“I love the decision. You’re playing with your backup quarterback. You don’t want to play an overtime period against Aaron Rodgers. Go for the win right there.” – Tony Dungy on the Ravens going for two vs. Packers
“I was so proud of Dan Campbell and what his team did. They were the outstanding defense today. His players have a lot of respect for him because they don’t quit. They don’t give up.” – Rodney Harrison on the Lions
“The greatest one man show in the NFL right now.” – Chris Simms on Bills QB Josh Allen
“When he gets to the next level, I promise you, he’s not looking to make you miss or to slide, he’s looking to run you over.” – Drew Brees on Taysom Hill
STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 19, 2021 – NBC Sports’ presentation of Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season began tonight from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., with Football Night in America leading into coverage of Saints-Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football on NBC and Peacock.
Maria Taylor hosted FNIA from NBC Sports Group’s Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn., and was joined by Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy, Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees, and former NFL quarterback Chris Simms. Two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison joined co-host Jac Collinsworth at the site of the game. NFL Insider Mike Florio provided reports from his home studio. NBC News’ Steve Kornacki rejoined Football Night to break down the NFL playoff scenarios.
Rapper Snoop Dogg, who joins Peacock Sunday Night Football Final each week, joined Jac Collinsworth and Rodney Harrison on the field before the game.
Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) are calling tonight’s game.
For the first time ever, Football Night in America and Sunday Night Football are streaming on Peacock Premium every week this season. Viewers can sign up here. Peacock Premium is included at no additional cost for Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and Cox Contour customers.
NBC Sports’ new post-game show Peacock Sunday Night Football Final streams tonight exclusively on Peacock following Sunday Night Football.
Following are highlights from tonight’s edition of Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock:
Brees on how Saints will handle coaching duties in head coach Sean Payton’s absence: “Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will take on the play-calling duties. I know how much confidence the team and the offense have in him. (Carmichael) is one of their longest tenured coaches and was one of Sean Payton’s first hires. He knows this offense as well as anybody, he’s one of the smartest guys in the building, and he’s the guy that actually spends the most time with the quarterbacks on a daily basis – he’s in those meetings doing the game plan and the install. There’s a ton of confidence and familiarity with how they operate together.”
Dungy on the effect of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen in the role of head coach tonight: “Tampa Bay has put up big numbers on essentially everybody since Tom Brady’s been there except the New Orleans Saints. Dennis Allen’s done a great job but now he’s got to take over the head coaching duties, more on his plate…will they be as effective tonight?”
Harrison on how to beat Tom Brady: “If you want to beat Tom Brady, you have to hit him and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. You have to play a lot of tight man-to-man coverage in the secondary and take away the quick, easy throws. One name I have to mention is Demario Davis. One of the top five middle linebackers in all of football. Watching him tonight run from sideline to sideline. His name is going to be called a lot.”
Dungy on how Saints will attack the Bucs’ run defense: “Tampa has a great run defense and what they try to do is outnumber you with eight defenders in the box, typically against seven blockers. But when your quarterback is running rather than handing off, you can get that eighth guy in there to block, and he becomes a factor. Instead of being one man short, you now have a guy to take care of that defender and let Taysom Hill do what he does.”
Brees: “This quarterback isn’t like most. He’s got the strength and physicality of a fullback, but the explosiveness and speed of a running back. When he gets to the next level, I promise you, he’s not looking to make you miss or to slide, he’s looking to run you over.”
Jac Collinsworth on the pre-game atmosphere in Tampa: “After spending 24 hours in Tampa, I officially think I can understand where Tom Brady was coming from. Where else can you get mullets, palm trees and pirates in one location?”
Harrison: “I thought we were in New Orleans because they party hard here in Tampa Bay.”
Florio on Antonio Brown returning from suspension after misrepresenting vaccination status: “Once Brown is back, keep an eye out on how they use him, particularly down the stretch in the regular season. He’s got some big incentives that he’s close to beginning to earn. They may put him on ice and hold him until the postseason when they may need him more, especially if guys get injured.”
Dungy: “I’m a little bit confused because I live in Tampa and I heard when the Bucs brought in Antonio Brown – he had had a checkered past – one misstep and he’d be gone. That’s what they announced. So, I think you’re sending a bad message if you don’t follow through on this because this was obviously a misstep. I believe in giving guys second chances, but if that’s what you say you’re going to do, you need to follow through as an organization on your word.”
