Sunday, December 9th, 2018


“Forget about Defensive Player of the Year, this guy’s the best player in the National Football League, and if you try to block him with one guy it’s impossible.” – Rodney Harrison on Rams DT Aaron Donald

“They’re playing as good a ball as anybody in the NFL right now.” – Tony Dungy on the Chargers

“I’m not used to seeing the Patriots play such sloppy football and bad situational football.” – Harrison

“I really believe they made the right choice drafting this guy with the No. 2 pick.” – Dungy on Giants RB Saquon Barkley

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 9, 2018 – Mike Tirico hosted the Week 14 edition of Football Night in America tonight from NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., in advance of the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears.

Tirico was joined on the set by analysts Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison, and Chris Simms, as well as NFL Insider Mike Florio. Liam McHugh co-hosted Football Night on site from Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. He was joined by the SNF team of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya.

Tirico interviewed Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth for a “Meet the Rams” feature. McHugh also conducted pre-game interviews with Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Rams tackle Whitworth.

Actor Michael Chiklis narrated a feature that drew comparisons between tonight’s matchup and what happens when an “unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”

Following are Notes & Quotes from the Week 14 edition of Football Night in America:


Collinsworth on Aaron Donald: “He is by far the best when you compare him to other people at his position. That’s the greatest gap of any position, Aaron Donald over the people at his position… to me, if you want to talk about who is the best player (in the NFL), I’ll say Aaron Donald.”

Harrison on the impact defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has had on Aaron Donald’s success: “He’s a big part of it because he’s given him the freedom, probably more freedom than any other defensive player in the National Football League. He can line up and do whatever he wants. His number one job is just to cause disruption…Forget about Defensive Player of the Year, this guy’s the best player in the National Football League, and if you try to block him with one guy it’s impossible.”

Dungy: “You’re right, and I played with Joe Greene who played that same way. I coached Warren Sapp, John Randle, guys who are in the Hall of Fame. Aaron Donald has the same type of talent, and you have to give players like that freedom, you have to let them be disruptive.”

Simms on the weakness in the Rams defense: “Too much all over the place on the back end right now, and I think it leads to too many big plays.”

Harrison: “You don’t go out and get Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to play conservative. You want to play tough man-to-man coverage, and let them do their thing.”


Michaels: “This is as big a game that has been played at Soldier Field in December in a lot of years.”

Dungy on DT Akiem Hicks: “A tremendous football player…He plays with power, he’s great against the run, and he can pressure inside the pocket.”

Harrison on tonight’s defensive strategy: “They’re going to load up the box, and they’re going to force Jared Goff to beat them.”


Simms on QB Aaron Rodgers’ workload under interim head coach Joe Philbin: “He looked good, but the question is: how was the offense? Was it different under Joe Philbin? Nope, it wasn’t any different. There was still too much pressure on Aaron Rodgers to make some big throws and scramble in some big moments.”

Florio on head coach search: “Plenty of teams use outside firms to help them conduct that search. I’m told the Packers will do everything in house, but it will be a very wide open search with no limitations of any kind. There’s been plenty of talk from the Packers that quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t be involved in the process and that’s generally true. But, keep this in mind, if there is a candidate that wants to sit down and talk to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are not going to say no to that. So there still could be some involvement from Aaron Rodgers, if the candidate that they focus in on wants it.”


Harrison on QB Patrick Mahomes’ no-look pass: “I’ve been around football a long time, but I’ve never seen a quarterback look one way, and pass all the way across his body…It’s too easy for him.”

Dungy: “I think Baltimore showed the formula on how to go into Arrowhead – you’ve got to run the ball, which they did today, you’ve got to be able to rush the passer. These are things that the Chargers can do.”


Harrison: “For me, I’m not used to seeing the Patriots play such sloppy football and bad situational football. This is something they practice every single day…very disappointing.”

Dungy on New England’s last-second defensive gaffe: “Situational football, the Patriots are the best in football at that…At the end of the game, they’ve got (Rob) Gronkowski in, as you say, for a jump ball that’s not going to happen – it’s 70 yards away. We just are not used to seeing that from the Patriots.”

