hank you everyone for joining us for a conference call to preview this Week 6 matchup between the undefeated Chiefs and the first place New England Patriots.
Obviously highlighted by the exciting match up of legendary Tom Brady against the new star, Pat Mahomes. We also, in case you didn’t see, have flexed into Week 7 with — it’s going to be Bengals at Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in place of Rams 49ers, so we already have our first flex game of the year, also involving the Chiefs.
In just a moment we’ll hear from our speakers, Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth, and Football Night in America analysts, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Thank you very much for joining us. We love talking about this football game because I think it’s about as good as it gets in the league right now, and of course, the quarterback matchup front and center, Tom Brady, sort of the surgeon.
You watch him a week ago or whatever it was, ten days ago, or Thursday Night Football, how about that, I thought the first half was about as good as it could be. The number of details watching that offense play that they executed to perfection, is just a joy to watch. I mean, it really is. Of course, they have been together a long, long time.
And then on the other side of this equation, Patrick Mahomes, who didn’t play his best game, not by any means, a week ago against Jacksonville, a pretty good defense. But you see the magic. You see the raw ability. You see the potential. You see the Brett Favre-esque kind of plays.
And I think more than anything for me is you see an expansion of the playing field. You see almost 20 percent more coverage that a defense has to play because of his ability to scramble around and throw the ball 60 yards down the field; and Tyreek Hill’s speed.
And if you leave Travis Kelce one-on-one, or in the case a week ago, a hot read and expect one person to tackle him in the open field, almost impossible to do.
And then we flash back to this game a year ago where Kareem Hunt had his coming-out party of the opener where the Chiefs beat the Patriots a season ago in this game. A lot of great things to talk about. A lot of great things to watch in this one and we’re very appreciative of the fact that you guys took a few minutes to talk with us.
Tony Dungy, the great Hall of Fame coach.
TONY DUNGY: Thank you, Cris, and like Cris said, very excited to see it. Although a part of me, I’m cringing a little bit as a defensive coach. I think there’s going to be a ton of points put up.
Kansas City is playing lights-out offense, even better than they played last year and they put up quite a few points last year in that game Cris was referring to.
On the other side of the ball, New England is just getting better and better and more comfortable, Julian Edelman coming back, another week with Josh Gordon, all the running backs that they have. I think both defenses are really going to have their hands full trying to stop the other offenses.
So we should see a great game. Obviously a lot riding on it. Kansas City has a chance to put some distance between their nearest competitors in the fight for home-field advantage; so this is a big game for them.
New England, trying to defend their home turf and slowing the Chiefs train down. I think it’s going to be very, very exciting and I’m looking forward to it.
With that, I’ll turn it over to my cohort, Rodney Harrison.
RODNEY HARRISON: And of course, Cris Collinsworth, he always focuses on offense. Offensive-minded guy, just always shaking my head with that.
To me, you look and you see obviously both offenses are very powerful. Having Julian Edelman back really gives Tom Brady that boost. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of reliability when it comes to that offense, but to me I’m focused on both of these defenses. Kansas City looked outstanding last week. I think the biggest challenge for them is can they keep it up.
I’m not a firm believer after watching tape on these different defenses each and every week. Kansas City obviously played really well. They scored on defense. They created some turnovers. Got to the quarterback.
But I don’t believe in either one of these defenses. I think, you know, it’s going to be a high-scoring battle, and to me, this game is going to come down to which defense can create turnovers and play well in the red zone.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everybody.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk this week already about RPOs and how common they have become in the Chiefs’ offense. Across the NFL, how much do you see these RPOs taking over? How common are they? How do you defend them? We have heard how successful they? Have you seen teams figure out a way to defend them at all?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I’ll do the offensive side on what we’re seeing. Obviously I’ve been waxing this a lot because of all these guys, but it’s pretty common now in almost every offense.
I thought a season ago, if you really wanted to see RPOs, there were two offenses to watch and that was Philadelphia and Kansas City and obviously both of those offenses made great strides. Then of course this year, you come to Chicago and the Kansas City offense comes to Chicago and it’s there.
So we are seeing bits and pieces of it all the time and it reminds me a little bit of back when I first came into football and some of the wishbone stuff, the concepts of that. Of course, that was basically all running, but the concept was, there was nothing the defense could do that was right, as long as you executed it properly.