Brees: “I agree – but I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘We may need this guy down the stretch in order to win, and that’s the priority for us right now.’ Whether he plays right now or not – because they’re rolling right now, they don’t really seem to need him – maybe (the Bucs keep him) as an insurance policy, and maybe more importantly to keep another team from signing him if you do end up cutting him.”
Dungy: “I’m fine with that, but then don’t say at the beginning, ‘One misstep step and you’re gone.’ Let’s say that, ‘If we need him, he’ll be here. If we don’t, he’ll be gone.’”
Brees: “Maybe the biggest disappointment of the day…You think this would just be a game that they come in and mop up, but that was far from the case. They got outplayed in every phase.”
Dungy: “They have been playing great defense. Today, they had trouble stopping the run early, and next week they’ve got (Colts RB) Jonathan Taylor. So, they’ve got to get that ironed out because they’re going to see some run game from the Colts.”
Dungy: “There’s a lot of talk about the offense, but the defense is why Dallas is winning. That defense is aggressive, they get takeaways, and they are playing really, really fast.”
Simms: “They’ve got the star on their helmet, they’ve got a lot of stars on the team, but right now the defense is the star of the show. With DeMarcus Lawrence back healthy, Randy Gregory back healthy, the depth, versatility and different looks they can throw at you are what’s really impressive…and (Micah Parsons) is insane. The smarts, the versatility he has…if this defense plays like this, they’re going to be tough to beat in the playoffs.”
Dungy: “Speaking of disappointing, what about the Tennessee Titans? They’ve lost three of the last four. We’re always saying that life’s going to be different without Derrick Henry. (Today’s loss vs. Steelers) wasn’t Derrick Henry not being there. They can’t hang onto the ball. In those three losses, they have 13 giveaways and no takeaways. They have got to get better ball security or their season is going to slip away.”
Dungy on decision to go for two-point conversion with 42 seconds left in fourth quarter: “I love the decision. You’re playing with your backup quarterback. You don’t want to play an overtime period against Aaron Rodgers. Go for the win right there. But I would have liked to see them use Tyler Huntley a little more – a read-option, something with a run option for him.”
Simms on QB Josh Allen: “The greatest one man show in the NFL right now.”
Brees on if the Bills are back: “They are so hard to figure out. They’ve not played a four-quarter game yet this season.”
Dungy: “These guys believe in Brian Flores and his formula. We’re going to play physical, we’re going to play hard and we are never giving up.”
Simms: “The defense is talented. They’ve got a lot of stars there, and they’ve got the run game going too. Duke Johnson was a big lift for the run game. Tua (Tagovailoa) has been pretty consistent and efficient throughout this winning streak.”
Simms: “The run game is working. They’ve got a Top 10 defense and one of the best offenses in football…don’t forget about the 49ers. If they get in the playoffs, don’t be shocked if they go on a run in the playoffs and end up in the NFC Championship Game. I think they’re made for playoff football.”
Harrison: “I was so proud of Dan Campbell and what his team did. They were the outstanding defense today. His players have a lot of respect for him because they don’t quit. They don’t give up.”
Dungy on QB Trevor Lawrence wanting input into the hiring of the next head coach: “I’m going to give Shad Khan some advice right now. Keep your quarterback informed, he’s very important. He doesn’t need input into the decision. You need to make the decision. You need to get a leader, a leader of men. Don’t listen to your quarterback, don’t listen to the fans, don’t listen to the media. Pick a winner and pick a leader.”
Simms: “I’ve got a lot of respect for Trevor Lawrence, but he’s young. What does he know about the NFL right now? He just got in here, he’s learning the process. His first experience is Urban Meyer, so what is he going to be able to tell them about who they should hire? Also, don’t be scared of the defensive coach. I like (Josh) McDaniels and (Byron) Leftwich, but Peyton Manning did okay with this guy (motioning to Dungy) over here. Tom Brady did okay with Bill Belichick too. It’s not crazy to go with a defensive coach.”
ON COVID ISSUES
Florio on new league-wide protocols: “The testing will be much less frequent than it used to be and the driving factor now in most cases will be whether or not people have symptoms. And I’m told, there’s a real concern in league circles with these important late-season games coming up and playoff games, some people may be very tempted to hide their symptoms.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–