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“FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA” – NFC WILD CARD NOTES & QUOTES

“He’s the real MVP of this team.” – Rodney Harrison on Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio

“He’s accurate, he makes quick decisions, and he gets rid of the ball fast. That’s what he’s going to have to do today against that Bears (defensive line).” – Tony Dungy on Eagles QB Nick Foles

“We know it’s special. We earned this opportunity to be here.” – Bears QB Mitch Trubisky

“The Philadelphia Eagles are the buzz of the town again.” – Eagles Center Jason Kelce

STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 6, 2019 – Mike Tirico hosted the NFC Wild Card special edition of Football Night in America today from NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., in advance of the NFC playoff matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles 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.

McHugh conducted an exclusive pre-game interview with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Bears head coach Matt Nagy.

Coverage of Football Night also included mini-features with players from both teams, including Bears’ QB Mitch Trubisky, RB Tarik Cohen and DT Akiem Hicks, and Eagles’ DT Fletcher Cox, DE Brandon Graham, TE Zach Ertz, and C Jason Kelce. (full transcripts below)

Following are Notes & Quotes from the NFC Wildcard edition of Football Night in America:

ON EAGLES

Dungy: “Last year we were talking about Nick Foles, and can he do it? There doesn’t seem to be any question this year…He’s played very well this year. He played great in the playoffs last year and it’s because he’s accurate, he makes quick decisions, and he gets rid of the ball fast. That’s what he’s going to have to do today against that Bears (defensive line).”

Harrison on Fletcher Cox: “If you’re the Bears, you have to treat him like he’s (Rams DT) Aaron Donald. Keep two guys on him at all times…When I look at this Eagles defensive line, I actually think they’re better than the Chicago Bears because they have more depth.”

Dungy: “If I’m coaching today, both of these teams, I’m telling them, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make sure we don’t let the other team’s defense beat us. We can’t get crazy, turn the ball over, and be overly aggressive because the defenses are the staples of these two teams.”

Harrison on the changing Eagles secondary and how it affects veteran S Malcolm Jenkins: “The last three weeks they’ve played a lot better. People don’t understand, it’s very difficult to play with a lot of backups…because you have to deal with communication issues and you have to constantly build up their confidence. In 2004, we went on the Super Bowl run, I had to play with three backups…it was very tough because you always have to deal with something with those young guys. But the big challenge tonight (for Jenkins) is making sure that he communicates well because of all these different formations that Matt Nagy brings out.”

Pederson to McHugh on the attitude his players have tonight: “As most teams would probably say, be playing your best football at the end of the year. And quite frankly we’ve been able to do that and find a way. I keep telling the team each week, keep trying to get 1-0. They’re excited. They know what we’re up against. It’s a big challenge for us, but they know and they’re ready, and they’re looking forward to this opportunity.”

Pederson on what he expects from Matt Nagy: “I expect anything. You know that’s his personality. You know he’s a guy that’s very creative; he’s going to come up with something. There’ll be a wrinkle out there today that we haven’t seen on tape, but that’s who he is, and he loves to have fun. You can see it with his guys on the field. They’re enjoying playing for him, and it’s a credit to what he’s done.”

ON BEARS

Tirico: “For the first time in eight years, playoff football is back in Chicago.”

Harrison: “Games like this, we typically have the tendency to focus on the big name guys, the superstars. But I’m looking at the under-the-radar guys. For the Philadelphia Eagles, I’m looking at center Jason Kelce. I think he’s going to have an extreme challenge blocking Akiem Hicks. And for the Chicago Bears, I’m looking at Jordan Howard, the running back. They’re going to have to continue to run him and take some of that pressure off of Mitchell Trubisky.”

Harrison: “I expect Matt Nagy to be very aggressive in the early part of the game to build confidence in his quarterback and to send a message to the Philadelphia Eagles secondary.”

Harrison on Khalil Mack: “It’s easy to look at his numbers, his sacks, his forced fumbles, but I think his biggest impact is that he makes everybody on the defense better, especially (DE) Akiem Hicks. He’s having his best season ever as a pro.”

Simms on Trubisky: “He’s one of the best scramblers in the NFL.”

Harrison on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio: “He’s the real MVP of this team because he does a very good job of keeping everything simple. You can play fast, you don’t have to really think in this defense, you can just read and react.”

Nagy to McHugh on his final words to QB Mitchell Trubisky today: “Just to be himself. Keep doing what he’s doing all year long. I think it will be a great challenge for him playing a great team. Just to keep the emotions in check. Enjoy all of it. That’s why we do what we do. Just be himself.”

Nagy on going against Pederson, who he coached with for seven seasons: “It’s going to be fun. I have a lot of respect for him, how he does things. He’s a heck of a coach. He proved that last year. There’ll be some cat-and-mouse back-and-forth, but we’ll both be very competitive throughout the game, and in the end we’ll give a good handshake and a respect factor there.”

ON CHARGERS

Harrison: “They cannot go to New England and make the same mistakes they made today. The Patriots will be ready.”

Dungy: “Playoff football is no mistakes and physical defense.”

Dungy on stopping Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: “Their defensive coordinator Gus Bradley saw this offense last month and he had a tremendous game plan today. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa over the guards, had three safeties in there playing linebacker, used their speed to stymie Lamar Jackson and the offense.”

ON PATRIOTS

Florio on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels: “The Patriots I’m told are preparing for McDaniels to leave, with the Packers and the Browns being the most viable opportunities…So if he goes, who takes over for McDaniels? Keep an eye on USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. He’s only been there a month and he’s been blocked from interviewing for head coaching jobs. I’m told he may quit, pay a very low buyout, and go back and pursue NFL opportunities.”

ON STEELERS

Florio on WR Antonio Brown situation: “I spoke with roughly a dozen coaches and general managers, and the thinking is that the Steelers need to find a way to work it out, and if they get an offer they can’t refuse, then maybe they consider moving on.”
***

Chicago Bears Mini-Feature

Mitch Trubisky: “Playoff time in Chicago. We know it’s special. We earned this opportunity to be here.”

Tarik Cohen on the playoffs: “You know everybody ups their game a little bit. I’m ready to do the same.”

Akiem Hicks: “We already know that we’re a dominant defense, a dominant team. We just got to be ourselves.”

Trubisky: “We know the fans are bringing it, and we’re going to bring it as well.”
***

Philadelphia Eagles Mini-Feature

Fletcher Cox on the Lombardi Trophy: “Just being able to touch it, and just put your fingerprints on that thing.”

Brandon Graham on Eagles fans: “Get us another Super Bowl. … That’s what I’ve been hearing.”

Zach Ertz: “We kind of deserve to be the underdogs…We didn’t think it would be even possible.”

Brandon Graham: “We’ve been in playoff-mode the last three weeks…The pressure’s off because people don’t expect a lot from us.”

Jason Kelce on Nick Foles in big games: “He’s almost kind of like this Zen-like state. You never see a different Nick Foles.”

Fletcher Cox: “That’s just the vibe that he gives off. Nick just likes to have fun, man.”

Jason Kelce: “The Philadelphia Eagles are the buzz of the town again.”

Zach Ertz: “We’re playing the best football that we’ve played all year.”
--FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA--