REDSKINS-SEAHAWKS & JAGUARS-STEELERS DOUBLEHEADER FEATURED ON NBC'S WILD CARD SATURDAY
Dolphins' Jason Taylor Special Guest in "Football Night in America" Studio
NBC's Madden on Pittsburgh: "You're going to play outside and you're going to play on grass and grass doesn't grow in January so you play on what's left there."
NEW YORK � January 3, 2008 � NBC Sports will broadcast live coverage of Saturday's NFL Wild Card doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. ET with a special Wild Card Saturday edition of the "Football Night in America" studio show, followed by the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks (10-6) hosting the Washington Redskins (9-7) at 4:30 p.m. ET. At 8 p.m. ET, the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6), led by Ben Roethlisberger host Fred Taylor and the Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5).
The "NBC Sunday Night Football" team of Al Michaels (play-by-play), John Madden (analyst) and Andrea Kremer (sideline reporter) will call the Jaguars-Steelers game from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst) and Bob Neumeier (sideline reporter) will call the Redskins-Seahawks contest from Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash.
Bob Costas (host) and Keith Olbermann (co-host), analysts Tiki Barber and Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, and reporter Peter King of Sports Illustrated, are joined by special guest Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphins, for a special Wild Card Saturday edition of "Football Night in America."
NBC Sports today held a media conference call with Madden, Michaels, Bettis and Taylor to preview the playoffs. For a complete replay, dial 719-457-0820 and enter passcode 7495203. Highlights follow:
MADDEN ON THE PLAYOFFS �"TRUE SUDDEN DEATH: "This is my favorite time of the year. Everyone goes to training camp in July to be in this position � just to be in the tournament, to be in the playoffs. It doesn't make any difference where you are and that's been proven the last couple of years that the winner of the Super Bowl doesn't always come from the teams that have the bye this week. The winner or one of the participants in the Super Bowl could very well come from this Wild Card group. There's something about the finality of this. During the regular season you have 'well we'll get 'em next week' or 'okay we have to forget that one.' You lose this one, you have a whole lost season to think about it. The winner goes on, the winner still has a chance to get there and the loser, out, so it's true sudden death. As a coach I live for this and as an announcer I live for this. This is the best time of the football year."
BETTIS ON WINNING THE SUPER BOWL AS A WILD CARD: "All these teams, when they're in their team meeting and the coaches are addressing their team, he's letting them know that it's not impossible. He's saying 'hey just a couple years ago, look at Pittsburgh, these guys were on the road every single week and won it all, so it's not impossible as long as we play our game, then we'll be fine.' So you better believe that that's in everybody's locker room, it's in the back of all the Wild Card teams' minds. Even when they have to go on the road, they still believe 'hey, it can be done because we just saw it.'"
MICHAELS ON JACKSONVILLE: "You almost never see a road team favored in a playoff game because normally you earn your way to home-field advantage with a better record or division title as did Pittsburgh. But here comes Jacksonville. They have to be looked upon as the 'en vogue' team that you don't want to face right now the way they are playing. They beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh in adverse conditions, which we may have again on Saturday night. They just seem to have everything working. This is going to be a heck of a game. I think right now people are looking at this as 'look out for Jacksonville, here they are' but the game is in Pittsburgh and to knock off Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh twice in one season would be a tremendous accomplishment.
MADDEN ON JACKSONVILLE'S DEFENSE: "This is a run-stopping, very, very stout defense. It's going to be fun. It's going to be old-fashioned NFL football with the elements and everything you love about playoff football."
BETTIS ON JACKSONVILLE: "If there's any team that's in a southern climate that is prepared to play in a playoff situation it is the Jacksonville Jaguars. I look at them as able to play in cold weather because of what they do. There couldn't be a better team to come up to Pittsburgh in January and play in a playoff game because I think they're built for cold weather and they're built to last, so I expect to see a really tough physical game and I wouldn't be surprised if Jacksonville did win this football game."
MADDEN ON FIELD CONDITIONS IN PITTSBURGH: "We used to come in and talk about the field conditions, the frozen field and I remember one time they had the tent up over the field and it got deflated overnight and the field was ice and I went out there the next day before the game and they had a hose and they were melting the ice with a hose and then they were trying to water down the ice and of course all they were doing was making more ice and so some things just never change. I think that's Pittsburgh and that's what's great about Pittsburgh: you're going to play outside and you're going to play on grass and grass doesn't grow in January so you play on what's left there."