So if the end came crashing down on the wishbone, then you pulled the ball out of the fullback’s stomach and you went down and you optioned the next guy on the line of scrimmage. If he attacked you, then you pitched the ball and you ran the football, and then there were options that came in the passing game off of that.
So in this one, it really puts tremendous pressure on linebackers because there’s a feeling that no matter what the linebacker does, he can’t be right. So if that back side linebacker goes shooting across on the hand off part of this thing, then they pull the ball out and throw it behind the back. If the linebacker sits and waits in coverage at that slant coming in behind him, then they hand the ball off and now you don’t have that back side for two coming across from the back side linebacker.
So there’s a lot of great things. We’ve seen Minnesota in the past — (indiscernible, dog barking) — divide, shoot a linebacker through and try and go get it from the quarterback.
So these two guys are my defensive experts. I’ll let them explain how you try to defend.
TONY DUNGY: Like a lot of things in football, there’s really nothing new. People are looking at this like it’s new. The first time I saw this was Ron Turner was the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears in 1997 and they were running them against us when I was in Tampa.
What the secret to defending it is very simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple: You have to have a front seven that can defend the run without the help of the secondary, and you’ve got to be able to play man-to-man coverage. Teams that have both of those elements can stop the RPOs but not many people do.
So that’s the big problem. You’ve got to have a great man-to-man secondary and have a front seven that can handle the run by themselves.
RODNEY HARRISON: Coach absolutely took the words out of my mouth. If you have the front seven slowing down the run and you have two corners that can play physical man-to-man coverage, maybe shade them a side inside technique, then that would help, or you can keep your safety back or even bring them down and maybe double cover the wide receivers. But it just comes down to, you know, obviously one-on-one being able to make a play.
Q. This is kind of a — I know that there’s a lot of differences between Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski. That being said, which player is the better tight end at this point in their careers? For all three of you, please.
RODNEY HARRISON: Wow, Coach Dungy and I, I think it was last year when I said Kelce was the better tight end and he said he’ll take Gronk all day long. I love Gronk. He’s a big huge target, but Kelce brings something a little different. He brings that athleticism. He brings that fire.
You know, there’s times when he gets outside of himself and he could be a hothead and get a penalty, but athletically, just matching up with them, so the things that he can do.
I would say at this point in time, if I were a safety playing man-to-man coverage, I would probably have a little bit more trouble defending Travis Kelce as opposed to Gronk. He’s a big guy. Obviously he pushes off and he uses his body well, but at this point in time, just the level of speed and athleticism, the youth factor; the fact that Kelce has been healthy. The quickness and his route running, I would say Kelce at this time is the better tight end.
TONY DUNGY: I’m going to ask you a question. If it’s one game and they are both healthy, I’m taking Rob Gronkowski because I think he’s a better blocker and more of an inside tight end.
But Rodney’s point is valid. Travis has been a lot more available over the course of the last couple years, healthier. So if you’re talking about long term, that makes — I’m a Gronkowski fan, if I’ve got one game to win and they are both healthy, I’m taking Rob.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: It’s interesting, I would have said Rob for a long time, too. But I’ve got to say it’s getting a little closer in my mind.
I agree with Tony that the big tiebreaker for me was Gronkowski’s ability to block. We see him on some of those tight end wham plays where he just devastates defensive linemen. His pass blocking ability in seven-man protections are the keys in many ways to that offense and we know what he’s able to do.
Now he is banged up and he is not running like he has run in the past with his ankle or whatever it is.
But I’ll tell you this about Kelce: A, he’s better on the line of scrimmage than he’s been in the pass blocking; and B, he is one of the best blockers in the open field, and the way that the Kansas City Chiefs are playing right now, they are such a space team. They are so much into motion, reverses, screens off of that, all the different things that comes with this offense. A lot of times, it comes down to can that tight end make an open field block off a spring and big play, and he does that a lot and he’s really good at it.
So I don’t think I have a favorite because it’s like — to me, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. These two players really could not be any more different at the position. I have played, you know — Kelce is a little more new age and Gronk is a little more old school, but both are great players.
