NBC FNIA Pregame Notes – Week 13

From NBC Sports –

“What he did today was make these on-target throws from the pocket.” – Tony Dungy on Tim Tebow
“It is about his actions moving forward.” – Rodney Harrison on the Ndamukong Suh
“Andy Reid will keep his job if he will admit that hiring Juan Castillo to be the defensive coordinator was a mistake.” – Mike Florio
Bob Costas’ halftime essay on Houston Texans
NEW YORK – December 4, 2011 – Following are highlights from Football Night in America. Bob Costas hosted the show live from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La., 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 13th week live from Studio 8G at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studios in New York. Alex Flanagan reported from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on the Packers-Giants game. At halftime, Costas focused his essay on the Houston Texans.
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 Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson:
Costas, Michaels and Collinsworth on Texans
King and Florio on Andy Reid’s job status
Costas, Michaels and Collinsworth on Tim Tebow
King and Florio on Peyton Manning
Flanagan: “I talked to Mark Murphy, Packers President (and CEO), a little before this game and asked him when this talk (of an undefeated season) does start, if you win this game, how do you guys handle it? He said, with humility. This team is humble, especially his leader Aaron Rodgers. And that is how they will handle it, by being humble in the locker room and focusing on the next game at hand.”
Harrison on undefeated season: “Well, it’s very difficult. It’s not just being humble, but you have to have, not just Aaron Rodgers playing at a high level, you have to have everyone playing at a high level. So, yes, you have to stay humble, but you have to make big plays.”
Dungy: “I like their chances in these last four games, especially the way Aaron Rodgers is playing. He is playing at a different level.”
Patrick on Aaron Rodgers: “Is he playing at a higher level than (Tom) Brady and (Peyton) Manning did (during their best years)?”
Dungy: “I think he is.”
Harrison: “I agree right now.”
Michaels: “How about the Texans…Wade Phillips’ defense does a magnificent job and right now they are 9-3.”
Collinsworth: “It’s unbelievable how this thing begins to happen because we are talking about key injuries with the Houston Texans. They are overcoming them.”
Dungy: “This is what the Houston defense has been doing, coming up with the takeaways. They needed this win because Tennessee is quietly playing a little bit better, and they are getting Chris Johnson going.”
Harrison: “Houston Texans: third-string quarterback overcoming adversity, loss of Andre Johnson, and still winning football games.”
Dungy: “Tim Tebow and those Denver Broncos. I know Rodney doesn’t believe and you (Dan Patrick) are kind of on the fence, but Tebow is going to make you guys believe. They are going to the playoffs.”
Harrison: “I’m still not a huge believer in the Broncos.”
Patrick on Tim Tebow: “Well, if I would have told you that Tebow would rush four times for 13 yards, what would you think the end result would be?”
Dungy: “I would have thought that Minnesota would have been an easy victory. If they could take Tebow’s running game away, he thought they could handle them and that’s what they tried to do, but he beat them today with play-action passes. He beat them with deep throws….What he did today was make these on-target throws from the pocket. Minnesota had some new safeties playing with injuries and he took advantage of it.”
Harrison (during halftime of SNF): “He (Tebow) is getting a lot of credit, but this is really a total team effort; defense is playing well, special teams, and Willis McGahee looks like he is 25 years old. With most young quarterbacks, they throw interceptions. Tebow has only thrown one in seven games.”
Dungy on if Bears will make playoffs: “I’m not sure they can now. Matt Forte was their MVP and losing (Jay) Cutler hurt, but without Forte it was all on the passing game. They were not able to protect Caleb Hanie today. The one thing you’ve got to do as a backup quarterback is protect the ball. This is two games in a row now Hanie has thrown three interceptions and the Bears are going to have a tough time, if he doesn’t start playing a little bit better.”