BETTIS ON HEINZ FIELD: "It's always bad during this part of the season especially going to the playoffs. I think it is a sore issue in Pittsburgh but I think it's still going to be rough this time of year, so you take that as it is. The players expect a tough field in tough conditions because it's always been like that this time of year. From a player perspective, the players understand it, they appreciate it and they don't want to go to a different type of place. They don't want to go to an artificial field. They want that dirt that's there because it gives them an advantage. You can expect to see a team come out of there pretty muddy."
BETTIS ON PITTSBURGH: "Two years ago when the Steelers made their run to the Super Bowl the mindset was we wanted the opportunity to play the teams that really embarrassed us during the course of the season. So we took that with a chip on our shoulder. And I'm pretty sure with a veteran group of players that are still in Pittsburgh, that's the mindset in terms of wanting to play Jacksonville. The defense felt that they were embarrassed and the strength of their defense, which is a run defense, was shredded. They really want another chance to redeem themselves against Jacksonville, so I expect a totally different football game.
"The Steelers, offensively, are struggling a little bit and I think they're going to have to change offensively to a more 'grind-you-out' type of football game. If the Steelers can control time of possession, which they failed to do the first game, I think they might have a great chance to win."
TAYLOR ON JACKSONVILLE-PITTSBURGH GAME: "It was kind of shocking to see how Jacksonville pretty much handled Pittsburgh up there in the first game back in Week 15 and I'm not sure that they can't do it again."
"Obviously I wish I was playing this weekend, but Jerome talked about playing against the teams that embarrassed you, and if I had to do that it would take a whole other year to do it because it was obviously a very difficult year for us in Miami."
MADDEN ON TODD COLLINS AND THE REDSKINS: "I don't know that there's ever been anyone that has come in like Todd Collins and had 10 years between starts. That was the amazing thing to me. Obviously there had to be some rust but the way the guy came out and played and just kind of took over, the way he's performed, I think has been amazing. I think the Redskins are an amazing story, period."
TAYLOR ON SEAN TAYLOR: "Obviously it was a very tragic event for everybody involved and I think it really rocked their team to its core. I think their coach did a good job of rallying that team back together and I think it serves as a source of motivation, in spite of the tragedy."
BETTIS ON SEAN TAYLOR AND REDSKINS: "It's definitely a motivating factor when you lose a teammate, you want to make a legacy for him and play for him. Every guy's going to go over the details a little bit closer and pay attention to the little things a little bit more. They might be more involved, more intense, they're going to be a tough team to beat because when you go up to a locker room and you're down by a few points you think that's adversity. Well, that's not adversity. They've been through adversity, true adversity so anything connected to playing it nothing to them. They're going to go out there and leave it all on the field and that's a very dangerous football team."
MADDEN ON THE SEAHAWKS' RUNNING GAME: "I think they're going have to run the ball in the playoffs and if they don't they're going to be eliminated."
MADDEN ON VINCE YOUNG AND TENNESSEE: "I think they have to go in like they're going to beat San Diego and I think they can. Vince Young has to be healthy and he has to be able to make plays but we talk about Jacksonville being a well-coached team, I think the same thing about Tennessee. They play hard, they're well coached and it's not all about Vince Young. He's part of it and it's important that he plays well and he makes some big plays to help them win in the third and fourth quarter. I think they can do more than just one playoff game. I think this is a team that could very well beat San Diego."
TAYLOR ON CAMERON: "I know people are going to want to know about Coach Cameron being let go today and I've not had a chance to speak to Coach Cameron or Bill Parcells yet or any other coaches at this point, so I'll keep comments on that until probably Saturday [on Football Night in America]."
"We've obviously had a very difficult season. Being 1-15 you realize even before the season was over that there was going to be changes. Bill Parcells was hired a couple of weeks ago and with that you make changes to try to correct the situation we find ourselves in. With that being said, a couple days ago Randy Mueller was let go and now Coach Cameron. It's one of those times as a player that you don't really have control over it so you kind of step back and control the things that you can and let the things go that you can't."
MADDEN ON GIANTS EFFORT VS. PATS: "There's only one way to play the game, and you play to win. I hate the way the season ends and meaningless games. It's a regular season game and there's no such thing as meaningless. I was so proud of the Patriots and the Giants and the way they played that game last Saturday night. The Giants have their place in the playoffs and they have nothing to play for but it's not a meaningless game. If there's a game and it's on the schedule, to me there's only one way to play it and I feel strongly about that. I felt so strongly about it on Sunday that I called Tom Coughlin just to tell him how great I thought it was � what he did and what his team did and how proud and grateful that the NFL ought to be because that's the way it's supposed to be played. And resting and being really scared and afraid to get hurt and all those things isn't part of NFL football."