Q. The way their offenses tend to move them around a little bit with Kelce, a lot of times he’s almost playing like a wide receiver. Do you feel like that’s more of a sign of offenses expanding or the skill-set that these specific guys have, and what sort of pressure does that put on a defense?
RODNEY HARRISON: I think obviously the skill-set kind of dictates, you know, what they can do from an offensive standpoint. I mean, Kelce, you have to play him as though he’s a wide receiver.
You look at the Patriots and what — you know, defensively, they have had trouble with big tight ends; and Kelce, he is just so athletic and dynamic in the things that he can do. I was just watching tape, and you know, one play, they played him at quarterback.
It’s just so many things that he can do and just being a former player that had gone against the likes of Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez and those type guys. He is so athletic and so fast and he runs such great routes, whereas Rob, he’s more of this bull dozing guy and he’s big and he’ll push you off and he’ll use his body and he uses his size.
But Kelce is a legitimate threat, whether you put a nickel back on him, a bigger corner like a Jalen Ramsey or a safety or a linebacker, I mean, this guy can out-run you. He runs great routes. He’s got good hands, even though he dropped one I think last week against the Jaguars. To me, he poses such a big threat. Now obviously in the red zone, Rob Gronkowski becomes a huge threat.
But both of these guys, they do great for what they are asked to do in their respective offensive systems.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I think the more the game moves towards a college-type spread game, the more Travis Kelce’s you’re going to see playing the tight end position. It’s almost like you draft an either/or today. You either draft a blocking tight end, h-back, whatever, or you draft a big receiver, essentially and a Travis Kelce.
But don’t underestimate what Kelce is doing. He’s thrown some big blocks on the inside zone and they always have to bring the tight end across the formation and kick out the back side. He’s up-ended some people doing that. You know, so I think he wants to be the best tight end, and I think he has heard enough of this stuff about, he’s not a blocker, to where it’s become a little bit important to him.
You know, I haven’t asked him that question in a while, but I think it’s become a little bit important to him. But he is magical in the open field, and all the RPO stuff and all that, he’s a boatload to cover and you’re trying to cover the back side.
Q. Rodney, this is a question on Julian Edelman and sort of his return last week. He had credited a number of people for helping him in his time away from the Patriots, including Brian from Edge and others. As someone who went through a similar experience in your playing career, how did that experience, whether it be with Brian or others, help you to be at your best for when you returned and what did you see from Julian?
RODNEY HARRISON: Well, I think the most important thing is when you got suspended, you feel like you let your teammates down. You feel like you let the organization, as well as the fan base down.
So when you come back, you want to make plays, and I think that his biggest challenge is just being patient, you know, against the Colts. They come out and the first pass is to Julian Edelman; the crowd erupts, and you just want to prove that, hey, I want to be part of this team. You don’t want anyone wanting to make a big deal out of your situation, but you just want to prove to your teammates that you’re all in and that you want to be part of the team.
I think it’s very frustrating because you know personally, I know how he’s feeling. He’s feeling like, hey, you don’t want people to view you as a cheater or a person — because you let so many people down. You let yourself down and it’s disappointing.
But with him in the lineup, you could just tell. I mean, you could just see the energy. You could see the comfort level that Tom Brady had. Tom can make anybody look good, but Edelman really helps make Tom look good, because that’s his favorite receiver. He trusts him. They have that rapport. He can miss three or four games or what have you and he comes back and they are right back on the same page. So obviously it’s going to take some time, a little time for him to get adjusted. He had a drop last week.
But this is the guy. I mean, you talk about getting to the next level offensively and really making this wide receiving core really good with Josh Gordon, I think they are going to get him a little bit more involved in the offense this week. He’s the one that really takes that offense to the next level.
Q. Kind of an off-the-wall question for you. But it seems like after Patrick (Mahomes) does a nationally televised game people come away with really strong opinions about his “Showtime” nickname. Do you have any opinions or thoughts on the nickname or any plans to give him a new one in the broadcast?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Showtime, huh? It’s not bad. He’s definitely interesting to watch, and for me, I don’t think he’s even tapped into what he’s capable of doing yet. I still think he’s a relatively young player at understanding exactly what’s going on with the coverages, where big opportunities are, where they are not. You know, he tends to scramble to his right. That seems to be a little bit more of his comfort zone coming out that way.
