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ESPN NFL Programming Update – Week 11


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ESPN’s Monday Night Football: Matchup of First-Place NFC Teams — Bears vs. 49ers

In an NFC showdown between two first-place teams, the San Francisco 49ers will host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football on November 19 at 8:30 p.m. This matchup highlights the No. 1 (14.1 PPG, 49ers) and No. 2 (14.8 PPG, Bears) ranked scoring defenses in the NFL. It also marks the 35th time a MNF game will be played at Candlestick Park – a record among NFL stadiums. 

Play-by-play commentator Mike Tirico and analyst Jon Gruden will call the game with sideline reporter Lisa Salters. The MNF open will feature Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott (49ers) and Dick Butkus (Bears).

Fans can watch MNF on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, as well as on (computers) and via the WatchESPN app (tablets), for those who receive their video subscriptions from an affiliated provider.

Studio host Chris Berman will anchor the pre-game show Monday Night Countdown (6:30 p.m., ESPN) with analysts Cris CarterMike DitkaTom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson and NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Joining the Countdown crew are on-site host Stuart Scott, analysts Trent Dilfer and Steve Young, columnist Rick Reilly and Salters.  Highlights:

  • “Gruden Extra” with Alex Smith and Justin Smith:  Two of San Francisco’s best players on each side of the ball – quarterback Alex Smith and defensive end Justin Smith – sit down for an interview with Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden in the MNF bus.
  • Rick Reilly Feature – 49ers Banjo Man:  There may be no bigger San Francisco 49ers’ fan than Stacy Samuels, the team’s Banjo Man. In his 60s, Samuels has been patrolling Candlestick Park on game days with his banjo for 30 years – bringing passion and performing for the 49ers faithful, reports Reilly.
  • Soundtracks – Brian Urlacher:  In-game audio of Brian Urlacher, one of the most-feared linebackers in the game and the leader of the Chicago Bears defense, will be featured in this week’s “Soundtracks.”

Sunday NFL Countdown: The Colts are Feeling Lucky; When Legends Talk; Painting Manning’s Comeback Win; and More

Chris Berman, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Suzy Kolber, Merril Hoge and Ron Jaworski will preview week 11 on ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown Presented by IBM on November 18 at 10 a.m. NFL Insider Adam Schefter and senior analyst Chris Mortensen will report the day’s news, and comedian Frank Caliendo will contribute his impressions of ESPN and NFL personalities.

Correspondents Ed Werder (Cleveland at Dallas), Bob Holtzman (Green Bay at Detroit), Josina Anderson (Philadelphia at Washington), Sal Paolantonio (Indianapolis at New England) and Rachel Nichols (Baltimore at Pittsburgh) will report from game sites.  Highlights:

  • Feeling Lucky: Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has turned the Indianapolis Colts into a playoff contender. He sets the tone with his arm and, surprisingly, with his tackling. After throwing an interception last week, Luck tracked down and tackled Jacksonville safety Dawan Landry. Countdown examines the message Luck is sending his teammates by not shying away from confrontation and delivering some unexpected big hits.
  • When Legends Talk: Whether it’s Joe Namath, Joe Theismann, or Roger Staubach, it is not uncommon to hear NFL legends criticizing their former teams in the press. What impact do comments by the legends have on the teams?  How frustrating are these comments for coaches and players? Reporter Greg Garber explores how these comments more often than not serve as distractions.
  • Painting Peyton Manning’s Comeback: During ESPN’s October 15th Monday Night Football game, quarterback Peyton Manning orchestrated an incredible comeback against the San Diego Chargers. Down 24-0 at the half, the Broncos scored 35 points and Manning threw three touchdown passes, pulling off the fourth biggest regular-season comeback in NFL history.  On Countdown, artist Marissa Madonna paints a portrait of the victory that turned Denver’s season around.
  • Flacco Goes Deep:  Quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens feature one of the best big-play offenses in football. ESPN’s premier expert for the quarterback position Ron Jaworski, who played the position for 17 seasons and studies the Xs and Os of football via game films, traveled to Baltimore to examine the growing chemistry between Flacco and his receivers, ahead of their NFC North showdown with the Steelers.