BETTIS ON GIANTS: "People forget that the Giants really weren't playing well going into that day, and this was a game that they really needed to get off on a good foot and play better going into the playoffs. That's why it made so much sense for them to go out and play all their players and try to get some timing and some rhythm. I don't think people really looked at that factor as well but it did make sense to go out and play hard because a lot of times when you don't play those last couple games your timing and your rhythm is off, so that when you get to that playoff game and the tempo is a lot higher than the regular season and you haven't gotten many reps going into that game, there's going to be a couple plays where you're behind trying to catch up."
TAYLOR ON GIANTS: "I watched the game against the Patriots the other night like everybody else did in America, the effort and the way the Giants played and their approach to the game was great. I was proud of those guys and honestly proud of the Patriots and what they were able to accomplish.
"The Giants played better in that game than they did in the previous week. I think Eli is a very important part of what they need to get done in the playoffs. If he plays well I think the team will play well."
MICHAELS ON GIANTS-PATRIOTS AND RESTING PLAYERS: "I can understand what some coaches do, in the Giants case the other night it was a matter of a game of historic significance that was not just another game. It was not Tampa Bay resting its guys or Jacksonville resting its guys. Part of what happened on Saturday night in New York had to be the fact that Tom Coughlin respects the game as much as anybody. This was a historic game. This was a game that everybody was going to pay attention to. This was going to be a game that was far more important than almost any other regular season game and certainly under the circumstances I've never seen one like that."
MADDEN ON THE PATRIOTS: "They never say you're flying under the radar when you're the New England Patriots. All the accolades that they get, they deserve them. They played so well. [When] you watch them offensively, they were darn near perfect, defensively they were perfect. They have great talent that plays well and is coached well. They're just fun to watch. When you're America's team, what that means is that there's a large part of the people that are rooting for you but there's also going to be a large part of the people that are rooting against you. I think what makes for America's team is not everyone loves them. The original America's team was the Dallas Cowboys. There were those people that loved them because they were America's team but there were a heck of a lot of people that hated them because they were America's team. I don't know that everyone loves the Patriots but what they've done and what they're doing, you sure as hell have to respect."
NFC - NO. 6 REDSKINS (9-7) AT NO. 3 SEATTLE (10-6):
The Washington Redskins, who won their final four games following four straight losses, defeated the Dallas Cowboys today to claim the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. With career backup QB Todd Collins at the helm, the Redskins, led by head coach Joe Gibbs, travel to Seattle to take on the NFC West division champion Seahawks. Seattle was 6-2 over their last eight games and won the NFC West for the fourth straight season. The Seahawks are led by Pro Bowl QB Matt Hasselback who threw for more than 3,800 yards and career-high 27 touchdowns this season.
AFC - NO. 5 JAGUARS (11-5) AT NO. 4 STEELERS (10-6):
The Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the NFL's surprise teams this season, are led by a resurgent Fred Taylor, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season, and QB David Gerrard who threw for 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. The Steelers won the AFC North division for the third time in four seasons led by QB Ben Roethlisberger and the NFL's No. 1 ranked defense. In Week 15 Jacksonville went into Pittsburgh in a driving snowstorm and, as Football Night in America's Cris Collinsworth said, "they out-Steelered the Steelers." Jacksonville dominated the game, nearly doubling Pittsburgh in time-of-possession, first downs and yards gained. Pittsburgh scored two late TDs to keep it close with Jacksonville winning 29-22.
CREDITS: Fred Gaudelli is the producer of "NBC Sunday Night Football" and Drew Esocoff is the director. They will handle the Jaguars-Steelers game. This is Gaudelli and Esocoff's second season at the helm of "Sunday Night Football." The Emmy Award-winning duo came from ABC where they worked together for five seasons on "Monday Night Football."
The Redskins-Seahawks will be produced by Tommy Roy, who produced Super Bowl XXXII, the last NFL game on NBC prior to its return to the NFL in 2006. Roy also was executive producer for Super Bowls XXXII, XXX and XXVIII. John Gonzalez will serve as director. Gonzalez, currently the director for NBC's Notre Dame football broadcasts, directed four Super Bowls for NBC, including Super Bowl XXXII alongside Roy.