“Sometimes you just feel things. Sometimes you get a sense. This was it – the game.” – Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on fourth-down conversion in OT
“It’s impossible to say anything with certainty about how this game should have been played at the end…No NFL coach has ever had to consider the options that L.A.’s Brandon Staley and Vegas’ Rich Bisaccia had to consider.” – King on end of Raiders-Chargers on Sunday Night Football
“He had one of the most remarkable seasons a quarterback ever had, and voter after voter saw it.” – King on Aaron Rodgers’s MVP case after surveying panel of voters
STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 10, 2022 – Peter King speaks with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and recaps Week 18, including the Raiders’ playoff-clinching overtime win over the Chargers on Sunday Night Football, in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also speaks with Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, discusses Aaron Rodgers and the MVP race, hands out his Week 18 awards, looks ahead to the 2022 offseason, and more.
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The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
BEN ROETHLISBERGER & RAIDERS/CHARGERS
King: “The first 17-game season in the 102-year history of pro football is over, and we have our 14-team playoff bracket…But I am still trying to process the end of game 272 – Raiders 35, Chargers 32, in overtime, sending Vegas to the playoffs, sending befuddled L.A. home, and sending the rest of us to Harvard to study Tieology.”
King on the end of Raiders-Chargers: “I think it’s impossible to say anything with certainty about how this game should have been played at the end, and what split-second decisions should have been made. No NFL coach has ever had to consider the options that L.A.’s Brandon Staley and Vegas’ Rich Bisaccia had to consider. No coach ever got to the final seconds of the last game and thought about whether to play for the tie or the win, with playoff berths for both on the line, on the edge of a cliff.”
King on the Raiders’ final drive & victory: “The Las Vegas win let the Steelers breathe. It set up Staley for an offseason of second-guessing. I don’t think that’s fair. We just don’t know what would have happened if the Raiders ran the third-and-four against a different defense (in overtime).”
King on Roethlisberger: “While watching the end of Pittsburgh-Baltimore, I thought: ‘After the last seven days, with the gauzy Ben Roethlisberger Monday night goodbye, and Carson Wentz spitting the bit and the Colts losing a gimme to Jacksonville, and opening the playoff door for the Steelers…Really, truly, how great would it be if the lumbering 39-year-old converted against the blitz and finished the job?’”
Roethlisberger to King on the play call on fourth-and-eight in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal: “(Tight end Pat Freiermuth) said, ‘Ben, they’re playing me on the out. They on me on the out.’ I’m like, ‘OK. Listen. We’re gonna call the same play, but I want you to break in.’ We modified the play call. As I’m standing on the sideline telling like all the coaches, everyone’s hearing us. We’re all good with it…We get to the line of scrimmage. They’re showing this all-out blitz up the middle and I’m like, ‘Aw man. We need Pat to break out!’ The play that we have called is not gonna be ideal for Pat. We need what we should’ve called in the first place. But, you know, too late to change it.”
Roethlisberger: “So Ray-Ray (McCould) was coming to the middle of the field [on an incut from the left slot], and I saw him and sort of changed my mind about where to go. I had (Ravens defensive lineman) Calais (Campbell) there, and it wasn’t the best of throws…Sometimes you just feel things. Sometimes you get a sense. This was it – the game.”
Roethlisberger to King on his final home game in Pittsburgh and making the Playoffs: “Monday night (in Week 17), that was … of course, you couldn’t write a better script…I feel so blessed. I felt so loved from the city. We felt going into this week that we had to take care of our business, but shoot, there’s no way that Jacksonville’s gonna beat Indy and give us a real chance to get into the playoffs. The emotion was, ‘All right, let’s go out on top and get a win in Baltimore. That would mean a lot. Been a heck of a career and a heck of a finish to the season.’ … If you get a chance to play one more week of football, who wouldn’t be so happy with it?”
King: “Biggest surprise entrant in the 14-team playoff field: Philadelphia…They remade themselves in midseason, when it looked like they were headed to a battle for last in the NFC East with the Giants.”
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni to King: “We changed course a little bit. The mindset I was preaching to the team was, ‘Get a little better each day.’ If we’re asking the players to do that, as coaches, shouldn’t we be doing the same thing? And I think we as coaches opened our eyes and got a little better too.”
King on the Eagles’ turnaround: “When the Eagles lost on a Thursday night in Week 6 to Tampa and fell to 2-4, the coaches used that sort of weekend mini-bye to examine what they were doing on offense, and how they could be more efficient. They decided to run more two- and three-tight-end packages, to both protect quarterback Jalen Hurts better and to boost a run game Sirianni hadn’t used to its max…That was the start of something big. Between Weeks 8 and 16, the Eagles ran for 194.3 yards per game, first in the NFL in that period.”
