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PETER KING SPEAKS WITH SAN FRANCISCO TE GEORGE KITTLE & RECAPS ATTENDING 49ERS-BENGALS IN THIS WEEK’S “FMIA” COLUMN

“That was a damn playoff game out there.” – 49ers TE George Kittle to King on San Francisco’s overtime win against Cincinnati

“He is the rising tide that lifts all boats. He is the reason the Bengals have more than a puncher’s chance to be a playoff team.” – King on Bengals QB Joe Burrow

“If this didn’t work, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have been hired to coach my middle school son’s flag football team.” – Cardinals GM Steve Keim to King on hiring head coach Kliff Kingsbury and drafting QB Kyler Murray

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 13, 2021 – Peter King speaks with 49ers tight end George Kittle and recaps being on-site for San Francisco’s overtime victory against Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also speaks with Cincinnati president Mike Brown, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan, and Arizona general manager Steve Keim, hands out his Week 14 awards, and more.

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The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:

49ERS-BENGALS

King on attending 49ers-Benglas in Cincinnati this weekend: “We’re in the final month of the NFL’s 102nd season, and it feels like the game has never been closer. Or wackier…Twenty-four of the 32 teams in pro football have at least six wins and are legitimately still in the playoff race…I came here to see the perfect metaphor for the 2021 NFL season. The Bengals and Niners were hot, then both slipped on banana peels last week, and both came into this game in prime playoff shape.”

King on the tight NFL playoff races: “Too early to say if it’s a trend or if it’s a coincidence, this NFL egalitarianism. But it’s fun to ride the roller coaster with teams that are extremely close in talent and performance and ability.”

49ers TE George Kittle to King on defeating the Bengals in overtime: “That was a damn playoff game out there…I mean, every game’s a playoff game these days, right? ... It’s way more fun when you’re playing playoff games in December.”

Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor to King on working for the Bengals: “Working in Paul Brown’s organization is like living next to a library. I’d be a fool if I didn’t check out the books…As I’ve told the players, we’re not counting on anyone else. We’re counting on ourselves. And that’s a good position to be in.”

King on Bengals QB Joe Burrow: “The Bengals changed when they drafted Joe Burrow. Period…People around the league, many of them, view the Bengals as a mysterious, non-progressive franchise sometimes…But not long after Robert Kraft bought the Patriots, he had dinner one night with Mike Brown and asked him what were the biggest keys to building a winning franchise. The quarterback and the coach, Brown told him.”

Brown to King on Burrow and the rumors of potential trade packages offered to the Bengals before drafting him: “It would not have mattered what the price someone offered was. We were sure about him, and we weren’t trading the pick…He has an intense focus. He grasps all the material quickly. He is always poised. He is never scared. No one here – no one – thinks of challenging him when he’s got a conviction.”

King: “Sunday was a perfect example of what Burrow means to this franchise. He is the rising tide that lifts all boats. He is the reason the Bengals have more than a puncher’s chance to be a playoff team.”

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to King on Burrow following yesterday’s game: “We didn’t want Burrow to have the ball at the end of the fourth quarter, or at the end of overtime. He’s just too dangerous.”

King on 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: “Who thought San Francisco would be on a 4-1 run this late in the season, and the quarterback leading the Niners to scoring 29 points a game in this hot run would be the embattled Garoppolo? He’s kept young phenom Trey Lance on the bench for 63 days…and Garoppolo showed why in the overtime period Sunday.”

Shanahan on Garoppolo: “Jimmy’s one of my favorite people that I’ve ever coached. He’s a hell of a dude. He’s not trying to hide anything…No matter what he hears, he’s been the exact same guy I’ve known the four years prior, and that’s given us a chance to fight through this year. It’s given us the chance to be at where we’re at right now.”

King on the 49ers QB situation: “I’m told the Niners have not made up their minds, at all, about how to handle their quarterback situation in 2022 and beyond. They shouldn’t be. How do you know how Garoppolo will play down the stretch, and into a playoff run if that’s the fate of this season? I’m also told the Niners have been impressed, with Garoppolo’s career on the line, with how he’s handled this weird year.”

ARIZONA CARDINALS

King on the Cardinals and GM Steve Keim: “I look at the Arizona Cardinals being an NFL-best 10-2 with one month left in the regular season…Rarely do you get on the kind of roll Cardinals GM Steve Keim is on as an NFL decision-maker (along with owner and president Michael Bidwill).”

Keim to King on hiring head coach Kliff Kingsbury and drafting QB Kyler Murray: “If this didn’t work, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have been hired to coach my middle school son’s flag football team. I mean, if you said, You’re gonna hire a fired college coach and draft a 5-10 quarterback with the first pick in the draft, you’d want to put us in a straitjacket.”

