“John Madden made everyone around him better.” – Al Michaels in tribute to John Madden
“A.J. Dillon – he’s going to be a big part of the game plan going forward into the playoffs. It’s cold out here – you don’t want to tackle a 240-pound back in this weather.” – Rodney Harrison on the Packers
“Don’t be shocked if we’re sitting here on AFC Championship Sunday and we’re watching the Tennessee Titans.” – Chris Simms
“They’re so explosive, they’ve got weapons all over the place. I don’t know how you cover this group of receivers.” – Drew Brees on the Bengals
“The NFL…we’re not doing him any favors if we keep signing him and keep rewarding this behavior. Don’t sign him until he gets some help.” – Tony Dungy on Antonio Brown
Beginning Tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 3, Pro Football Talk is EXCLUSIVELY on Peacock — Live Each Weekday at 7 a.m. ET & On-Demand
STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 2, 2022 – NBC Sports’ presentation of Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season began tonight from Lambeau Field Stadium in Green Bay, Wis., with Football Night in America leading into coverage of Minnesota-Green Bay 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 joined Football Night to break down the NFL playoff scenarios.
Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Kathryn Tappen (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) are calling tonight’s game. Al Michaels and Michele Tafoya have the night off.
Football Night in America paid tribute to John Madden throughout tonight’s show, and FNIA opened with Tirico and Cris Collinsworth sharing their thoughts from Lambeau Field.
Tirico: “It’s a special night for all of us on Sunday Night Football because of Madden’s legacy, as he was the first one in the analyst chair with Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football on NBC.”
Collinsworth: “The thing that sticks out the most to me is that he was just a man of the people…It doesn’t surprise me at all that this place, with these people and these fans, would’ve been his favorite.”
Michaels joined tonight’s show remotely and spoke with Tirico and Collinsworth. To watch Michaels’ tribute to Madden, click here.
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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:
Dungy on the Packers aiming to secure the bye in the NFC: “If I’m coach Matt LaFleur coaching Aaron Rodgers, I want this bye because the worst thing that could happen to me is have his toe gets stepped on. So, a bye gives us one less chance for that to happen.”
Brees: “I think they learned a lot from their previous experiences the last couple of years in the playoffs. I think that more so than ever, these guys on offense especially have these defined roles that they’ve embraced, and they’ve truly come together as a team.”
Harrison on the Packers’ keys to success: “It starts with Matt LaFleur – he knows and he understands Aaron Rodgers, who is playing some of his best football. Also A.J. Dillon – he’s going to be a big part of the game plan tonight and going forward into the playoffs. It’s cold out here – you don’t want to tackle a 240-pound back in this weather.”
Simms: “They’re a really good football team. Don’t be shocked if we’re sitting here on AFC Championship Sunday and we’re watching the Tennessee Titans. They’re big up front on both sides of the ball, there’s no team that is really a mismatch for them because of their size…and of course with Mike Vrabel, they’re very well-coached on both sides.”
Brees: “They’re so explosive, they’ve got weapons all over the place. I don’t know how you cover this group of receivers, and they can run the ball with Joe Mixon. My only question mark about the Cincinnati Bengals is their defense. They’ve lacked consistency at times.”
Simms on WR Ja’Marr Chase: “Chase is a phenomenal individual talent. Great ball skills down the field, and then what he can do after the catch…One-on-one, he’s as tough of a matchup as there is in football.”
Dungy on the Buccaneers’ defense: “I’m very concerned. This was a team that rode their defense into the Super Bowl last year, but (now has) injuries…they are not the same group playing right now.”
Florio on WR Antonio Brown: “The organization is very concerned about his mental health…That’s the short-term focal point. But, if they do move forward releasing him — he passes through waivers, if he’s not claimed by another team, he becomes a free agent. And it’s easy to say based on what we saw today that it’s over, it’s done, no one else is going to give him another second chance. But talent always finds a way and there are teams out there that are trying to win playoff games and pursue Super Bowl championships, and he helped the Buccaneers get one last year. So, if whatever happened today can be explained and it settles down, you can’t rule out another team possibly taking a chance on Antonio Brown at some point over the balance of the season.”
Dungy: “I’ve said this in the past. I feel sorry for Antonio Brown. He’s talented but he needs help. The NFL…we’re not doing him any favors if we keep signing him and keep rewarding this behavior. Don’t sign him until he gets some help.”