After a while, people start to have a feel for that. But I think “Showtime,” when I think of “Showtime,” I think of the Lakers and 94-point basketball game and flying up and down the field. I think it’s a little bit justified and I also think as he begins to understand, for example in, quarters coverage and he has Tyreek Hill running a post against a cornerback with an outside technique, that he not only could throw it 70 yards down the field, he could also throw it to the far pylon, and we might see some of the most spectacular running, sprinting catches out of Tyreek Hill, because the longer he gets the run, the more separation he’s going to get because of his speed.
I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in with the plays that may make us go, “Oh, my goodness” with this guy because I think his understanding of defenses are going to start tying into when he can take those kinds of 70-yard shots down the field and some of those breathtaking plays.
RODNEY HARRISON: I also think for me, if I was his teammate, I’m actually proud to see that he’s embracing all this attention. You listen to the guy; he sounds very humble. Every time he talks, he talks — he says “we.” He talks about his teammates. He’s very complimentary to his teammates and that’s the thing if I were his teammate, I would be looking at.
I love that he went through a little adversity last week. He threw a couple picks and it really showed me a lot about him because a lot of young players with all the pressure and all the hype surrounding him, he could have easily went into a tank. He came back. He was resilient. He made some plays. He helped win the football game for those guys.
But really just been impressed with how he conducts himself and the fact that, hey, I am embracing this. The key for him is remain humble and continue to work hard and all the things that he’s saying he’s doing, his teammates will continue to embrace him.
And I love the fact that Andy Reid says, “Hey, we are going to try to score 40 points every single game. That’s our goal. We’re going to score 40, 50 points, come out swinging the ball and do what we have to do.’”
I love the fact that they are embracing the young talent that they have, but the key for him is just staying humble, keep making sure that he continues to work extremely hard, and always being inclusive when he’s talking about his teammates.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I wanted to ask Tony one question while you have on the phone here, actually. You all hear about, okay, Belichick is going to take away the top threat or the top two threats.
So you immediately in my brain go to Kelce and you go to Hill. Is it possible that they sit back there with two safeties this game and go: If you want to beat us with Kareem Hunt, go ahead, but we’re not giving this — how do you anticipate them looking at this offense?
TONY DUNGY: I think that’s exactly what they will do is try to take away that passing game and the deep passing. Rodney, you talk about it all the time. Coach Belichick doesn’t mind if you move the ball. Just stop them in the red zone. Force them to (kick a) field goal.
When I was with Indy one year, we went up there in 2004, same type of situation, and they gave us one look the whole game. We ran the same running play 12 times in a row, and ran the ball down there and Edgerrin James fumbled it at the two-yard line and it was a perfect series for them. They took away when we did best, took away the explosive throw. They gave us some things. We ran the ball and made yards but we didn’t score, and I think you’re going to see the same type of plan to somehow slow down that explosive passing game.
To go back on the Mahomes question, I’m not a big nickname guy. What I’ve been more impressed with Patrick is as a young player who only had one start before, being able to process everything in this offense, the numbers, the volume of stuff that they do is just unbelievable to me for basically a rookie, a second-year player. I think he’s been phenomenal with the mental aspect of the game. I think Showtime doesn’t do all the justice to how good this young man is mentally.
RODNEY HARRISON: Coach, I think you bring up an excellent point, because you’re right that, week we played you guys, we didn’t care about you running. You could run for 300 yards rushing, didn’t matter.
But what we did, we had a lot of emphasis on the red zone. We made sure that we forced you guys going 10-, 12-, 14-play drives and when you got to the red zone, we said, hey, you’re goal was to hold these guys to a field goal or try to create and force a turnover.
But one thing about Belichick: It’s that mentality; bend-but-don’t-break. We are going to force them to execute, especially with a young quarterback. They are going to show him a bunch of different looks, try to show him some things he hasn’t seen but not give up that big play; force him.
Kansas City has been good at going on long-play drives. Most people think this is a big play offense. They drop back and swing the ball deep. No. This is an offense very capable of going on 10- and 12-play drives, but you want to see a young quarterback that doesn’t have a lot of experience do that time and time again.
And one thing about Coach Belichick: He’s very patient with his defense and he’ll create that mindset and a lot of emphasis on the red zone. That will be big this week.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Do you think they will play (Stephon) Gilmore one-on-one on Hill? Do you think they will travel with him?
