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“He’s someone I watched growing up my entire life…I’m excited to get to go up against an all-time great in the Playoffs.” – Patrick Mahomes to Maria Taylor on Ben Roethlisberger

“I figured when I win a championship -- whether it’s our division championship or Super Bowl or National Championship -- I think we should probably smoke some cigars now.” – Joe Burrow to Chris Simms on his cigar smoking celebrations

“We need to get that narrative started to maybe win a game here and he can remove that ‘interim’ tag.” – Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow to Jac Collinsworth on interim head coach Rich Bisaccia

Coverage of Raiders-Bengals Begins This Afternoon with Special Edition of Football Night in America at 3 p.m. ET Leading into Kickoff at 4:30 p.m. ET

Sunday’s Coverage of Steelers-Chiefs Begins with FNIA at 7:30 p.m. ET Followed by 8:15 p.m. ET Kickoff

STAMFORD, Conn. – Jan. 15, 2022 – Ahead of NBC Sports’ presentation of a pair of Super Wild Card Weekend matchups this weekend, NBC’s Football Night in America crew spoke with stars from each team, including:

NBC Sports’ Wild Card coverage on NBC, Peacock, Telemundo, and Universo kicks off this afternoon as Burrow and the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals host Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and Universo. Coverage begins with a special 90-minute edition of Football Night in America at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

On Sunday, Mahomes and the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs host Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and Telemundo. Sunday’s coverage gets underway with Football Night in America at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

Highlights from each conversation:

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes with Maria Taylor:

Mahomes on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: “He’s made a huge impact on me. The way that he’s been able to scramble around and make those throws and just battle to the very end of every single play. I mean, that’s the reason that he has two Super Bowl rings and he’s made some big-time throws that will be remembered forever. He’s someone I watched growing up my entire life…I’m excited to get to go up against an all-time great in the Playoffs.”

Mahomes on the Chiefs’ 3-4 start and early season struggles: “It was definitely a trying time. I mean, dealt with a lot of adversity, dealt with a lot of having to figure things out on the fly, but I think the previous few years have built us for this moment -- to be able to battle through that, to win the games that we needed to win, and to put ourselves in a position now to be in the Playoffs as the two-seed.”

Mahomes on what he learned from early season struggles: “I think what I learned is I have to be patient. I wanted to be high-flying, throwing all of these long touchdowns like I’ve done in the early part of my career, but defenses weren’t letting me do that. I learned to be patient and just take what’s there and try to find ways to have success another way.”

Mahomes on the difficulties of advancing to back-to-back Super Bowls: “I think Tom (Brady) has kind of spoiled everybody to think that you just get to the Super Bowl every single year (laughs). No, that’s definitely something you have to earn every single day, every single year. I think I found out a lot after this last Super Bowl of how tough it is just to get to the Super Bowl and to win it…I just don’t want to waste these opportunities of being in the Playoffs with these guys and having the chance to have this team get to another Super Bowl.”

Bengals QB Joe Burrow with Chris Simms:

Burrow on if the Bengals players talks about the franchise’s 31-year draught without a Playoff win: “No, we honestly haven’t even talked about it all week. We’re a really young team. We’re just here having fun playing football with a bunch of friends in the locker room. We’re not worried about not winning the playoff game. We’re going to go out there and execute, and whatever happens happens, but we’re proud of what we’ve done and who we are.”

Burrow on his cigar celebrations: “Just on special occasions. First cigar I ever smoked was after the National Championship Game, and so I figured when I win a championship -- whether it’s our division championship or Super Bowl or National Championship -- I think we should probably smoke some cigars now. I think we just made it a thing.”

Burrow on why he wears No. 9: “Drew (Brees) was my favorite quarterback growing up. I was actually a Saints fan in Ohio because of him. I wear No. 9 because I was No. 10 at Ohio State and in high school, and then they didn’t have 10 at LSU so I figured why not just go one number less…I’ve been able to get to know Drew a little bit…he’s been great. Look, I’m not starstruck usually, but the first time I met Drew I was a little starstruck and wanted to make sure he knew I knew football, so I was talking about our game-plan and all that.”

Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase with Maria Taylor:

Chase on being drafted by the Bengals and reuniting with former college teammate Joe Burrow: “The first thing he told me was to pack my bags and make sure I was ready to go…I was excited to be back with him, get back with our chemistry. I had so much energy to waste (after the NFL Draft), and I was ready to get back out on the field.”

Chase on how he would describe Burrow: “Quiet…When we’re not on the football field, he’s just quiet. I gotta joke with him to make him laugh a little bit, but he’s always been a quiet person.”

Chase on how clinching a Playoff berth felt compared to winning a National Championship in college: “That was my first championship, so I’m going to say that’s not going to beat it yet. Let’s see how these playoffs go this round, and then you have to ask me this question later because I want to definitely compare the two.”

Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow with Jac Collinsworth:

Renfrow on Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia: “He cares about us. It’s tough to care about people on a personal level in the NFL because you have so many moving parts and so many people coming in and out, but he does a great job of connecting with us…He has the perfect thing to say at the right times. No matter how it is, he can connect with people and we need to get that narrative started to maybe win a game here and he can remove that ‘interim’ tag.”

Renfrow on how he and QB Derek Carr would celebrate if they won a Super Bowl together: “We’ve been dreaming about that since we came to Vegas. We’re going to jump in his car and the sunroof with the Lombardi when we do it, and we’re going to go right down Las Vegas Boulevard…(And) we’re going to shoot our shot with Tiger Woods, he’s a Raiders fan. Try to get a foursome with him.”

Renfrow on carpooling to games with Carr: “The wives have to have the parking passes, so we always carpool to the games. My rookie year we actually started doing it. In my very first game in Oakland, we go through the gate and we get ready to pull into the player parking area and this guy stops us, and he looks at me and Derek and he wanted to wish Derek a great season…and he looks at me and asks if I was his son. We got a kick out of that.”

Renfrow on his route running: “It’s a lot of backyard football, to be honest with you. I grew up playing a lot of backyard football and a lot of sports. Playing with angles, whether it’s soccer, basketball, trying to create that space. So, trying to take that and what I’ve done my whole life and just fit it in the parameters of an NFL football game and get the trust of Derek (Carr) and see it the same way as him so when the opportunity presents itself, we can go out and make a play.”

Raiders DE Maxx Crosby with Rodney Harrison:

Crosby on Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia: “He’s been amazing. The main thing is he’s always going to keep it real. He’s an honest guy, he’s never going to sugarcoat anything. He’s going to tell you how it is, and I respect that more than anything. At the end of the day, you can’t not respect him…He’s just one of those guys that knows how to motivate people.”

Crosby on his success in the NFL and overcoming personal struggles: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter where you start. It’s about how you finish, and I’m far from that. I know I’ve got a lot of room to grow…and I think that’s what separates good players from great players. Even when you have success, you can’t think you’ve got all the answers now…I know from listening to guys like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, those types of guys, you hear them talk, they were never satisfied, and they always wanted more.”

Crosby on facing Bengals QB Joe Burrow: “He’s just one of those guys, he’s super young but he carries himself like he’s older. You have to just keep him in the pocket. At the end of the day for us, that’s our main goal – just make his job as hard as it possibly can [be].”

-- NBC Sports --