Brees: “We didn’t know where Arizona went for three weeks, but they were back in action today. Kyler Murray (made) a lot of great throws and sealed the deal in the fourth quarter with a couple of nice runs.”
Simms on QB Josh Allen’s three interceptions: “This is when you ride Josh Allen too much, as we all see every week. This can happen when you’re just trying to make plays off-schedule all the time…He was not efficient and kept Atlanta around, but Buffalo ran the ball today.”
Simms: “All New England, all day. Just too much to overcome…Mac Jones was great. The running game was really good too.”
Dungy on the importance of the 49ers’ win for QB Trey Lance’s confidence: “To me, this was the most important thing for San Francisco today. They had to get the win, but they may have to go all the way with Trey Lance. They got him comfortable and as the game went on, he looked like a winning quarterback in the NFL.”
Simms: “Trey Lance was pretty impressive after a little bit of a slow start. We know he’s an athlete, we know he has a strong arm. We wanted to see if he could play quarterback, manage situations, make accurate throws, and he did that today.”
Brees on Lance’s performance: “Tight window throws, getting the ball out of his hands quickly. You’ve seen the maturation from the beginning of the season until now with his ability to decipher the defense and get the ball out quickly.”
Simms: “John Madden would be happy about the Raiders performance today — it was gritty…Made some big plays in big moments.”
Brees on Las Vegas being in position to make the playoffs next week: “Who would have thought that with everything they have gone through this season, all the adversity – losing their head coach early, losing some key players along the way…It’s amazing that they’ve gotten themselves to this point.”
ON JOHN MADDEN
Michaels: “In 1975, I was doing a regional game for CBS in Oakland. I went over to his office at the practice facility, sat there and talked about football for five minutes and then talked about everything else. He brought up one of his favorite books, the Steinbeck classic book ‘Travels with Charley,’ where Steinbeck went around the country with his dog. John said that when he retired from coaching – I knew it was going to be sooner rather than later, and it was – that he was going to get a motorhome and explore every part of America. As it turned out on that bus, John did exactly that. He left the poodle at home, but he saw every nook and cranny of this country.”
Michaels: “We were having dinner in Green Bay and I ordered French onion soup without the onions – I don’t like any vegetables at all – and he said, ‘What?’ So, they brought it out without the onions and he made the chef come out. He asks, ‘How do you do this? Does the broth go in first, or do you put the crouton in and then the cheese?’ This was John. He was a great teacher, but he loved to learn and he was such a great conversationalist about anything and everything…he made everyone around him better.”
Click here to watch Michaels’ tribute to Madden.
Taylor: “One thing that we all know about John Madden was that he had great energy, he had an ability, obviously, to make us understand the game from that broadcasting booth, which we all envy.”
Dungy: “My second year in Tampa, we’re starting to win and we finally get the ‘A team’ with Coach Madden broadcasting our game. I invite my buddy Matt down from Pittsburgh. We show him a great time – sideline passes, stay in the team hotel, meet all of the players. On Saturday after practice, he comes out and sees the Madden bus. ‘Can you introduce me to John Madden?’ So I did, and it’s, ‘Hey Matt, how are you? Come on the bus!’ He had the greatest time…that was the highlight of his week, getting to meet John Madden.”
Brees: “There are some games that just mean a little bit more than others, whether it’s where you’re playing, the coach and the quarterback on the other sideline, or who’s broadcasting the game. I know that’s how I felt when John Madden broadcast my first game with him which was in 2006, my first year with the Saints – we actually got flexed…I remember walking into the production meeting and there’s John Madden, a large man but also a larger-than-life man. I was more interested in asking him questions than the other way around.”
Simms: “I felt like John Madden was like the narrator of my Dad’s life when I grew up…I’m at practice on a Saturday…so I’m sitting there having a catch and Madden (says), ‘Hey, you’re the Simms kid.’ Of course, he just talks to me for a few minutes and then he brings me on the Madden Cruiser. And for a young kid at the age of nine, 10, whatever year it was back then, I mean this was a special thing. John Madden’s bus? Getting to go on that…A really special, special guy.”
Florio: “After he retired from NBC as a broadcaster, he became an unpaid advisor to the league, and he was a fierce advocate for player safety. He worked tirelessly to come up with ways to make the game safer. One of his focal points? Making sure any player who may have suffered a concussion would be removed from play…And I’m told that he actually spent a couple of years trying to remove the three-point stance from football at every level…He was interested in making everything safer for everyone who put on a helmet and played football.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–