Peter King speaks with New England quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King also recaps this weekend’s Wild Card games, looks ahead to the Divisional Playoffs, and hands out his awards from the weekend.
Additionally, across NBC Sports, on The Mike Tirico Podcast, Mike Tirico, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and Mike Florio recap Wild Card weekend, while Florio and Chris Simms break down all of the action across the NFL on PFT Live and Chris Simms Unbuttoned.
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
TOM BRADY & THE PATRIOTS
Note: King spent 10 minutes with Brady in an office near the Patriots’ locker room near midnight on Saturday night, less than an hour after the game had ended.
King: “The interesting takeaway from spending 10 minutes with Tom Brady before he left Gillette Stadium near midnight Saturday? He didn’t seem at all surprised by the 20-13 wild-card loss to Tennessee. He was sad but not distraught…I kept thinking as he spoke: Tom Brady could see this coming.”
Brady on Wild Card loss to the Titans: “I’m not crushingly disappointed. I think we fought hard. Our head is held high. We’re competitors. Every season doesn’t end in a Super Bowl win. It’s exciting when it does. You relish those when you have those opportunities and we’ve had them more than anyone else.”
Brady on his upcoming free agency: “I’ll explore those opportunities whenever they are. If it’s the Patriots, great. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I love playing football. I still want to play football.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Brady: “Before the season started, it was very important to Tom that he be free to do whatever he wanted at the end of the year. You know what I said to myself? That any person who plays 20 years for this team and helps us get to six Super Bowls, and been really selfless, has earned that right.”
Brady: “The sun’s coming up tomorrow. Especially as I’ve gotten older, you realize that life goes on. I’ve been so fortunate to play for such a great owner and for such a great coach. Nobody could have had it better than me. I absolutely still do love this game…I think a lot of other people who are great at what they do – great artists or great actors or great businessmen – they don’t have to stop what they love as they get older. I know there’s football still in here.”
Kraft on Brady: “My hope and prayer is number one, he play for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”
King on where Brady could potentially go in free agency: “My personal darkhorse, by the way: the Las Vegas (nee Oakland) Raiders. Jon Gruden’s favorite quarterback is always the one he doesn’t have. No clue if he’s remotely interested, but my antennae would be up for the Raiders and Brady.”
WILD CARD WEEKEND
King on Deshaun Watson: “Harassed for most of the game’s 72 minutes, Watson showed why he’s a legitimate franchise quarterback at the most crucial point of Houston’s up-and-down season.”
Watson on his Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: “You’ve got to have the will and the guts to go out and do what you’ve got to do to win…Dabo always used to tell us, ‘Don’t never look at the scoreboard. At the end of the day, you’re going to look up at the scoreboard, and you’ll be where you want to be.’”
King on Derrick Henry: “The last two NFL generations had 235-pound Earl Campbell (1978-’85) and 253-pound Jerome Bettis (1993-2005) as the big backs who lasted and punished defense after defense. This generation has the 247-pound (Derrick) Henry.”
King on Kirk Cousins: “(Kirk) Cousins had been maligned since his Washington days for never winning The Big One…But he threw one of the prettiest passes of his life, a perfect 43-yard rainbow to Adam Thielen, to set up the winning touchdown in overtime. And then he hit Kyle Rudolph in the left corner of the end zone to win it.”
King on Rudolph’s game-winning touchdown in overtime: “I think that was offensive pass interference on Kyle Rudolph on the winning play in New Orleans. The interpretation of the rule is simple: If either the receiver or the defender gains an advantage by pushing off the other player, a flag should be thrown.”
King on Cousins: “Who knows if this is the start of Cousins taking his place in the modern pantheon with the really good quarterbacks? It’s always seemed like only the mental part of the game stands in his way, and beating Drew Brees in the Superdome is the kind of game that can catapult a quarterback to the next level.”
King on Carson Wentz’ injury: “I think that hit on Carson Wentz didn’t look like a cheap shot to me. As a runner who didn’t give himself up, Wentz was eligible to be hit hard on a tackle. Jadeveon Clowney said it was a bang-bang play, and that’s how it looked to me – with incidental helmet contact.”
King on Josh Allen: “I think if I was a Bills’ fan I’d be really happy he’s my long-term quarterback. Not Mahomes happy, but happy.”