RODNEY HARRISON: If they don’t — if he travels, obviously I think it will be more man coverage. If he doesn’t travel, Cris, I think it’s going to be a lot of two-deep safety looks.
I don’t think you can give up big plays to this offense. It takes the wind out of you. You know, just going back to what Coach Dungy said, we were comfortable. We as a defense, we played very patient. We said, you know, we don’t care. They can run the ball, five, six, seven yards.
The emphasis was on playing great in the red zone, because we know — he knows that the offense can score on this defense. Kansas City, they play lights-out. But if you sit back and think they are one of the top defenses in the league, I think you’re crazy.
Tom, he’s looking at the secondary saying, I know I can throw for 450 yards on this, you remember, this is not Blake Bortles. This is Tom Brady we’re talking about.
TONY DUNGY: I agree with you Rodney. I think there’s going to be a lot of zone on the part of the Patriot. If you look at last year’s game, all the big plays came against man coverage.
Kareem Hunt in man coverage on a linebacker for a long touchdown pass, that’s what they are going to try to eliminate, and force them to move the ball in small chunks. I think you’re going to see a lot of Kareem Hunt running the ball and a lot of throws that you can get underneath.
RODNEY HARRISON: If you look at the Patriots defense, they can’t cover anyone, really. I mean, they are grabbing guys. McCourty, he’s a liability in coverage. They tried to cover — to use him to cover some of the tight ends from the Colts.
I mean, even last year, looking at that tape, he got beat by one of Kansas City’s tight ends. He’s not a cover guy. He’s a great leader. He’s a pretty good tackler in the open field, but when you start asking these older safeties that have clearly — they are not the same player that they once were, to try to cover a Travis Kelce in space, I think they are going to struggle. So zone is really the coverage of preference. You keep everything in front of you, you react, and you force this young quarterback into making a mistake.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: They have been playing chunks, that sometimes even affects your middle linebacker position with (Dont’a) Hightower and (Kyle) Van Noy outside. They are replacing Cover Tampa 2 with (ph) sprint down the field and some wide corner stuff. I’m really curious to see how they are going to try and play it.
RODNEY HARRISON: I don’t — look at the speed on that defense.
TONY DUNGY: That’s what I was going to say.
RODNEY HARRISON: I looked at the defenders and we talked about it, coach, last year at the Super Bowl. Like, their defense is slow. When I look at defenses, I look at their speed and their size and their activity. This is a very, very slow defense. So they are going to have to play smart. They are going to have to make sure they are more positioned.
You look at Hightower; Hightower has lost a lot of explosiveness. He’s not running with the same speed. The injuries have taken its toll and you can just look at the Patriots defense and see. So they have to focus on being smart and making sure that they don’t give up the big play.
TONY DUNGY: I totally agree with you. Any time you call man coverage, you’re going to have a speed mismatch somewhere in that Kansas City offense. There’s two or three guys that are going to have speed advantage, so they are going to have to be careful with man-to-man coverage.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: And the flipside is Kansas City wants to play all that man coverage and I keep seeing they are going to get their brains kicked.
TONY DUNGY: Rodney said it at the beginning. This is going to be red zone defense and takeaways, whichever defense can come up with a couple stops in the red zone, get one or two takeaways, that’s who is going to win the game and I think it’s going to be 38-35, one way or the other.
RODNEY HARRISON: Think about this, I was watching the Colts, I even Tweeted this out: Why would the Colts come out and play zone coverage against Tom Brady? When we used to practice against Brady, he would pick us apart in zone and we would tell (our defensive coordinator), ‘Hey, let’s play man, let’s challenge these guys.’”
Now if you can play man, you can bump these receivers and challenge them and force Tom, who at times he’s not very accurate. At times, he’s not very accurate. Force him into those tight windows. He gets so frustrated if you’re jamming the receivers; if you’re throwing off the timing.
But if you sit back in a Cover 2 zone, they are going to always have two short receivers, they are going to have one going behind that, and they are going to always — he is going to always be able to pick it apart, so that’s the worst thing you can do is play zone coverage against Tom Brady.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: The minute the Colts went that straight man, then they have taken — Edelman dropped the pass down the sideline but he was wide open. They weren’t even close to getting covered.