Dungy on Ndamukong Suh: “As a coaching staff, that is where you come in. You have a great player with tremendous talent, but you have to help him overcome this. He has to stay on the field, and you have to tell him, ‘You are a leader for us. We need you. Your teammates need you. You can’t be missing games. You can’t be getting penalties.’”
Patrick: “But is this message being said by the coaching staff?”
Dungy: “I’m not sure because, as Bob (Costas) said, there are a lot of numbers there, a lot of personal fouls, a lot of penalties. He has to get the message. Hopefully, this (suspension) helps.”
Harrison: “It is fine for you to come out as a coach and say something, but I think it is more about him exercising self-control. I was in that similar situation when I got suspended and I really didn’t understand the magnitude of what I had done until I was sitting home, watching football from the sidelines. I think moving forward; it is not what he says because he can come out and say whatever. It is about his actions moving forward.”
Patrick: “And, as you said, you can take money out of my wallet, but when I have to sit and watch my teammates, that is when it hurts a little bit more.”
Patrick on Matt Ryan: “What’s wrong with him?”
Harrison: “He is forcing the ball down the field and he is making bad decisions.”
Harrison: “Veteran cornerback Terence Newman gave up a couple big plays; holding, a lot of missed tackles in the open field, lack of effort, bad angles. You have to be able to make these plays if you expect to win the football game.”
Dungy (during halftime of SNF): “The problem I have with the whole thing is they threw a pass to Dez Bryant, they had 26 seconds left and two timeouts. Take your timeout then. Get the ball closer. They basically let the clock run down, settle for a 49-yard field goal. Now contrast that with Green Bay, who was in the same situation, they let Aaron Rodgers be aggressive. He hit Greg Jennings, set it up for a short field goal. That’s why Green Bay is 12-0.”
Patrick: “I think when we started the season; we didn’t think the Bengals would be this good. So I don’t think Bengals fans can be that disappointed. They have another couple steps to get up to the Ravens and the Steelers.”
Dungy: “They do, but they have some young players who are going to get there eventually.”
Harrison on if team can make playoffs: “They are going to have to grow up in a hurry because they have a tough schedule.”
Florio: “Michael Vick will be back and he will want Andy Reid to be back. I am told Andy Reid will keep his job if he will admit that hiring Juan Castillo to be the defensive coordinator was a mistake, and move on from Castillo. If he doesn’t, Reid will be fired.”
Dungy on Peyton Manning once the season ends: “I think Peyton Manning will be at that facility throwing, working out every day. If he is healthy enough to play, he will play for the Colts. If he’s not healthy enough to play, he’ll sit out.”
Harrison: “Undisciplined play, mistakes, they kind of looked like the old Raiders.”
Dungy on Richard Seymour’s ejection: “It should be a penalty, but not an ejection.”
Harrison on Richard Seymour: “I don’t think he should have been ejected with this, but a 15 yard penalty would have sufficed.”
Dungy on Raiders leading NFL penalties: “At some point they have to stop blaming the officials. They have to take care of it.”
Dungy on Jeremy Kerley’s punt-return fumble: “Where is Jim Leonard? They need Jim Leonard catching these balls.”
Patrick: “The Jets are alive because?”
Dungy: “Well, because they got back to their identity. Shonn Greene running the ball and that’s allowing them to rush the passer in the fourth quarter to get ahead, as Rex Ryan said. And Aaron Maybin has played some lights-out football for them. They got him as a pick up and he has been sensational. They pressured Rex Grossman all day today.”
Dungy on Ray Rice: “You think of the Baltimore Ravens and all their defensive stars, we think of (Haloti) Ngata and Ray Lewis and those guys, but Ray Rice sets the tone for this team. When he is rolling like this, he makes them awfully tough to defend…you have to love this guy.”
Harrison: “But the thing that I’m most proud of is that they didn’t play down to their competition.”
King: “Two names to watch for: Green Bay quarterback coach Tom Clements and Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.”