The program will include live look-ins at quarterbacks Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Nick Foles and Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson during their pre-game routines leading into the 1 p.m. games. Additional segments include DJ Porter spinning his take on the wild season in the NFC East, Jaworski and Hoge’s Xs and Os “Eye in the Sky;”and Cris Carter’s “Where You At?.”

Snickers NFL Matchup – 49ers Struggle in Run Defense; Steelers Blitz Schemes; Saints Run Game

Snickers NFL Matchup host Sal Paolantonio and analysts Ron Jaworski and Merril Hoge will preview the weekend’s key matchups by taking viewers inside the film room with X’s and O’s analysis Sunday, Nov. 11, at 6:30 a.m. on ESPN (ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m.). Highlights:

  • Hoge Breakdown – 49ers Run Defense: Hoge shows the problems with the San Francisco defense, which has allowed more than 100 yards rushing in three of its last four games, by breaking down Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s run.
  • “Between the Lines” – Calvin Johnson vs. Cover 2:  Jaworski uses the telestrator to show how Detroit’s offense utilizes wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s physical abilities with specific route combinations designed to get him over the top against a “Cover 2” defense.
  • Blitz Breakdown- Steelers Blitz vs. Baltimore’s Ray Rice in Pass Protection: The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is incredibly effective at dictating matchups with pre-snap alignments. Hoge shows a successful Steelers blitz designed to get linebacker Larry Foote one-on-one against Ravens running back Ray Rice that led to an easy sack.
  • “Jaws Film Room” – Joe Flacco vs. Steelers: Jaworski revisits a film review session he had with Joe Flacco to discuss how the Baltimore Ravens quarterback was able to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers with last-second touchdown passes in their last two meetings.
  • “Coaches Clicker” – Chris Ivory Run vs. Eagles: Surprisingly, the New Orleans Saints are averaging more than 140 yards on the ground in the last two weeks. Hoge, using the “Coaches Clicker,” shows how running back Chris Ivory broke free for a 22-yard touchdown run on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • “Inside the Matchup” – Peyton Manning/Demaryius Thomas: The Denver Broncos epic Week 6 comeback on Monday Night Football started with a Peyton Manning touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Jaworski goes ‘Inside the Matchup’ to show how the route combination on that play was designed to get Thomas one-on-one with the corner.
  • “Jaws Drop In” – Wes Welker’s Play-Action: While leading the league with 28 Red Zone touchdowns, New England maintains a balanced attack that has produced 14 rushing touchdowns as well as another 14 through the air. Jaworski explains a play that uses play-action to get wide receiver Welker open for an easy score.
  • “Hoge X and O Files” – T.Y. Hilton Reverse: Hoge emphasizes the depth of Bruce Arians’ play design in Indianapolis by examining a reverse to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton that featured a unique blocking concept involving tight end Dwayne Allen and offensive tackle Anthony Castanzo.
  • “Beyond the Film Room” – Peyton Manning Wire: Through 10 weeks, quarterback Peyton Manning has the highest completion percentage of his career, which could easily be attributed to his pre-snap adjustment.  NFL Matchup goes “Beyond the Film Room” to show how Manning managed the game against Carolina last Sunday. – “Hot Read” on Torrey Smith and Joe Flacco’s Home Away from Home

ESPN the Magazine and senior writer Kevin Van Valkenburg profiles Baltimore Ravens’ Torrey Smith, telling the story of how a quiet, sensitive, second-year receiver from Colonial Beach, Va., became one of the most important players on a team replete with Pro Bowlers and at least two future Hall of Famers.

In a separate story,’s AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley writes how Pittsburgh has become quarterback Joe Flacco’s home away from home.  The one-time Pittsburgh Panther has led the Ravens to come-from-behind wins in the past two games there.

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