It going to be — I can’t wait to watch it. I mean, it may well could be the Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunts and Josh Gordons of the world that decide this game. I could definitely see that.
RODNEY HARRISON: Yeah, like I said earlier, I think it’s going to come down to the red zone and who is able to capitalize in the red zone.
One thing the Patriots have to do, and I know even Brady has talked about it: Sustaining drives. No three-and-outs, because you go three-and-out on this Kansas City team, now you give an opportunity for them to get the ball back and they are trying to score every single time they get the possession. They are not trying to kick field goals. They are trying to score touchdowns.
Q. Similar to the first question about the RPOs, but wonder how you’re seeing teams across the league and specifically in this game, use the jet sweep and jet motion and what kind of stress that puts on a defense.
RODNEY HARRISON: You know, I’ll just say this. Watching Kansas City, you kind of get blown back because it’s like, oh my goodness. You have to deal with all these different plays and so when I was watching — I’m not even a player. I’m like, I know what Belichick is going to do. It automatically forces your defense on its heels and that’s what Andy Reid, he knows that.
When you’re doing all these trick plays and miss direction, all those type of plays, it forces the defense to play on its heels because you’re like, oh my goodness, I don’t want to make a mistake. So I know Belichick, he’s preaching this entire week: Hey, really, this is the antithesis of doing your job, making sure that you do your job, read your reads, not trying to go out your way to make a play.
Any time we played the Colts, he said, guys, don’t get frustrated. Don’t go out your way to try to make a play and be a hero, just do your job. So I know that is really the point of emphasis this week defensively that he’s telling this team.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: I think the other part of that is, if you know Tyreek Hill is coming around on a possible reverse, even though they only hand it to them, you know, ten, 15 percent of the time; you have to widen as a defense, because if you’re not widening a little bit, he’s going right around you.
So what that does, if this game does turn into a Kareem Hunt kind of a game and he’s going to run the ball and you have the threat of Hill coming outside that have and now you’re on the back side, now you’ve got to play that and it just widens for some of those inside zones and some of those plays.
It widens that back side pursuit to try and come down on the running game. It gives you a horizontal stretch that’s really tough to defend.
Q. Having played for Coach Belichick, we’ve heard Coach Reid a couple of times here in Kansas City talk about the team-specific approach that Bill Belichick likes to employ on both sides of the ball, but specifically defensively; that he’s quite a calm he will I don’t know, you can look at one thing one game one week and he’s going to entirely different the next. How is he able to do that? That seems like a no-brainer, right, for everybody to do that. Yet he’s the guy that’s heralded as the one that can do it. What is special about him that he can be multi-dimensional or other coaches either don’t choose to do that or be able to do that?
RODNEY HARRISON: I think you have to first look at his personnel. As much as he’s a great football mind, you have to look at the personnel and the players he’s had in the past.
When we were winning our championships in 2003 and 2004 and even prior to me getting there in 2001, he had a lot of versatile players, a lot of speed, a lot of wisdom. And I don’t think that’s something that he can replicate with the type of people, the type of personnel that he has right now. I don’t think he can out-scheme and come out and do things that he was able to do in 2003 and 2004 now, because I look at the personnel and I don’t see it.
So that’s why I said his approach has to be kind of that bend-but-don’t-break, play tough in the red zone, don’t give up big plays; you have to be strategic. It’s only so much that a coach can do.
I think as much as he’s given credit and he’s a heck of a coach, you’ve got to look at the personnel, man. When you have guys that can play multiple positions, when you have guys is as smart as that we had, the (Tedy) Bruschis and Willie McGinest and guys able to play really well in big games, I think you have to give a lot of credit to the players.
Q. But you don’t see him being as multi-dimensional now, is that more hype than real substance at this point?
RODNEY HARRISON: I just don’t think they have a lot to work with. I mean, look at what they did in the Super Bowl. They don’t have the speed. They don’t have the players — I mean, the players that they have, their best players are starting to slow down. You look at (Kevin) McCourty, (Patrick) Chung, they are still smart players and very savvy players, Hightower, but they don’t have the same speed and same explosion. They can’t get there like they have done in the past.
