Broadcaster Al Michaels is on the call for this week’s Sunday Night Football game between the Patriots and Falcons, and he joined the Globe’s Season Ticket podcast to talk about the matchup.
Here are excerpts from his interview with host Chris Gasper (full audio is at bottom):
What stands out to you about both of these teams, and do you feel like for the Falcons this is Super Bowl 51 and a half, or have they moved on?
“I think they’ve moved on. I think that every coach, every manager, whether it’s baseball or whatever sport it is, you can’t live in the past. I think everybody’s kind of taken a cue from Bill Belichick. The one thing about Bill, as you well know in New England, is that he doesn’t go backwards.
“And clearly, I mean, it’s become almost legendary. When the Patriots in 2014 lose the game in Kansas City on a Monday night, look terrible, and everybody’s crazy, and it looks like you know Brady’s done, and maybe Belichick has lost it and all of that. You remember what was going on back there. And then they come onto the Sunday night game next week and they destroy Cincinnati, and before that season is over, they are hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
“I think what Bill did that day, it’s — everybody kind of laughs about it — it’s an iconic kind of statement. I think that’s the way every coach looks at it right now. It’s like if you get your head handed to you one week, you have to move on to the next week. The difference with Atlanta is that you know they blew the lead. They lost the Super Bowl. Nobody will ever forget that game. They couldn’t come back next Sunday. They had to wait, you know, six or seven months. But it’s been so long right now that I don’t think that gets factored in. I don’t think that the Falcons think of it in those terms.
“I think, Chris, that both of these teams are in a little bit of a fight now just to win the division. I mean, the AFC East all of a sudden looks better than people thought it would. The NFC South, with Carolina right now, and New Orleans is playing well. So I think these teams have had other things to think about than a rematch of Super Bowl 51.’’
After six straight 300-yard passing performances by opposing quarterbacks, is the Patriots’ pass defense as bad as it looks?
“I don’t think so. The numbers are interesting because obviously no team, and a big deal has been made of it, has given up six 300-yard passing games in a row, or any way you want to skin that statistical cat, fine. They are last in pass defense, but a few years ago Green Bay was either last or next to last in pass defense and they won the Super Bowl. So those numbers are going to change throughout the course of the season.
“Then you look at New England’s secondary and overall defense, obviously they’ve given up a ton of points. We were there on opening night when you know Kansas City scored 21 in the fourth quarter to win the game. But then again, just think of it in these terms. Malcolm Butler made a phenomenal play the other day to take a touchdown away from the Jets. So as bad as they may look statistically, you’ve got guys making plays at the right time. If the Jets get that touchdown, obviously on the controversial overturn, that may be a different game. I’m not going to say they are going to win the game, but you could credit Malcolm Butler for dislodging that ball and creating a situation where they were able to overturn what would have been a touchdown. So they are making some big plays, you’ve got some big-time guys back there. I mean you know I don’t have to tell you about Butler, I don’t have to tell you about McCourty, and Chung’s been around a long time, so these are good players.’’
You’ve been around the NFL for a very long time. Do even you marvel at what Tom Brady is doing at age 40, leading the NFL in passing yards and second in touchdown passes?
“I absolutely do. And having covered Tom for all of these years, it is amazing. You have a number of quarterbacks right now, and I would put Drew Brees in that category. They know how to take care of themselves. They are totally invested in what they are doing. And knowing Tom, and I know him pretty well, the thing about him is I think in a way he’s almost savoring it more than ever right now. Peyton Manning, I think, was was that way, too.
“As you approach the end of your career you know there’s a shelf life. You don’t know how long it’ll be. Tom wants to play till he’s 45. I hope he can. I don’t know. You know in the back of your mind, you never know when it is the end and the end can come sooner than later.
“But I think with Tom, with Drew Brees, with Peyton Manning, with Philip Rivers, with guys who’ve had long careers, with Ben Roethlisberger, in a way, despite what Ben says publicly, I think these guys are savoring what’s going on because you know that it’s not going to last forever. You’re going to go into the afterlife sooner than later. So there’s a tremendous appreciation of it.
“And you know for Brady, look, you’ve seen competitors and he’s right at the top of the list. I’ve actually had a chance to play golf with him a couple of times and he is unbelievably competitive. He’s also very technical. I’ve watched him take golf lessons, and he wants to know everything. He wants to know, you know, if the right elbow is supposed to be at a 43-degree angle, he wants to make sure he gets it to 43.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean he’s astonishing and one of the, obviously, one of the great, greats of all time, in any sport.’’
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