket last year. People are keeping him in the pocket a little more.”
Harrison, a former teammate of Brees, on Brees being at this moment: “I’m very surprised. He was always a smart kid. He worked extremely hard. But I’d be lying to you if I told you I thought he would be at this point (at) this time.”
Michaels on Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ record: “This is a record I never thought I would see broken.”
Michaels added that he was at the 48th game in 1960 at the L.A. Coliseum when the Rams stopped Johnny Unitas record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
DREW BREES WITH BOB COSTAS
On if he ever met Johnny Unitas: “I didn’t. In fact, I went to college at Purdue from 1997-2000 and one of my goals was to win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award as a senior quarterback in 2000 so that I would have the opportunity to meet the Johnny Unitas. Unfortunately, I got edged out by Chris Weinke of Florida State, so I didn’t get that opportunity.”
On a letter from Joe Unitas, Johnny’s son, that said the family was rooting for Brees: “The fact that they felt like there were a lot of similarities between the things that are important to me and that I care about would have been important to him as well. It means a lot that they would be thinking about me during this time.”
On why he requested permission from the NFL to have Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt be at the game: “Because those guys are as big a part of this record as anyone. Certainly it was important to me that they at least have the opportunity to be in the building to share in what hopes to be a historic night for all of us.”
On having a moment with them after the game: “I hope so. Obviously we’re hoping that this record gets broken, but, regardless, that was part of my request to Commissioner Goodell, that I could have the opportunity at a pre-determined location of their choosing to be able to see Sean, Mickey, Joe, and hopefully celebrate this moment with them.
On being wanted by Sean Payton and the Saints when he was an injured free agent: “Yeah, they did. There weren’t many people knocking on my door, a six-foot quarterback with a bum shoulder, but Sean Payton did believe in me, this organization did believe in me. They gave me an opportunity that nobody else was willing to give me. I’ll always be indebted to them for that. One of the reasons that I work as hard as I do and want to win as bad as I do is for those who believed in me, and so many of them are in this building.”
On if the Saints are 0-4 because of the suspensions: “There’s no excuses. We’re certainly not an 0-4 team as I look around our locker room. But, unfortunately, you are what your record says you are. We’re going to hit the tipping point. I hope that it’s this week that gets us on the winning track, and we’re able to get hot.”
For complete interview: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/49322663#49322663
ANTONIO GATES WITH BOB COSTAS
On being recruited out of high school by then-Michigan State head coach Nick Saban, who wanted him to play only football, not football and basketball: “If you asked a million kids, they all wanted to become NBA players. That was my dream at the time. I was always embracing basketball, so when I went to Michigan State. I never viewed myself as a guy going to the NFL. I was 6-3, 6-4, 245 pounds. I wanted to play basketball.”
On Nick Saban trying to get him to play football: “I just remember him saying something about, ‘What’s the difference between buying your mother a house with $50 million instead of $70 million?’ At 17, I was like, ‘$20 million.’ His message was, whether you go to the NBA or the NFL, you can still buy your mom a house. When I played him, when he was in Miami (as head coach of the Dolphins), I just had to say thank you because…he had seen the future all along. I couldn’t see it.”
On being a possible Hall of Fame tight end: “You know what, I’m still in the moment. I’m still playing. It hasn’t even dawned on me. I’m still a kid from Detroit who’s trying to make it out, trying to make it out of the inner city, trying to support my family, trying to play football, trying to enjoy competition. And that’s the way I still approach it.”
For complete interview: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/22825103/vp/49322951#49322951
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–
Bob Costas’ Halftime Essay on Andrew Luck
On a night when the greatest name in early Colts history was surpassed by Drew Brees, following a day when the greatest name in recent Colts history fell short against Brady and the Pats, the quarterback the Colts hope will someday follow them into the Hall of Fame continued to serve notice that he may, in fact, be up to the task.
After a disastrous 2-14 season without Peyton Manning, the Colts parted ways with the four-time MVP and used their No. 1 pick in the Draft to cast their lot with Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Today, down 21-3 against reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Luck, who plays with the poise and awareness of a veteran, threw for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score as he led his team back to a 30-27 win. It’s the largest deficit overcome by the Colts since Manning brought them back from 18 down in the AFC title game against New England in January of 2007 during Indy’s Super Bowl run.
So, this year’s Colts are now a modest 2-2, but those two victories match last year’s entire total. And but for a last minute 80-yard touchdown pass by Jacksonville two weeks ago, the Colts could very well be 3-1. And they’ve been competitive in every game since their opener against Chicago.
There is still a long road for Andrew Luck to travel before anyone will say that the Colts have the next Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning. But it does appear that Indianapolis might very well have lucked into one of the NFL’s next great stars.