Harrison on the play at the end of the first half that resulted in no points: “Inexcusable…I played there for six years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”


Harrison: “They’re no longer a lock to be in the playoffs because they have to play an angry New England team coming off of a loss. They have to play the Saints.”

Dungy: “Forget the schedule, they have to start playing better…They’re not playing good defense right now.”


Dungy: “They’re playing as good a ball as anybody in the NFL right now.”


Dungy on Giants RB Saquon Barkley: “He’s doing it all – running, catching the ball, big plays, great speed. I really believe they made the right choice drafting this guy with the No. 2 pick.”

Dungy: “They’re on the right track. They may not make the playoffs, but they’re showing that improvement.”

Harrison: “No disrespect to Eli (Manning), but they need a quarterback.”


Harrison on Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold: “I love this kid. In and out of the lineup, hurt, but showed a lot of resiliency and toughness (today).”


Harrison on head coaching vacancy: “I would love this job, if I were a coach.”


Florio on Murray, who is a top baseball prospect: “The key word for Kyler Murray and football is commitment. He needs to make a clear commitment to football. If he does, he could go as high as round one, despite his lack of size, but teams aren’t even going to take a serious look at him until they know that he definitely is all in. No one wants a repeat of 1986 when the Buccaneers made Bo Jackson the first overall pick and he played baseball instead.”


McVay on Goff’s leadership and demeanor: “Poised, calm, even-keeled. I think with him, no moment is too big for him. What I love most about Jared is he doesn’t let the circumstances of a game – good or bad – effect the way that he competes as the game progresses. And I think that fearless nature, not being afraid to fail and always attacking success, is something that certainly helps me as a coach and certainly resonates and rubs off on our offense.”

McVay on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ presence: “He always has a great perspective, and he never pushes things on you … I’m a little bit more uptight and wired than Wade, so it’s good for me to be around him to loosen up a bit.”

Tirico: “You mean there’s a Yin and Yang there between you two?”

McVay: “You can say that, Mike. It’s a Yin and Yang. He’s a great mentor.”

McVay on Donald: “He’s special … What he’s done, and really, he played at such a high level last year. He was Defensive Player of the Year, and I think that was well-deserved. And he’s playing at a really high level (this year) and I would say and argue that it’s a much higher level than he did last year.”

Goff on McVay: “He’s been incredible. I owe a lot of credit to him and everything I’ve been able to do in the last two years. Just the way he coaches, the way he teaches.”

Goff on McVay’s aggressive style as a play-caller: “You could never ask for anything more as a quarterback. You love it. I think there’s situations where you don’t think he’ll do it and he does, and you’re like, ‘Alright, I love it.’ It gets me excited, it gets the whole team excited. We feed off of his energy in practice and in the games.”

Goff on how he would describe receiving a play-call from McVay during a game: “It’s confident. It always comes in with an aura of, ‘This is going to work.’”

Donald on what it would mean to break the all-time single-season sack record: “That would mean a lot. That’s making history. Being in the history books with great players, Hall of Fame players that did things like that and to do it in my fifth year, that would be surreal.”

Donald on using last season’s playoff loss as motivation: “That was probably the most amped up I’ve ever been for a game. I couldn’t sit down. I was just so amped up, so excited about it. So, getting a taste for that, you see and you learn and you know that’s what all the offseason is for – all that hard work, all the training – is to play in big games like that and to have the opportunity to be the world champion.”

Whitworth on Donald: “Aaron is a guy that you really feel good about because it’s what it’s all about – extremely talented, amazing work ethic and has the ability to just do it and never really ask for attention for it, never asks for anything special. He just wants to, every single week, win a thousand times.”

Whitworth on the Rams making a name for themselves in Los Angeles: “You’ve got to make people believe in you. And I think that we’ve started to win, we’ve started to create a winning culture, we’ve started to do things that started to make people want to pay attention. And then, the best way you can really make people trust you, is in a moment of adversity, a moment of tragedy, you don’t just say it’s about football or it’s about coming to our game. You say, how can we say, ‘We love you, we care about you, we want to embrace you. What can we do for the community?’ That’s what that whole week leading up to the Chiefs game was about.”