Sunday, December 30th, 2018


“He always wanted to learn. He was always asking questions. He was always inquisitive.” – Rodney Harrison on his former teammate and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel

“That’s the one team that could go into New Orleans and win.” – Tony Dungy on the Bears

“Lamar Jackson has just revolutionized the league right now in seven games.” – Mike Tirico

“You have to be able to handle the criticism when you throw for 132 yards in a season-defining game like this.” – Chris Simms on Kirk Cousins’ performance today

“Philadelphia is a dangerous team.” – Dungy

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 30, 2018 – Mike Tirico hosted the Week 17 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 Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans in #Game256, the last of the 2018 NFL regular season.

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 Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., where he was joined by the SNF team of Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya.

McHugh conducted an exclusive pre-game interview with Colts head coach Frank Reich and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. (See transcripts below.)

In addition to previewing Colts-Titans, Football Night produced real-time, “election-style” coverage of how the day’s games, particularly the eight 4:25 p.m. ET games, were impacting the playoff situation.

Florio provided real-time updates on the numerous head coaching situations around the league.

NBC Sports’ NHL commentators Kathryn Tappen and Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick provided a live report from Notre Dame Stadium on the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be played outdoors between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

Following are Notes & Quotes from the Week 17 edition of Football Night in America:


Collinsworth on QB Andrew Luck: “From the very beginning of this season, as Andrew Luck got more comfortable, they went more to the RPOs, they went to more of the quick passing game. He’s not holding the ball nearly as long as he did the rest of his career, and he’s healthy. They’ve taken fewer sacks than anybody, and it has made a real difference.”

Dungy on Luck: “Chris Ballard, the GM, has done a good job putting that offensive line together, but Andrew is playing smarter this year. He’s getting rid of the ball much quicker and doing a great job.”

Dungy on rookie LB Darius Leonard: “They play the Tampa 2 defense. He’s playing the Derrick Brooks position, and he plays like (Pro Football Hall of Fame LB) Derrick Brooks.”


Collinsworth on QB Blaine Gabbert’s most glaring weakness: “His issues have come throwing the ball over the middle…If he’s bitten today, I say that’s where it will be.”

Simms on their power-running philosophy behind RB Derrick Henry: “It’s brought an aggressive style to their offense, a toughness to their offense, and helped out the passing game.”

Harrison on Titans head coach Mike Vrabel: “He was very smart, and he would let you know that he was very smart (laughter). What I loved about him is, he would always want to play on the scout team, and he tried to come out and play every single position, especially in the secondary. He thought he was a free safety underneath all of that. But the thing about Mike is, he always wanted to learn. He was always asking questions. He was always inquisitive, and he’s a very smart guy.”


Dungy on his top takeaway from today’s early games: “We were all concerned about the Patriots last week. They’re the No. 2 seed playing at home, and they put up a ton of points today.”

Harrison on why Tom Brady was still playing late in today’s game: “Coach Belichick was trying to make a statement to his team, and telling them, ‘Hey, you need to learn how to finish. You didn’t finish against Miami. You didn’t finish against the Pittsburgh Steelers.’”

Harrison on Brady: “I think he needed this game to build some confidence because the last couple of weeks he hasn’t played great.”


Simms on Kansas City’s poor history as a No. 1 seed: “I don’t care about the history. It’s the quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. (He’s) the most dangerous player in the NFL. And it’s a year where the AFC doesn’t have a dominant team.”

Harrison on Mahomes’ touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson: “He is (my MVP). I’m amazed. Every single week he’s making plays like this.”


Dungy: “I would not want to play the Baltimore Ravens — to have to prepare for them, for all those zone reads, and different running plays that they present, and then all of those blitzes that they give you.”

Harrison: “They have a lot of confidence that they can beat Kansas City (because of the way) they played them previously. And they’ll go to New England. They’re not afraid of either one of those teams.”

Tirico: “Lamar Jackson has just revolutionized the league right now in seven games.”

Dungy: “He really has. No one knows how to play (against) this offense.”


Tirico: “They’re rooting for Baker Mayfield. Pittsburgh is rooting for Cleveland; strange bedfellows that are playoff spots.”


Dungy: “That Chicago defense, to me, that’s the one team that could go into New Orleans and win. But I say this – if Nick Foles is healthy, watch out for the Eagles. You don’t want to deal with the defending champs if he is healthy.”


Tirico: “Philly was done, finished, over. And they’re in the playoffs now.”

Harrison on the Eagles making the Playoffs: “If I’m the Chicago Bears, I would prefer to play the Minnesota Vikings as opposed to the Philadelphia Eagles. You look at the playoff experience they have, they have a veteran offensive line, and anything can happen with Nick Foles.”

Dungy: “Philadelphia is a dangerous team.”

Tirico on Foles’ completion streak and Eagles dominance: “Philly controlled the ball almost like we’ve never seen before in a game.”


Simms on QB Kirk Cousins’ performance against the Bears: “It wasn’t good, and you have to be able to handle the criticism when you throw for 132 yards in a season-defining game like this.”

Harrison: “They’re going to have to find a way to shore up that offensive line because they didn’t give (Cousins) any time today.”


Harrison on the Cowboys keeping their starters in: “I didn’t necessarily agree with them playing all of their starters today because I think any chance you can get to rest your starters, you should.”


Dungy on Seattle QB Russell Wilson: “He’s been the best fourth-quarter quarterback in the NFL the last few years, and he did it again today.”


Simms on QB Teddy Bridgewater today: “It’s been a long time since he started an NFL football game. He had some good, he had some bad. It’s hard to play one game all year. He was definitely a little bit rusty.”


Simms on RB Saquon Barkley: “(He’s) a ‘wow’ machine…Rookie of the Year for me. I think he edges out Baker Mayfield.”

Florio on Giants QB Eli Manning and the franchise drafting a quarterback: “Coach Pat Shurmur has consistently said all year that he wants Eli Manning back next year. And it looks like that is going to happen. Keep this in mind: only $17 million is due to Eli Manning next year under the last year of his contract. He’s owed $5 million over the middle of March. The thinking is, the Giants will pay that money and keep him around, and if they draft a young quarterback, Eli will help groom him.”


Harrison on QB Josh Allen: “I love this kid. He plays with a lot of heart and toughness. They’re going to have to do a better job of surrounding him with better talent.”

McHugh Interview with Frank Reich

Reich on what contributed to Indianapolis’ turnaround: “Two things. Number one, just a belief, a belief in each other, a belief in what we’re doing. And then secondly, just the mindset of taking it one day at a time.”

Reich on what he’s seen from Andrew Luck this season: “Certainly can confirm what everybody already knew, number one, that he has an elite ability to play quarterback like few others in this league. But, secondly, up close and personal, getting to see he also has elite leadership capabilities. And we’ve seen that taking us through the stretch that we’ve been through this year.”

McHugh Interview with Mike Vrabel

Vrabel on overcoming injuries and winning in pressure situations: “We’ve done it before. We’ve kind of just gone on with the next guy, and tried to get everybody ready that we possibly can. Think that’s the nature of this business that whatever happens, you have to be prepared for and ready for and have a plan for.”

Vrabel on containing Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton after big performances earlier this season: “I don’t think it’s easy, but they certainly did. They outplayed us, out-coached us, most importantly. We’ll have to do a much better job tonight. They’re two Pro Bowl caliber players, but they have other guys as well. You know Evan Boehm has really stepped up for them huge, the offensive line has performed really well, with the veterans that they’ve had, and the young guys that they’ve added through the draft.”