So I think you’re very limited. You can’t go out and create a pass rush if you don’t have the players. That’s one of the things that you watch, and maybe Cris can elaborate a little bit more.
Like when you watch them, Cris, do you see anything special with the Patriots? Does anyone stand out to you that scares you?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Well, I think when they get in pass rush mode, the three guys that can do it still are Trey Flowers gives them a little bit. Adam Butler, who they bring in a little bit more of an interior guy, and (Adrian) Clayborn. They are using those guys pretty much limited to the pass rush kind of situations.
And of course, they want Hightower a lot in coverage so they blitz him a lot to be that additional guy. But do they have a Chandler Jones on this team right now? No, they don’t.
RODNEY HARRISON: So no one scares on that defense?
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: They are good pass rushers, but you don’t have that one guy that you have to double-team.
And for me, the first thing for me when I put on the tape is, okay, who is getting double-teamed? Is it a receiver or pass rusher who is getting double-teamed? Is it a tight end? Somebody don’t have somebody getting double teamed. I would put the Patriots pass rush in that category.
Q. If I can follow-up on something Rodney said, all three of your opinions on this. Rodney you make the comment this isn’t Blake Bortles — and certainly Brady’s intelligence is beyond approach — we’ve seen Peyton Manning decay for lack of a bet term. The big play last Thursday night, it looked like he might have been throwing to Hogan, and the ball didn’t get there and Gordon made lay play. Do you think the zip is still there on the pass and the arm is there to really threaten anybody deep, or is it just a showcase, rainbow out there, every now and then to keep defenses honest and the reality is the arm strength really limits him to being, you know — let’s say top shelf NFL velocity at only a short range?
RODNEY HARRISON: Coach, I’ll let you answer that.
TONY DUNGY: I still see Tom Brady playing exceptional football. I see accuracy. I see knowing where to go, all those things.
Now, if you can rush him, all quarterbacks have some flaws if you can get pressure on them but Tom Brady, I don’t know, there’s maybe two or three guys you might argue in that category”, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, but he’s still at the top of the league.
But the ball he threw to Josh Gordon, I think was his confidence ball. He threw it up into double coverage and figured Gordon could go get it. On defense you would like to think that’s an interception ball, but I think that was calculate and he put it right where he wanted.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: They do some stuff, you remember they do a fake, hand off, fake reverse and all they are doing is trying to buy time for Hogan to go, like a 30-yard, down-the-field hook, and it’s run against the safety and it works every time. There’s no linebacker in sight that they have to play all the hocus-pocus.
And I thought he was throwing the ball to Josh Gordon. I watched that play ten times. And what had happened, to give you a little precursor to all that, there was a drive that they went right down the field two, in a row, 14-0. So then the third drive they came out and Brady looked at Josh Gordon every time, at some point in the progression, which he had not to that time. I almost think he made up his mind, he was going to get this guy a ball somehow.
And earlier in the game, there was a bit of a scramble situation, a little bit like that last throw, and Gordon — after he ran his route, did nothing. He didn’t adjust. He didn’t make-or-break. He didn’t come deep. He didn’t come across the field. He just sat there.
And I’m guessing somebody at half-time said, Hey, Josh, if we get him one of those — just go. Go somewhere. I know you don’t know what to do exactly. Just go somewhere.
So on that, they had hit the dig earlier in the game, it was the first catch that he really had, for about 20 yards down the field. And then the next one was that same dig on the opposite side of the field, so when they started scrambling and moving, he took off deep. I almost got the feeling that Tom Brady wanted to reward him for that.
Now, I may be totally making this up, but he’s like, all right. He gets it. He’s doing something. I’m going to see what he’s got now. And from my standpoint, I think you take that play, and as this season goes along, it was the first time that Josh Gordon did something to give Tom Brady confidence. He rewarded him with a throw and then Gordon rewarded him with a touchdown.
So that combination starts to hit an occasional big play, I think we’ll all look back to that one moment where there was a little dual confidence going on that made a difference for the whole season really.
RODNEY HARRISON: One thing I know about Tom: When he was confidence in his receivers, his running backs, his tight ends, he doesn’t care. He never feels like you’re covered. He’s always going to give you an opportunity to catch the ball. He doesn’t care if there’s a guy on you because he just has the supreme — the utmost confidence in his guy.