Sirianni: “For as tough as it is to get ready to play on Thursday night, you get some benefits from it. The players can rest, and we can work on some self-scouting that we might not have time to do during a regular week. Sometimes, as a staff, you’ve got to swallow your pride and change course. And since midseason, we’ve been one of the higher 12- and 13-personnel teams in the league. I can tell you, that really helped us. One way it helped was we didn’t have to put as much on Jalen with the running game performing so well.”
Sirianni on Jalen Hurts: “One of his best qualities is he’s totally unfazed by things. He plays a bad game against the Giants, Gardner Minshew comes and plays great to beat the Jets, this city’s got a big quarterback controversy, and Jalen just comes back and has his best three-game stretch. It doesn’t bother him.”
NEWS & NOTES
King on this year’s MVP race: “After the comments of Chicago-based NFL MVP voter Hub Arkush critical of Aaron Rodgers last week, I was motivated to take the temperature of former players I respect, and members of the media I respect to see what a varied panel of football people thought of the tight race this year for the award…So late in the week, I assembled 36 voters. Ten are former players, now in the media or in private life, and the others mostly are media members.”
Results of King’s 36-person MVP panel:
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay, 32 votes
T-2. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay, 2 votes
T-2. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati, 2 votes.
King on Rodgers: “It’s amazing, to me, that Rodgers got 32 of 36 votes…After a lousy season-opener against the Saints, Rodgers threw 37 touchdowns and two interceptions. He had one of the most remarkable seasons a quarterback ever had, and voter after voter saw it.”
King on international games in 2022: “When the NFL announced in December that teams could apply for marketing rights in foreign countries, 18 teams were awarded the rights to market their brands in eight countries, beginning Jan. 1, 2022. I am hearing the NFL may schedule some games with those teams in their new marketing countries soon, as early as next season. One possibility on the table: Tampa Bay could play one of its nine home games this fall in Germany.”
King on the Buccaneers and Germany: “Tampa has the sexiest home schedule in football in 2022, with the Bucs hosting the Rams, Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay and Kansas City, and assuming Brady returns for a 23rd season at age 45, the attraction of the Bucs versus any of those six or even a division foe would be tremendous for the first NFL regular-season game ever on German soil.”
King on the 2022 NFL Draft: “With the forecast of a poor top of the draft and wealthy middle, the Ravens might be in the best position of any team. (What else is new, right?) They’re slated to have seven picks between 78 and 140 overall, and this historically has been a genius team in the middle of the draft.”
King on Antonio Brown and the possibility an NFL team could sign him: “How many times does a player have to thoroughly disrupt a team (happened in Pittsburgh, happened in Oakland, happened in Tampa) and then release privileged communications – on every team! – before the other 29 teams in the league say, ‘I wouldn’t touch this player if he played for free.’ … Let Brown fix his life. I mean, really fix it. Address his issues. Then, if he’s of sound mind and he wants to play and you’ve got iron-clad contractual assurances that it’s one strike and he’s out, then give him a chance.”
KING’S WEEK 18 AWARDS
Offensive Players of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, Rashaad Penny, Seattle, Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville, & Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco.
King on Roethlisberger: “He’s played 100 better games in his life, maybe more, but what he accomplished on a freezing and rainy Sunday at arch-rival Baltimore has to go in his career time capsule.”
King on Penny: “Once consigned to the first-round-bust bin, Penny has re-made his career late in this Seahawk season.”
Defensive Players of the Week: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas, Arik Armstead, San Francisco & T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh.
King on Crosby: “It’s fitting that he capped his breakout season with the kind of impact game that helped the Raiders win a playoff berth Sunday night…Crosby is such an integral part of the Vegas front that I can’t imagine how defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would replace his pressure and his motor.”
Special Teams Player of the Week: Cam Lewis, Buffalo.
King: “How sweet must it have been for Lewis, who played college ball a few miles away for the Buffalo Bulls, to smother a punt in the AFC East-clinching game for the Buffalo Bills?”
Coach of the Week: Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco.
King: “Juggling quarterbacks for nine months. Knowing the risk of trading three prime picks for a green North Dakota State quarterback would all fall on his shoulders if Trey Lance failed. Starting 3-5, knowing his job was shaky if he finished out of the playoffs for a fourth year out of five running the Niners…Finish 10-7 in the toughest division in football, living to fight another day in the NFC playoffs. He’s not coach of the year, but damn, he’s coach of the something.”
Read the full FMIA column here and catch the weekly Peter King Podcast here.
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- ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show continues the NFL discussion and Bet The Edge Podcast provides daily betting insights.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.