Saturday, January 6th, 2018


They’re an explosive team…They remind me of our Colts teams.” – Tony Dungy on the Rams

“The loss in the Super Bowl, as well as the early season struggles this year, really brought this team close together.” – Rodney Harrison on the Falcons

If they want to win the Super Bowl, I don’t think Andy Reid is the right guy to lead them to one.” – Harrison on the Chiefs

“I’m told there is a 0.0 percent chance that Bill Belichick won’t be coaching the Patriots in 2018.” – Mike Florio

STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 6, 2018 – Following are highlights from Football Night in America, which aired prior to tonight’s NFL Wild Card edition of NBC’s Sunday Night Football between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams. Liam McHugh opened the show live from inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was hosting its first NFL playoff game in 24 years.

Dan Patrick co-hosted Football Night, the most-watched studio show in sports, from NBC Sports Group’s Studio 1 in Stamford, Conn. He was joined by Super Bowl-winning head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy; two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison; and NFL Insider Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. Sunday Night Football’s Michele Tafoya provided a pre-game report from the stadium.

Football Night in America also included Dungy’s interview with Los Angeles Ram head coach Sean McVay and Harrison’s interview with Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan.

Following are highlights from Football Night in America on NBC:


Dungy on McVay being only 31 years old: “Being around him, you’ve got energy, you’ve got freshness, excitement. The one thing you didn’t sense was pressure. These guys are just so excited and happy to be in a playoff game that I don’t think it’s going to bother them.”

Harrison on McVay: “It was just amazing what he’s been able to do. To come in that locker room at 30-something years old and really get those young guys to believe in him. I’m one of those veteran players, where as a coach you’ve got to [show me] that you’re smart, you’re organized and you work extremely hard. This is a guy who has shown all that, and I would love to play for him.”

Dungy: “He did it to everyone in that building. Total respect for him.”

Harrison: “The best defensive tackle in all of football is Aaron Donald.”

Dungy: “They’re an explosive team. To me, they remind me of our Colts teams. They’ve got explosive offensive players. They want to get the lead, and then turn these pass rushers loose.”


Harrison on Matt Ryan: “He told me that he’s embracing the role of underdog. The loss in the Super Bowl, as well as the early season struggles this year really, brought this team close together. They feel like they can go on the road and win this football game.”

Harrison: “Spending time with Matt [Ryan], it just seemed like a great matchup for the Falcons because they have so much speed on the defensive side of the ball which can keep up with the Rams.”


Harrison on Andy Reid: “There’s no excuse for Andy Reid losing this game. If they want to win the Super Bowl, I don’t think Andy Reid is the right guy to lead them to one.”


On Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia: “My understanding is that the Patriots are bracing for Patricia to leave, most likely for the Detroit Lions… There’s been a sense in recent years that he is ready. He’s regarded as very smart.”

On Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: “Every year there is a sense that he is going to leave, but he continues to wait for a perfect situation, one that would give him the same kind of power that Bill Belichick has in New England… Most of these teams that are looking for coaches, they have a power structure in place that may not result in Josh McDaniels getting the keys.”

On recent reports of Patriots dysfunction: “I don’t make anything of it. I think that obviously we know the story by now, the ESPN report: the idea that there is some sort of dysfunction and the suggestion that maybe Belichick is done after this year. I’m told there is a 0.0 percent chance that Belichick won’t be coaching the Patriots in 2018.”

On reports of Belichick returning to the Giants: “That’s just not going to happen. He’s under contract, and the Patriots aren’t going to let him go.”


McVay on what characteristics he took away from his previous head coaches: “I think there were things that you take from each of them. I think when you talk about Coach (Jon) Gruden, the tireless and relentless work ethic, and then to be able to get up in front of the team and have a presence and charisma where you can get guys motivated in an authentic and genuine way. You look at Mike Shanahan, what do you want to accomplish on a daily, weekly and kind of an hourly basis? And then with Jay (Gruden), one of the things that I thought was so impressive was he had a rare ability that was a reflection of the security he has in himself to empower his coaches. Let his coaches coach.”

McVay on hiring Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator despite his age: “People always kind of jokingly say, ‘how did that interview go?’ I say, ‘It wasn’t an interview. It was more pleading, will you come please work with us here?’ It’s worked out and what a great coach he is.”

McVay on his chemistry with Phillips: “Yeah, we always joke that old school or not, Wade’s got more swag than anyone else in this building. He’s making jokes on Twitter. No question, he’s got a lot more swag than I do.”

McVay on staying calm while communicating with QB Jared Goff over the headset: “Oh yeah, sometimes I’ve got to tell myself to calm down. He’s got a nice, even-keel demeanor. He rubs off on me. I’m a little excitable and sometimes I hear myself when you hear him mic’ed up. I say, ‘Man, I’m annoying in there.’ It’s been fun. And I think he’s done such a great job of continuing to improve throughout the year. I’ll have to be mindful to tell myself to calm down on the headset.”

McVay on reminding himself not to get too aggressive against the Falcons: “I think sometimes you write little notes to remind yourself to make sure you stay balanced, don’t forget the run.”

Dungy: “Is that hard for you?”

McVay: “I think naturally sometimes it is. But then when you look over and you see No. 30 (Todd Gurley), you don’t forget too quickly how special this guy is. You always want to be especially mindful of getting guys in the flow of a game. Letting linemen get going, letting Todd get his touches, get Jared into a rhythm.”

McVay on his first playoff game as a head coach with only six players with playoff experience: “We talk about seizing the moment all the time. We don’t shy away from what a big game this is. We look at it as a great opportunity to play against the defending NFC champs at our place, in L.A., where you’re the only game on. I think what it all goes back to is being consistent in our approach and that’s what we’ve done this week. And I think the guys are excited and they feel confident.”


Ryan on thinking about the Super Bowl LI loss and wanting to get back on the field: “It’s just in the back of my mind all the time. It’s one of those things that I would love to get another chance, love to get back in that situation. But I also know that if you let it consume you, or if that’s the only thing you think about, you’re not focused on the opponent or the week or what you need to do in the present. So, it will certainly serve as motivation for the rest of my career.”

Ryan on having conversations with teammates to fix mistakes on the field: “Absolutely, it’s been a very open discussion. I think the first thing was listening, hearing how other guys were feeling, and just saying, ‘it’s OK, we can talk about it.’ I was pissed at the time, frustrated, angry. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, whether it’s with football or with your life in general, it’s better to get those things out. That was the challenge for me personally, but also as a leader of the team to try and help guys to use it as a good motivation and be the kind of football team, from a toughness standpoint, that we can really be.”

Ryan on what the team has improved on since last season: “We put up a lot of points last year and we’re a very good offense. We’re different this year. I think if there is one thing, we’re tough, mentally tough. I think that serves us well because the playoffs are hard. There is going to be some ups and downs. We might have a turnover here or there but it comes back to keeping that mindset right. I feel like this group can do that.”

Ryan on the mindset the Falcons need to go on the road and win games: “We have to have that us-against-the-world mindset. There is going to be 63 guys in that locker room on the team and our coaching staff so those are the guys that we need. We have enough in our building, in our locker room, on our team to go anywhere, anytime and get the job done.”