I remember in 2007, Randy Moss looks like he’s taking off for a deep route, is perfectly covered and he throws the ball anywhere. Of course, Randy Moss comes down with it and they go on to break a bunch of records. He did that with Walker, Gronkowski, all his guys; James White out of the backfield. He’s going to give you an opportunity to catch the ball.
I think it’s like anything else, hey, I’m not the same guy I was ten years ago, but I’m still pretty decent, whether it’s working out in the weight room or whatever it may be. I think we all lose a little something but I think the wisdom of the game, you see Drew Brees, he’s still going at a high level; the knowledge, the communication, the anticipation of what the defense is going to do.
I think that’s how guys like Peyton Manning have been able to be great for so long because they are such students of the game. It’s not always about how far you can throw the ball.
And the fact that he has his quick passing game; he doesn’t have to hold the ball or five seconds is every time. He’s releasing the ball. He’s not wearing his arm out. I think all those play a major factor in his success, and what he’s still able and capable of doing.
Q. Do you remember any other similar type of matchup that stands out?
TONY DUNGY: Cris won’t want to hear this, but I’ll say (Joe) Montana and Ken Anderson in the Super Bowl.
CRIS COLLINSWORTH: Yeah, don’t want to hear any of that to tell you the truth.
I’ll tell you the one that I can’t get out of my head. I almost hesitate to say is this name, because it stirs up the pot and football is sailing along and ratings are great and I don’t want to do it. But I would say this regardless. The last time we were in there, the best performance by a visitor by a young player that I had ever seen in New England was Colin Kaepernick.
The game he had, it was the worst weather you could imagine. It was just above freezing, so it was this freezing rain and the wind was blowing about 30 miles an hour. I mean, I was thinking, this game is going to be — and Brady and (Colin) Kaepernick went up and down the field time after time. Brady scored what looked like the winning touchdown.
Kaepernick comes right back and answers with this brilliant drive and the game-winning play. It’s a game that has always stuck in my mind. I mean, you know, I get questions about Kaepernick all the time, and I was like, well, I know one game he was unbelievable.
So yeah, young quarterbacks sometimes don’t — they don’t know any better. They don’t know that they are not supposed to go into New England and beat Tom Brady. But this is — this entire class — I’m just telling you, this is a really strong last couple years, these young quarterbacks, and I think that the interest in the young quarterbacks in the NFL has a lot to do with the renewed interest in the games on television or the games in attendance or whatever because there’s really nothing more exciting than new, young, exciting quarterbacks like they are seeing play in the NFL right now.
Q. For Rodney, Belichick’s record against first-year quarterbacks is almost as good as Donald Trumps at rallies. How does he do it and can it work against Mahomes?
RODNEY HARRISON: Well, once again, I think, you know, I don’t think as much as I think they are going to come out and try to show them some different looks, I still think it’s going to come down to them trying to keep things kind of simple. You don’t want to get too exotic with this offense.
We know last year, they really started out slow because they struggled on defense, a lot of confusion on defense, and that’s the one thing, with all the craziness that happens in Kansas City’s offense, the last thing you want is a bunch of complicated defenses to confuse your guys. You don’t want to give up cheap, easy plays.
So that’s one of the things that like when we used to face the Colts, hey, we’re going to keep it simple. We’re going to play one or two coverages, that’s it, and we’re going to force these guys to move up and down the field.
I keep saying the same thing. I think he’s very limited in what he can do because of the personnel that he has and the personnel that he’s facing. They had not seen a quarterback like this, a young quarterback like this.
I mean, I don’t remember ever facing a young quarterback that has this dimension to him, this type of poise, the composure, the weapons. And he wants to win. I mean, he’s a very competitive guy. Now he’s starting to run, starting to scramble. The one thing about young quarterbacks, and we talked about this last week, Deshaun Watson, you have a tendency to hold the ball too long because you’re always trying to make the dynamic play. If Mahomes can really, truly understand that he doesn’t have to make every play magical; and if he can be patient within the offense and understand that there’s nothing wrong with a five-yard gain on a passing play; I think this kid has the ability to go as far as he wants to go.
But yes, I have not seen or faced a quarterback like this kid. This kid is truly special, and the weapons around him, they are playing with a lot of confidence obviously.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone for joining us.