ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 9


ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown Notes and Quotes: Week 9

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown host Chris Berman and analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson and Ray Lewis previewed today’s NFL games with insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Some comments from today’s show: 

On the impact of the snowy weather in Foxborough and how Denver and New England prepare for today’s game …

Johnson: “It’s so funny, every time New England gets ready to play somebody like a Manning, it’s like dial up something. It will be a snow, rain. It’s not their fault. It just happens to work that way. … We’re forgetting that he (Peyton Manning) has been in Denver now for a couple of years. In our minds, they’re still thinking of Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, coming out of a dome, coming to Foxborough. Let’s not forget, it does rain in Denver. There is snow. There’s bad weather. He’s played in bad weather.”

Jackson: “We know that Tom Brady plays great in this weather. That’s the thing that New England will bring to the table. He has a ball that has great velocity on it, that cuts through the wind. That cuts through the snow. I’ve seen him in this and I’ve seen him play great. He is not greatly affected by this weather. … For the Broncos, I think it comes down to: how well are you going to run the ball against the New England Patriots in this kind of weather if you have to.”

Carter: “The worst thing for Peyton Manning is not a pass-rush. It is the wind. Why? Because when he throws the ball, he throws the ball with a wobble to it. He has great velocity but the wind hits the front of the ball and the back of his ball. That’s why he’s least effective in the wind. … Trust me, when Peyton Manning’s looking at the weather, he’s looking at the wind no matter where he plays and no matter when he plays.”

Ditka: “The biggest factor will be the wind, but I think it will play a really big difference in the kicking game. … Things you take for granted, the short field goals, they’re no longer taken for granted. The hold. The snap. It could be a big problem in that area.”


On how the Broncos’ improved defense could play a big role today, especially with the weather …

Lewis: “Jack Del Rio has taken this defense to a totally different level. So, if you are asking who the pressure’s on, I truly believe today the pressure will be on Tom Brady.”


On whether rivalry games like Brady vs. Manning mean more …

Lewis: “These are the games that inspire me. These are the games that drove me. These are the games that you really earn what respect is. … When you talk about the rivalry that I had with Eddie George, that was pain. So mentally, you had to get up. … I had to deal with a giant, someone who was 6-4 and so light on his feet. It was that type of battle. That was old-school football. That’s when you appreciate it. The guy was great.”

Jackson: “Rivalries are usually driven by you trying to gain some success over someone that’s better than you. In my case, it was against the Oakland Raiders. … I made up stuff up in my mind so that I would hate them when we hit the field. So it made it very easy to play football. Is there a difference between the way I played them and everybody else? Yes. … I put everything I had emotionally into that.”

Carter: “In a rivalry, it brings out the good and bad in you. You can only have a rivalry when you have respect.”


On Robert Griffin III starting for the Redskins today – and in reaction to a report that the quarterback has alienated himself from teammates …

Jackson: “If in fact they are having a problem with RGIII … you have to come out, be available, and you have to play the kind of ball that you played your rookie year when they went to the playoffs.”

Ditka: “This guy’s a good guy. He’s a good football player. All of a sudden, I don’t know why everybody’s picking on him. He’s my quarterback. If he’s healthy, he plays.”

Lewis: “I would love to see Michael Jordan without a jump shot … RGIII’s ability – his magic – was his athletic ability, extending plays, making people miss. Now, that’s what he’s thinking about. … When you go through injuries like that, and that ‘it’ factor is what makes you special, what makes you different … that hasn’t happened in the last few years. You talk about the frustration with this guy, it’s way bigger than now just bringing him back because the ‘it’ factor is definitely missing.”

Johnson: “The case of RGIII is bad luck. … If you are doing your job and the team sees that – you’re winning games and completing passes – the hate will go away. You’re going to have doubters and haters in locker rooms. There’s going to be guys that are going to be jealous of you whether you win or you lose because you are the franchise. … If he comes around and starts to do that [win games], then all the other things will slowly go away.”

Carter: “I believe there’s a lot going on there and that blatant level of disrespect I don’t believe will go away. … Anytime the players want Colt McCoy as your starter instead of RGIII, that’s a serious problem. There’s only one reason RGIII wouldn’t be out there – because guys don’t like him.”

Berman: “When they won two years ago, the turnover from two years ago … a lot of these guys have never seen that winning with him. … A third, a half, whatever the roster, it’s different.”


On Dallas Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden benefiting from playing behind Tony Romo …

Ron Jaworski (reporting from the Cardinals-Cowboys game): “Brandon Weeden is the most prepared backup quarterback in the National Football League. Weeden has benefitted from the Tony Romo offseason surgery. Brandon Weeden worked all the first-unit reps in the offseason, every Wednesday. … So he’s ready to step in and play.”

Jackson: “There’s a difference between playing on Wednesday and Thursday, when you’re wearing the red jersey, when you know you’re not going to get hit, as opposed to the pressure that comes with getting on the field on Sunday afternoon against a Todd Bowles as a defensive coordinator who blitzes more than anybody in the league.”

Ditka: “As an organization, if you have a back quarterback that you don’t think you can win with, shame on you.”

And, on the importance of Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray while Romo is out …

Lewis: “With Romo’s injury, now you get to see the real value of DeMarco Murray.”

Johnson: “They’ve got to rely on DeMarco Murray here. If they do that, they have an opportunity. If not, Brandon Weeden will be sitting back there like a duck.”


On how the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry has changed in recent years …

Lewis: “This rivalry used to be (an) old-school rivalry where it was about smash-mouth football and smash-mouth defense. Now it’s about all the fancy passing schemes and throwing a bunch of touchdowns.”

On Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown …

Ditka: “If Ben plays like he did last week – if they play offense like they did last week — they will be in the Super Bowl.”

Jackson: “If you can’t cover Brown, then you are not going to beat them. He’s almost uncoverable right now. I’d say he’s the best receiver in the National Football League.”


On the Seattle Seahawks offense and the approach they should be taking …

Jackson: “I don’t want to see Russell Wilson run for 100 yards. I want to see Marshawn Lynch run for 100 yards, which means at the end of the game, he’ll finish you off because he’s worn you down.”


The three-hour Countdown show also included the following features:


Bill Hofheimer

I oversee ESPN’s College Sports PR, while also working on ESPN soccer, Around the Horn, PTI and more. Previously oversaw communications for ESPN's Monday Night Football and NFL studio shows.
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