Following are highlights from Costas’ interview with Stafford and Johnson:
COSTAS to Stafford: Sometimes I get the sense that you do the equivalent of what kids do in the sandlot. ‘Calvin, go long.’
STAFFORD: Absolutely, especially when we get closer to the end zone, and get down there where he’s got a really big advantage as far as height and jumping ability. There are definitely some plays where I’m just trying to give him a chance and let him go up and make a play.
COSTAS to Johnson: Is that the idea?
JOHNSON: That’s definitely the idea. I love that coach gives him the freedom to do that.
COSTAS: Did you know that the first time you two ever connected it was the first time that a former Georgia quarterback connected with a former Georgia Tech receiver in the NFL?
STAFFORD: I did not know that. I guess we’re alone with the record on that one. Hopefully we’ll keep building on it. Absolutely, that’s the plan.
COSTAS: You played against each other one time, in 2006, as collegians… (Stafford) led a late drive and they won the game, 15-12. (To Johnson) You weren’t too fond of him that day?
JOHNSON: Couldn’t stand him that day. But over time, we’ve grown closer together.
COSTAS on Ndamukong Suh: Clearly this is one of the best players in the league. Just as clearly are moments where he’s lost control and it’s hurt not only him, but it’s hurt the team. What have you and other teammates said to him to get him to harness it a little bit?
JOHNSON: Really the only thing you can say is you’ve just got to be smart. Coach said it earlier in the week. We can’t do things; not just hurt yourself, but hurts the team.
COSTAS to Stafford: Have you spoken with him?
STAFFORD: I haven’t really. He’s a smart kid and he understands what he did. It was a tough situation obviously to be on national TV and everyone to say whatever they want about it, but he’s going to learn from it. He’s going to move on.
COSTAS: I don’t know him, but from everything you can see he’s a very intelligent young guy, but there’s something that kind of snaps at the wrong time. Do you think he’s gotten the message this time?
JOHNSON: I haven’t really talked to him myself, but I don’t see why not.
COSTAS on Lions playing in high-profile games: All of a sudden, the limelight is bigger, right?
STAFFORD: I think so. It’s something we embrace. We play this game to be able to be on TV. You play this game to compete and to win, and when you win you get opportunities to play on Sunday Night Football. Our fans appreciate the effort and the product we’re putting out.
JOHNSON: I can’t answer any better than he did. It’s definitely for the fans. It’s great to be at home and someone walks up to you on the street, even after a loss, comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, we’re pulling for you.’ Just to hear that feels great.
Back in New Orleans, where with the Detroit Lions’ appearance tonight, 31 of the 32 NFL teams have appeared on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The one that hasn’t: the Houston Texans, a team, which, in its brief existence, had an aggregate record of 55-89 entering this season. The Texans have never been to the playoffs, but after their 17-10 win over Atlanta today, they’re 9-3, tied with perennial contenders New England, Baltimore and Pittsburgh for the AFC’s best record.
With Peyton Manning out, the AFC South was wide open this year, and the Texans have seized their chance, despite a continuing series of bad breaks. They’ve now won six in a row, the last two with a third-string quarterback. Matt Schaub goes down, backup Matt Leinart quickly follows him to the sideline, and the Texans keep winning with T.J. Yates at quarterback.
Yates, a rookie from North Carolina, was a fifth round draft-choice, and he is, believe it or not, the first Tar Heel quarterback ever to start an NFL game, the university having produced a few more basketball than football standouts. And beyond quarterback, the Texans have gone stretches without the services of three of their best players at other positions; linebacker Mario Williams was lost for the season several weeks ago, and running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson have each missed time with injuries.
And yet, here they are, with Cincinnati, Carolina, and Indy coming up on the schedule before the regular season concludes with a matchup against their closest division rival, Tennessee. It’s not too far-fetched to see Houston winning three of those four games, and, what the heck, maybe all of them. And in the process then, perhaps setting themselves up for a playoff run, and almost certainly a spot next year on Sunday Night Football.

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