Keim to King: “I think it goes back to the business where if you want to listen to the noise and not do what your gut says, you’re gonna get fired. And you’re not gonna be able to look in the mirror and say I did it my way…The pressure that was on both Michael and myself to make sure that it was right…every decision along the way.”

Keim on Murray: “His ability, this year, to manipulate defenders with his eyes has gone to the next level. Which, as things slow down for a quarterback, you see it. Your fundamentals just get better with confidence.”

King on the Cardinals in the NFC playoff picture: “The Cards just have to keep winning. The way their quarterback is playing – scoring in the thirties in seven of his nine starts – I like their chances for the NFC road to go through Glendale.”

WEEK 14 NOTES

King on the passing of former WR Demaryius Thomas: “The death of Thomas, 33, due to unknown causes, shocked his friends and acquaintances to the core…After the Broncos won the Super Bowl in early 2016, he wheeled (Peyton) Manning’s son Marshall around the locker room in a laundry cart. The child of teammate Tyler Polumbus sat on Thomas’ lap on the team charter back to Denver. Whenever the Manning kids would see Thomas, they’d run and hug him, even more recently…Just a shame to see Thomas die so young.”

King on the Chiefs: “Remember when we were worried about Kansas City? Like, really worried? That was way back in time…29 days ago. Since then, KC is 4-0 by an average score of 33-10.”

King on the Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson: “The very preliminary gut feeling on Lamar Jackson’s injured ankle is that it is not a serious injury. Good for him and for the franchise. But Baltimore is 2-3 and averaging 16.6 points a game in the last five. Ravens (8-5) have some serious issues…Nothing good is guaranteed for Baltimore in the next month.”

King on the Bills: “I think I would have been downright depressed if I were a Bills fan at halftime in Tampa Bay. The Bills were getting rocked. But what Josh Allen did in the second half was impressive. The Buffalo quarterback picked his team up by the scruff of the neck and carried them into contention late in the game.”

King on the Buccaneers: “I think the biggest winner of eek 14 in the playoff stakes is Tampa Bay. The Bucs have a manageable schedule (Saints, at Carolina, at Jets, Carolina) that is more advantageous than either of the other 10-win teams in the NFC.”

King on the Jaguars and head coach Urban Meyer: “I think owner Shad Khan is still very likely to bring back Meyer (2-11 as a rookie NFL coach) for 2022, perhaps without a few coaches on offense. Some of this Meyer-as-Captain-Queeg stuff is bothersome. Some of it is about the state of the NFL in 2021.”

King on Alabama QB Bryce Young: “I think the fact that Mac Jones didn’t win the Heisman Trophy and Bryce Young did is not altogether telling, but it does say one thing to me: Exhaust the study on the Bryce Young tape…He’s not eligible till the 2023 draft, and his stock could fall a bit in the ’22 season, but his play in the last five quarters of his life tells me an awful lot about what quarterbacks in the NFL must do to be able to win. He’s played great when the games that count the most are there to be won or lost.”

KING’S WEEK 14 AWARDS

Offensive Players of the Week: Rashaad Penny, Seattle, Tom Brady, Tampa Bay, Dalvin Cook, Minnesota, & Josh Allen, Buffalo.

King on Penny: “The Seahawks have been waiting a long time – four seasons, to be exact – for their 2018 first-round pick from San Diego State to have a day like he had Sunday in Houston…To make the postseason, the Seahawks will need Penny in this sort of form, particularly with games at the Rams and Cards remaining.”

Defensive Players of the Week: Micah Parsons, Dallas, & Myles Garrett, Cleveland.

King on Parsons: “Parsons has all but clinched Defensive Rookie of the Year…and he’s in the running for Defensive Player of the Year too.”

Special Teams Players of the Week: Ka’imi Fairbairn, Houston, Justin Tucker, Baltimore, & Jordan Berry, Minnesota.

King on Fairbairn: “Set the Texans record with a 61-yard field goal in the second quarter against Seattle (previous franchise mark: 57), and he now has not missed a field goal from inside 40 yards since 2017.”

Coach of the Week: Vic Fangio, Denver.

King: “Kudos to Broncos PR maven Patrick Smyth for coming up with the idea of playing the first snap of Sunday’s Detroit-Denver game with 10 players, as a tribute to the late and missing Demaryius Thomas. Fangio bought it, told Detroit coach Dan Campbell about it, and a plan was hatched…Not to mention the Broncos routed Detroit 38-10 to move into serious playoff contention.”

Read the full FMIA column here and catch the weekly Peter King Podcast here.

The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:




    • PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Mike Golic (Mondays) and Florio and Chris Simms (Tuesday-Thursday) streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams Tuesday-Friday.
    • ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
    • NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show continues the NFL discussion and Bet The Edge Podcast provides daily betting insights.

A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.

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