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF PREVIEW
King on the best players remaining in the playoffs: “To me, there are three borderline unstoppable forces in the eight-team field:
- Patrick Mahomes, the defending MVP, totally healthy and rested after a midseason kneecap injury;
- Lamar Jackson, the most versatile quarterback in the game;
- Derrick Henry, the Tennessee running back who wrecked the Patriots on Saturday night.”
King on Vikings-49ers: “Here’s what the Vikings gained other than a win in Minnesota: On offense, they probably can trust Kirk Cousins in a big spot more, and they certainly know that putting the ball in the hands of Dalvin Cook (94 rushing yards, two touchdowns) is a win for them.”
King on Titans-Ravens: “I bet if you gave Baltimore coach John Harbaugh truth serum, he’d say he’d have rather faced the Patriots in the divisional round.”
King on Titans-Ravens: “The biggest X-factor, other than handling Henry, might be how Baltimore responds after several key guys have had 19 days between games.”
King on Texans-Chiefs: “If the Texans get a slow start on offense as they did Saturday against Buffalo, they’ll be too far out of it too early to make it a game.”
King on Seahawks-Packers: “The Green Bay offense, 15th in the NFL in scoring, will probably have to be better than 23 points a game to make it to the Super Bowl in Miami.”
KING’S WILD CARD AWARDS
Offensive Players of the Week: Deshaun Watson, Houston, Derrick Henry, Tennessee, & Kirk Cousins, Minnesota.
King on Watson: “He willed the Texans to victory. That’s not cliché, no exaggeration.”
King on Henry: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game, never mind a playoff game, that had one non-quarterback gain 75 percent of the yardage. But Henry (204 total yards of Tennessee’s 272 total yards) did just that. He’ll be a problem for Baltimore.”
Defensive Players of the Week: Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle, Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia & Danielle Hunter, Minnesota.
King on Hunter: “At 26, he’s become one of the most feared rushers in football…He’ll be invaluable Saturday in the Vikings’ attempt to slow the nascent San Francisco passing game.”
Coach of the Week: Mike Vrabel, Tennessee.
King: “Came into the lair of his mentor and quite possibly ended the Tom Brady Era by forcing the crummiest offensive performance of this great Patriots run.”
The following are highlights from this week’s edition of The Mike Tirico Podcast:
Mike Florio on the Saints’ QB situation: “You just have to wonder whether or not Sean Payton may be thinking now’s the time to move forward with a different quarterback. He’s compared Taysom Hill to Steve Young. That is high praise and if that’s what he believes, at some point you have to pull the trigger on Taysom Hill.”
Rodney Harrison on the future of veteran QBs: “The league has changed, so what’s next is it’s time for those older quarterbacks to move…Now you have athletic quarterbacks. Just imagine, I would prefer to go up against say, a Tom Brady, as opposed to try to prepare to play against Taysom Hill right now.”
Tony Dungy on the Texans: “They’re almost like Seattle. Really don’t have a lot going, our defense isn’t great…But in that moment when you need a play, we’ve got a guy (Deshaun Watson) who can make a play when everything goes bad.”
The following are clips from last night’s edition of Football Night in America:
- Tom Brady’s Future: The FNIA crew debates Tom Brady‘s free agency options after the Patriots’ early exit from the playoffs.
- Tony Dungy on Kyle Rudolph’s TD: Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison explain why Kyle Rudolph should’ve been flagged for pass interference on the Vikings’ game-winning touchdown against the Saints in overtime.
- Vikings-49ers Preview: Mike Tirico, Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy preview the Vikings-49ers Divisional Playoffs matchup next Saturday on NBC.
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage heading into Week 16:
- Mike Florio and Chris Simms, with guest Peter King, discuss all things NFL on PFT Live, including handing out their Wild Card Weekend superlatives, discussing Tom Brady’s and Drew Brees; futures and Jason Garrett’s firing.
- On Chris Simms Unbuttoned, Simms breaks down the Wild Card games reviews the Divisional round and power ranks potential destinations for Tom Brady.
Simms: “That was the hire that made the most sense for me for the Dallas Cowboys. They’re in the Super Bowl window right now. They need a guy there that can push them over the top. They didn’t need some college coach to try to figure out how they want to coach in the NFL with a team that’s ready now.”
Simms: “My only issue with him in Green Bay was that his offense got stale. Sometimes that happens. Andy Reid got a little stale in Philadelphia. Well, he’s in Kansas City doing pretty good right now. So I like it.”
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 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 NBCSN’s and NBC Sports Radio’s PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.